Among deli denizens, lox is famed as a salty, savory bagel topping, but that’s far from its only culinary virtue. This versatile food has a rich history, and it’s packed with protein and nutrients.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between lox, Nova lox and smoked salmon. And we’ll reveal some of our favorite recipes for preparing them that will transport you far beyond the onion roll.

We’ll start with a fun fact: the term “lox” is actually based on the German word “lachs” which means salmon. How about that!

Lox vs. Smoked salmon

Many people today use “lox” and “smoked salmon” interchangeably. But there are actually three modern foods getting mixed up here.

True lox isn’t smoked at all, it’s only salt-cured. It’s short for “belly lox,” referring to the salmon belly from which it was historically made.

Smoked salmon. Nothing beats the salty, slightly smoky goodness of our skinless sockeye nova lox.
Nothing beats the salty, slightly smoky goodness of our skinless sockeye nova lox.

This kind of lox originated in the times before refrigeration. That’s when salt-curing was the go-to way to preserve meats for storage and transport. You can still find true lox today, but likely not at a modern deli. You’ll probably have better luck at one specifically focused on old-school products.

What most people refer to today as “lox” is actually “Nova lox,” referring to salmon that’s been cured and then smoked in a tradition out of Nova Scotia. This fish was never technically “lox,” and language sticklers would rather we called it “Nova” for short. (Sorry, sticklers, we’re sticking with “Nova lox!”). Nova lox is salt-cured and then lightly cold-smoked, that is, at temperatures around 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll find it thinly sliced and, yes, often atop your bagel.

The final delicacy is regular ol’ smoked salmon. It’s been smoked at higher temperatures, and may or may not have been cured first. Smoked salmon has the same general texture and appearance as a normal cooked filet, which means it is thicker and flakier than its thin-sliced counterparts.

But it boasts a rich smoky flavor. You’ll find this salmon rolled up with cream cheese at your local American sushi bar serving “Philly rolls.” Or chopped in your smoked salmon omelet and in other recipes that deliver hearty chunks of the smoky fish.

Of course, depending on whether you’re in the U.S. or Europe, East Coast or West, you might find that different terms mean different things to different people.

One thing’s consistent: It’s all delicious salmon!

Benefits of smoked salmon

Smoked salmon. A lox latke offers a delightful mix of savory, salty, crunch goodness.
A lox latke offers a delightful mix of savory, salty, crunch goodness.

All three of these oft-confused ready-to-eat salmon offerings contain all the health benefits of regular salmon. Especially when made from wild salmon, they are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and the antioxidant astaxanthin.

There are a number of benefits to boosting the amount of protein in your diet, from boosting brain health to curbing hunger (and aiding weight loss). Just one two-ounce serving of sockeye Nova lox comes with 12 grams of healthy protein.

Wild salmon is also one of the best ways to get your vitamin D, a critical nutrient for supporting bone and immune health and more. And salmon’s high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are perhaps its greatest nutritional gift. Our bodies use omega-3s to build cell membranes, and consumption of seafood rich in omega-3s has been linked to supporting the functions of brains, eyes, nervous systems, reproductive systems and more.

What to do with smoked salmon

Nova lox is perfect for those who may not consider themselves “fish people,” and is a great way to introduce friends and family members of all ages to the healthy, tasty world of seafood.

For lunch or an appetizer for your next dinner party, try lox crostini with herbed goat cheese. It’s delicious with the standard sockeye Nova lox, or mix things up with a different smoked fish like sablefish. (Or both!)

If you’re looking for a tasty, satisfying breakfast, you might try any smoked fish in an omelet with goat cheese, chives, and dill. Or for a different take on lox and eggs, try a breakfast salad that pairs these with kale ribbons and cucumbers.

Smoked salmon. The lox and goat cheese omelet with fresh herbs is great for any meal, not just for breakfast.
The lox and goat cheese omelet with fresh herbs is great for any meal, not just for breakfast.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try salmon lox carpaccio with mushrooms, a classic Italian appetizer reimagined with an Asian flare. A wasabi spread, ginger-garlic bok choy, and fresh scallions replace the dish’s usual parmesan-lemon flavors. It’s sure to impress your next dinner guests.

Check out all of Vital Choice’s smoked fish and lox products, and you’ll never lack for lox inspiration!

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Anna Funk, Ph.D. is a science writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. After earning her doctorate in plant biology, she left the world of scientific research to pursue science communication full time. She was AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and an editor at Discover magazine. Today, she co-owns science content marketing firm Lunaris Creative and does freelance science writing and editing. Find her at

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