Lox: The Truth About Lox and Its Nutritional Benefits

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Lox is a fillet of brined salmon. Traditionally, lox is served on a bagel with cream cheese, and is usually garnished with tomato, sliced red onion, and sometimes capers.

What is lox

Lox vs. Smoked Salmon: What’s the Difference?

Lox is a sort of cold preserved fish made from the belly meat of a salmon. It is never cooked but is instead cured in a salty brine (here’s how to do it with meat before smoking) mixture for several weeks. This process of brining and curing gives lox its unique flavor and texture.

What is Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon, on the other hand, is a type of fish that has been smoked over wood chips (here are the best ones for it). The smoking process gives the fish a distinct flavor and texture that is different from lox.

How Are They Different?

The main differences between lox and smoked salmon are:

  • Flavor: Lox has a saltier taste compared to smoked salmon, which has a smoky flavor.
  • Texture: Lox has a silky, raw texture, while smoked salmon has a firmer texture.
  • Cooking: Lox is never cooked, while smoked salmon is cooked through the smoking process.
  • Brining: Lox is cured in a salty brine, while smoked salmon is not.
  • Salt: Lox has more salt added to it than smoked salmon.
  • Dill: Lox is often flavored with dill, while smoked salmon is not.

How to Enjoy Lox and Smoked Salmon?

Both lox and smoked salmon are commonly enjoyed in the following ways:

  • As an addition to toasted bagels with cream cheese at a deli or bakery.
  • In salads or as a topping for sushi rolls.
  • As a garnish for scrambled eggs or omelets.
  • As a snack with crackers or bread.

The Evolution of Lox: A Remarkable Tale of Etymology

  • Lox comes from the Yiddish word “laks,” which means salmon.
  • The word has been translated into different languages, resulting in various forms and meanings.
  • In the past, lox was sold as a means of preserving the fish during transport in countries without modern refrigeration.

The Popularity of Lox

  • Lox has become a popular item in many countries, particularly in Jewish cuisine.
  • There are different versions of lox, such as Nova lox, which is made from a different kind of salmon and is smoked rather than cured.
  • Lox is often used as a building block for other dishes, such as bagels with lox and cream cheese.

The Complicated Process of Making Lox

  • Making lox is a complicated process that takes time and skill.
  • The process involves curing the salmon in a saltwater brine, which results in a slightly salty taste and a firm texture.
  • Lox is not fully cooked, which means it retains a strong, fresh taste.

The Switch to Smoked Salmon

  • In recent years, there has been a greater switch to smoked salmon as a more convenient and readily available alternative to lox.
  • Smoked salmon is a single item that is fully cooked and has a different taste and texture than lox.
  • Despite the popularity of smoked salmon, lox remains a beloved and true item in the world of food.

The Jazz Connection

  • Lox has a strong connection to jazz music, particularly in the New York City jazz scene.
  • In the past, lox was a typical item found in jazz clubs, where musicians would often play for hours on end.
  • The resulting hunger would be satisfied by a bagel with lox and cream cheese, a classic combination that has stood the test of time.

What’s the Flavor of Lox?

The brining process is a simple means of preserving fresh fish, originating from Scandinavian cuisine. The salmon is brined with salt and sometimes sugar, allowing it to maintain its freshness for a longer time. The process also adds a herb-like flavor to the fish, as opposed to a purely salty taste.

Types of Lox

There are two main types of lox: brined and cold-smoked. Brined lox is prepared by soaking the salmon in a saltwater solution, while cold-smoked lox is smoked over a long period of time, allowing the proteins to cook and giving it a smokey flavor.

Where to Find Lox

Lox can be purchased at most deli counters in cities with a greater Jewish population, such as New York and Los Angeles. Many shops sell lox by the pound, and it is typically sliced thinly and served on bagels with cream cheese. Some people prefer to make their own lox at home, using a DIY brining process.

How to Enjoy Lox

Lox is a common food item in Jewish cuisine and is often served as a main dish or appetizer. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including:

  • Served on a bagel with cream cheese and capers
  • Rolled up with cream cheese and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • Served alongside fresh vegetables and crackers
  • Used as a topping for salads or sandwiches

Overall, lox is a delicious and versatile food that can be enjoyed by any seafood lover.

DIY Lox: A Simple Guide to Making Your Own Fresh Lox

To start, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:

  • 1 pound of fresh salmon, preferably wild-caught
  • 1/2 cup of coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • A rectangular dish large enough to fit the salmon
  • Plastic wrap
  • A sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Mixing bowl
  • Table salt
  • Black pepper
  • Optional: onion, bacon, or other toppings you want to serve with your lox

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Start by checking your salmon for any remaining bones or scales. Remove them if you find any.
2. Mix the coarse sea salt and granulated sugar in a bowl.
3. Lay a piece of plastic wrap in the rectangular dish, making sure it covers the bottom and sides.
4. Place the salmon in the dish, skin-side down.
5. Cover the salmon completely with the salt and sugar mixture. Make sure to pack it on thickly.
6. Cover the dish with another piece of plastic wrap and place it in the fridge.
7. Let the salmon cure for 2-3 days. Check on it occasionally to make sure it’s curing correctly.
8. After 2-3 days, remove the salmon from the dish and rinse it with cold water to remove any excess salt and sugar.
9. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and slice it thinly with a sharp knife.
10. If you’re looking for a traditional lox flavor, simply serve the thinly sliced salmon as is. If you want to get creative, try topping it with onions, bacon, or other toppings of your choice.
11. Serve the lox with your favorite sides and enjoy!

