08/16/2012 09:02 am ET | Updated Jul 09, 2014

How To Make The Perfect Ceviche, And Common Mistakes To Avoid


Ceviche -- the refreshing dish of fish marinated in citrus juice -- is perfect for summer. It's light and bright, it won't weigh you down in the heat. Plus, it requires no heat to cook, so you don't have to worry about turning on your oven or stove.

Ceviche is also surprisingly easy to prepare. When making it at home, there are just a few key things to keep in mind. The most important is to use the freshest fish possible and beyond that it's all about the marinating process, which works sort of like pickling.

If you're first attempt at making ceviche doesn't come out quite like you expected it to, fear not. There may be a few mistakes you're making -- such as not letting the fish marinate long enough or using the wrong fish entirely -- and they're easily corrected. Here are 10 mistakes you might be making with ceviche, and how to avoid them.

  • 1 Not Using The Right Fish
    Most fish works for ceviche, but the best kinds are semi-firm white-fleshed ocean fish like sea bass, striped bass, grouper, sole or flounder. Stay away from oily fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna, bluefish or jack. Freshwater fish like trout or catfish don't really work either.
  • 2 Not Using The Freshest Fish
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    Though it's not always possible, fresh caught fish makes the best ceviche. Otherwise, buy the freshest fish possible at the market. It's the single most important thing. Fresh fish smells like the ocean. It shouldn't be stinky. The flesh should appear glossy and iridescent, not opaque.
  • 3 Not Keeping The Fish Cold
    When you get your fish home from the store, it's best to put it over ice and store it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Not only does this keep the fish fresh, it wll also make for a better tasting ceviche when you serve it. Aim to make the ceviche the same day you buy the fish. If you're working with an especially large fillet, keep half of it over ice while you work on the other half.
  • 4 Not Removing The Bloodline
    When preparing fish for ceviche, before you even start to cut it up, you need to remove the bloodline. If left on the fish, the bloodline (the dark red portion on the fillet) will give the finished dish a really fishy flavor.
  • 5 Not Removing The Skin And Bones
    Don't forget to remove the skin and any pinbones, too. Or, have your fishmonger do it for you. There's nothing worse than biting into a piece with skin or a sharp bone.
  • 6 Not Cutting Everything To Size
    When making ceviche, it's important that the different components are evenly sized so they marinate evenly. This also helps with presentation and ease of eating. The fish should preferably be chopped into large, even chunks or sliced into thin pieces. The vegetables, such as peppers or onions, are best diced. But you can, for presentation sake, slice the onions very thinly.
  • 7 Overmarinating
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    Most chefs recommend marinating fish for ceviche for at least 10 to 20 minutes. It ensures that the fish properly absorbs the citrus juice and turns an opaque color. Anything over an hour, and you run the risk of the fish falling apart.
  • 8 Not Letting The Fish Marinate Long Enough
    It's important to let your fish sit in the citrus juice for at least 10 to 20 minutes to properly cure. Anything under that amount of time and the fish will still appear raw.
  • 9 Not Getting The Right Ratio Of Acid To Fish
    You definitely need enough acid (lemon or lime juice) to properly make ceviche. Michael Ruhlman recommends a 1/2 cup of lime juice to 1 pound of fish. This ratio will ensure the fish is properly cured and tender to eat.
  • 10 Combining The Ingredients Too Early
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    It's best to keep the fish separate from the vegetables until you're ready to serve. This prevents the vegetables or the fish from turning mushy and keeps the different colors (especially if you're using red onions) from bleeding together.

Now that you're armed with everything you need to know to make a flawless ceviche dish this summer, here are 12 recipes to try out!

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Ceviche Recipes