Gravlax: salty, dill-y, melt-in-your-mouth feast for the (Norse) gods. It’s remarkably simple to make at home.

The recipe below is for a 1-lb piece of salmon. I prefer to buy a whole side of salmon, which will typically run 3-4 pounds. Salmon is expensive, but judiciously portioned, this will make a few meals. Multiply the amounts listed below by the weight of your fish.

Buy a previously frozen fillet. First, it kills the tiny parasitic worms that can live in the fish. They’re not going to do any lasting damage, but it won’t be pleasant the day after. Second, never-frozen salmon is more likely farm-raised, which presents an array of environmental perils. The wild salmon you’re going to find isn’t in danger of being over fished.


  • 1 lb previously frozen salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • fresh dill weed


  1. salmon fillet
    Look at the bones!

    Mix together the salt, sugar, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

  2. Check your salmon for pin bones. Bend your fillet a bit and see if any sharp pointy things stick out. You don’t want to eat those. Pull them out with needle nose pliers. Scale the fillet if you like. I don’t really mind.
  3. Trim off the extra bits like the tail section. You’re going to cut this fillet in half and will want two symmetrical pieces. If you have a relatively flat piece, you can trim off the belly (the fatty white bit at the top of the picture up there). If the fillet has more of a bulge like the one pictured, it’s okay to leave it on so the pieces fit together nicely. Don’t throw away those extra bits, though. Bake the tail-piece and do something nice with the salmon belly. They’re delicious.
  4. Cut the fillet in half.
  5. Rub the seasoning mixture evenly on all visible portions of the fillet. You don’t want to see any pink peeking out.
  6. dill salmonwich
    Like so.

    Take a lot of fresh dill, preferably washed, and make a dill sandwich.

  7. Now wrap that bad boy up tightly in plastic wrap, put some thing heavy on it to press (another bowl or plate topped with canned food does the trick), and put it in the refrigerator.
  8. Turn it over every 24 hours to evenly distribute the resulting brine.
  9. After anywhere from three to seven days (the longer you let it sit, the more dill flavor you’ll get), take it out, wash off the salt cure, and serve, refrigerate, or freeze.
gravlax and pangea
Swedish Fish and Pangea

To serve, cut thin slices, starting at the tail end, and almost shaving the salmon. It should resemble prosciutto. If you cut it too thick, it looks like (surprise, surprise) Swedish Fish.

I like to eat my gravlax on Swedish rye knäckebröd with a slice of Jarlsberg cheese and a drizzle of gravlaxsas (recipe en route, but basically sweet mustard sauce – you can substitute honey mustard if needed). A fine beer goes along nicely. I can say from experience that Dogfish Head Pangea is a particularly nice match, if you can find it.