This South American fish dish can be whipped up at a moment's notice. Serve it with sparkling wine or cold beer for the perfect summer happy hour.

Rachel Roszmann
July 27, 2020
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The first time I had ceviche, I had absolutely no idea what I was putting in my mouth. The cool, citrusy mounds of I-didn't-know-what were piled on top of a tostada sprinkled with flecks of cilantro and bits of onion. It was at a taqueria in Las Vegas where there were no translations to tell me that I was eating raw fish. I thought that it might have been a type of fish like trout or tilapia, but after doing some digging, I learned exactly what it is and that my delicious discovery was something I could make at home—no special ingredients and no special equipment needed.

What Is Ceviche?

Put simply, ceviche is a seafood "cooked" in an acid like lemon or lime juice. Raw seafood is cut into small pieces and marinated in citrus juice for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces). While no heat is applied to the fish, the citric acid denatures the flesh, transforming the transparent, raw pieces of fish into tender chunks of opaque seafood with a citrus kick.

Ceviche is a common dish eaten in Mexico and Central and South America. Most countries have their own traditions with how it's prepared and eaten. Mexican ceviche mixes in ketchup and is served with tortilla chips, while in Central America, it's served with soda crackers or a leaf of lettuce, and in Chile, with fresh bread. There are many different ways to make it, but fresh fish like mahi-mahi or sea bass is the most common central ingredient.

A Peruvian Dish

Peru claims ceviche as its national dish and has 11 different types based on the regions where they're made. However, the standard Peruvian ceviche recipe calls for five ingredients: fish, red onion, lemon juice, chile peppers and salt. While most of us know fish ceviche (ceviche de pescado) and shrimp ceviche (ceviche de camarones), the other types that you would find in Peru are made with mangoes (no fish is used), octopus, squid, beef and Amazonian fish (fish that are only found in the Amazon River).

Learn to Make Ceviche at Home

Ceviche is an easy dish to master. It's perfect for munching with frozen cocktails on hot summer nights and can be thrown together at a moment's notice, but if you're trying your hand at it for the first time, there are a few things to consider. First, know your seafood! Not only what it is, but how long it's been hanging around. While the ceviche may have the look of cooked fish, it is technically still raw and can harbor bacteria and parasites. Fresh, high-quality seafood is always best. Previously frozen fish that's been thawed very recently is also a good option, as freezing can get rid of parasites (but not bacteria). If the idea of eating raw seafood is beyond your comfort zone, you can still enjoy the experience by poaching your seafood first and then marinating it in acid like in this Mock Ceviche recipe. (If you want to learn more about how to enjoy your new favorite summer snack, check out our step-by-step guide to making ceviche.)