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Healthy How-To: Cold-Cured Salmon (Lox)

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Growing up in a Jewish home, it wasn't Sunday without bagels, lox, and cream cheese. I really don't know why the sandwich is a consistent part of American Jewish culture, but I can say with absolute certainty that it makes a really yummy breakfast (and also brunch or dinner).

A bagel with cream cheese is great by itself, but lox makes it fantastic. So fantastic that my youngest sister -- who loves it more than anyone else I know -- has earned the affectionate nickname "Lox Monster."

Basically, lox is salmon that has been cured using salt and sugar. Salmon's abundance of heart-healthy fats (like omega-3's) give it a rich yet mild taste, but after curing it's sometimes smoked to add extra flavor.

In any case, lox is a great choice to add variety to your protein sources, especially at breakfast. On the downside, lox (and salmon in general) can be a bit expensive -- especially in landlocked areas (like where I live in the Midwest). BUT - making lox at home is much more affordable (based on what I paid for the ingredients, it came out to $12.65/lb compared to $25.95/lb for prepackaged) and EASY to boot.

Here's how!


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • 4-6 pounds fresh salmon, cut into filets of similar size and shape
  • ¼ cup plain vodka, divided

To make curing mixture: Whisk together salt, sugar, pepper, and dill (if using) in a small bowl. Divide the curing mixture evenly into 2 piles.

To prepare salmon for curing:

a) Spread half of the curing mixture from the first pile onto a rimmed baking sheet. Lay down a salmon filet, skin down, on top of the mixture.

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b) Drizzle 2 tablespoons of vodka over the salmon flesh. Take the second pile of curing mixture and spread it evenly over the flesh.

c) Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of vodka over the flesh of the second filet, then lay it down on top of the first filet, skin up.


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d) Spread remaining curing mixture half from the first pile on the skin of the second salmon filet.

e) Cover with plastic wrap. Place a cutting board on top to provide a flat surface, then weigh it down using cans, pots, or other heavy objects.

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Cold-curing the salmon:

a) Let chill in fridge for 12 hours or overnight, then drain accumulated liquid.

b) Turn over the filets so the bottom one is on top and the top filet is on the bottom.

c) Cover with plastic wrap, weigh down again and return to fridge. Repeat these steps another 2 times.


To slice and serve:

a) Pat filets dry with paper towel, then use a sharp knife to slice thinly against the grain.

b) Serve immediately or reserve for later (see Recipe Notes).

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Recipe Notes

* Cold-cured salmon will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Or, wrap in foil and freeze, then thaw in the refrigerator when desired.

* Serve on top of bagels/toast, use to make your own sushi, use in cold grain salads, etc.

* Consuming raw or undercooked seafood may increase your risk of foodborne illness. Use caution when serving raw or undercooked seafood to vulnerable populations: young children, pregnant women, seniors, and those with compromised immune systems.

* Pacific salmon may carry a parasite known to cause foodborne illness. If using Pacific salmon, freeze the fish for 30 minutes first to kill any parasites.

Download the recipe (with photos!) in printable PDF format.

Nutrition Facts (3 ounces): Calories 100, Total Fat 4g (Saturated 0g), Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 1000mg, Total Carbohydrate 1g, Dietary Fiber 0g, Protein 17g, Vitamin A 0% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 2% DV, Iron 0% DV

Today's post was written by Leia Kedem. Leia Kedem, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. She appears weekly on WCIA-3/WCIX-49 and is a biweekly contributor to the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. She also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts where she regularly posts health tips and answers nutrition questions for free.