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How to Cure Salmon – Lox Recipe

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Make your own lox (smoked salmon) with this easy lox recipe. You will never go back to store-bought lox!

Curing lox is easy, and homemade lox is so much fresher, tastier, and healthier than store-bought lox. Serve lox for breakfast or brunch on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, or with slices of cucumber for a keto-friendly option.

How to cure salmon - lox recipe

Lox for breakfast

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 frothy milk.  We eat toasted English muffins topped with cream cheese and slices of lox.

This habit can get expensive, so we often make our own lox.

sliced lox

What is lox?

If you’ve never had lox, it is cured smoked salmon. Lox is a popular bagel topping in NYC. But it seems that many people from other parts of the country have never heard of it. And this is so sad, because salty smokey lox with cream cheese on a bagel is just so so good!

What’s the difference between Lox and Smoked Salmon?

Good question! They are both raw salmon that is cured with salt. However, smoked salmon is also smoked after it is cured. Lox is just cured salmon. So smoked salmon has an extra layer of flavor from the smoke. The cool thing is you can give homemade lox the smokey flavor just by using smoked sea salt. You don’t have to bother with any smokers but you still get the tasty smoked salmon flavor!

This recipe below recommends using smoked sea salt (you can get smoked sea salt on Amazon, this bag will last you a while!), but if you don’t have that on hand you can definitely use regular old sea salt.

And if you are planning on using this homemade lox in any recipes, you can use lox and smoked salmon interchangeably in recipes!

There’s a detailed explanation about the difference between smoked salmon and lox on The Kitchn, if you are interested in learning more.

Homemade lox??

Yes! You can easily make lox at home. 

If you’ve ever had lox, then you know how expensive it is – around $25 – $30 per pound. That’s nuts. So you can imagine my excitement when when I learned you can make lox at home.

Is making lox safe?

Curing salmon to make lox is safe and easy. The salt seeps into the salmon and kills any bacteria during the 2-3 days of salt curing. That’s the whole point of curing salmon – to preserve it longer!

What type of salmon to use for lox

The official recommendation is to use only sushi grade salmon (the kind that can be eaten raw) to make lox. I’ve made lox with non-sushi grade salmon many times and everyone was fine, however please use your judgement and make sure you use a quality sushi from a reputable seller.

I prefer using a fatty salmon to make lox because I find that the texture is much with those little streaks of fat in between the salmon meat. Think of it like steak – you want it to be nicely marbled for the most tender, delicious steak.

How to cure salmon - lox recipe

Plan ahead – it takes 2-3 days to cure

Lox 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 if you want to enjoy it for breakfast.

This recipe is so worth waiting for. Fresh salmon fillets are so much cheaper than buying small packages of prepared lox.

And home cured salmon doesn’t have any nitrites or other preservatives added to it (other than salt, obviously).

Homemade lox also tastes fresher. You can bite through it like a hot knife through butter, while store-bought lox is usually chewier.

lox recipe - homemade smoked salmon

Is lox keto?

Yes! Lox is keto. It is low carb and rich in healthy omega-3s and healthy fatty acids, just like regular salmon. Lox makes a GREAT option for keto breakfast or an easy keto snack if served with cucumber slices or on a low carb tortilla or bread with cream cheese.

Here are 11 Low Carb Smoked Salmon Recipe Ideas.

keto lox cucumber bites

Flavored lox

The awesome thing about making your own lox is that you can experiment with different flavors of salt, herbs, and seasonings. Try a chili lime version with some lime juice and chili powder, or add some dried herbs for a Mediterranean flavor.

Once you make your own cured salmon, you can use it on so many ways!

How to use leftover lox

One of my favorite ways to use lox is for this Lox Appetizer Platter that I’ve put together. This platter consists of several different lox appetizers:  a Greek Yogurt Lox dip, Lox Bagel Bites, and Cucumber-Lox bites.

Here are 16 other lox recipes. This list has ideas for breakfast lox, brunch, dinner, and lox appetizers. Definitely check it out if you are a fan of lox or have lots left over after making your own:

16 Delicious Lox Recipes that go Beyond the Bagel

lox recipes roundup collage

Can lox be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze lox after making it!

How to freeze lox: The best way to freeze lox is by slicing it thinly and spreading it in a thin layer in a zip lock bag or in a vacuum-sealer bag, such as these. We use this vacuum sealer to freeze food and keep it extra fresh, without all the freezer burn. 

But it’s very rare that we have leftover lox left to freeze, we usually eat it all VERY quickly. 🙂

So are you convinced yet that making your own Lox is a GOOD IDEA?

Excellent. Keep reading then.

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. Make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to read about what to do with the leftover salmon skin!

salmon fillet for making lox

What you’ll need to cure salmon:

For this recipe I recommend using smoked sea salt, to give the lox that nice smoky smoked salmon flavor. If you don’t have smoked sea salt, you can definitely use plain kosher sea salt.

I also add a bit of brown sugar to the curing mix, just to cut some of that salt flavor. This is totally optional – skip this for a keto-friendly lox recipe. Don’t worry, the lox won’t taste sweet, you won’t even notice that there is a bit of sugar added. Light or dark brown sugar will work.

 

How long does homemade lox last?

It only lasts a day or two in my house! Haha that’s because we finish it all. If you store it in the fridge in a sealed container, it will last 3-5 days.

How should you serve lox?