Notes and Tips

  • Make sure to use a heavy-duty plastic wrap to cover the salmon while it’s curing.
  • The size of the dish you use will depend on the size of your salmon. Make sure it fits comfortably in the dish.
  • If you want smaller pieces of lox, cut the salmon into smaller pieces before curing it.
  • The curing time will depend on the size of your salmon and how salty you want your lox to be. Check on it occasionally to make sure it’s curing correctly.
  • Lox is surprisingly affordable to make at home, and it’s a great way to save money if you’re a fan of this famous dish.
  • If you’re not sure how thin to slice your lox, aim for a thickness of around 1/8 inch.
  • The grain of the salmon should run perpendicular to your knife when you’re slicing it.
  • Lox can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Gravlax: The Scandinavian Cousin of Lox

Gravlax has a mild fish taste that is similar to sashimi, as it is not smoked like lox. The curing process gives it a slightly sweet flavor that is balanced by the saltiness of the cure. The herbs used in the cure, such as dill and juniper, also add a subtle spice blend to the flavor profile.

How is Gravlax Prepared?

The preparation of gravlax involves coating a salmon fillet in a mixture of salt, sugar, and herbs, and then wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap. The salmon is then left to cure in the refrigerator for several days, during which time the salt and sugar draw out the moisture from the fish and infuse it with flavor. Once the curing process is complete, the gravlax is thinly sliced and served with traditional accompaniments like mustard sauce, dill, and rye bread.

Lox: More Than Just a Bagel Topping

1. Bagels and Beyond: Creative Ways to Use Lox

Lox is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes beyond the classic bagel and cream cheese. Here are some creative ways to use lox:

  • Lox Salad: Mix lox with greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a lemon-dill dressing for a refreshing and healthy salad.
  • Lox Dip: Combine cream cheese, sour cream, chopped lox, and herbs for a delicious dip that’s perfect for parties.
  • Cheesy Lox Breakfast Casserole: Layer bagels, lox, eggs, and cheese in a casserole dish and bake for a hearty breakfast dish (here are some of the greatest for the charcoal grill).
  • Lox Fillet: Grill or bake a lox fillet and serve with roasted vegetables for a flavorful and healthy dinner.

2. The Uniquely American Affinity for Lox

While lox has its roots in Scandinavian and Eastern European cuisine, it has become a favorite among American foodies. Here are some highlights of lox’s history in America:

  • Lox was traditionally made by brining the belly of a salmon in a saltwater solution. The saltier taste of lox is what sets it apart from smoked salmon.
  • When Jewish immigrants settled in New York in the late 1800s, they brought their love of lox with them. Lox quickly became a staple in Jewish delis and bagel shops.
  • The transcontinental railroad and trains that transported salted fish from the Pacific coast to New York made lox more widely available.
  • Today, lox is a uniquely American food that can be found in a variety of dishes beyond the classic bagel and cream cheese.

3. The Brining and Smoking Process of Lox

Lox is traditionally made by brining the belly of a salmon in a saltwater solution. Here’s a breakdown of the brining and smoking process:

  • First, the salmon is exposed to a saltwater solution, or brine, for several days. This process cures the fish and gives it its salty taste.
  • After the brining process, the salmon is rinsed and then exposed to smoke. The smoke remains on the fish, giving it its distinct flavor and appearance.
  • While lox is often confused with smoked salmon, the two are different. Smoked salmon is cooked and cured, while lox is only cured and exposed to smoke.

Is Lox a Healthy Addition to Your Meal?

According to dietary health experts, lox is a healthy food choice. Here’s why:

  • Nutrients: Lox is packed with nutrients that are essential for a healthy diet. It’s an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Calories: Lox is a lean protein, which means it’s low in calories compared to other fatty foods. A 2-ounce serving of lox contains only about 70 calories.
  • Unprocessed: Lox is a minimally processed food item. It doesn’t contain any preservatives or additives, making it a healthier option than many other processed foods.
  • Wholelox: Wholelox is a type of lox that is made from the entire salmon fillet. This means that it contains all the nutrients and health benefits of the salmon, making it an even healthier option.

How to Make Lox Even Healthier

While lox is already a healthy food choice, there are ways to make it even healthier. Here are some tips:

  • Toppings: Instead of pairing lox with cream cheese, try using avocado or hummus as a topping. These options are lower in calories and higher in nutrients.
  • Whole Grain Bagels: Instead of using a white bagel, try using a whole grain bagel. Whole grain bagels are higher in fiber and lower in calories than white bagels.
  • Portion Control: While lox is a healthy food choice, it’s still important to practice portion control. Stick to a 2-ounce serving size to keep your calorie intake in check.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about lox. Lox is a delicious type of cured salmon, often used as a spread on bagels or a garnish for scrambled eggs. It’s a great way to get some extra protein in your diet. So go ahead and give it a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.