To break down tilapia filets for ceviche, first cut each piece into strips about 2 inches wide, rinsing your knife in cold water between cuts. Holding your knife at a 45-degree angle and following the muscle fibers of the fish, slice the fish into chunks. Continue cutting the tilapia into 1/2-inch pieces.
In a medium glass or stainless-steel bowl, add tilapia and citrus juice and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until the tilapia 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 with tostadas, tortilla chips, or saltine crackers, passing hot sauce and mayonnaise separately.
Tilapia: Thaw frozen tilapia in a bowl or on a tray overnight in the refrigerator. For quicker thawing, thaw in a bowl of cold (not warm) water. Turn the faucet on and let a thin trickle of cold water run into the bowl, letting the excess water overflow out of the bowl and down the drain.
Citrus juice: The acid that “cooks” the fish. Lime juice is the most common, but lemon, grapefruit, and orange juice are all great options.
Carrots: I don’t see carrots in most ceviche recipes on the Internet, but that’s how they make it in Aguascalientes, and I love it.
Jalapeños: Remove the seeds for less heat. At fiestas in Mexico, they prepare a separate bowl of spicy chiles (like serrano and habañero chiles) so the adults can load them up and the kids don’t have to suffer.
Cilantro: Cut off the main batch of stems at the bottom of the bunch, then cut up the remaining stems along with the leaves. Please omit if you hate cilantro (parsley or chives are good substitutes).
Safety: Citrus juice does not kill bacteria or parasites in fish (neither will your home freezer), so choose commercially-frozen or high-quality fresh fish for ceviche.
Yield: This recipe will make about 4 cups ceviche.
Storage: Ceviche is best consumed the same day you make it. You can probably get away with consuming the leftovers on day 2, but that's about it.
Denaturation: The technical term for the reaction between the citrus juice acid and the proteins in the muscle fibers of the tilapia.
Avocado: Mixed in or scattered on top, avocado tempers the heat and a creamy texture to ceviche. Guacamole is a great option, too.
More mix-ins: Get creative with cucumber, jicama, or pineapple.