Lox vs Smoked Salmon: What’s The Difference?

Youre in the middle of a New York City buzz, craving for some authentic New York City bagel, and the deli chef suddenly asks you: Do you want your bagel with smoked salmon or lox? But how can you distinguish between these two popular bagel additions that almost look identical?

Well, it turns out that even though both smoked salmon and lox come from the same fish, they are prepared differently. Smoked salmon is cured or brined and smoked. Lox, on the other hand, is cured but not smoked.

The preserving technique, however, is merely a starting stone. All of them will be covered in this post. Let’s get started!

Difference Between Lox vs. Smoked Salmon

Lox and smoked salmon derive from the same fish, salmon however, the smoking procedure is what sets them apart. Lox is never smoked, whereas smoked salmon as the name states is always smoked.

Now lets look at each difference separately.


Lox comes from Scandinavia, where the people discovered how to preserve salmon in saltwater brine early on. Apart from the Scandinavians, Jews from Eastern Europe were also fond of curing salmon. The current name echoes this, as the Yiddish word for salmon is laks.

The popularity of smoked salmon developed during the Middle Ages, but the smoked salmon industry boomed in the nineteenth century, notably along Americas West Coast. The waterways of Alaska and Oregon are famous for the gorgeous Pacific salmon. Smoked salmon was especially popular during WWII when soldiers smoked the fish to keep it fresh throughout lengthy journeys.


Preparing lox and smoked salmon begins by deboning the salmon. While smoked salmon uses the entire side of the fish for curing and smoking, lox uses only the richest, fattest, and most delicious part the belly.

As for the skin, some cooks advise leaving the skin on to make the fish more solid, however, the fish soaks the cure more effectively without it. Plus, not only does the skin give a peculiar, often unpleasant aroma to the fish, but it can also get mushy and soggy when smoked. Thats why its better to remove the skin while you cut the fish.


As already noted, both lox and smoked salmon undergo the same curing process. Curing helps the salmon retain its freshness longer, improves the mouthfeel, and enhances the flavor.

Lox and smoked salmon can be wet-cured or dry-cured.

  • Dry cure: Lox or smoked salmon sits in salt, sugar, and sometimes lemon zest for up to three days.
  • Wet cure: Preparing a brine with salt and sugar, then immersing the lox or smoked salmon for six to ten hours.

Curing is the last step in making lox. Although the lox isnt cooked during this procedure, it has a lovely buttery, silky feel and may be eaten raw without further cooking.

Smoked salmon, on the other hand, continues its preservation journey up in the smoker. Salmon may be smoked either cold or hot.

  • Cold smoking: The salmon is smoked in an 80F (26C) smoker. Its still technically raw like the lox but has an extra smoky taste.
  • 65C). This process takes between one to three hours, depending on the size of the filet. The salmon is then cooked in the oven until it reaches 150F (65C).70C) smoker and smoked until it reaches a temperature of 140F (60160F (65Hot smoking: The salmon is put in a 150

Color, Texture, Aroma & Flavor

Lox and cold smoked salmon have a similar pinkish-orange color, whereas hot-smoked salmon has a more intense, dark orange color.

Lox and cold-smoked salmon have smooth and silky textures, while hot-smoked salmon is more crisp and flaky. The former feels a little sticky to the touch since they are essentially uncooked, while the latter remains solid and meaty.

Smoked salmon and lox both have strong but flavorful scents but the bonus smoky aroma of the smoked salmon makes it easily recognizable and more delectable.

Both flavors are typically fishy, salty, and herbal. Lox typically has a saltier taste than smoked salmon. On the other hand, the delicious taste of the wood chips will give smoked salmon an extra boost in flavor.

Shelf Life

A sealed pack of lox can survive for up to two months in the fridge. Additionally, you may freeze lox to extend its shelf life. Although frozen lox may be kept for up to 6 months, its preferable to use it within 3 months as the quality will weaken with time. Once you open it, you should consume lox within three days.

In the refrigerator, hot smoked salmon can keep for about two weeks. It can also remain fresh and tasty if frozen for up to three months. Cold smoked salmon has a shelf life of 1 week in the fridge and around 1 month in the freezer.

Once frozen, it can maintain its flavor for two to three months. Smoked salmon must be refrigerated and used within 5-7 days of opening.


Because lox and cold-smoked salmon are somewhat raw, you may serve them without cooking them. Hot smoked salmon, on the other hand, is completely cooked and a preferable option for dishes that call for additional cooking.

The traditional New York bagel that initially perplexed us usually includes cold-smoked salmon or lox. The raw delicacies are also great with pretzels, salads, or layered on an appetizer platter.

Cooked dishes can employ cold-smoked salmon or lox, but hot-smoked salmon is the more suitable and tastier combination. It works amazingly well in omelets, grilled cheese, spaghetti, fried rice, soups, mashed potatoes, tart, or creamy dips, and its also an option to choose from when ordering the classic New York bagel.

