How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)


Salted salmon, called shiozake or shiojake (塩鮭), is so ubiquitous in Japan that when people just talk about “salmon” (sake or shake) they are usually referring to the salted kind rather than the raw kind (which is specifically called namazake(生鮭)). Salted salmon is a staple ingredient of bento, used as an onigiri rice ball filling, flaked on top of or mixed into rice, or just grilled.

shiozake_cooked.jpgSalted salmon is cheap and easily available in Japan, but not so outside of Japan. So I’ve been making it myself for some time now, and it’s quite easy. All you need is a typical refrigerator that has low humidity. (If yours doesn’t have excess condensation in it, and old leafy vegetables get dessicated in the corner of your vegetable bin, then it’s ideal.)

You must start out with good, fresh salmon. It should not smell at all fishy, and it should be firm to the touch. Wild salmon is best, but farmed salmon is ok (the latter is a lighter pink in color). Get a filet, boned or unboned, skin on (it tastes better when it’s grilled with the skin on). Pat the surface dry with paper towels, then salt both sides with sea salt. I prefer to use Maldon Salt because the flat, large flakes stick very nicely to the fish, but any good sea salt will do. Be fairly liberal with the salt, so that the sides are well covered.

Wrap the salmon loosely in several layers of paper towels, then place the whole thing on a non-metal draining surface of some kind, like a colander or a sieve. I use a flat bamboo basket but something like a plastic vegetable spinner basket will do. Place that on a plate to catch any drips, and put the whole thing in an undisturbed place in the refrigerator, for at least 24 hours. The longer you leave it and the more it’s salted, the saltier it will be. Don’t leave it more than 3 days though.

shiozake_cutup.jpgAfter 24 hours or more, unwrap the fish from the paper towels, which should have absorbed the excess moisture. The fish will be a deeper pink/red. Pat off any surface moisture, and cut it into pieces. Wrap each piece well in plastic and store in the freezer. It will keep nicely for a couple of months.

To cook the frozen pieces, place on an unoiled nonstick frying pan skin side down, put on a lid and let heat through at medium-low heat until it’s defrosted and cooked to the center. Turn a few times. You can also cook it on a grill pan. Or, wrap in foil and bake in a toaster oven.

(In the U.S. Maldon salt is available at gourmet stores, or online at Amazon . In Switzerland it’s available at Globus. In the U.K. I think it’s quite widely available, but I have seen it for sure at Waitrose. It is pricey, but for certain uses it’s terrific.)

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hey you rock!

i love your blog! ive also been reading Just Hungry for a while, and must admit your recipes are great! I was surprised, since you live in Switzerland, but you manage to get ingredients that I can generally get in my own country pretty easily (USA), without having to resort to the internet or expensive specialty shops. I suppose you could do the salted-salmon thing with other types of fish as well? Keep up the great work, I look forward to more great bento stuff! <3


Salmon as Gravlax

I love “Just hungry” and this blog is the answer to a dieter’s dreams. what relation does this salted salmon bear to gravlax? You probably know that gravlax is a “cured” salmon made by dredging the fillet in one part salt to one part sugar, leaving it in the refrigerator for about 36 hours and then rinsing and drying the salmon. From there it can be used like smoked salmon, ie it does not need further cooking. It also does not taste particularly salty or sweet, but just the tasteof the salmon. Do you think this would be a good ingredient in a bento box?

Gravlax and smoked salmon

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend using things like gravlax or smoked salmon in a bento that is not kept cold/insulated, because while they are cured, they aren’t cooked with heat. Bento ingredients should be cooked (with the exception of some vegetables and fresh fruit and things like that). The salted salmon is always cooked before using in a bento, or an onigiri filling. Hope that helps!

Further thoughts - I guess you could also cook cured gravlax or smoked salmon to use as filling and so on.

gravlax and smoked salmon

If you will be consuming your bento meal within 4 hours and you’re bento is not sitting in a temperature over 75 °, you should be fine. My Japanese mother packed us bento box lunches when we were kids with raw fish and we were fine. Our lunches were not refrigerated but were not exposed to high temperatures. Since gravlax is salted, the salt will act as a preservative.

Re: gravlax and smoked salmon

I was just going to say the same thing- since gravlax was invented as a way to preserve fish long before the days of refrigeration, I personally wouldn't have problem using it in a bento. Scientifically speaking, the salt creates a higher concentration outside of the bacteria than inside, and, due to the principles of diffusion, all the water inside the bacteria's bodies is sucked outside, killing them. Same reason why you don't need to refrigerate honey and such, really.

