Choosing the Best Fish for Homemade Ceviche

by Ella

Ceviche, a dish originating from the coastal regions of Latin America, has swiftly gained global popularity due to its refreshing flavors and vibrant textures. This delicacy, primarily composed of raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juices, is a perfect symphony of acidity, freshness, and elegance. The cornerstone of an exceptional ceviche lies in selecting the right type of fish. In this gastronomic exploration, we delve into the world of ceviche and identify the best fish options to elevate this dish to a sublime culinary experience.

What’s Ceviche?

Ceviche, known for its light yet zesty flavors, is a harmonious blend of simplicity and sophistication. The dish traditionally comprises raw fish or seafood that is “cooked” using the acidic juices of citrus fruits like lime or lemon. This unique preparation method results in a delightfully tangy dish, where the fish’s texture remains tender, and the flavors meld into a delightful explosion on the palate.


The base ingredients of ceviche typically include fish or seafood, citrus juices, onions, cilantro, and various seasonings. However, the star of the show is undoubtedly the fish, which brings the dish its characteristic texture and taste. Choosing the right fish is essential to achieve the desired balance of flavors and textures.


How Ceviche Is Made

Ceviche, a dish originating from the coastal regions of Latin America, is a culinary masterpiece that involves “cooking” raw fish or seafood using the natural acidity of citrus juices. Here’s how ceviche is typically made:


1. Prepare the Fish/Seafood:

Start by selecting the freshest fish or seafood available. It’s important to ensure that the fish is of high quality and suitable for raw consumption.


Clean and fillet the fish, removing any bones and skin. Cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. For seafood like shrimp, peel and devein them.

2. Marinating:

Place the fish or seafood pieces in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic works well). Avoid using metal bowls as the acidic juices can react with the metal and affect the taste.

Squeeze enough citrus juice (usually lime or lemon) to fully cover the fish pieces. The citrus juice “cooks” the fish by denaturing its proteins.

Ensure that the fish is completely submerged in the juice. The marinating time can vary depending on the type of fish and your desired level of “cook.” Marination usually takes around 15 to 30 minutes, but some recipes might call for longer marination periods.

3. Adding Flavor and Texture:

While the fish is marinating, finely chop red onions and fresh cilantro. Dice chili peppers (with seeds removed if you prefer less heat) and add them to the mix.

Gently fold the onion, cilantro, and chili peppers into the marinating fish. The acid in the citrus juice will slightly soften the onion, reducing its pungency.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Some recipes might also call for additional seasonings like cumin or coriander.

4. Optional Additions:

This is where you can get creative! If desired, add ingredients like diced avocado, chopped tomato, mango cubes, or cucumber for extra flavor, color, and texture.

5. Chilling and Serving:

After mixing the ingredients, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a short period to allow the flavors to meld and develop. Be cautious not to over-marinate, as the fish can become too firm or lose its delicate texture.

Once the ceviche is properly chilled and seasoned to your liking, it’s ready to be served. Traditionally, ceviche is enjoyed as a standalone dish, accompanied by tortilla chips or toasted corn (corn nuts).

What’s the Best Fish for Ceviche?

When it comes to selecting the best fish for ceviche, several factors come into play. The fish’s freshness, texture, flavor, and oil content all play significant roles in determining the final outcome of the dish. While personal preferences may vary, certain fish varieties have consistently proven to be excellent choices for ceviche due to their inherent qualities.

1. Halibut

Halibut, with its firm yet delicate texture and mild flavor, is a prime candidate for creating a sublime ceviche experience. The fish’s lean meat holds up well in the acidic marinade, maintaining its structure without becoming overly soft. The low oil content of halibut allows the citrus juices to infuse the flesh while preserving its natural taste.

2. Sea Bass

Sea bass, renowned for its flaky white flesh and rich flavor, is another standout option for ceviche enthusiasts. Its succulent meat readily absorbs the citrus juices, creating a harmonious balance between the bright acidity and the fish’s inherent taste. The sea bass’s texture holds up admirably in the marinade, resulting in a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth experience.

3. Snapper

Red snapper, often deemed a classic choice for ceviche, boasts a slightly sweet and nutty flavor that complements the citrus marinade beautifully. Its medium-firm texture allows it to absorb the flavors while maintaining a pleasing bite. The snapper’s versatility and availability make it a popular selection among both novice and seasoned ceviche enthusiasts.

