Everything You Need to Know About Ceviche

Mexican Ceviche Salad

Ceviche: A Refreshing Delight for Seafood Lovers

Ceviche, a beloved dish with a rich history, has captured the hearts and palates of seafood enthusiasts worldwide. This vibrant and refreshing culinary creation has roots in the coastal regions of Latin America, where it has been enjoyed for centuries.

Combining the freshness of raw fish or seafood with zesty citrus juices and an array of aromatic herbs and spices, ceviche tantalizes taste buds and offers a unique dining experience.

At its core, ceviche is a dish that showcases the beauty of raw fish or seafood. It typically features ingredients like fresh fish fillets, shrimp, scallops, or even octopus, which are carefully cut into bite-sized pieces. These delicate morsels are then marinated in a blend of citrus juices, most commonly lime or lemon, which effectively “cooks” the fish through a process known as denaturation. This acid-induced transformation results in a firm yet tender texture and imparts a tangy flavor to the seafood.

My Latest Experience

My wife and I just returned from a five-day vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where we stayed on a friend’s 86-foot fishing yacht. On the boat were the mother and daughter team of Brenda and Karen who prepared meals every day and not a day went by where we weren’t treated to some form of ceviche.

Karen and Brenda

The fish was all local and extremely fresh. Captain Johnnie picked it up each day from local markets selling shrimp, scallops, octopus, and fish that were caught that day or the day before. The first night on the boat, after an appetizer of shrimp and scallops ceviche, we enjoyed freshly caught tuna. Amazing!

I have dined on ceviche before but not to this extent so I decided to learn more about this thousand-year-old dish and share it with you. I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did.

Vibrant Flavors

One of the defining characteristics of ceviche is the medley of vibrant flavors that complement the seafood. Along with the citrus juices, ingredients such as red onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and chili peppers are added to the marinade, lending their distinctive tastes and aromas. This combination creates a harmonious balance of tartness, heat, and freshness, enhancing the overall experience of the dish.

Variations of ceviche can be found across Latin American countries, each offering its unique twist. For example, ceviche is typically served in Peru with sweet potatoes, corn, and a side of crunchy toasted corn kernels known as cancha. On the other hand, Mexican ceviche often incorporates avocado, cucumber, and even mango for a touch of sweetness. These regional adaptations reflect the countries’ diverse culinary traditions and local ingredients.

Olive Oil

Health Benefits

Beyond its delectable taste, ceviche also boasts several health benefits. As a predominantly seafood-based dish, it is an excellent source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids essential for heart health and brain function.

In addition, the citrus juices in the marinade provide a significant dose of vitamin C and antioxidants, boosting the immune system and promoting overall well-being. Additionally, ceviche is low in calories and fat, making it a popular choice for those seeking a lighter and healthier dining option.


Ceviche has gained widespread popularity around the globe, finding its way onto menus in fine dining establishments as well as casual seafood shacks. Its versatility allows for endless experimentation and creativity, with chefs adding their personal flair to this classic dish. While traditionally served as an appetizer or a light lunch, ceviche has also found its place in modern gastronomy as an elegant and refreshing main course.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, ceviche has become a culinary fusion symbol blending cultures and flavors. Its simplicity and freshness have made it a staple in coastal communities, with abundant access to the freshest seafood. Yet, its appeal extends far beyond the shorelines, capturing the attention of food enthusiasts worldwide.

Whether you find yourself on a sandy beach in Mexico, strolling along the coastal streets of Peru, or enjoying a meal in a bustling metropolis, ceviche invites you to embark on a flavorful journey. Its vibrant colors, bold flavors, and delicate textures make it a delightful choice for seafood lovers seeking a refreshing and unforgettable dining experience. So next time you’re searching for a culinary adventure, dive into the world of ceviche and let your taste buds be amazed.

What is the history of ceviche?

The history of ceviche is deeply intertwined with the culinary traditions of the coastal regions of Latin America, particularly Peru, and Ecuador. While the exact origins of ceviche remain somewhat elusive, it is believed to have ancient roots that date back thousands of years.