This looks great! Is this

This looks great! Is this the kind of salmon that is usually served for breakfast in Japan? I visited Japan recently, and found that I loved the Japanese-style breakfast at many hotels, and one of the highlights was always a very tasty piece of plain grilled salmon.


Yes it is the same kind of salmon that’s served for breakfast. Grilled fish, rice, oshinko (pickles), maybe a raw egg, and miso soup for breakfast…heaven :)

Thank you so much for this!

Thank you so much for this! I’ve begun dabbling in making my own bento lunches and I’ve always wondered how to make shiozake. Now I can start making onigiri with shiozake too.

Just a question though — if I wrap it foil and bake it, approximately what temperature should I bake it at? Thank you!

Baking temp

Since the pieces are so small, you can bake it at 400 degrees F (about 200 deg C) for a fairly short time, say 5-10 minutes (depending on the size). Wrapping it totally in foil would steam-cook it though - if you want a crispy skin you would want to broil it. A toaster oven is perfect for grilling single pieces too. Hope that helps!

Salmon flakes for bento?

I’ve seen these sold in jars in Japan (sake fure-ku = salmon flake) and my husband loves them - either as an easy rice topping for bento or with ochazuke. Here’s an example -

Do you have any suggestions on how to make this? I’d be very grateful for your opinion.

Me too!

I would love to see sake fure-ku also! I have been dreaming of my Japanese host mother’s ubiquitous breakfast of flaked salmon, rice, green onion, and shaved egg omelette with her mountain vegetable soup along side… I would really appreciate assistance with a recipe.

I’ll put salmon flake on

I’ll put salmon flake on the to-do list :)

Great breakfast salmon

I made this salmon yesterday and my husband and I had it for breakfast. We had rice porridge (Chinese congee) topped with a little green tea furikake (also from this site) and the salmon on the side. It was fantastic! The saltiness of the salmon blended well with the blandness of the porridge. What a delicious breakfast!

Salmon Belly

Can this process be used for sake harasu as well? I know it’s quite a bit fattier….

I guess you could, though if

I guess you could, though if I got my hands on good fresh salmon belly I would just grill it with a bit of salt or soy sauce.

Oh, I wish it was really

Oh, I wish it was really fresh. I live in Ohio, so barring Lake Erie we’re landlocked. I get the salmon belly frozen at a local market, but I love it still!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Hi Maki!

Good work on the extensive challenge posting. I wondered if you could use this method with "white" varieties of fish. I know it probably wouldn't have the flavor of salmon but was just curious if you had ever tried it.

Thanks so much.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Most white fish need an extra boost, so they are usually marinated in something with a stronger flavor, like miso or a soy sauce based marinade. Also, white fish (with less fat content) tends to go 'off' a lot faster, so I'd be a bit careful about trying this salting method. A short/overnight marinade would be more suitable in most cases. See for example cod marinated in miso and kochujang.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Hello Maki,

Thank you for the recipe. I've scraped up enough change for the fish so I'll be salting this weekend. Quick question, would "gros sel" work as it is a sea salt (we just came back from Guérande with a huge sack)? The other question is at what point does the salt come off the salmon? Is it rinsed off after the salting period in the fridge? Or does the salt stay on until just before the cooking?

Also, on a totally different topic but since you are considering moving to France, did you realize that dried hijiki is forbidden as an alimentary import? No wonder I couldn't find it anywhere!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

You may have to sprinkle on a bit more gros sel since it won't adhere to the surface of the fish that well. Just brush any excess off before you cook it. Don't use water to wash it off.

I didn't know about the hijiki prohibition in France. Silliest thing I've ever heard. I'll smuggle it in. If they have a problem you might hear that I've been arrested for illegal import of seaweed.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Thanks for the method, its hard to find here in Canada for a reasonable price. Salmon is relatively cheap and If I salt it myself then I save money (bonus)!

Btw dried hijiki and hijiki are both banned in canada due to the fact they contain "unsafe" levels of Arsenic. Which you probably know is a bio accumulating toxin in humans.