4. Flounder

Flounder, characterized by its delicate and mildly sweet taste, is an underrated gem in the realm of ceviche fish options. The fish’s fine texture and low oil content make it an excellent canvas for the vibrant citrus flavors to shine through. Flounder’s tenderness absorbs the marinade gracefully, resulting in a refreshing and delicate ceviche.

5. Tuna

For those seeking a departure from the traditional, tuna offers a bold and hearty option for ceviche experimentation. With its robust flavor and meaty texture, tuna provides a unique twist on the dish. It’s essential to select high-quality, sushi-grade tuna to ensure the best results, as its rich taste can stand up to the intense citrus infusion.

See Also: How Often Should You Eat Fish: A Comprehensive Guide

Shellfish to Use in Ceviche

Shellfish can add a delightful twist to ceviche, offering a unique combination of flavors and textures that complement the citrus marinade. However, it’s important to note that not all shellfish are suitable for ceviche due to differences in taste, texture, and safety considerations. Here are some popular shellfish options that work well in ceviche:

1. Shrimp:

Shrimp is one of the most common and popular shellfish choices for ceviche.

Choose medium to large shrimp, and ensure they are properly cleaned and deveined before use.

Shrimp has a slightly sweet and delicate flavor that pairs well with the citrus marinade.

2. Scallops:

Scallops offer a delicate and tender texture, making them a luxurious addition to ceviche.

Select fresh, dry-packed scallops and slice them into thin rounds for even marination.

3. Squid (Calamari):

Squid provides a chewy texture and mild flavor that can be enhanced by the citrus marinade.

Clean the squid properly, remove the skin, and slice it into thin rings for a visually appealing ceviche.

4. Octopus:

Octopus has a firm texture that can benefit from marination, resulting in a tender and flavorful addition to ceviche.

Cook the octopus first to soften it before marinating. Boiling or slow cooking are common methods.

5. Mussels and Clams:

While not as commonly used as other shellfish, mussels and clams can add an interesting twist to ceviche.

Steam or cook them until they open, then remove the meat from the shells before marinating.

See Also: 6 Healthiest Shellfish & Their Health benefits

Tips for the Best, Safest Ceviche

Creating the best and safest ceviche involves a combination of selecting quality ingredients, proper preparation techniques, and careful attention to food safety guidelines. To ensure a delicious and worry-free ceviche experience, consider the following tips:

1. Choose Fresh Fish and Seafood:

Start with the freshest fish or seafood available. Freshness is paramount for both flavor and safety.

Purchase from reputable sources, such as trusted fish markets or seafood counters.

2. Select the Right Fish:

Opt for fish varieties with firm textures and mild to medium flavors that can withstand the citrus marinade without becoming too mushy or overpowering.

3. Practice Hygiene:

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any raw ingredients.

Keep all utensils, cutting boards, and work surfaces clean and sanitized.

4. Use Clean Utensils:

Use non-reactive bowls for marinating, as acidic citrus juices can react with metal and alter the taste.

Keep utensils, knives, and cutting boards separate from those used for other foods to prevent cross-contamination.

5. Proper Marination:

Ensure the fish or seafood is fully submerged in the citrus marinade to facilitate the “cooking” process.

Marinate the fish for the appropriate time, usually between 15 to 30 minutes. Avoid over-marinating, which can lead to a change in texture.

6. Freezing for Safety:

If you’re concerned about parasites or bacteria, freeze the fish for at least 24 hours before using it for ceviche. Freezing helps to mitigate risks.

See Also: Shelf Life of Seafood & How to Store It (Fresh+Cooked)

7. Keep Ingredients Cold:

Keep all ingredients, especially fish and seafood, refrigerated until you’re ready to use them.

Work quickly when preparing ceviche to prevent ingredients from sitting at room temperature for extended periods.

8. Use Fresh Citrus Juice:

Squeeze fresh citrus juice (lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit) for the marinade. The natural acidity is essential for “cooking” the fish.

How to Cut Fish for Ceviche?

1. Fillet the Fish:

Use a sharp fillet knife to make an incision just behind the gills, cutting down towards the spine of the fish.

Run the knife along the spine, gradually separating the fillet from the body. Use smooth, controlled strokes to avoid tearing the flesh.

Once you’ve cut along the spine, gently lift the fillet away from the body of the fish.

2. Remove the Pin Bones:

Run your fingers along the fillet to locate any pin bones. These are small, thin bones that can be easily removed with tweezers or fish pliers.

Gently grasp the end of a pin bone with the tweezers and pull it out in the direction of the bone. Repeat this process for any remaining pin bones.