There are so many ways to enjoy lox!  It’s not just for breakfast – lox is great for many lunch and dinner recipes. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve lox:

  • On a toasted bagel, English muffin, or toast smeared with cream cheese
  • Try adding capers, fresh dill, or fresh parsley to the above breakfast
  • Make an open-faced sandwich with lox and a poached egg
  • Avocado toast with lox
  • In this delicious lox appetizer platter – the platter contains a recipe for Greek yogurt-smoked salmon dip, as well as refreshing Cucumber & Lox bites. Dare I say it is a healthy appetizer platter that tastes like a million bucks?
  • Toss sliced lox with your favorite Alfredo pasta recipe
  • Enjoy lox on a salad of greens and a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil as your dressing
  • In any of these lox recipes

What to do with leftover salmon skin

Oh, and what do you do with the salted skin when you finished all the salmon, you 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 non-skin side down and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes, or until each side is nice and crispy. Place on a paper towel to drain the excess fat (although it’s healthy salmon fat, so you can eat it as is!). It will get even crispier as it 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 – it is so good!

If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave me a comment and a star rating below and let me know! And don’t forget to share it on Facebook and Pinterest.

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homemade lox recipe graphic

lox recipe
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4.6 from 42 votes

Smoked Salmon - Lox Recipe

Make your own lox (smoked salmon) with this easy lox recipe. You will never go back to store-bought lox! Homemade lox is so much fresher, tastier, and healthier than store-bought lox. Serve lox for breakfast or brunch on a toasted bagel with cream cheese.
Prep Time10 mins
Curing time2 d
Total Time10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Servings: 5
Author: Kate
Cost: $12

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lb salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup Smoked Sea Salt , or any Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar , or white sugar if you don't have brown sugar (skip for keto lox)
  • Optional: A pinch of freshly ground black pepper or dried herbs such as dill or parsley

Instructions

  • 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 - tweezers are useful for this.
  • Combine the salt and sugar (and pepper and herbs, if using), and rub the seasoning all over the salmon. You might have some extra seasoning that you haven't used up - if so, just place it on top of the salmon.  
  • Get a large piece of plastic wrap. Place the salmon skin-side down. Wrap the salmon tightly with plastic wrap and place it in a container that has a lid. Cover with a lid and place in the fridge. 
  • After 2-3 days, rinse the whole salmon under cold water. Thinly slice the salmon. Serve immediately, or transfer to a clean container, cover, and store refrigerated until serving.  

Notes

  • Homemade lox will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
  • It's best to use a piece of salmon that is the same thickness all around. But it's OK if you can't find a piece like that - just use what you find.
  • You can cure the salmon for 2 or 3 days - there is some wiggle room here. However, it is best to stop curing and rinse off the extra salt just prior to serving the lox so that it is super fresh. The prepared lox will keep in the fridge for about 3 days in an air-tight container.
  • Oh, and what to do with that salted cured salmon skin?? Fry it like bacon!! It will turn crispy on both sides and will be SO DELICIOUS. Just watch out because it will splatter while cooking just like bacon does.
  • Skip the sugar for a keto-friendly version of this recipe. Serve with slices of cucumber and generous smears of cream cheese.
  • Please note the actual nutrition will depend on how fatty your salmon fillet is. The sodium in the nutrition facts is just an estimate - a lot of the salt is rinsed off after curing the salmon. However, this is definitely not a low-sodium food!

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Smoked Salmon - Lox Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 147 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 50mg17%
Sodium 2000mg83%
Potassium 445mg13%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 18g36%
Vitamin A 36IU1%
Calcium 18mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* The nutritional information shown here is just an estimate and not meant to be used as dietary/nutritional advice. Please consult a nutritionist for exact nutritional information based on the exact ingredients you use.

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Recipe Rating




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Jana

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

This turned out great!

Kate

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

So glad to hear that! Thank you so much!!

Jana

Monday 2nd of November 2020

Your recipe does not mention putting a weight on the fish while it is curing, Is this a must and something I should be doing (after reading the comments)? It has been curing for 41 hours so far.

Kate

Monday 2nd of November 2020

Hi Jana, I've put a weight on it a couple of times but then stopped because I really didn't notice a difference, other than slightly squished salmon. So you can skip the weight!

Kate

Ryan

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Using a cold smoke gun is the way to finish Lox IMO. They can be had for $50 or less these days.

Kate

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

That is a great idea!! I might just put that on my holiday wish list this year...

Beverly

Saturday 5th of September 2020

Our lox is pale after freezing. Why does this happen

Ryan

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

The reason for this is the formation of ice crystals that leaves voids in the flesh so the color oxides out. Fresh salmon has enough water content to prevent these voids from forming that would allow oxygen in. Salmon frozen at the canneries are also frozen at much lower temperatures then we can replicate so the ice crystals are very tiny which helps preserve color and texture.

Kate

Sunday 6th of September 2020

Oh man I don't know! If you're not sure, it's better to be safe and not eat it if it looks off. I froze it once just to try it and make sure it was fine before posting about it (although I know my mom does it regularly), but I haven't done it multiple times on different types of salmon, etc. Was there a lot of air in the bag/container when you froze it?

Evelyn Olson

Monday 10th of August 2020

If I don’t have smoked salt can I use liquid smoke to dash a few on the salmon before the salt mix rub ?

Kate

Wednesday 12th of August 2020

Yes, that should work!

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