Cuisine / Recipe

Homemade cured salmon gravlax

One of my dearest food memories is the time I had my first taste of gravlax. It was a warm and sunny day in the late nineties. We’d gathered around a table placed in the middle of our street. Paper tablecloth, and rosé bottles in an ice bucket. On the table sat many beautiful dishes. Petits farcis and courgette flower beignets, polenta squares and Nice olives. But really, one stood out with a radiance that was hard to ignore. A whole side of salmon that had been cured to perfection by a dear family friend from Sweden. Its coral-hued flesh glistened in the sun and was adorned with plenty of chopped dill; fennel seeds too!

The gravlax was served with slices of rye bread, garnished with delicate dill flowers, and accompanied by a sweet and tangy mustard sauce that was unlike any other. And its name? Hovmätarsås, a mouthful in more ways than one.

Years have passed since that magical day, but the memory of that perfectly cured salmon has lingered in my mind ever since. And it almost feels natural that I would find myself now living in the north of Sweden. Here, gravlax is called gravad lax – literally, buried salmon. During the Middle Ages, fishermen would indeed salt and bury their catch in the cold ground to preserve it and make it inaccessible to animals.

Although it is eaten throughout the year, it is a compulsory addition to the Swedish Christmas and Easter tables, and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Homemade cured salmon gravlax

This gravlax recipe still transports me to that sunny al fresco lunch in the street down our house in the village of Valbonne. And yet, I'm hoping it will give you a hindsight into what we're eating for Easter, almost thirty years later in the north of Sweden.
The salmon - and I like to use sahimi-grade fish for this recipe - is cured with salt and sugar. I like to add pink peppercorns, coriander and fennel seeds too, but you could use any spice you'd like.
After curing, I like to drizzle my gravlax with a dash of aquavit - cognac and gin are an equally excellent choice but just as optional - before dressing it with a thick layer of finely chopped dill, plenty of crushed pink peppercorns, and a sprinkle of fennel and coriander seeds.
The gravlax is usually served with a sweet and tangy mustard sauce - hovmästarsås -, crisp tunnbröd - a very thin flat bread - or thin slices of rye bread, a generous amount of soft salted butter, and sometimes, boiled new potatoes.
Author: Fanny Zanotti
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time2 days 15 minutes
Makes 1 kg cured salmon, serving 8-10.


For the curing mix

  • 80 g caster sugar
  • 80 g fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns slightly crushed
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds

For the gravlax

  • 1 kg sashimi-grade salmon trimmed and boned, with skin on
  • all of the curing mix above

To garnish

  • dill finely chopped
  • zest from 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • pink peppercorns crushed
  • fennel seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • cognac, gin or aquavit optional


  • Make the curing mix by mixing all the ingredients together.
  • Place two large pieces of clingfilm on top of each other on your work bench, press down using a clean kitchen towel to "seal" them together. Repeat with one more double piece, slightly overlapping with the first one to create a large rectangle, big enough for your salmon side to sit on top of.
  • Sprinkle a little less than half the curing mixture on top of your prepared clingfilm, on a surface as big as your salmon side.
  • Place your salmon on the curing mix, skin side down, and top with remaining curing mixture.
  • Lift into a large tray and leave uncovered.
  • Refrigerate for 36-48 hours, turning your gravlax over a couple of times and removing the liquid that builds up.
  • When ready, rinse the gravlax briefly under cold water. Pat dry using kitchen paper or a clean kitchen towel, place on a clean tray and return to the fridge, uncovered for 3-6 hours for the surface to dry further.
  • If using any, drizzle with cognac, gin of aquavit. Then top with freshly chopped dill, crushed pink peppercorns, fennel and coriander seeds.
  • When ready to serve, slice thinly at an angle, detaching the slices from the skin. Serve with boiled new potatoes, soft salted butter, crisp tunnbröd [Swedish flatbread] or rye bread, and hovmästarsås - the sweet and tangy mustard sauce - recipe to follow!

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