Gravlax Vs. Lox: What's The Difference?

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

If you've ever visited a Jewish deli, you know there is nothing more divine than a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lox, onions, and capers. Or maybe you prefer your lox with scrambled eggs and onions –- either way, this delectable smoked fish brings salty goodness to whatever dish it's in. Although lox is often confused with smoked salmon, there are actually a few minor differences between the two. While lox is usually cold-smoked and comes from the fish belly, smoked salmon can also be hot-smoked and made from any part of the fish.

According to The New York Times, lox can be dated all the way back to Ireland in 2000 B.C., although its name comes from the Yiddish word "laks," which means "salmon." However, lox, as we know it today, is thought to be a Jewish American invention, valued for its ability to stay fresh for up to a year without refrigeration. Unsurprisingly, the bagel and lox combination originated in New York sometime before 1950, according to Smithsonian Mag.

While lox has flourished in the U.S., other countries have cultivated their own versions of preserved fish over the years. One type, in particular, that's very similar to lox is called gravlax. Although it's another type of long-lasting salmon, gravlax has a few key traits that separate it from its fishy cousin.  

Gravlax is cured differently than lox

While gravlax can look like smoked salmon from the outside, it's actually not smoked at all. Gravad lax, known as gravlax in the English-speaking world, is the Scandinavian version of lox, and the name literally translates to "salmon from the grave" because it was originally made by burying fish in the sand (per House of Hegelund). To mimic this method, gravlax today is often cured in the fridge underneath something heavy, like a pan, notes Bon Appétit. Fermenting gravlax in the ground back in the day gave it a strong smell and flavor, notes Delighted Cooking, but preparing it in the fridge drastically mellows it out.

Gravlax is typically cured with salt, sugar, and dill, with extra ingredients like juniper berries and aquavit (a Scandinavian alcohol) sometimes added (via From Norway). It tastes more like sashimi than smoked fish, but it has a similar texture that's a bit tougher than its raw cousin. And although it comes from another country and is prepared differently, it's eaten in a very similar fashion to lox. According to Delighted Cooking, gravlax can be used for a variety of appetizers, and it pairs well with crackers and pickled vegetables.

If you're anxious to get your hands on some, you don't have to make a trip overseas. One visit to Amazon should do the trick, or head on over to Goldbelly to get it from the cream of the crop of Jewish delis, Russ & Daughters