Tilapia Ceviche is a great recipe for light dinners and all your summer fiestas. I learned this recipe in Mexico where people enjoy the finest fresh seafood every day. Give your tastebuds a delicious vacation!
Homemade ceviche has to be one of the easiest-to-make recipes on this blog. It’s perfect for spring and summer eating because there’s absolutely no cooking involved and it’s ready in minutes.
Sometimes, the best souvenir is learning a local recipe when you travel and bringing it home with you to make for friends. That’s exactly what this recipe is: authentic Mexican ceviche at its finest.
This recipe calls for tilapia, which is safe, sustainable, and healthy (it swims in the waters of Aguascalientes), but you can use any lean, white-fleshed ocean fish instead: snapper, flounder, or sea bass. You can also make a tilapia and shrimp ceviche by adding chopped shrimp to the mix–that’s very popular too.
Making Tilapia Ceviche for two, or twenty? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Ceviche—what is it?
Seafood ceviche, also known as cebiche, seviche, or sebiche– is a dish made of chunks of raw fish that are marinated in citrus juices, allowing it to “cook.” Varieties of ceviche (pronounced “seh-VEE-chay”) include chilies, mangoes, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion.
Ceviche is wonderful eaten on its own, but it’s extra refreshing served in tacos, on tostadas, or with crispy plantain chips.
The origin of ceviche is not entirely clear; Peru says it is its national dish. Traditional Peruvian ceviche uses a sauce called leche del tigre, or tiger’s milk, which locals consider an aphrodisiac. A shot of lime juice with chilies and fish just might make anyone roar like a tiger!
But really, every city, town, village, and family throughout South and Central America and Mexico celebrates ceviche with their own unique ceviche recipe using local fish and their own proportions of distinctive ceviche ingredients. Puerto Rico, Panama, and Ecuador also adore this popular seafood appetizer.
I learned this ceviche recipe (and the others on my blog) in San José de Gracia in Aguascalientes.
How to make Tilapia ceviche:
- First, gather your ceviche ingredients and get everything chopped up. This recipe moves fast!
- You can cut the tilapia fillets up while they’re still a little frozen–it might make things easier for you. While other Peruvian ceviche recipes like to keep the fish in larger chunks, go ahead and finely chop the fish for this recipe.
- Place the chopped fish in a non-reactive (glass or stainless steel) bowl and cover with lime juice. Mix gently to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- When “cooked” the fish should appear white and just opaque. Then all you have to do is drain off the lime juice and add the other ceviche ingredients: tomato, onion, chilies, cilantro, and carrots. Give things a taste and adjust the seasoning.
What is tilapia? And is tilapia safe to eat?
One of the oldest farm-raised fish in the world, tilapia belongs to the cichlid family of freshwater fish. It has a mild, fresh taste and firm, white flesh. Currently, it’s one of the most sustainable fish in the world. It has a low to moderate fat content, (lower than chicken breast) and is a rich source of protein.
If you’re curious about tilapia nutrition, this fish provides protein, B vitamins, iron, vitamin D, selenium and healthful omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA—all for about 200 calories or less per serving.
You might have read less than stellar things about tilapia. It has a bad reputation for being unhealthy and harmful, but the information out there simply isn’t true.
The vast majority of tilapia are grown and processed in certified farms in the United States. These farms get regularly inspected for food safety, environmental and community issues, veterinary drug use, and traceability. Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, has made enormous strides in the last decade to ensure a quality, clean, and safe product that meets the demands of the public.
In other words, tilapia is actually a completely heathy and nutritious fish to eat on a regular basis, even raw. And because tilapia is low in mercury, pregnant women can eat it, which is something to celebrate.
Is ceviche raw?
At first glance, ceviche looks cooked…but is it?
Technically, ceviche is raw. However, as the raw fish sits in the marinade, the acid from the citrus juice breaks down the protein in the muscle fibers of the fish. The acid gives the fish a texture that is similar to traditionally cooked fish. The process is called denaturation.
Even though the lime or lemon juice changes the texture of the fish, it’s still raw in the same way crudo, poke, or smoked salmon is. That means you should make ceviche with the best quality fish you can find.
What type of tilapia should you buy for ceviche?
When shopping for fresh fish, it’s important to have a trusted fish market that can recommend the best cuts for your recipe. And it’s doubly important when you’re planning on consuming raw fish.
Eaten raw, tilapia has a mild, sweet taste that’s comparable to snapper. It’s plentiful in the freezer section of almost any grocery store or box store. And best of all, you can and should use frozen tilapia for ceviche. Look for fish frozen according to the FDA’s freezing guidelines, and you are good to go.
FDA guidelines require fish to be frozen at -4 degrees or below for at least 7 days. Commercial deep freezing kills off any potential parasites in the flesh that would otherwise be killed with traditional heat cooking.
How to make ceviche without raw fish:
Two words: Mango Ceviche. If any of your guests can’t (or won’t) eat raw fish, here’s what you can do! Make them a safe to eat ceviche version using chunks of ripe mango or pineapple in place of the fish. It’s just as good and they’ll love the extra thought you put into making something just for them.
Or make them a mock version of Ceviche de Camaron, a delicious shrimp ceviche recipe. There’s a cooked version included in the recipe!
How to serve Tilapia Ceviche:
Your friends will love ceviche no matter how you serve it. Keep it simple with crispy plantains, corn tortillas, or lettuce wraps. Just make sure there’s a little mayo, a bottle of Valentina hot sauce and a pitcher of ice-cold Paloma Cocktails to sip while you’re eating! It’s your beach day, so make it the best one ever.
If you’re interested in other types of ceviche, head on over to How to Make Ceviche to read about how to shop for fish, what fish make the best ceviche, and other brilliant ceviche ingredients you can add to your favorite recipe.
Tilapia Ceviche Recipe
For the ceviche:
- 1 pound tilapia
- 1 cup fresh lime juice from 6 to 8 limes, plus more for serving
- 1 medium onion finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large carrot peeled and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1-2 roma tomatoes seeded and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1-2 jalapeño chiles minced, seeded if desired, see notes
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro stems removed and minced
- Tortilla chips tostadas, or saltine crackers
- Valentina hot sauce
- Sliced avocado
To make the ceviche:
- Chop tilapia into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Add lime juice and toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is opaque and "cooked" through, about 4 hours.
- Drain off and discard excess lime juice. Add onion, carrots, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro and toss until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and more fresh lime juice if desired.
- Serve on tostadas or with tortilla chips or saltine crackers, passing mayonnaise, hot sauce, and sliced avocado separately. Or, divide ceviche among small clear-glass bowls, wineglasses, or martini glasses.