Lox vs. Smoked Salmon Comparison Table

Category Lox Smoked Salmon
Origin Scandinavia Native American
Type of fish Salmon Salmon
Part of the fish Belly Whole side
Preparation Cured or brined Cured or brined, and smoked (hot or cold-smoked)
Color Pinkish-orange Cold Smoked salmon: pinkish-orange Hot-smoked salmon: dark orange
Texture Velvety & soft Cold-smoked salmon: smooth Hot-smoked salmon: flaky
Aroma Fishy, salty Fishy and smoky
Flavor Salty Salty and smoky
Shelf life Sealed: Refrigerated: 2 monthsFrozen: 3 months Opened: Refrigerated: 3 daysFrozen: 3-6 months Hot-smoked salmon: Refrigerated: 2 weeksFrozen: 3 monthsOpened: 5-7 days Cold-smoked salmon: Refrigerated: 1 weekFrozen: 1 monthOpened: 5-7 days
Cooking Mostly preferred for cold meals, but may also be cooked Hot-smoked salmon: Mostly combined with recipes that require cooking;   Cold-smoked salmon: Usually preferred with cold meals, but may also be cooked

Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?

According to the nutritional chart below, lox has lower levels of calories, fat, and cholesterol. However, it has a far greater salt concentration than smoked salmon, making it the less healthy option.

On the other hand, smoked salmon has a greater protein content and cold-smoked salmon, in particular, has the greatest levels of calcium and iron.

Although lox is lower in calories, fats, and cholesterol, it has high salt content. As you might know, its strongly advised against consuming too much salt since it might cause cardiac issues. Furthermore, lox is a raw fish, making it a poor choice for those with sensitive stomachs.

Lox vs. Smoked Salmon: Nutritional Profile

Category (100g) Lox Cold-Smoked Salmon Hot-Smoked Salmon
Calories 99 110 193
Carbs 0g 0g 0.9g
Fat 3.7g 4g 12.3g
Saturated fat 0.8g 1g 2.1g
Cholesterol 20 mg 45 mg 46.8 mg
Sodium 1.7g 900 mg 593.3 mg
Potassium 149 mg 330mg 308.6 mg
Protein 16g 18g 19.3g
Fiber 0g 0g 0g
Sugars 0g 0g 0g
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin A 1.5% 1.5% 1%
Calcium 0.7% 2% 0%
Iron 4% 5% 0%

Can I Substitute Lox for Smoked Salmon & Vice Versa?

Yes, you can definitely substitute smoked salmon for lox and vice versa. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

If you want the velvety and smooth mouthfeel of lox, avoid hot-smoked salmon since it has a flaky texture, and use cold-smoked salmon instead.

Also, you shouldnt anticipate any smokey flavor if you replace smoked salmon with lox. Instead, your dish will be saltier since lox has higher sodium content.

If you cant find smoked salmon and lox is all youve got, you can always smoke the fish in the oven. Set the lox on the top rack, add the wood chips to an iron pan on the bottom shelf and bake for at least 15 minutes.


That’s all there is to know about salmon and lox!

I hope that next time youre waiting in line to get a bagel, you wont struggle to pick your topping! Lox is raw salmon and is super salty, whereas smoked salmon is smoky and can be partially raw (cold-smoked) or fully cooked (hot-smoked). Whichever option you go for, you are up for a tasty treat! Enjoy.


Which is better lox or smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon is preserved with a combination of salting and smoking, so the flavor can be slightly salty and slightly smoky. Because lox is only brined, the flavor is very different. It’s much more briney and there’s no smoky flavor whatsoever. In appearance, these two delicious foods can look very similar.

Why is smoked salmon called lox?

Lox takes its name from the Yiddish word for salmon, laks, and as with most cured or smoked fish, it was originally developed as a way to preserve the fish during transport in the days before refrigeration.

Is lox just raw salmon?

Lox is never cooked; instead, it’s made by curing a salmon belly fillet in salty brine, traditionally for three months. This technique gives lox its signature salty flavor. Lox is part of the famous lox bagel breakfast sandwich, although many times, smoked salmon is used instead.

Which has more salt smoked salmon or lox?

Compared to smoked salmon, lox is saltier with more of a raw texture, making it the perfect addition to a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Nova lox, specifically, is made from Nova Scotian salmon that is cured then cold-smoked. Nova lovers value its saltiness and smokiness.

Is eating lox healthy?

Health experts unanimously agree that salmon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s full of beneficial Omega-3 Fatty Acids and delicious. Besides, calories in lox are low compared to many other fatty foods.

Is it OK to eat lox everyday?

Ms. Bender, a registered dietitian, suggests limiting consumption of smoked and cured fish, enjoying it as an occasional treat versus eating it every day, for the same reasons that you should limit processed meats.

Why did Jews eat lox?

Lox and smoked salmon became Jewish through an accident of migration. When European immigrants came to New York, they brought traditions of smoking and salting fish. But the stuff did not take off until the arrival of Eastern European Jews in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Why is lox so expensive?

Because the world is running out of wild salmon due to over fishing. There are a limited number of fish in the sea. If you catch most of the fish, the remainder of them are few and far between. Fishing boats catch fewer of them, so they have to charge more to cover their costs.

Does lox taste like salmon?

Smooth, velvety, and buttery, lox tastes a lot like other types of salmon. However, it is saltier because of the brining process.

How long does lox last in fridge?

When it comes to keeping your lox fresh after opening, you’re going to need to keep it refrigerated, or freeze it if you’re intending to keep it long-term. When it comes to storage life for opened or fresh lox from the grocery counter, it will generally last about a week in the refrigerator.

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