When I spent a month in Sweden with Martin, we ate what I thought was smoked salmon but really ended up being this gravlax.  No matter what it’s called, I ate so much of it, I couldn’t eat raw (smoked or otherwise) salmon for a year after.

Gravlax, or gravad lax depending on the spelling preference, is salt-cured raw salmon.  In Swedish, “grav” means “hole in the ground” and “lax” means “salmon.”  So, literally translated, it is salmon that is dug in a hole in the ground, which used to be the case during the Middle Ages, when fishermen would salt the fish and then bury it in the sand.

Nowadays, the same effect can be achieved without having a beach nearby.  It’s a very simple process:

Cover the salmon with a sugar / salt mixture:

A whole bunch of dill (when you think you have enough, pile on some more):

and then wrap it up tight and refrigerate for minimum 48 hours:

(PS.  I am sorry if my very messy refrigerater offends you.  Please don’t be offended).

When I took out the salmon, I was a little doubtful.  First and foremost, the texture of the salmon had changed, probably because of all the water that was sucked out through the curing process.  It was a little gummy and very slick.  It had a pronounced dill flavor.   It looked a bit scary too:

But it was overall still very tasty.  I brought this to a cookout and it was pretty well-received.  The coolest part was that people had eaten it and known what it was, without realizing it was Swedish in origin.  So people weren’t hesitant to try mine, especially since it was a giant hunk of raw salmon.

Overall, smashing success.  I’d probably make this for another cookout / group gathering.  It’s worth it to make your own.  The salmon cost me $8 at the Farmer’s Market and the dill was $1 for the whole bunch.  I’ve seen pre-made packages and they are as expensive as smoked salmon, if not more:  approx. 5 slices will set you back $10 at a local grocery store.


1 lb. salmn, deboned
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. ground black pepper
20 sprigs fresh dill

1-  Combine salt, sugar and pepper.

2-  Wash salmon and dry carefully.  Spread salt mixture generously on top.

3-  Cover with dill.  Wrap tightly in saran wrap.  Place in dish and refrigerate, minimum 48 hours.

4-  Slice carefully against grain, removing skin at the same time.  Serve with hard bread or sour cream.

Servings:  A lot.