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Lox vs. Smoked Salmon… Is there a Difference? YES!

Lox vs. Smoked Salmon… Is there a Difference? YES!

If you had asked me this question 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Is Lox vs. Smoked Salmon the same thing? Or is it Different? Definitely Different.

Most bagel shops will take smoked salmon with capers and red onion and call it Lox. Once you’ve had true lox, you’ll know that it has nothing to do with the capers and the onions and all about how it is prepared. Don’t get me wrong, I love Smoked Salmon, but Lox is a whole other beast entirely.

Lox VS Smoked:

Smoked salmon is just that, it’s either hot or cold smoked and may or may not be seasoned with dill, brown sugar and other spices. There is a wide range of variety here.

Smoked Salmon Dill Spread
Smoked Salmon Dill Spread

Hot smoked salmon will be flaky and somewhat dry as the heat will dry the salmon out a little bit. It usually takes about 2 hours to hot smoke salmon. This type of salmon is perfect for using in smoked salmon dips and spreads and is also great on salads. Hot smoked salmon will have the appearance and texture of a cooked fish.

Dry smoked salmon is cured with cold smoke (no heat) for about 24 hours and will be shiny with have an appearance of lox in looks, but not taste. Dry smoked salmon looks great when put as an appetizer with a cracker and cream cheese. Also, it is a little easier to work with when putting on a bagel with cream cheese. Dry smoked salmon will have the appearance and texture of uncooked fish (although it is fully cured through the smoking process).

Lox does not use smoke to cure it (most of the time). There are different techniques used when curing lox, but in general it is placed in a brine (seasonings and brines differ) for a week to as long as six months. Some purists say that Lox must be made from the belly of the salmon and that the salmon must come from the Pacific.

Dill Cured Lox
Dill Cured Lox

There are many different styles of salmon lox. My favorite is the style my sister-in-law makes when she comes back from her salmon fishing. I will eventually get the recipe from her, but her style is like Gravad Lax or Gravlax. She wraps layers it with salt and dill and then drowns it in olive oil and lets it cure for a couple weeks.

Nova, Scotch, Nordic & Irish Lox is a style of Lox that is a combination of salt curing and smoking. Since this type of lox is smoked in the end, it maybe why some bagel shops get confused and label their smoked salmon as lox.


Whatever it is, smoked salmon or lox, either way it’s delicious.

Dill Smoked Salmon
Dill Smoked Salmon

I will eventually coax my sister in law’s recipe out of her one day, but take a look around the web and you’ll find lots of different recipes to try. I will be posting one of my smoked salmon recipes later this week as well as a dill smoked salmon spread, so be sure to check back for it.

Whatever you do, whether making Smoked Salmon or Lox, just be sure to use FRESH salmon. Frozen salmon is fine for cooking but should not be used for smoked salmon or lox as the freezing process changes the texture of the salmon.

1 thought on “Lox vs. Smoked Salmon… Is there a Difference? YES!”

  • Viv, Lynnette also uses either Vodka or Everclear in the wrap, usually a couple of tablespoons depending on how big it is. She wraps it tight in saran wrap, then puts in a baking pan. Store it in the fridge for >1 week with something heavy on top, we use beer bottles or jars that are already in the fridge. When you want to use it, lightly wash off the salmon, re-wrap it and store in the fridge. It will last ~6months or more depending on how often you have bagels around…..

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