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How to Make Ceviche Safely and Easily

Food & Recipes, Blog, How To

Whereas Ceviches are made in all parts of the place, more or less pico de gallo with fish or seafood in it is a basic ceviche.

Ceviche is one of the most esoteric dishes Americans, especially those of us who live quite close to the ocean. The original ceviche is an invention from Peru that includes fish or marinated seafood, which is then “cooked” by citrus juices. I saw many kinds of versions of them served in restaurants and you see the recipes for ceviches of… well anything, truly if you look at any angler’s forum.

This could be an extremely bad idea.

The reason for this is that ceviche is still mostly a raw fish dish.

The bath of citrus fish or seafood turns the meat and makes it look opaque. It kills some of the many wee beasts present in the raw foods that can make you ill, in particular the vibrio of the toxin. But the ceviche process won’t protect you from nasties, from salmonels to parasites and worms. This process will not protect you. Some fish species are more or less susceptible to parasites.

So the best fish for ceviche are those you would see at a trip to the sushi bar. Tuna and other pelagic species tend to be free of parasites (swordfish being a notable exception), as is farmed salmon (oddly). But ever notice that mackerel (saba) is always cured?

That’s because it can often contain anasakis worm larvae, also known as seal worm. Everything in the cod family is especially prone to infestation, too, which is why you never see cod sushi.

Here in the western world, you have to freeze your fish before eating it crude, and Pacific salmon, rocks and halibut are famed for the anasaki larvae. And I really mean freeze when I mean freeze. For approximately a week you need fish hit -4°F to do the trick. Note that this temperature never hit the older home freezers.

Too much, I don’t want to frighten you. The vast majority of diseases caused by consuming spotted or parasite-packed raw fish will be mild to light. It will feel as a food toxicity with cramps, nausea and a serious trot case. Not fun, but life-threatening.

Marinating Times Make a Difference when You are Making Basic Ceviche

You’ll need at least 30 minutes and usually an hour for the citrus to “cook” the fish, depending on the size of the pieces. Two hours is fine, but after that, the ceviche becomes more of a pickled fish thing, which is still delicious. It’s a minor distinction, but it’s discernible.

You have Mexican aguachile if you don’t marinate the fish at all and serve it as a mash-up of sushi and ceviche.

Citrus is also important. Limes or lemons, which are far more acidic than oranges, grapefruits, or tangerines, should always be the dominant citrus in the marinade. Add these fruits to the ceviche as a garnish; I especially like a little grapefruit in the mix.

Basic Ceviche Recipe

I find that white, lean fish work best for basic ceviche. I’ve made it with bluefish and salmon before but I don’t like it so much; you might have a different opinion. My standard ceviche fish is Pacific rockfish or lingcod that’s been pre-frozen. Any sort of snapper, grouper, black seabass, porgy, sea trout, white seabass or yellowtail will work, as will pre-frozen freshwater fish like walleye or perch.

Ingredients to Make Basic Ceviche

  • 1 pound pre-frozen lingcod, rockfish or other lean, white fish
  • 3 limes
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 grapefruit
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced root to tip
  • 2 Roma or other paste tomatoes, seeded
  • 1 ear of corn, kernels sliced off
  • 1 habanero or rocoto chile pepper, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Instructions to Make Basic Ceviche

  • Slice the fish into small, bite-sized pieces. Cut the tomatoes into pieces the same size as the fish and set them aside for later. Zest 1 lime, 1 lemon and the grapefruit and grate them fine; I use a microplane grater to do this. Mince the habanero fine. Juice all the citrus. Add all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and the cilantro to a bowl or plastic container with a lid and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Add the tomatoes and cilantro, mix well and serve cold with chips.


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