Ceviche: It's More Than Just Raw Fish

How Long to Marinate Ceviche

Ceviche with lime
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Ceviche (pronounced "seh-VEE-chay") is a Latin American recipe for raw fish and seafood marinated in citrus juice, mainly lime and lemon. The acid in the citrus denatures the proteins in the fish, causing it to become opaque and producing a firm texture.

Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids, and when exposed to acid, these chains break apart and arrange themselves into different configurations. A more common way of denaturing proteins is by exposing them to heat (essentially, cooking them). So with ceviche, the fish is effectively "cooked" even though there's no heat involved.

Cook Your Seafood

When using shrimp or other crustaceans in your ceviche, you might be better served if you poach or parboil your seafood first. Be careful not to cook it all the way through, though, or you'll defeat the purpose of your ceviche. If you blanch or parboil your fish or shrimp, 16 minutes is more than enough time to cook it in your citrus marinade. If you start with raw fish, count on about two hours to complete the process.

Ceviche is best served chilled or at room temperature.

Note that while heat is an effective method for killing the bacteria that cause food poisoning, marinating it in citrus juice is not. So it's important to use the freshest seafood you can, from a source you trust.

What to Include

Other ingredients in ceviche typically include onions, chiles and cilantro, and sometimes tomatoes. Avocado is a wonderful item to include in ceviche, and as a bonus, the acid will prevent the avocados from turning brown.

Ceviche recipes vary by region, and each area has its own favorite fish or shellfish that goes into the delightful dish. Snapper, sea bass, halibut, mahi-mahi, and tilapia are popular fish for making ceviche. Other seafood components can include shrimp, scallops, squid, and octopus.

In Ecuador, shrimp ceviche is made solely with shrimp and includes tomato sauce. The Peruvian version can include corn and cooked sweet potato.

Probably the most important thing when making ceviche is making sure to marinate it for the proper amount of time. Too short and your seafood will be raw. Too long and it will be rubbery in the case of shrimp or octopus, or chalky and crumbly in the case of fish. Fifteen to 20 minutes is usually about right.

Serving Suggestions

Ceviche goes well with saltines or other crackers. You can also use toasted pita bread ir plain or onion bagels. Put your ceviche in a bowl with the crackers, or bread surrounding it and let people spoon the ceviche onto the crackers or bread.

Pair the ceviche with a fruity white wine, such as a pinot or sauvignon blanc.