Recipe for how to make Lox “smoked salmon” at home

salmon filet for making lox

Fresh, wild caught, center cut salmon filets

By Caleb John Clark, June, 2005

Learn to make simple Lox (Salmon) at home using only your refrigerator, salt, sugar and a few days waiting.

I searched through a lot of recipes before I found a few simple ones I liked. But I couldn’t find any recipes with pictures to help me see if I was doing it right, so I wanted to put up this primer to show and not just tell. My first batch was fantastic (and about 1/2 the price of deli-bought Lox) and my whole family not only loved it, but also lived to tell about it!

The Concept

Ahhh, Lox! That salty, sumptuous, strong-scented, smoked salmon.

Or so I thought. Then I set out one day to make Lox at home- and the first thing I found out is that there are many types of Lox and tons of recipes that take from 5 minutes to literally hours and weeks.

kosher salt bottle from trader joes

Kosher Salt (get small flake)

But all Lox is not complex, especially Lox that is not smoked or uses alcohols. Here’s the skinny:

  • Lox. Simplist and the one made here. Salmon, salt, maybe suger and pepper. Weighted down or not.
  • Gravlax (aka Gravlox, or Gravdlax.) Like Lox, but with herbs like dill or tarragon and an alcohol like Brandy, Aquavit, Vodka, etc. Definitely weighted down.
  • Nova Lox (aka Smoked Salmon.) Lox with a complex smoking procedure after.

All the recipes call for different measurements and ingredients, but there’s a underlying pattern to them all. Basically you’re going to put salt and some other stuff on fresh raw salmon and let it “brine” in the refrigerator for a few days while the salt “cooks” the fish and gives it that famous taste. It’s strange to think of eating raw fish that has been in the fridge for a week without cooking it, but salting food, especially meat and fish, goes way, way, way back as a preservative. Once you try this you’ll see why. It tastes great and it’s easy.

lox ingrediants, salt sugar, dill

Brown sugar, small flake sea salt, pepper

Ingredients

I looked at a lot of recipes and found I could vary the amount of salt and other ingredients to taste, as long as I remembered that you really just need the salt to do the ‘cooking’ trick with the raw fish.

I made my first batch for myself to see how it worked. Now I keep a batch around whenever I have the time.

Here’s what I ended up with as a recipe for myself.

  • 1lb fresh thick salmon, sliced in two equal pieces. The best of course would be wild-caught Alaskan king salmon. You’re going to sandwich the two pieces together, skin side out, so try to get a piece that is consistent in size that you can cut in half, or have the fish folks slice two equal slices.
  • 3-8 tablespoons Kosher flake salt.
  • 3-8 tablespoons brown sugar (regular will do)
  • 1-tablespoon coarse fresh ground pepper
  • salted lox

    Filets of salmon with brown sugar, salt and pepper

    1 Good quality zip-lock freezer baggie

  • Flat-bottomed bowl
  • Something to weigh down the salmon with (dish with a soup can in it, etc.)
  • Optional: 1/4-cup fresh dill, vodka, gin, cognac. You can mix up about 2oz each of mint and parsley (flat leaf) with dill. Also, a subtle but very important spice is crushed star anise, using about two stars of it per pound of fish.

Receipe

  1. Wash and pat dry the salmon and lay skin side down and:
  2. Sprinkle all the salt on, with more in thicker areas.Sprinkle pepper on top of salt. Use 4-8 tablespoons depending on your taste for salt.
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of pepper.
  4. Put any optional ingredients on top, gently if it’s liquid so as not to remove salt from salmon.
  5. Sandwich the two salmon pieces together
  6. Put in zip lock bag, with as much air sucked out as possible.
  7. Put in flat-bottomed bowl (in case bag leaks.)
  8. Weigh it down (to help salt get into fish.)
  9. Put in bottom of fridge for 1-4 days. I did 4. I saw some recipes call for even longer.
  10. Flip salmon every day to mix juices up.

    Filets of salmon in the refridgerator, double bagged in Zip Loc bags with cans on top for weight

  11. Take out, gently rinse off salt mixture from salmon, pat dry.
  12. I then slice it against the grain of the salmon very thinly and taste a piece. If it’s too salty, I gently rinse the slices in cold water and pat dry. I like to slice it all at once because it’s a smelly job. Refrigerate, lasts for a week or less.

Chow down! My favorite way is on a fresh plain toasted bagel. I like plain bagels so as to be able to taste the salmon unfettered by flavor in the bagel. I use plain, or maybe chive, cream cheese, some capers, and a very few onions, and that’s it. Lox is also great in scrambled eggs with cream cheese added at the last minute, and on crackers.

More Info.

  1. Wikipedia Encyclopedia Entry with Links.
  2. Nova Lox (cold smoked) recipe
  3. A totally insane tomb of a recipe!

Other recipes online:

  1. Cooking.com
  2. Chef Cuisine.com
  3. HomeMadeSimple.com

6 comments
Ed B
Ed B

Thank you. A few months ago at SYSCO I found 10 pounds of salmon for $25 (3 sides fresh from Chili). It had to be bought but what to do with it all? Did my research on curing salmon and eventually found your article. You did a wonderful job of getting the essence down and easily understood. I am about to do up another batch and wanted to let you know what I have been doing (this is my third big batch) Two sides of a bit over 3 pounds each get cut in half. Cured the way you suggest. The tails in one zip-lock bag, the fronts in another. It is less messy if I just put the slabs into the bags and pour the salt-sugar-pepper mix in between. After 4 or 5 days of cure, it all gets sliced up thin and washed in a bowl of awater to get the execss salt out. It gets wrapped in small bunches and put into the freezer. One thing I found in my research was that freezing at minus 4 degrees F for 4 days will kill parasites. My freezer can hit this low temp so I do it. It comes out great! Thanks again.

Jason Pollack
Jason Pollack

I had been wanting to make homemade lox for a long time, but never got around to learning how. I have to admit, I was a little doubtful that lox could be this easy. But I tried your recipe verbatim, and it turned out phenomenally! Thank you so much!

phyllis
phyllis

Yum, just made this with a piece of salmon I got from my mom. It turned out so wonderful and delicious! Thanks for a keeper recipe

Long Satcher
Long Satcher

Thanks, thats quite useful to know! I admit to being a bit useless in the kitchen, but I'm trying my best to learn. Admitting is the first step to recovery right!!? I promised to cook a whole meal for my wife this weekend for the first time - very exciting! I found some really simple recipe at this site, seems to be designed exactly with people like me in mind, which is perfect! Anyway, thanks, I'll be sure to subscribe to this site to read more.

MOHAMMED
MOHAMMED

thnx for this wonderful illistration ,,

Caleb Clark
Caleb Clark

Thanks for the freezing tip. I've heard that before as well. Good to do if you're at all concerned about parasites or want long storage because you have so much.