The first time I made ceviche, I was amazed. I could actually see the lemon and lime juice turning the color of the fish from translucent pink to opaque white.
What is Ceviche?
The acid from the limes and lemons changes the structure of the proteins in the fish, essentially "cooking" the fish without using heat.
I love ceviche rolled up in a freshly cooked, still warm corn tortilla with lettuce and salsa.
The Origins of Ceviche
Ceviche most certainly originated in South America, but which country first used this method on raw fish is debatable. It may have been an Incan preparation used where the countries of Peru or Ecuador now exist. It's a staple in all Latin American countries, and each treats it with a slightly different preparation.
Ceviche Safety Tips
Ceviche isn't cooked in the true sense (cooking involves heat, and this isn't heated). After sitting in the acid from the citrus juice—a process called denaturation—the proteins in the fish change in the same as they would if cooked in heat. However, this preparation won't kill bacteria as heat will, so follow these ceviche food safety tips carefully.
- Always use the freshest fish possible.
- Make the ceviche the same day you purchase the fish.
- Until you make the ceviche, store your fish in the refrigerator on ice in a container with a tight lid. If the ice melts, change it out for fresh ice.
- Bottled lemon and lime juice are safe to use for ceviche. The acids in them will "cook" the fish. However, we don't recommend using bottled juice because this simple recipe's success comes from the freshness of the ingredients. Bottled citrus simply doesn't compare to freshly squeezed lemons and limes.
Variations to Try: Shrimp Ceviche and More!
- Make this Shrimp Ceviche. Don't add shrimp in directly with the fish in this recipe, as the shrimp can take much longer to "cook".
- Try other firm-fleshed fish such as cod, halibut, flounder, or sole. Scallops are also great for ceviche.
- Add cider vinegar or orange juice to the lemon/lime juice.
- To tame the heat of the dish, use jalapenos instead of serranos.
- After the dish is fully cooked, add other fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, mango, English cucumber, or avocado.
How to Store Ceviche
Refrigerate ceviche leftovers immediately in a container with a tightly fitting lid for 1 to 2 days, at most. Discard if it begins to smell "fishy" or develops any other odd odors.
Ceviche is so good you may just want to take a fork and dig in while it's still on the kitchen counter, but if you can control yourself, here are some serving suggestions.
- Serve with tortilla chips for scooping.
- Place on top of quinoa.
- Serve with corn on the cob.
- Place in chilled martini or coupe glasses for a pretty presentation.
- Wrap in corn tortillas or lettuce wraps.
More Light Seafood Recipes to Try!
Always use the freshest fish possible. Make the same day you purchase fresh fish.
- 2 pounds fresh, deboned red snapper (or other firm-fleshed fish) fillets, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1 cup chopped seeded fresh tomatoes
- 1 serrano chili, seeded and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Pinch ground oregano
- Dash Tabasco or a light pinch of cayenne pepper
- To serve:
- Tortillas or tortilla chips
Assemble the ceviche:
In a non-reactive casserole dish, either Pyrex or ceramic, place the fish, onion, tomatoes, chili, salt, Tabasco, and oregano. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Cover casserole dish with plastic wrap.
Let sit covered in the refrigerator for an hour, then stir, making sure more of the fish gets exposed to the acidic lime and lemon juices. Let sit for several more hours, giving time for the flavors to blend.
During the marinating process, the fish will change from pinkish grey and translucent to whiter in color and opaque.
Serve with chopped cilantro and slices of avocado with heated tortillas for ceviche tacos or with tortilla chips.