The concept of marinating raw fish or seafood in citrus juices can be traced to pre-Columbian times when indigenous populations in the coastal areas of Latin America used acidic juices, such as lime or bitter orange, to flavor and preserve their catch. The acidic properties of the citrus juices effectively “cooked” the fish, making it safe to consume. This preparation method helped prevent spoilage and allowed the fish to be stored for extended periods.

In ancient Peru, the Moche civilization, which thrived from the 1st to the 8th century AD, is known to have indulged in a dish similar to ceviche. Archaeological findings, including ceramic vessels depicting scenes of fish being marinated in liquid, suggest that the Moche people had a sophisticated understanding of marination techniques.

Over time, the culinary practices surrounding ceviche evolved and incorporated new ingredients brought to the region through trade and exploration. For example, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas in the 16th century, they introduced ingredients like onions, garlic, and citrus fruits, further enhancing the flavors of ceviche. Adding these aromatic herbs and spices transformed ceviche into the dish we recognize today.

The Birthplace of Modern Ceviche

Peru is widely regarded as the birthplace of modern ceviche and holds a special place in Peruvian cuisine. Peru has declared the third Saturday of June as “National Ceviche Day” to celebrate this beloved dish. Peruvian ceviche often features a combination of fish, typically white fish like sea bass or sole, marinated in lime juice and mixed with red onions, cilantro, chili peppers, and sometimes garlic. The dish is typically served with sweet potatoes, corn, and cancha (toasted corn kernels).

Outside of Peru, ceviche also gained popularity in other Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia, each putting its spin on the dish. These regional variations showcase each country’s diverse culinary traditions and local ingredients. For instance, Ecuadorian ceviche often includes tomato sauce or ketchup in the marinade, giving it a slightly different flavor profile. Mexican ceviche may incorporate avocado and mango, adding a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the dish.

In recent years, ceviche has gained international acclaim and can be found on menus worldwide. Chefs from various culinary backgrounds have embraced ceviche, adding their creative twists and interpretations. Today, ceviche is enjoyed in more than just coastal areas. Still, it has become a popular and celebrated dish across the globe, representing the vibrant flavors and cultural heritage of Latin American cuisine.

Ceviche Tower

Ceviche Tower prepared by Karen

Is ceviche safe to eat?

Ceviche can be safe to eat if it is prepared and handled correctly. The marination process in ceviche, where raw fish or seafood is “cooked” in acidic citrus juices, helps reduce the risk of harmful bacteria and parasites. However, there are essential considerations to ensure the safety of ceviche consumption:

  1. Freshness: Starting with fresh, high-quality fish or seafood is crucial. The seafood should have been properly stored and kept at the right temperature before being used in ceviche. Freshness is key to minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  2. Acidic Marinade: The citrus juices used in ceviche, such as lime or lemon juice, play a significant role in reducing the presence of harmful bacteria. In addition, the acid in the marinade denatures the proteins in the fish or seafood, giving it a cooked appearance and texture. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the fish or seafood is fully submerged in the marinade and allowed to marinate for an adequate amount of time, usually around 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Hygiene and Cross-Contamination: Proper hygiene practices must be followed during the preparation of ceviche. Hands, utensils, and cutting boards should be clean and sanitized. In addition, it is essential to prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw seafood and its juices separate from other ingredients, such as vegetables or garnishes.
  4. Quality of Ingredients: All the ingredients used in ceviche, including vegetables, herbs, and spices, should be fresh and of good quality. Proper washing and preparation of vegetables, such as rinsing them thoroughly, are essential to prevent contamination.
  5. Source of Seafood: Obtaining seafood from reputable and trusted sources is advisable. Fish and shellfish that are known to be less susceptible to parasites, such as deep-sea fish, are often preferred for ceviche. If you are still determining the quality or safety of the seafood, it is best to consult local guidelines or experts.

It’s worth noting that specific individuals, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems, may be more vulnerable to foodborne illnesses. Therefore, it is recommended that they exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before consuming raw fish or seafood.

📖 Recipe

Ceviche Marinade

Here’s a classic recipe for the marinade used in ceviche.

Course: Appetizer

Cuisine: Mexican

Keyword: ceviche, marinade

Servings: 8 servings


  • 1 cup fresh lime juice approximately 8 – 10 limes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cup red onion finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped


  • Squeeze the limes to extract the juice, ensuring it is freshly squeezed for the best flavor.

