Classic Fish Ceviche

4.91 from 11 votes
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Turn fresh fish into a stunning appetizer. For the fish ceviche recipe, red snapper marinates in freshly squeezed citrus juice, then mixed with a medley of chopped vegetables and fruit. This dish is best served with tortilla chips or tostadas for extra crunch!

Person dipping a tortilla chip into a bowl of ceviche.

I first tried ceviche on a deep-sea fishing excursion in Panama. The captain made us a quick lunch on the boat with our fresh catch. He quickly chopped up the fish, squeezed some lime juice, and tossed it with ripe tomatoes and onions.

The nice thing about this dish is you don’t have to fire up the stove. Just grab a knife and cutting board, and you are set. I use chopped pieces of red snapper marinated in a trio of juices for my version. Add generous scoops on top of tostadas for a leisurely lunch or dinner or an irresistible sharable dip with chips.

What is ceviche?

Ceviche is thin slices or small cubes of fresh raw seafood soaked in an acidic citrus marinade to cook the dish instead of using heat. Different types of seafood can be used, like white fish, scallops, or crustaceans for shrimp ceviche, or a mixture.

The critical thing to look out for is the change of the flesh from translucent to opaque as it marinates in the acid. Mix-ins like tomatoes, avocado, bell pepper, crunchy cucumber, radish, spicy hot sauce, or chile peppers can be used to customize the dish. It has Latin American origins, especially popular in Peru, but each region has its unique twist.

Best fish for ceviche

This recipe for ceviche uses saltwater firm white types of fish, like red snapper, halibut, sea bass, grouper, or flounder. Don’t be afraid to ask the fish market what’s their freshest catch and mention that you’ll be using it for ceviche.

Avoid purchasing freshwater or codfish as they may be more susceptible to parasite infection. It’s essential to use high-quality fresh fish with a subtle saltwater smell and translucent firm flesh. The unpleasant attributes will carry into the dish if you notice a strong fishy aroma or mushy texture.

Marination time

Pouring a measuring cup of acidic liquid into a bowl of raw cubed fish.

The exterior should turn opaque and off-white. However, the center can be slightly translucent, like raw sashimi, or it can be completely opaque. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Marination time is dependent on how thin the fish is cut.

I use a combination of freshly squeezed lime juice, lemon juice, and orange juice. You’ll notice an apparent change on the surface within minutes of adding the chunks of raw fish to the acidic juices. How long the ceviche should be marinated depends on how you like the texture.

Keep the fish cold!

After purchasing the fish, wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a resealable bag. Place it in a bowl with ice or ice packs above and below to keep it super cool and delay the breakdown of the flesh. Fish stored below 40°F (4°C) helps to inhibit microbial or parasitic growth.

Sometimes refrigerators can creep up in temperature, so check the thermostat. I recommend making the recipe the same day so the flavor stays clean and the texture solid.

Top down view of a bowl of unmixed ceviche ingredients.

Using frozen fish

If consuming raw seafood, the FDA recommends purchasing frozen fish that’s had a chance to kill parasites, but note that it doesn’t eliminate all the harmful microbes. Generally, from a quality and texture standpoint, frozen fish is not ideal because once the ice defrosts, the muscle structure can become less firm and slightly mushy.

Although for ceviche, since the fish is being chopped up into smaller pieces, the noticeable difference in texture may not be detected as much compared to eating larger slices of raw fish in dishes like Crudo or sashimi.

How does the acid cook the fish?

Close up of fish ceviche with cubed tomatoes and diced pieces of avocado.

To be clear, there is no actual cooking with heat happening. The high concentration of acids in limes and lemons helps to cook the fish as it marinates. Citric acid, naturally contained in the fruit, denatures and unravels the fish protein, then coagulates and compacts them together.

You’ll notice that the flesh turns opaque on the surface and gets more firm in texture. It’s a delicate process that retains the mild flavor of the seafood. To test, cut a cube down the middle to see the contrast in color.

How to make ceviche

Top down view of a platter of tortilla chips and a bowl of ceviche.

Chop the fish into ¼ to ½-inch cubes. The smaller the size, the quicker the marination time and the more evenly cooked through it will be. Marinate in the citrus juice, ensuring the pieces are completely submerged. Make sure to stir halfway through the process to ensure the surface comes into contact with the liquids for even soaking.

The fish is ready once the surface is opaque, and it’s up to you if you like a slightly raw center or a completely firm. Marinate longer for the latter. Stir in the fresh citrus juices, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, spicy peppers, avocado, salt, and pepper, then serve the same day for the best taste.

Fresh fish ceviche served on a tostada.

Recipe Science

Is ceviche safe to eat?

There’s always a risk when consuming raw fish, but you can take precautions. The fish must be extremely fresh or purchased frozen and properly defrosted in the refrigerator to reduce the risk of microbial pathogens and parasites. The low acidity of lemons and limes (pH below or equal to 2.5) reduces microbial numbers in the raw fish, but not all like heat does. Keep the prep area clean, avoid cross-contamination, and prepare and eat the same day.

Classic Ceviche

A classic ceviche appetizer made with red snapper that has been marinated in freshly squeezed citrus juice then mixed with chopped vegetables and fruit.
4.91 from 11 votes
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings 8 servings
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 pound red snapper, halibut, sea bass, grouper, or flounder, skin removed
  • 1 cup lime juice, divided
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup orange juice, divided
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed, ¼" dice
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced, ⅛" thick, 1" long
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 cup diced avocado, ½" dice (about 1 large avocado)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Fish – Cut the snapper filets into ½-inch cubes, there should be about 2 cups. For quicker cooking, cut fish into ¼-inch cubes. Transfer to a non-reactive medium bowl, like glass or ceramic.
  • Marinate the Fish – Add ¾ cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons orange juice to the bowl. The fish should be submerged in the juices. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator until the surface is opaque, about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir halfway through. Drain the juices.
  • Add the Mix-ins – To the drained fish, add ¼ cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons orange juice, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime zest, avocado, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • To Serve – Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired. Serve with chips or on top of tostadas.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 4 cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Marinating: For ½-inch sized cubes, marinating takes about 20 to 30 minutes for a firm surface but tender center, or 45 to 60 minutes for a more solidified texture. For the acidity to completely firm up the center, about 1 ½ to 2 hours is enough time. For a quicker soak, chop the fish into smaller ¼-inch size cubes, and after 20 minutes, taste a piece every 5 minutes. Cut the cubes in half to check for doneness.
  • For the Best Taste: Enjoy the ceviche within one day of preparing.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 127kcal (6%)Carbohydrates 9g (3%)Protein 13g (26%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Cholesterol 21mg (7%)Sodium 261mg (11%)Potassium 514mg (15%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 189IU (4%)Vitamin C 26mg (32%)Calcium 38mg (4%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Bev says

    I made the shrimp ceviche which was very good. I enjoyed that a lot. My question to you is, since you poached the shrimp for a few minutes, could you not do this with the other white fish instead of just having the fish raw? I would be interested in trying this. I do understand what the purpose of making a “ceviche” is, and the point is to marinate it raw, and let the acidic juices “cook it” but I would feel better if it was a little poached.

  2. soledad says

    hola jessica tienes un muy buen blog soy hopacusica profunda y solo me comunico por lengua de selas abrazos