lox recipe

How to Cure Salmon – Lox Recipe

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One of my favorite things about visiting my mom for a weekend is sitting down and having breakfast with her. We sit down over a cup of delicious coffee with steamed foamy milk and eat toasted English muffins topped with either slices of brie or lox and cream cheese.

If you’ve never had lox, it is cured smoked salmon. Lox is a popular bagel topping in NYC, but it seems like people from other parts of the country have never heard of it (including Aldo from right across the river from NYC). And this is so sad, because salty smokey lox with cream cheese on a bagel is just so so good!

lox recipe

Now, if you HAVE had lox, then you know how freakin’ expensive it is – around $24/pound. That’s nuts. So I was really excited when my mom casually said ”Oh, and I want to buy some salmon so I can make lox for breakfast.” Wait. WHAT? I didn’t know you can just MAKE lox! 

Apparently you can. Turns out curing salmon is totally safe. The salt seeps into the salmon and kills all bacteria during the 2-3 days of curing.  So I went with my mom and also got myself a nice big chunk of salmon to make lox.

It is so easy to make, and only takes a few minutes of hands-on time. The salmon does take 2-3 days to cure (depending on how salty you want it), so you do have to plan ahead. But this recipe is so worth it – fresh salmon is so much cheaper than smoked salmon, and salmon that is cured at home doesn’t have any nitrites added to it.

And homemade lox tastes fresher. Your teeth go through it like a hot knife through butter, instead of having to really grind your teeth to bite off a piece of store-bought lox.

The other awesome thing about making your own lox is that you can experiment with different flavors of salt, herbs, and seasonings. I think next time I will try a chili lime version, or maybe some Mediterranean flavors.

A nice fatty thick piece of salmon that is similar thickness all throughout is best for making lox. It’s OK if it has skin on it – you will cure the salmon with the skin on and then slice pieces of salmon meat off the skin. And scroll all the way down to ready about what to do with the leftover salmon skin!

lox recipe

Smoked Salmon – Lox Recipe

Makes: 1 – 1 1/2 lb salmon. Total time: 2-3 days. Hands-on time: 10 minutes.

  • 1 to 1.5 lb fresh salmon (get a fatty piece that is an even thickness all around, as much as possible)
  • 1/4 cup Smoked Sea Salt (or any Kosher salt)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Optional: Freshly ground black pepper to taste, dried herbs such as dill or parsley (a pinch or two).

Equipment: plastic wrap, something heavy to press down the fish (such as canned beans or tomatoes, or a bag of dried beans, or a heavy glass baking dish small enough to fit into a larger tupperware container)

1. Rinse the salmon and pat it dry with a paper towel. If it has skin, leave the skin on. If you feel any bones in the salmon while you are doing this, remove them.

2. Combine the salt and sugar (and pepper and herbs, if using), and rub the seasoning all over the salmon. You should have some extra seasoning that you haven’t used up.

3. Get a large piece of plastic wrap, and put a bit of the seasoning on it. Place the salmon skin-side down on the seasoning. Add more seasoning to the sides of the salmon and to the top. Wrap it up tightly with plastic wrap and place it in a tupperware container or any dish deep enough to contain the fish and the juices it will release.

4. Weigh down the salmon with something heavy – 2 cans of beans, or a bag of dried beans work great. Place in the fridge.

5. After about 24 hours, turn the salmon over and place the weights on the other side. You can put a new piece of plastic wrap on top to make sure that the weights stay clean. The salmon will release some juices by this point, and that’s totally normal.

6. After 2 days you can begin tasting the salmon, or you can wait the full 3 days if you want it to be saltier.

To taste the salmon, cut off a small piece, rinse it under cold water, and taste it. If it is not salty enough to your liking, then wrap it back up and place it in the fridge for another 24 hours. If it is salty enough, then rinse the whole piece under cold water.

8. To serve, cut it into thin slices (without the skin), and put on a bagel or your favorite bread smeared with cream cheese.

I personally like thick chunks of lox on a dense piece of dark Russian Rye bread smeared with chive cream cheese, topped with sprouts, capers, and/or chopped chives. You can also add some chopped dill or parsley. This is the perfect breakfast for me.

lox recipe

Oh, and what do you do with the skin when you are done with the salmon, you might ask? Well this might seem totally weird, but fry it like bacon. Make sure all the meaty parts are removed from the skin, and place it in a pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until each side is nicely browned. Place on a paper towel to drain. It will get crispier as it drains and cools down. You’ll have a salty delicious piece of fried salmon skin. This is actually one of my favorite parts about cooking salmon – I always save the skin and fry it into crispy salmon-bacon. Or you can call it fish-bacon. Which you can then shorten to facon. Which sounds kind of like fake-bacon. But no matter what you call it, you should fry that salmon skin!

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26 thoughts on “How to Cure Salmon – Lox Recipe

  1. Kate, what does the weight do? I didn’t put any, and I think it was fine. But we didn’t compare our “loxes”!

  2. I thought that lox had to be smoked, or at least cold smoked. I’m out looking for a source of lox-wings, so I can attempt some dishes my Mother made so many years ago.

  3. I am so grateful to have stumbled onto your receipt for Lox. Have had Lox since we made Jewish friends when my husband was stationed at Fort Devens in Mass during the Cuban Missile Crisis (many years). Rena served it and loved it; had no idea I could make myself.
    But now I will certainly do so! Notice you said it will keep only 3-4 days in fridge once cured. Can it be frozen after cured for future enjoyment? Thanks for your response.

  4. This turned out so well! I wish I could upload a photo of it. 3 days of curing in the fridge and I have more delicious salmon than I know what to do with! I used Coho salmon from Trader Joe’s and it turned out perfectly! Thanks so much for this! One question: how do you recommend I store it? Just a zip lock bag or airtight container? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Ali,

      Thanks for stopping by! I have only kept it for 3-4 days max (mostly because I can’t help but eat it all!), but I wouldn’t keep it more than that anyway. Even store-bought lox starts going bad after about a week.

      – Kate

  5. I have been curing my own lox for several years and as long as it is not sliced ( still in a big piece) I’ve kept it for a week. It is cured. Once sliced, air gets into it and hastens spoiling. I put it into a ziplock bag and squeeze out as much air as possible.
    Kate you may want to try my variation. I use the salt, pepper and sugar but then I add to that an entire bunch of dill chopped, the grated rind of an orange, and a tablespoon of tequila or vodka. (Personally, I prefer the taste of the tequila best). Mix all ingredients well. Then proceed as you described. I wrap it 2 times in plastic wrap, squeezing all the air out of the plastic wrap.. I also use a gallon bottle of water or milk laid on its side as my weight. The combo of the orange oil from the grated rind, the dill and the tequila or vodka gives it a really unique taste that really complements the salmon.
    Additional note: make sure the salmon is really fresh before you start since you are going to be curing for a few days. I do 48 hours of curing. Use a very sharp, thin knife to cut salmon as thin as possible. Slice as you would a London broil, on an angle rather than straight down. I use my carving knife.

  6. A brick wrapped in tin foil makes a great weight. I’ve made Gravlax many times (using recipes very similar to yours) – it’s a huge hit at parties served with bagel chips, whipped cream cheese, capers and red onion – and a little dollop of dill sauce if you can find some).

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