Do you love lox? Did you know it’s easy to make it yourself at home? This How to Make Lox tutorial will walk you through making your own lox, step-by-step!
Every time we stay somewhere with a really nice breakfast buffet, the husband’s eyes dart back and forth until he finds what he’s looking for– piles of either lox or smoked salmon.
He is immediately on a mission, making a beeline past the glistening piles of fruit, eggs, and fluffy waffles, and straight to the seafood. Only after he finishes devouring one, sometimes two, bagels overflowing with cream cheese and salmon, does he move on to the other options.
If you, like him, get positively giddy when you see lox, you may have had the same crushed look that he had on his face when he saw what lox costs to buy pre-made. Even if you find a good price, pre-made lox typically comes in teeny-tiny, sad little packages.
It was, therefore, some relief to both the husband and to my wallet, when I realized that lox is INCREDIBLY simple to make at home. Today, we’ll learn How to Make Lox, and we’ll take on those pretty pink salmon fillets and turn them into a delicious breakfast topping.
What is Lox?
Lox is salt-cured salmon. It’s usually from the fatty salmon belly, and it has never been exposed to heat. Lox is incredibly easy to make at home!
If you prefer smoked lox, then you’re technically looking for Nova Lox. Unfortunately, Nova Lox is a little harder to make at home (unless you own a smoker!), but you can mimic the smokey flavor with a little smoked salt.
Learn more about lox: Check out this post– Types of Salmon: An Ultimate Guide.
Before you start making lox, make sure you have the following: salmon, sea salt (or kosher salt, or brining salt, but NOT iodized or table salt), and aluminum foil. You might also want to use gin or vodka, a little sugar, and some smoked salt.
Do I need a Fillet Knife?
In my experience– yes. If you don’t have one, you can dice the cured salmon instead of slicing it.
Ideally, though, you’ll use a fillet knife. I use a fillet knife from Wüsthof.
What Kind of Salmon Should You Use?
You can make lox from whatever type of salmon you want, but I usually stick with the fattier salmon. Atlantic salmon is generally fatty, and works well. King salmon and coho salmon are harder to find, but both make delicious lox.
Keep in mind that the various salmon species all taste different from one another, so the lox will have a different flavor depending on the species you use. (Want to learn more about the different types of salmon? Read this salmon guide!)
Quick Tip: Personally, I would avoid making lox with either pink salmon or keta salmon, simply because they aren’t as fatty as the other varieties of salmon.
Is Lox Safe to Eat?
It depends. A lot of traditional recipes recommend using fresh salmon for lox, and avoiding frozen fish. I disagree.
Seafood Health + Safety Tip: The FDA recommends using commercially frozen fish instead of fresh fish for raw or undercooked fish preparations. And so do I. (Click here to read more about eating raw or undercooked fish.)
How to Make Lox
To make your lox, start with about 2 pounds of salmon. You can cure more or less salmon at once, but 2 lbs is a good starting point.
Roll out enough aluminum foil to totally wrap up your salmon, and set the salmon in the middle, skin-side down. Spread the sea salt over the salmon so that there’s a layer of salt covering the whole fillet. (Don’t worry about salting the skin.)
Next, sprinkle the smoked salt, if you’re using it, evenly over the fillets. If you’re using an even number of fillets, you can sandwich them, skin-side out, and they’ll take up less room in your fridge while curing. Wrap the foil completely around the salmon, and then take another piece of foil and wrap it again.
Set the wrapped salmon fillets in any kind of lipped container (I use a casserole dish), to keep the juice that leaks out from spilling all over your fridge. Put the whole thing in the fridge, and set something heavy on top, like a large plastic container full of water, a cast iron pan, or even a brick. (Make sure to use something that won’t be ruined from the salmon juices! Don’t use, for example, anything edible or fine, porous china.)
Let the salmon cure in the fridge for 24 hours. Take it out, unwrap it, and rinse, rinse, rinse! Put the salmon fillets under your kitchen faucet, and rub off all the salt mixture.
Next, use a fillet knife to thinly slice the lox, moving across the top of the fillet, and parallel to your kitchen counter. Slice until you get to the skin, and remove the skin with the final slices. The skin will be easier to remove if you cut with your knife blade parallel to the natural grain of the fish.
Put the slices of lox into a covered dish, and set back in the fridge for at least eight more hours to allow the flavors to balance out. The lox should stay good for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge. Serve it however you want– on a bagel with cream cheese, in a bowl of rice, or just eat it by itself. Pat yourself on the back for learning something new, and enjoy your lox!
*Note: There are some risks associated with consuming raw or undercooked seafood. I am not a doctor. If your doctor says you shouldn’t eat raw fish because you’re at a higher risk for getting sick (i.e.– if you’re pregnant or have a different medical condition that makes it unsafe), talk to them, not me, before chowing down.
Want more COOKING BASICS? Try these:
Want more LOX recipe ideas? Try these:
How to Make Lox
Yields About 2 lbs Lox, and 8 4oz servings.
- 2 lbs salmon, skin on (Use commercially frozen fish. Use a fatty salmon such as Atlantic, King, or Coho)
- 3/4 cup sea salt or Kosher salt
- 2 TB smoked salt (optional)
Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to completely wrap around the salmon.
Cover salmon with a thick layer of the sea salt. Use more salt as needed, depending on the size of your fillets. If using smoked salt, sprinkle it evenly over over the salmon.
- If using multiple fillets, sandwich them together, skin side out. Wrap foil around the fillets. Wrap them again with another piece of foil.
- Set wrapped salmon on a baking sheet or any lipped container-- the juices will leak out, so you want them contained. Set the salmon and lipped container inside refrigerator. Set something heavy on top of the salmon- such as a cast iron pan or brick.
- Leave salmon to cure for 24 hours, and then remove from foil. Rinse the salmon for several minutes to remove salt.
Use a fillet knife to slice salmon as thinly as possible, cutting across the top of the fish in long thin slices, removing the skin with the last cuts.
Your knife blade should be parallel to the grain of the fish, not perpendicular. If your fish is falling apart as you cut-- you're probably cutting it from the wrong direction.
If you're cutting a whole side of salmon- you should be cutting head-to-tail instead of side-to-side.
If you don't have a fillet knife, dice the salmon instead.
- Place salmon slices in a covered dish, and put back in the fridge for at least eight hours to allow the salty flavor to balance out.
- Salmon will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
Recipe Variations: If you want to try making Gravlax, pour 2oz gin or vodka over the salmon before adding the salt. Optionally, add 1/4 cup sugar to the salt mixture. Top salmon liberally with herbs, grated horseradish, or juniper berries.
Note: Keep in mind that store-bought lox is typically cut by a machine. Your homemade lox will likely be slightly less perfect than store-bought, but it will still be delicious!