How to Make Ceviche
Cooling, citrusy ceviche is best enjoyed on a hot summer day. Whether scooped up with crunchy tortilla chips or spooned into crisp lettuce cups, this healthy seafood-based dish is the ultimate refreshing appetizer.
Ceviche feels like a dish reserved for fancy restaurants, but it's easier to make at home than you'd think. Yes, there's quite a bit of slicing and dicing involved. But if you grab a friend to help (and sip a cold beer in the process), making ceviche will hardly feel like work. At the very least, it's a great way to boost your knife skills.
Follow along with this step-by-step guide as I show you how to make EatingWell's Shrimp Ceviche recipe (by Emeril Lagasse) from start to finish. You can also watch the recipe demonstrated in the video below.
Watch: How to Make Shrimp Ceviche
What Is Ceviche?
Ceviche is a South American seafood dish typically made with raw fish or shellfish, citrus juices, chopped cilantro and some combination of diced chile peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, pineapple, avocado and red onion. While recipes can vary, the end result should taste juicy, citrusy and extremely refreshing. Ceviche is best consumed soon after you prep it so the fish and vegetables have the best texture. Simply spoon it into a bowl and scoop it up with tortilla chips and you have a party-perfect snack.
Related: How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips
But, wait: Isn't the fish raw? Not exactly. The acid in the citrus juice works to gently "cook" the seafood, a process called denaturation. The acid gives the fish an opaque appearance and firm texture–just be sure not to "cook" it for too long or it will get mushy.
For the safest ceviche, purchase seafood that has been frozen or freeze fresh fish for at least 24 hours before use–freezing kills parasites that might be in the fish. If you'd prefer not to eat seafood that's technically raw, it's perfectly fine to poach your seafood beforehand (which is what I'll show you how to do below). Just be careful to not overcook it.
The best fish for ceviche has firm, white flesh like flounder, bass, snapper and fluke. Regardless of which fish you choose, if you're using fresh fish, make sure it's the freshest seafood available from a fishmonger that you trust. Tell them you're making ceviche, and ask which type of fish they would recommend using. Remember: They're the experts!
How to Make Ceviche
Ceviche isn't hard to make, but it's not exactly a dish that you can throw together at the last minute. The prep work takes some time and ultimately depends on how skilled you are with your knife. While you can do some of the work ahead of time, many of the ingredients need to be cut just before serving for optimum flavor and texture.
My advice: Stay organized. Gather up all of your ingredients first, group them in the order that you'll prepare them, then get to work. Take your time to carefully and finely dice each ingredient. The more precise your knife cuts are, the more stunning and delicious your ceviche will be.
Below, I've broken down the ceviche-making process into six (or seven, if you're poaching) easy steps.
Step 1: Prep the Seafood
Whether you're using shrimp or fish, you'll want to make sure your seafood is primed and ready for use. For shrimp, you know the drill: Peel and devein those guys. After you remove the shells, run a paring knife along the top and bottom of the shrimp to remove the inner vein. Keep your knife clean to make this task as efficient as possible.
Step 2: Poach the Seafood (Optional)
Poaching is the act of cooking food in barely simmering water. This gentle method is perfect for cooking seafood because it helps to preserve its delicate texture–I've demoed it here with shrimp, but you can use this method to cook any fish, such as this easy poached cod. (If you want to keep your seafood raw, simply skip the poaching step.)
To poach the shrimp, combine 2 quarts of water and ¼ cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat (you can get this process going while you're cleaning the shrimp). Add your shrimp to the boiling water, then turn off the heat and let them stand for a few minutes until the fish is just cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the stockpot and allow them to cool. Cut into smaller pieces and refrigerate.
Step 3: Prep the Ingredients
For this step, you only want to cut the ingredients that will hold well. I'm talking about onions, chiles, bell peppers, cucumbers or anything that won't lose its flavor or texture if it sits out for a while. For something like avocado, which quickly turns brown if exposed to oxygen, you want to wait until the last minute to cut it. The same goes for fresh herbs–they will wilt and lose their vibrant color if you mix them into your ceviche too far in advance.
Cucumber: I prefer English cucumber, which has fewer seeds and is a touch sweeter in flavor than conventional cucumbers.
Chile peppers: The type of chile you use depends on how much fire you can handle. For a less fiery ceviche, remove the seeds, as this is where the majority of the heat lies. You may want to wear latex gloves when handling chiles, and definitely avoid touching your eyes until you've washed your hands thoroughly.
Onions: For ceviche, red onions are your best bet. Compared to other onion varieties, they have a milder flavor and a stunning purple hue.
Step 4: Juice the Citrus
Citrus juice is as essential to ceviche as the seafood, so you want to make sure it's as fresh as possible. (None of that bottled stuff, please!) Use freshly squeezed lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice or a blend. I like to use my hands to squeeze out the juice, but a juicer would also work.
Step 5: Marinate the Shrimp or Seafood
Take stock of everything you've accomplished so far: You've prepped your seafood, cut a portion of your veggies and juiced your citrus. At this point, go ahead and combine everything in a large bowl. (Be sure to use a nonreactive bowl–stainless-steel, enamel-coated or glass–with acidic ingredients like citrus, because reactive materials such as aluminum and cast iron can impart an off-color and/or off-flavor in the prepared foods.)
Cover and refrigerate the mixture for about an hour to let the flavors infuse and allow the seafood to "cook" (check the specific recipe for exact timing).
Step 6: Cut the Remaining Ingredients
Remember the ingredients that I said you weren't supposed to cut earlier? (Avocado, tomatoes and cilantro.) Go ahead and cut those up and set aside in a small bowl.
Pro tip: I used Roma tomatoes for my ceviche, but any variety would work. Cut them into sections, then gently scrape out the seeds. Cut each piece lengthwise into smaller batons. Line those up and cut crosswise into smaller cubes.
Step 7: Mix and Serve
Remove the cooked shrimp from the refrigerator, combine all the ingredients, season with salt to taste and maybe a dash of hot sauce and you're ready to serve the ceviche. It doesn't keep very well, so it's best to enjoy it while it's fresh.
Ceviche Recipes & Ideas
I've shown you a simple way to make ceviche with shrimp, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Swap out the shrimp for scallops, flounder or another firm white fish. Replace the cucumber with a handful of diced pineapple. If you're brave, use habanero chiles instead of serranos. The possibilities are endless, as long as you know the basic formula.
Try these easy and healthy ceviche recipes:
Check out our full collection of Ceviche Recipes.