Scallop Aguachile


The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Marinating Time: : 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
310 Calories
20g Fat
19g Carbs
18g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 310
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 31mg 10%
Sodium 998mg 43%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 8g 27%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 18g
Vitamin C 19mg 96%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 847mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

At the heart of it, aguachile is a raw seafood ceviche marinated in chile water (a liquid made by blending chiles and other flavorful ingredients). Aguachile is the kind of dish that transports you to a beach in Mexico. It is a precursor to the main meal, and one that leaves you feeling euphoric from the high acid of the lime juice and the heat of the chiles. 

The Many Styles of Aguachile

I grew up eating heaps of aguachile verde on the coast of Puerto Vallarta, known for a creamy style of aguachile with a sauce chock full of cilantro and avocado. In the neighboring state of Nayarit, an aguachile tradicional is always packed with locally-grown shrimp and thinly sliced tomatoes. 

In Sinaloa, scallops or shrimp make an appearance in a variety of aguachile styles such as aguachile rojo, a slightly sweeter version of the dish with tomato puree added to the sauce. There is aguachile negro, the same fiery sauce made with fresh lime juice and fortified with a medley of sauces such as soy, Maggi, and Worcestershire. And finally there is aguachile natural, a stripped-down version of all of these styles: shrimp tossed in lime juice with cracked pequín chile or peppery chiltepín. 

How to Balance the Flavor of Aguachile

A classic aguachile verde is the everyday aguachile: a little creamy and herbaceous with the perfect amount of heat. If you want more spice, keep the seeds in the serranos and perhaps add one or two more chiles.

The sauce is meant to be bright and spicy, but if you need to balance it out, add one tablespoon of water at a time until perfectly balanced to your taste. The olive oil isn’t all that traditional, but it gives an incredibly creamy mouthfeel when the sauce is whirled in the blender and poured all over the scallops.

Tips for Making Aguachile

  • How to shop for scallops—When shopping for scallops, look for scallops labeled "chemical free" or "dry-packed." Ask the fishmonger for scallops without phosphates. When treated with preservatives, scallops give off a strong metallic taste that is particularly undesirable in a raw preparation.
  • Join the clean plate club—Aguachile is best eaten the day it is made. If left to marinate in the acidic liquid for too long, the scallops can become rubbery. For this reason, do not make this dish ahead of time, and plan on eating it all shortly after you make it.

"This aguachile verde was bright, fresh, spicy, and creamy because of the lime, cilantro, serrano pepper, oil, and avocado. It was a wonderful appetizer, with enough to serve six." —Diana Andrews

Aguachile Verde
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 pound sea scallops, small side muscle removed and discarded, rinsed, and sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt, divided

  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion

  • 1/2 small seedless cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 8 large limes 

  • 1 small serrano chile, stemmed and seeded, more to taste

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 small avocados, quartered and thinly sliced

  • Tostadas or tortilla chips, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make aguachile

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Add the scallops to a large non-reactive bowl, such as glass or ceramic. Gently toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave at room temperature while you prepare the aguachile.

    A bowl of scallops seasoned with salt

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. In a small bowl, cover onions with cold water to mellow them out and get them a little crunchy. 

    A small bowl of sliced onions in cold water

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. In a separate small bowl, gently toss the cucumber with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside. 

    A small bowl of sliced cucumber seasoned with salt

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. In a blender or food processor, combine lime juice, serrano, cilantro, 2 tablespoons water, oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend on high until smooth. 

    A blender with lime juice, serrano, cilantro, oil, water, and salt

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Pour aguachile over scallops and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. 

    A bowl of scallops topped with the lime-cilantro aguachile sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Drain onions and scatter them all over the scallops, along with the cucumbers and avocado. Let the scallops sit in the aguachile for 5 minutes or up to 20 minutes if you prefer the scallops to be firmer. Taste and season with more salt as needed. 

    Sliced onions, avocado, and cucumber added to the scallop-aguachile mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  8. Serve with a stack of tostadas or tortilla chips. 

    A bowl of aguachile served with tostadas

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Recipe Variation

Substitute scallops for 1 pound of large shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied.

Does Lime Juice Fully Cook Shrimp?

The acid in lime juice "cooks" shrimp or scallops when allowed to marinate. Technically, to "cook" something, you must apply heat. However, marinating raw seafood in lime juice has a similar effect in that it breaks down proteins and kills bacteria.

Aguachile is traditionally made with raw shrimp or scallops (or the highly-prized pen shell clams or callo de hacha from Sinaloa). The quality that is most valued in a traditional aguachile is the creamy and snappy qualities of the raw seafood. Cooked shrimp can be used in aguachile, but it's not traditional.