If your using hijiki try to use less than a gram and never consume more then 5 grams per day. And try to remember that Arsenic can bio accumulate if consumed regularly.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Can't wait to try this. I can't find the sea salt brand you recommended but I did find a Baleine brand that comes in Fine and Coarse at my store. Which would you recommend? Is there such a thing as oversalting (ie. putting too much on) even if I freeze it within 24hours?

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Is there a way you can used canned salmon for this I always have so much canned stuff just sitting there that we dont use? and can you over salt these.thx for posting the recipe cant wait to try it.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

it is the bacon of a japanese breakfast ,I am curently missing it after 5 weeks in japan.Going to make this now yum!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

"Bacon of a Japanese breakfast" is a great description!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Made it tonight but used to much salt and left it for 48 hours ,was way too salty but first try.
Better luck next time.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

"Bacon of the Japanese breakfast" only so much healthier!

My sister makes lox, this looks very similar, only without the sweetness. I think I'll give it a try.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Tried this using ground sea salt and left it for 24hrs. Just cooked it without any other seasonings and had it with miso soup and it's great! I'm a huge salmon fan and can't believe I didn't think of this sooner! xx

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Thanks for this recipe! My sister and I have been enjoying the salmon, although so far it has not lasted long enough to be cooked! (we both prefer raw or uncooked-but-cured fish, either salted or lox). I'm currently experimenting with a salted tuna steak as well, the first bite today tasted GREAT! I may try other fish as well.

A note to people who have mini fridges, they may not evaporate the water out of the paper towels as fast as a normal fridge. I found that the paper towels were completely soaked after a couple hours. After one day I decided to change the paper towels. The fish did not seem to be harmed, but it might be a good idea to check the towels and change them if they seem excessively soaked.

P.S., eat the skin! It may be tough, but it is also the best part!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

I was wondering if you could use a salt substitute (like Nu Salt) for this... I'm on a low sodium diet :(

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

can I salt, fry, and THEN freeze?

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

I had this for breakfast today, and totally agree that it's the bacon of a Japanese breakfast...only 438438538394021 times healthier :) We'll be eating it again tonight and put the rest in onigiris for tomorrow's bento since I only used a small piece of salmon tail and there's no point freezing. Thanks for another great recipe Maki!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Dumb American question: It's safe to eat like this? After it's salted even though raw?

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

It is not meant to be eaten raw. That's why I give instructions for how to cook it. ^_^

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

HI Maki, i just wanted to say this was a revelation for me. I've never been that keen on salmon really, but they were selling some off cheap at the supermarket so I picked it up. I couldn't think what to do with it though, so I figured I'd give this a whirl. To my taste it completely transformed the fish and I'm not kidding when I say this is the only way I'll be eating it from now on. Thank you so much!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

You're welcome! ^_^ I prefer salted salmon myself, especially if the salmon in question is farmed - the salting process takes away most of that rather icky fatty taste. (Though of course wild salmon is much better...)

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

So excited - I love salted salmon, but I never really knew what it was, and I couldn't figure out how to make it. A pile of salted fish is in my fridge, and I am anxiously waiting for the 24 hours to be up. Thanks!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

I'm in love...this is SO GOOD!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

I just tried this, and it was sooo delicious, thanks for sharing! Oh, and the wasabi broccoli, too. Perfect! I'll make it soon again :3

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Just wanted to thank you profusely for sharing this. I spent a month in Yokosuka last year and I have been simply pining for this. I could eat this and ramen every day of the week and you simply cannot find it here in the States! I'll be making it soon!

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

I made this and it was ridiculously salty. Like super duper salty.
I think I used too much, so it's a learning experience.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

This may be a really dumb question, but...I understand that lox is just salt-cured salmon. Is it an appropriate substitute for shiozake, or is the prep different enough to have a big impact on flavor?

I'm short on time lately, and with Rosh Hashana coming up, the local grocery store has suddenly placed an emphasis on kosher food. Lox is a lot more prominently displayed than it ever was before. I'm tempted to experiment, but always like having input from people who may have already tried it themselves.

Re: How to: Make Salted Salmon (shiozake)

Long time reader, but somehow missed this the first time around - so glad to have found this recipe. I get a LOT of fresh salmon in the summer (I come from a fishing family in western Washington state, so it's pretty much a given), and while grilling the stuff for a sit-down dinner is the best, I'm so happy to find a way to also integrate the stuff1 into my on-the-go-breakfast and bento-packing life. Will be making this when salmon season comes back around...

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