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Spice-Cured Salmon with Beets & Horseradish Cream

Tuukka Koski

Servings: 16 to 20

Cured salmon (gravad lax) is quintessentially Scandinavian. It’s served in every season, but this version is perfect for Christmas, thanks to the festive warm spices and orange zest. The tangy raw beets and spicy horseradish cream contrast beautifully with the silky, citrusy salmon. It makes an elegant first course and a deliciously cool counterpoint to hot White Wine & Elderflower Gløgg. To save time, you can substitute cream-style prepared horseradish for the fresh horseradish cream, though the flavor won’t be the same.


For the salmon

  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 20 green cardamom pods
  • 9 oz. kosher salt (about 1-3/4 cups Diamond Crystal or 1 cup Morton’s)
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest (from 2 oranges)
  • 1 4-lb. skin-on salmon fillet (preferably wild), belly flap trimmed and pin bones removed

For the beets and horseradish cream

  • 3 medium red beets, peeled, halved, and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 3/4 cup finely grated fresh horseradish
  • 1-1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving

  • Rye crispbreads, such as Finn Crisp or Wasa
  • Fresh dill sprigs
  • Lemon wedges

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 200
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 90
  • Fat (g): 10
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3
  • Cholesterol (mg): 65
  • Sodium (mg): 810
  • Carbohydrates (g): 5
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 21


Cure the salmon

  • With a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, finely grind the peppercorns, coriander, cloves, and cardamom pods. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the salt, sugar, and orange zest.
  • Arrange several long pieces of plastic wrap on a large rimmed baking sheet. Put the salmon on the plastic skin side down, cover the flesh evenly with the salt mixture, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for 4 days.

Make the beets and horseradish cream

  • In a medium bowl, toss the beets with 2 Tbs. of the vinegar; let stand for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the crème fraîche, horseradish, sugar, and the remaining 2 Tbs. vinegar; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.


  • Unwrap the salmon and rinse under cold running water to remove the curing mixture. Pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a cutting board and very thinly slice the salmon (Using a long, thin, sharp knife, slice the salmon as thinly as you can. Starting at the wider end if the filet, hold the knife at a 45-degree angle and try for slices so thin that you can see the knife through the salmon). Slice only as much as you need. Garnish with the dill sprigs and serve with the beets, horseradish cream, crispbreads, and lemon wedges.

Make Ahead Tips

The salmon can be cured (it takes four days) and kept in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks ahead or cured and frozen for up to 2 months (defrost in the fridge or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours). The horseradish cream can be made up to 3 days ahead and the beets can be marinated up to 2 hours before serving.


Rate or Review

Reviews (3 reviews)

  • Romeyers | 06/30/2017

    This was wonderful. Also, it's yummy enough to try other ways. This salmon could replace lox. All I can add is the salmon is easier to slice thin if it's mostly frozen.

  • Gracks | 02/05/2016

    Fantastic starter for Christmas festivities. This is very likely the best Gravalax I have made and I have been making Gravalax every year for over 25 years. I'm just now writing the review because tomorrow I will start another batch. This will be used for canaps for a dinner party. The first time I followed the recipe for the beetroot and horseradish but this time am just making the salmon. Really good with wild salmon.

  • ericaka | 11/15/2014

    The whole dinner was a great success for our Swedish Christmas Eve Dinner. But this recipe was a so yummy. You have to layer each ingredient eat like an open sandwich. Can't wait to have it again next year.

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