Hailing from the South American country of Peru, ceviche is a fresh seafood dish that highlights the mountainous country’s unique cuisine and ingredients. A traditional Peruvian ceviche recipe is made by mixing raw seafood cubes, onions and Peruvian peppers – called aji – in an acidic marinade, commonly made from citrus-based juices like lemon, lime or orange.
Ceviche recipes do not use heat to cook the seafood. Instead, the citric acid from acidic juices like lime or orange juice change the seafood’s protein structure, essentially cooking the fish. This chemical process is known as denaturation and occurs when the ceviche fish is left to marinade in the acidic liquid, which alters its physical and chemical composition.
Different Kinds of Seafood for Ceviche
When making a ceviche recipe, you can observe the chemical changes occurring as the fish cooks, turning firm and opaque when it’s ready to be eaten. The key to a flavorful ceviche is cutting the seafood into bite-size cubes, thereby increasing the surface area for the citric acid to do its work.
Depending on the type of seafood used – shrimp ceviche is a popular variation – a ceviche recipe can take anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour to cook. Thin fish, like flounder and sole, are perfect ceviche fish as they do not need to be marinaded for long; the same can be said for tender shellfish like scallops. Meatier fish, such as mahi-mahi or swordfish are on the other end of the spectrum, taking almost 50 minutes to marinate.
Fresh Ceviche Recipe
Total Time: 40 minutes | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Serves: 4 to 6 people
- 2 pounds flounder filets, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 aji amarillo pepper, seeded and finely chopped (if not available, substitute jalapeño or other hot pepper)
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Cut the fresh flounder into bite-sized pieces no larger than 1/2-inch wide. Add them to a nonreactive glass mixing bowl.
- Add the finely chopped aji amarillo (yellow Peruvian pepper) and thinly sliced red onion to the mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
- Add the freshly squeezed lime and lemon juices, along with the salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Cover the dish with plastic-wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes or until the fish color changes to white, allowing the flavors to develop.
- Pour the marinaded ceviche fish into a serving bowl and serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocados.
During the marination process, the fish cooks as it changes from translucent to white and opaque in color. Ceviche fish can be eaten plain as an appetizer or as a dip with tortilla or plantain chips and sliced avocados.
Make sure to use a nonreactive dish like a glass or ceramic bowl when mixing the ceviche fish with the acidic marinade, so the food doesn’t react with the dish.
Variations on the Classic Ceviche Recipe
While traditional ceviche is technically cooked and perfectly acceptable for consumption, the citric acid marinade doesn’t kill bacteria the way cooking fish with heat does. So, if you are unable to find extremely fresh fish, you can always blanch the seafood in boiling water before marinating it.
Shellfish can always be substituted for a shrimp ceviche or scallop ceviche. When making a shrimp ceviche, it’s best to precook the shrimp before adding the citrus-based marinade. Other variations include a ceviche-meets-salsa twist with the addition of chopped tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños and garlic.
Traditionally, ceviche recipes in Peru are served with boiled potatoes and corn to offset the heat from the aji amarillos. Remember to always make sure to use fish that’s as fresh as possible.