  • Combine the lime juice, salt, and sugar in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Stir until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.

  • Add the minced garlic and chopped jalapeño or serrano pepper (if using) to the lime juice mixture. Stir to combine.

  • Add the finely chopped red onion to the marinade and mix well. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

  • Finally, add the chopped cilantro leaves to the marinade and gently stir to incorporate.

  • The marinade is now ready to be used for your ceviche recipe. Pour it over the raw fish or seafood and ensure all the pieces are fully submerged in the marinade. Let the ceviche marinate in the refrigerator for about 15 to 30 minutes or until the fish or seafood appears “cooked” and opaque.

  • Once the ceviche is ready, strain off the excess marinade before serving. The strained marinade can also be used as a dressing or sauce to accompany the ceviche.


Remember, this is just one recipe; you can adjust the ingredients according to your preferences. For example, you may add more or less garlic, adjust the level of spiciness by increasing or decreasing the amount of jalapeño or serrano pepper, or even add a splash of your favorite hot sauce for an extra kick.
Enjoy your homemade ceviche with this flavorful marinade, and feel free to customize it with your favorite seafood, vegetables, and garnishes to create your own unique ceviche experience!

How fresh does the fish have to be?

To ensure the safety and quality of ceviche, it is essential to use fish or seafood that is as fresh as possible. This is because the freshness of the fish plays a crucial role in the taste and safety of the dish. Here are some guidelines to consider regarding the freshness of the fish for ceviche:

  1. Smell: Fresh fish should have a mild, slightly briny aroma. Avoid fish that has a strong, unpleasant odor, as it may indicate that the fish is not fresh.
  2. Appearance: The fish should have clear, bright eyes and shiny, tight skin. The flesh should be firm and resilient to the touch, without discoloration, excessive slime, or bruising.
  3. Source: Purchasing fish from reputable seafood markets, fishmongers, or trusted suppliers is best. These sources are likelier to have strict quality control measures and provide fresher products.
  4. Storage: If you catch the fish yourself, handle it with care and ensure proper storage. Keep the fish chilled on ice or in a cooler to maintain its freshness until it is ready to be used for ceviche.
  5. Time: Using the fish for ceviche as soon as possible after it has been caught or purchased is recommended. Fresher fish will have a better texture and taste, reducing the risk of bacterial growth.

It’s important to note that certain types of fish, such as deep-sea fish, are generally considered less susceptible to parasites than others. However, if you are unsure about the specific type of fish you have or its handling, it is advisable to freeze the fish at -4°F (-20°C) for at least 7 days before using it for ceviche. Freezing can help kill any potential parasites that may be present.

Remember, when it comes to ceviche, freshness is key for taste and safety. If you have any doubts about the freshness or quality of the fish, it is better to err on the side of caution and choose a different fish or consult a local expert for guidance.

Tomato Sauce

What are 5 fun facts about ceviche?

  1. International Popularity: Ceviche has gained worldwide popularity and has become a celebrated dish beyond Latin America. It has made its way onto menus in various countries and has been embraced by chefs around the globe, resulting in creative variations and interpretations of the dish.
  2. Ancient Origins: Ceviche has ancient origins that can be traced back thousands of years. Pre-Columbian civilizations, such as the Moche in Peru, were known to marinate fish in citrus juices, showcasing the long-standing tradition of this culinary technique.
  3. Versatility: Ceviche is incredibly versatile and can be made with various types of seafood. While fish is commonly used, ceviche can also be prepared with shrimp, scallops, octopus, squid, and even non-seafood alternatives like mushrooms or tofu, allowing various flavors and textures.
  4. Regional Variations: Different countries and regions have their unique takes on ceviche. Peruvian ceviche often features a marinade with lime juice, red onions, and cilantro, while Mexican ceviche may include tomato, avocado, and mango. These regional variations highlight the diversity of Latin American cuisine.
  5. Health Benefits: Ceviche is delicious and can be a nutritious dish. It is typically low in fat and calories and packed with lean protein, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, the citrus juices used in the marinade provide a good source of vitamin C, while the seafood offers omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients.

Is ceviche still considered raw?

