What is ceviche?

And how is it made?

Ceviche is a popular Latin American dish prepared by maceration (a technique that uses liquid to add flavor, aroma or structure to a product) of raw fish and seafood in an acidic liquid such as citrus juice, along with ingredients such as chili peppers, onion. and herbs. The acid in the pickle denatures the proteins in the fish, making them cloudy and creating a firm, flaky texture similar to when cooked hot.

What is ceviche?

The word ceviche (pronounced “seh-vee-chay”) refers to both the food itself and the way it is prepared. Different countries of South and Central America have different spellings of the word, with seviche or cebiche being some of the most common variants. And each country gives the dish its own unique character, regardless of the ingredients it uses: fish, seafood, spices.

Generally, ceviche is made by macerating pieces or slices of raw fish, shellfish, or prawns in a sour marinade, usually containing some type of citrus juice, usually lime or lemon, but also containing orange, grapefruit or other citrus fruits from the region.

The principle of operation is that the acid in the marinade causes changes in the appearance and texture of the proteins. Fish and seafood proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids which, when exposed to acid, break down and arrange themselves in different configurations, creating new bonds with nearby proteins. This is called “denaturing” proteins and is most often done by cooking it hot. 

With ceviche, the fish undergoes some of the changes that occur with regular cooking, such as color change, transition from translucent to opaque, firmness and flaking, but all without the use of heat. This means that while it changes the color and texture of fish or seafood, it does not change flavor as it does when cooked warm, and thus retains a fresh, raw flavor.

Another thing that happens when proteins are denatured is that they release water, and in the case of ceviche, this means that natural fish juices are released where they mix with citrus juice and other ingredients to form a kind of super flavorful broth.


Ceviche is popular all over Latin America. Here are some of the most common varieties and the countries they come from.

Peruvian Ceviche:  Peruvian ceviche is traditionally made from sea bass, paired with lime juice, onion, chili peppers, and boiled sweet potatoes and corn on the cob.

Ecuadorian Ceviche:  This variety traditionally includes shrimp marinated in a tomato-based sauce along with lime juice, bitter orange, and salt, and served with popcorn-like toasted corn kernels.

Mexican Ceviche:  The classic Mexican ceviche consists of fish such as mahi-mahi / Koryfena, tilapia, sea bass, snapper, scallops and prawns, marinated in lime juice, along with tomatoes, onions, coriander, tomatoes, avocado, olives and cucumbers and served with tortilla chips.

How to make ceviche

Preparing a ceviche begins with selecting the freshest fish and seafood you can find. This is to achieve both the best flavor and food safety, as pickling in acid does not kill food poisoning bacteria as effectively as cooking.

Then slice or dice the fish and seafood into small slices or pieces, which will give a larger surface area for the acid to act on. Getting fairly small pieces is actually an important part of the process. If left in the marinade for too long, the fish may become chalky and eventually disintegrate. Usually after 30 minutes you can be overcooked. So you want your pieces to be small enough so that after 15 to 20 minutes the outer parts are firm and opaque and the center still transparent.

Snappers, sea bass, halibut, mahi-mahi, and tilapia are popular fish for making ceviche, as are shrimp, scallops, squid and octopus. Other ingredients are often onions, chili peppers, coriander, tomatoes, avocados, corn, sweet potatoes, as well as passion fruit, coconut milk, celery, and mangoes.

Finally, for ceviche, once the seafood has reached the desired state, you need to serve it straight away. Keeping them for later, even in a refrigerator, won’t work because the acids will work as long as you leave them in them.

What about leftovers?

You may be wondering what to do with any leftover ceviche you may have. Can you keep it? Freeze them? Unfortunately, the answer is no for several reasons. 

First, pickling in acid does not kill the bacteria that cause spoilage or food poisoning the way cooking or frying do. This means that simply storing leftover ceviche in the refrigerator will allow these bacteria to multiply further. Second, the acids in the pickle will continue to denature the proteins in the fish, keeping the fish dry, chalky and disintegrating within a few hours. So your best bet is to make sure you don’t prepare more ceviche than you or your guests can eat.

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