Gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce

Gravad lax med hovmästarsås


Gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce is one of Sweden’s most famous dishes. Over the years it has gradually grown in popularity in the UK so that nearly all supermarkets stock it these days. Nonetheless, homemade gravadlax is so good it is worth making the effort to cure your own as I think it tastes a lot better and it is much cheaper.

The name literally means “grave salmon” and refers to the medieval practice of curing raw fish by salting it and then burying it in sand or with weights on top to force the salt into the fish. 

Gravadlax is very easy to make. Essentially some salt is rubbed into salmon to cure it and then some sugar, pepper and dill is added for flavour. The fish is then weighted down in a fridge for 48 hours to force the salt and flavours into the salmon. Easy-peasy! John Duxbury


Recipe summary for gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce


• Ask your fishmonger for salmon for curing (sushi quality) or use frozen salmon.
• Ask for two matching pieces for curing.
• The middle cuts of salmon tend to work better, but you can also use the tails.
• Use the cured salmon within 2 or 3 days or freeze the fish after curing to ensure that any parasites are killed off.

Dill sauce in a bowl

• If you prefer a thicker mustard and dill sauce as shown above, something more like mayonnaise, add an egg yolk with the mustard. (Mary Berry, the famous British cook who has been making gravadlax for sixty years, prefers to add egg yolk, but I prefer it without.)
• British people tend to like it less salty than Swedes. If you think it might be too salty for you, reduce the curing time from 48 to 24 hours.
• I've experimented with different oils and all give a slightly different taste and appearance. My favourite is rapeseed oil as it has a better colour and is more neutral than olive oil.
• Gravadlax freezes very well. It can be frozen for up to 2 months. Part-thaw the salmon for about an hour before slicing. It is best not to freeze the sauce as it tends to curdle when thawed.


1 kg (2 lb) fresh salmon, filleted and boned, with skin on
100 g (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
75 g (2½ oz) sea salt (kosher salt)
1 tbsp   white peppercorns, crushed
100 g (4 oz) dill, including stalks

Mustard and dill sauce

4 tbsp   Swedish mustard (use 3 tbsp of Dijon if you can't get Swedish)
2 tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar
1 tbsp   white wine vinegar or distilled malt vinegar
    salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 ml   vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil
3 tbsp   freshly chopped dill


Gravadlax being prepared

1. Cut some aluminium foil or clingfilm (food wrap) big enough for wrapping up the salmon.

2. Rinse the salmon and pat dry with paper towels. Run your fingers over the salmon to feel for any tiny pin bones. If you find any, remove them with tweezers.

Salt, sugar and pepper mixture

3. Mix together the salt, sugar and crushed white peppercorns.

Salmon before being wrapped in foil

4. Spread half the mixture over the skin side of the salmon.

5. Take a third of the dill and spread out on the aluminium foil. Place the salmon on this, skin side down.

Gravadlax being prepared

6. Rub the remaining salt mixture over the salmon flesh working it well into the flesh with your fingers.

Gravadlax being prepared

7. Chop the remaining dill and cover the flesh side of the salmon with it.

Gravadlax being prepared

8. If you are curing two pieces, sandwich them together, skin side out.

Gravadlax being weighted down to cure

9. Wrap the salmon up, place it in a plastic bag and place it in a dish. Place another dish on top of the salmon and weigh down using, for instance, a few bottles of water.

10. Place in the fridge for 48 hours, turning the salmon over every 12 hours.

11. To make the sauce, put the mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper into a food processor and mix for 20 seconds. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream. Pour the mixture into a serving dish and add chopped dill. (The sauce is better left for a day or so to mature.)

12. When the salmon is cured, unwrap it and drain off the salty, sticky liquid and discard it. Scrape off most of the herbs. (For a slightly smoother flavour, rinse the salmon under cold running water, transfer to a plastic bag and refrigerate for a further 24 hours to allow the cure to even out.)

Gravadlax being sliced

13. Slice at an angle of 45°, pulling each slice away from the skin.

14. Wrap any unused gravadlax in clingfilm (food wrap) and store in the fridge. Use 2 or 3 days or freeze (see the tips above).

Serving suggestions

Gravadlax on rye crispbread

It makes an attractive and tasty appetiser when served on rye crispbread.

Gravadlax served as a starter

Serve as a starter with the mustard and dill sauce, rye bread and, if desired, some crème fraîche and black lumpfish caviar. (Personally I think the crème fraîche is unnecessary, but some people like it!)

Gravadlax served as a main course

Gravadlax makes a delightful summery meal served with some salad and new potatoes tossed in dill.


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