Ceviche is often referred to as a “raw” dish, but it undergoes a process called “cooking” through the use of acid rather than traditional heat. The raw fish or seafood used in ceviche is marinated in citrus juices, typically lime or lemon juice, which denatures the proteins and gives the appearance and texture of cooked fish.

While the fish or seafood may still have a translucent appearance, the acid in the marinade effectively “cooks” the proteins, rendering it safe to consume. This acid denaturation process is similar to heat cooking but does not involve applying heat.

It’s important to note that while the ceviche marinade alters the fish’s texture and appearance, it does not kill all types of bacteria or parasites that may be present. This is why using fresh, high-quality fish and following proper food safety practices are crucial when preparing ceviche.

So, while ceviche may be considered “raw” in terms of not being heated with traditional cooking methods, the acid in the marinade serves to partially cook the fish or seafood, making it safe to eat.

Bowl of Ceviche

What happens when raw fish is marinated in a citric marinade?

When raw fish is marinated in a citric marinade, several chemical and physical changes occur, transforming the fish’s texture, appearance, and flavor, the primary agent responsible for these changes is the acid in the citrus juice, typically lime or lemon juice.

  1. Denaturation of Proteins: The marinade acid denatures the fish’s proteins. Denaturation is when the proteins undergo structural changes, altering their shape and functionality. This change in protein structure is similar to what happens during traditional heat cooking.
  2. Coagulation: As the proteins in the fish denature, they start to coagulate or bind together. This coagulation leads to a firming of the fish’s texture, making it appear and feel “cooked.” In addition, the fish becomes less translucent and more opaque due to this process.
  3. Acidic Environment: The low pH of the citric marinade creates an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. This acidity helps to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses that may be associated with consuming raw fish.
  4. Flavor Infusion: The acid in the marinade imparts a tangy, citrusy flavor to the fish. As the fish marinates, it absorbs the citrus juice flavors, resulting in a refreshing and bright taste profile.

It’s important to note that while the acid in the marinade contributes to partially “cooking” the fish and enhancing its safety, it may not eliminate all potential bacteria or parasites. Therefore, using fresh, high-quality fish and following proper food safety practices are still essential when preparing ceviche or any raw fish dish.

The denaturation, coagulation, and flavor infusion that occur when raw fish is marinated in a citric marinade give ceviche its characteristic appearance, texture, and taste.

How long can ceviche sit in the marinade?

The amount of time ceviche can sit in the marinade depends on various factors, including the type of fish or seafood used, personal preference for texture, and desired level of “cooking.” However, marinating ceviche for about 15 to 30 minutes is generally recommended.

Marinating ceviche for too long can lead to an overly firm or mushy texture, and the fish may become overcooked. Also, long marination may cause the fish to lose its sweetness and delicate flavor.

It’s worth noting that different recipes and personal preferences may suggest varying marination times. For example, some recipes may call for shorter marination periods for delicate fish, while others may recommend longer marination for denser seafood like octopus. So adjust the marination time based on your specific recipe and the type of fish or seafood you have.

Regardless of the marination time, keeping the ceviche refrigerated during the process is important to ensure food safety and freshness. Additionally, once the ceviche is ready, it’s advisable to strain off the excess marinade before serving to avoid an overly acidic or watery dish.

Ceviche in Glass with Lime

What fish is best for ceviche?

When choosing fish for ceviche, selecting varieties suitable for raw consumption and having a firm texture is essential. Here are some popular fish options that are commonly used in ceviche:

  1. Sea Bass (Corvina): Sea bass is a popular choice for ceviche due to its firm texture, mild flavor, and ability to absorb the marinade flavors.
  2. Halibut: Halibut is a firm white fish that works well in ceviche. It has a delicate flavor and a slightly sweet taste.
  3. Snapper: Red snapper or other snapper varieties are often used in ceviche. They have a firm texture and a slightly sweet flavor that complements the citrus marinade.
  4. Tuna: Tuna is a meaty fish frequently used in Asian-inspired ceviche preparations. It has a rich flavor and firm texture.
  5. Flounder: Flounder is a delicate and flaky fish that can be used in ceviche. It has a mild taste that pairs well with the citrus marinade.

It’s important to choose fish that is fresh and of high quality. Look for fish with clear eyes, shiny skin, and a mild aroma. Additionally, consider the sustainability and availability of the fish in your region.