3. Cutting the Fillet:

Place the fillet skin-side down on the cutting board.

Start by cutting the fillet into thin strips. Hold the fillet steady with one hand while using the other to slice across the width of the fillet.

Make sure the strips are uniform in size to ensure even marination and a consistent texture in the ceviche.

4. Cubing the Strips:

Stack several strips of fish on top of each other to create a neat stack.

Slice the stacked strips crosswise to create small cubes. The size of the cubes depends on your preference, but aim for bite-sized pieces.

5. Transfer to the Bowl:

Gently transfer the cubed fish to a non-reactive bowl. A glass or ceramic bowl is ideal, as these materials won’t react with the acidic citrus juices.

How Long to Marinate Fish Ceviche?

1. Thin vs. Thick Fish:

Thinner fish fillets (like flounder) require less marination time since the acid penetrates more quickly.

Thicker fish fillets (like halibut or sea bass) may require a slightly longer marination time to ensure the acid penetrates deeper into the fish.

2. Fish Type:

Delicate fish varieties might require only 15 to 20 minutes of marination.

Firmer fish types can be marinated for 30 minutes or slightly longer.

As a general guideline:

Delicate fish (flounder, sole, etc.): 15 to 20 minutes

Medium-firm fish (snapper, sea bass): 20 to 30 minutes

Firmer fish (halibut, tuna): 30 minutes or slightly longer

Keep in mind that marinating the fish for too long can result in a texture that’s overly firm or “cooked.” It’s better to slightly under-marinate and taste the fish as you go, adjusting the marination time if necessary.

What to Serve with Ceviche?

Ceviche is a versatile and flavorful dish that pairs well with a variety of accompaniments, enhancing the overall dining experience. The side dishes and accompaniments you choose can complement the refreshing flavors of the ceviche while providing contrast in textures and tastes. Here are some popular options to consider serving with ceviche:

1. Tortilla Chips:

Tortilla chips are a classic and popular choice for scooping up the ceviche. Their crunchiness adds a satisfying texture to the dish.

2. Plantain Chips:

Plantain chips provide a unique twist and offer a slightly sweet and savory element that pairs well with the tangy ceviche.

3. Tostones (Fried Green Plantains):

Tostones are another option made from green plantains. They are fried and served as crispy slices, offering a delightful contrast to the ceviche’s flavors.

4. Corn Tortillas:

Warm, soft corn tortillas can be used to create mini ceviche tacos, allowing your guests to assemble their own ceviche-filled delights.

5. Sweet Potato Chips:

Sweet potato chips offer a sweeter and earthier flavor that complements the citrusy notes of the ceviche.

6. Avocado Slices:

Creamy avocado slices add richness to the ceviche and balance the acidity of the citrus marinade.

See Also: Avocado: Types, Nutrition Facts, Benefits, Picking & Storage

7. Mango Slices:

Sweet and juicy mango slices provide a burst of tropical flavor that harmonizes well with the ceviche’s ingredients.

8. Cucumber Slices:

Cool and crisp cucumber slices offer a refreshing contrast to the ceviche and provide a hydrating element.

9. Pickled Red Onions:

Pickled red onions add a tangy and slightly sweet kick that enhances the overall flavor profile of the ceviche.

10. Cilantro Rice:

Fragrant cilantro rice serves as a neutral base that complements the ceviche’s vibrant flavors.

11. Corn Salad:

A simple corn salad with fresh kernels, bell peppers, and a light vinaigrette can provide a refreshing and crunchy side.

12. Jicama Sticks:

Jicama’s crisp and mildly sweet nature adds a refreshing crunch that complements the textures of ceviche.

13. Salsa or Hot Sauce:

Offer a selection of mild to spicy salsas or hot sauces for those who enjoy an extra kick of heat.


Ceviche, with its vibrant medley of flavors and textures, is a testament to the artistry of culinary craftsmanship. The choice of fish plays a pivotal role in elevating this dish from a simple delicacy to a sublime experience. Fish varieties like halibut, sea bass, snapper, flounder, and tuna have consistently proven their worth in creating exceptional ceviche. However, the key to a remarkable ceviche lies not only in the type of fish but also in its freshness, handling, and preparation.

As you embark on your own ceviche journey, remember that while tradition provides a strong foundation, culinary creativity knows no limits. Don’t hesitate to explore unique fish options and innovative flavor combinations, allowing your palate to guide you to new and exciting horizons within the world of ceviche. Ultimately, the best fish for ceviche is the one that resonates with your taste buds and captures the essence of this timeless dish.



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