Do You Know the Differences Between Lox, Gravlax, and Smoked Salmon?

Biting into a toasted New York bagel smeared with cream cheese topped with fresh dill and lox is a heavenly experience. Or wait, is that smoked salmon on your bagel? Hold on, perhaps it's gravlax. Okay, so you know it's some form of pink salmon, but can you tell the difference? Lox, gravlax, and smoked salmon may all look similar, but there's a difference between them.

From the taste to the process, here's what you need to know about these types of cured salmon.


Lox is often a type of salmon associated with breakfast. Derived from the Yiddish word lax, meaning salmon, real lox comes from the belly of the fish and is thinly sliced. It's salt-cured for about three months, but unlike smoked salmon, it does not undergo the smoking process. The result is a silky consistency along with a fatty, salty flavor.


You may have seen Gravlax at the store and considered it to be the same thing as lox, which it pretty much is. Like lox, gravlax undergoes the curing process without being smoked afterwards. The difference with gravlax is it has a little something extra added to it, spices.

A Scandinavian-style salmon, gravlax is cured with sugar, salt, and dill - rather than a salt brine - then prepped with a seasoning that often includes juniper berry, pepper, and aquavit. The spices add a bit more flavor to the cured salmon than regular lox.

Smoked Salmon

The difference between smoked salmon lies in the name, it's smoked. Like lox and gravlax, smoked salmon is cured, but then smoked afterwards. Kind of a no-brainer, but then things get more complicated. When we talk about smoked salmon, there are two types to mention: hot-smoked and cold-smoked.

Hot-smoked salmon is smoked like meat. For about eight hours, it's smoked around 145°F. This in turn thoroughly cooks the salmon, resulting in a firm, flaky texture. The flavor and texture will more similar to grilled salmon, with a smokiness of course.

Cold-smoked salmon is a bit different. Depending on the smoker and size of salmon, it's smoked for up to fifteen hours no higher than 80°F, hence colder than hot-smoked. This results in a texture similar to that of lox, but gives it a smoky flavor.

Oh, and to clarify things, when you hear the word Nova, they're probably talking about cold-smoked salmon. The name traditionally signified that the cold-smoked salmon as a product of Nova Scotia. This smoked salmon tends to be milder in smoke, with a fattier flavor. Actually, if you want a good deal on Nova  salmon, head to Trader Joe's. They have a four serving package of Nova smoked salmon for just under $10, and it goes great on everything - I'm currently eating a piece as we speak, or uh, as you read.

Now that you know all about lox, gravlax, and smoked salmon, it's time to make your own. Don't be intimidated, it's easier than you think. Here to help you out, we've compiled a recipe for each type to get you started.

1. Homemade Lox

To test your hand at curing salmon, start with Homemade Lox.  You'll want to use a fattier salmon for this, like Atlantic or King salmon. With the skin side down, spread salt across the fillet until it's well coated, and then wrap in foil.

Let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours. Once down, rinse, pat, and get ready to slice. Now that doesn't sound so hard, does it? Get the recipe here.

2. Gravlax

Now that you can make lox, take it a step further with this simple Gravlax recipes. Season a salmon fillet with a mixture of sugar, salt, and pepper. Then sprinkle on dill and aquavit or vodka. After 72 hours in the fridge, the salmon should be firm, that's when you know it's ready. Discard excess brine and skin, slice, and get ready to enjoy!

Get the recipe here.

3. Smoked Salmon

Making smoked salmon doesn't get any easier than this. First, make the brine to cure the fish out of water, sugar, salt, and peppercorns. Next, submerge the fish in the brine in a large container for up to 12 hours. Once the fish is completely air dried, place it in the smoker until it reaches 140°F - this will take a couple hours.

Now you're ready for some good, homemade smoked salmon. You can serve on a a smorgasbord with cheese, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, crackers, or whatever else you fancy. Get the recipe here.

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