citrus + dill gravlax (set and forget)

Gravlax. Today is the day you finally learn how to make cured salmon from scratch. We all know and love it. It marries perfectly with capers, cheese cheese and bagels AND you will get to impress all your friends at brunch. Ready?

One of my favorite brunch staples is Lox and Bagels. I conquered the feat of making my own bagels (once) and have always wondered if it was possible to make lox. Is lox just vacuum sealed at the grocery stores or is this something people make at home?

I found this incredible recipe in my Bon Appetit magazine and it seemed all too easy. The only problem was, this was gravlax, not lox.

After some research I found the differences between lox, gravlax and smoked salmon.


Gravlax is cured (but not smoked) salmon. The cure is typically made with salt, sugar and dill (some use alcohol). Gravlax was traditionally buried under ground so the cure penetrates the fish. It’s common to use a heavy weight to weigh down the fish over several days to cure.


Lox traditionally refers to belly lox, which is salt-cured, but not smoked.


Cold-smoked salmon is typically wet or dry-brined with salt, sugar (to help the salt penetrate the flesh) and then smoked at no higher than 80°F for between 10 and 15 hours. Within the cold-smoked salmon categories, there is Nova, Scottish salmon, Norwegian salmon, Irish salmon, for example.

So on New Year’s day I packed my salmon with a simple salt, sugar, dill and citrus zest cure, wrapped it tight and weighed it down in the refrigerator for several days. SET IT AND FORGET IT. But don’t forget to invite people to brunch.

That weekend we gathered friends for brunch and unpacked the fish. The flesh was firm and salty. It was just like every cured salmon I found at the store, but this time I made it with my own two hands. We cut thin slices from it, sprinkled on fresh dill and served it was a TON of options. Think capers, pickled onions, lemon wedge, cream cheese, spreadable goat cheese, fresh bagels, jam and soft boiled eggs–you get it.

I even made chocolate chip biscotti to dip in our coffee. Because I’m awesome.


  • 1 bunch dill, plus sprigs for serving
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 3 lemons
  • 1¼ cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 3-lb. boneless side of salmon, skin on
  • Bagels, cream cheese, pickled red onion, capers, soft boiled eggs and/or lemon wedges (for serving; optional)


  1. Place dill bunch in a food processor and finely grate grapefruit and lemon zest directly into bowl; save fruit for another use.
  2. Add salt, brown sugar, and peppercorns and process until combined
  3. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet and pour one-third of cure lengthwise down the center of parchment. Lay salmon skin side down on top of cure and pack remaining cure in an even layer onto flesh side.
  4. Fold parchment up and over fish and cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Wrap tightly with plastic.
  5. Place another large rimmed baking sheet on top of fish and set a heavy pot or cast-iron skillet in baking sheet to weigh down. (I used a heavy baking steel used for cooking pizza)
  6. Chill 3-4 days.
  7. Unpack fish and wipe off cure with a damp kitchen towel (do not rinse). Make sure fish is cold. Slice very thinly with a long, thin, sharp knife, wiping down blade occasionally with another kitchen towel to keep it clean.
  8. Arrange salmon on a platter, sprinkle with fresh dill.
  9. Serve with bagels, cream cheese, pickled red onion, capers, dill sprigs, and/or lemon wedges if desired.
  10. Wrap leftover salmon and refrigerate for up to 3 days.