Jalapeño Gravlax

Inasmuch as Baby Lady wanted me to post the Smoked Salmon Pizza recipe, I thought it also best to post this recipe on how to make Gravlax.  We put our spin on it by adding jalapeños which, obviously, are not included in traditional gravlax. 🙂 It’s pretty tasty and we hope you like it.

Although many people call Gravlax smoked salmon, technically it is not.  Gravlax is a cured salmon whereas Smoked Salmon is typically a fillet that has been cured and then hot or cold smoked. Whereas hot smoking the salmon cooks the meat making it firmer, less moist, with a prominent smokey, less delicate taste, cold smoking does not cook the fish. This results in the salmon having a delicate texture and taste with a slight kiss of smoke in the flavor. Gravlax. on the other hand, does not require smoking and is flavored traditionally with dill although other herbs and spices may be used.  This preparation uses jalapeño chiles for a little extra flavor and some heat.  Hence, the name “Jalapeño Gravlax.” To make traditional gravlax, simply omit the jalapeños. The whole process takes only two days and you will have some of the best salmon you have ever eaten and it saves a bundle over buying it at your local market. Here is what we did.


  • 2 – 1.5 lbs salmon or steelhead filets
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fine natural sea salt
  • 1 oz Aquavit (A spirit principally produced in Scandinavia with a 40% alcohol content flavored with caraway)
  • 1 large bundle of fresh dill
  • 1 cup diced jalapeños (optional)


This recipe uses fresh, wild steelhead, as opposed to salmon.  Both are members of the salmonid species (as are trout) and many people believe the steelhead is the precursor to salmon. I bought these beauties for $10/pound. Notice the beautiful stripes of gorgeous fat in the flesh.

Put the fish in a container large enough to hold it and still fit in your refrigerator.  Mix the salt and sugar and put in a container for use and storage afterwards. Pour 1 oz Aquavit over the steelhead and generously cover first fillet with the mix of sugar/salt mix. I prefer the sea salt because of its minerality and natural ocean taste. Remember you are salt curing the steelhead.

Next step is to add sliced jalapenos????? Yep, we like the additional flavor imparted by the fresh jalapenos, not to mention a little heat. Clearly, this is not your traditional Gravlax. If you don’t like jalapenos, then don’t use them. It’s that simple.

Next step is to add a LOT of fresh dill. Typically, we buy the dill at our Asian market for $0.99 per package.  This is one package.

Now, place the second fillet on top of the first fillet, skin side down. Add the salt/sugar mix to the second fillet.

Flip the second fillet over and place it on top of the bottom fillet.

Cover with more of the sugar/salt mix. I also put some more chopped jalapeños on top that are not depicted in the photo.

Cover the salmon fillets with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator for 24 hours.

After 24 hours remove the salmon from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.  Notice the liquid pooling at the bottom of the container.  The sugar/salt cure mix is removing the water from the fish fillets.  You will also notice the fish is getting a little “leathery” feeling to the flesh.

Take the top fillet off, invert it, lay it on its side next to the bottom fillet and spoon juices from the bottom over both halves. Isn’t this really a beautiful color?

Take the bottom fillet, place it on the top fillet, cover with plastic wrap an put back in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.  After 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator.  You should have something that looks like this.

Notice there is more liquid in the bottom as the fish has lost more of its water with primarily its fat remaining in the flesh.  The flesh should have a very leathery feeling to the touch.

Remove from the container and brush off the dill and jalapeño. Lightly rinse under cold water and pat dry. You can wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will store 3 – 4 weeks as is.  If you are going to store it longer, it will freeze for up to 60 – 90 days. Making your own gravlax will also save you a bundle. While you lose 40% of the gross weight of the fish with the water loss and skin, the total cost to make 3 lb. of Gravlax was $33. With a yield of roughly 1.8 lb, the cost is $18/lb. Compare that with $25 per lb. from your market.

To serve, thinly slice the fillets on a bevel so you get thin slices that are long and wide.  Serve it with bagels and cream cheese or however you like.  Enjoy.

9 thoughts on “Jalapeño Gravlax”

  1. Lovely to see some Euro cooking! Being Swedish and all, I’ll have to tip you on trying the traditional variety (should you ever make it) Swedish style, unless you’ve already tried it. That means the cured salmon served with nothing but boiled whole potatoes and hovmästarsås, or gravlaxsås as some call it.


    Make sure the ingredients are room temperatured:

    0,5 dl mustard, not Dijon, just a regular fairly mild kind
    1 msk sugar
    1 krm salt
    0,5 krm ground white pepper
    1 msk white vinegar (we use 24%)
    1 dl vegetable oil, neutral in taste
    1 dl dill, finely chopped

    Mix the mustard, sugar, salt, pepper and vinegar. Drip the oil into the mixture slowly, and wisk vigorously while. You want the sauce to turn thick and shiny. If the oil is added too quickly or in too large amounts, the sauce might curdle. Enjoy!

  2. Why am I not surprised you two thought of adding jalapeños to gravlax 😉 I’m trying to imagine what it tastes like. Homemade gravlax rules though, even without the jalapeños…

      1. Now Stefan, you know that spice is the key to life. 🙂 The jalapeños are really killer and a nice addition to the traditional gravlax. They add very little heat and just a touch of flavor. Maybe the next time I will use Serrano chiles. 😉
        I have been toying with different ideas about how to transform the smoker into a cold smoker during the winter time. I think I can run a hose from the chimney through an ice filled cooler with a fixed rack on top of the ice and a chimney at the top. I think this would cool the smoke sufficiently to act as a cold smoker. Someday I may give it a try.

Food for thoughts

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