Remember, you can experiment with different fish varieties to find the flavor and texture you prefer in your ceviche. It’s best to consult with local fishmongers or seafood experts who can guide you on the most suitable options available in your area.

Can you use lobster?

Yes, you can absolutely make ceviche with lobster! Lobster ceviche is a delightful and luxurious variation of this dish. Lobster meat is known for its sweet and succulent flavor, which pairs beautifully with the bright and tangy flavors of the ceviche marinade.

To make lobster ceviche, you typically blanch or briefly cook the lobster tails in boiling water until the meat turns opaque and firm. Then, you can remove the meat from the shell and chop it into bite-sized pieces. The lobster meat is then marinated in the citrus-based marinade, similar to traditional ceviche.

To marinate the lobster meat, you can use a classic ceviche marinade recipe with lime or lemon juice, salt, onion, cilantro, and other desired seasonings. Let the lobster marinate in the fridge for about 15 to 30 minutes or until it reaches the desired “cooked” texture level.

Lobster ceviche can be served alone or as a seafood platter or appetizer. It pairs well with crispy tortilla chips, plantain chips, or toasted bread. For extra flavor and texture, you can add ingredients like diced avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, or mango.

Remember that lobster meat is delicate and can become tough if over-marinated. It’s essential to monitor the texture and adjust the marination time accordingly. Enjoy the rich and delicate flavors of lobster in a refreshing and vibrant ceviche preparation!

Can you use bottled lime juice?

While fresh lime juice is typically recommended for making ceviche, you can use bottled lime juice as a substitute if necessary. However, there are a few things to consider when using bottled lime juice:

  1. Quality and Flavor: The flavor of bottled lime juice may differ from fresh lime juice. It can sometimes have a slightly more acidic or artificial taste. Look for high-quality, 100% pure lime juice without additives or preservatives for the best results.
  2. Adjusting Flavor: Since bottled lime juice can vary in intensity, you may need to adjust the amount of juice used in the marinade to achieve the desired level of acidity and flavor. Taste the marinade as you go and adjust accordingly by adding more or less juice.
  3. Freshness: Freshness is crucial when it comes to ceviche. Bottled lime juice may provide a different level of freshness and natural enzymes found in freshly squeezed lime juice. These natural enzymes contribute to the denaturation process in ceviche, so the texture and “cooking” may not be as effective with bottled juice.
  4. Acidity Level: Ensure that your bottled lime juice is sufficiently acidic to properly “cook” the fish or seafood. The acidity of the juice is crucial for the denaturation process. Check the pH level of the bottled lime juice if available, or consider adding additional fresh lime juice or citrus juice as needed.

While using fresh lime juice is ideal for the best flavor and texture in ceviche, bottled lime juice can still yield a tasty result if fresh limes are not readily available. Adjusting the quantity and acidity levels may help compensate for any differences in flavor and freshness.Avocado Stuffed with Ceviche

Can you overcook ceviche?

Technically, ceviche cannot be “overcooked” in the traditional sense since it is not cooked with heat. However, it is possible to marinate ceviche for too long, resulting in a texture that could be more firm and mushy.

Ceviche is typically marinated for a short period, usually around 15 to 30 minutes, to achieve the desired texture and flavor. During this time, the acid in the marinade denatures the proteins in the fish or seafood, giving it a cooked-like texture. However, if left in the marinade for too long, the proteins can continue to denature, leading to a texture that is excessively firm or even rubbery.

The exact marination time can vary depending on personal preference, the type of fish or seafood being used, and the desired level of “cooking.” Therefore, it’s essential to monitor the texture of the ceviche during the marination process and adjust the time accordingly to achieve the desired result.

Also, leaving ceviche in the marinade for an extended period can affect the flavor. The fish or seafood may become overly acidic and lose some natural sweetness and delicate flavors.

To avoid over-marinating ceviche, following a trusted recipe and monitoring the texture and flavor as the fish or seafood marinates is recommended. Once the desired texture and taste are achieved, the ceviche should be removed from the marinade promptly to prevent it from becoming overcooked or overly acidic.

Remember, the goal is ceviche with a firm yet tender texture, not excessively firm or mushy. By paying attention to the marination time, you can ensure your ceviche is perfectly balanced and enjoyable.

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