Scared Of Making Kinilaw At Home? We Have Some Tips

It's super fresh and requires no cooking.

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The ceviche or kinilaw is fast and easy to make and the best part is you don't even have to turn on the stove. It's also the healthy, refreshing, and no-cook dish you should be making with your fresh seafood. 

Kinilaw, or kilawin as its sometimes called in other parts of the country, is one of the oldest ways of "cooking" meats. It's a way of preparing the food without the need of using heat. The key here is the acidity of the vinegar or the citrus juice because it relies on the process called the denaturation to cook the meat. This "changing the nature" of the protein, aka the fish, results in the breaking down of its meat fibers which "cooks" it. It doesn't take long and as short as a few minutes is all you need to make it start happening. This is also the reason why marinades using vinegar or citrus juices to flavor and tenderize meats should not be left to marinate too long. Your chicken inasal recipe just needs about an hour to marinate perfectly! 


That's why the key to the perfect tasting kinilaw is really the acidic marinade you use. Here are our best tips for making the marinade for the kinilaw: 

Photo by Marti Bartolome
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1 Combine vinegar and citrus.   

You don't need to use just sukang puti. While this is the traditional ingredient when making kinilaw, mixing it up with the more flavorful citrus juice makes for a more delicious combination than just vinegar. Plus, citrus juices are just as strong an acid as vinegar. Sukang puti is around 5% acid and so is the lemon or calamansi. In fact, calamansi is the stronger acid which is why it acts quicker than lemon or vinegar when making kinilaw. Other vinegar and citrus juices can be weaker or stronger but what's key to remember is this: the more acidic the solution, the less time it will take to cook the seafood. 

Photo by Bianca Laxamana

2 Taste before adding the seafood. 

This is the biggest difference between home cooks and chefs. Chefs are trained to taste their food regularly and this training is what can make the difference between food that tastes great and one that doesn't. 

For marinades, this is especially important. Once the meat is added, there's no tasting it again until after the food is cooked so the flavor of the marinade should be just right before you mix it together with the raw meats. In the case of the kinilaw, the taste of the marinade is crucial to it not only tasting great, but it also needs to be able to be acidic enough to "cook" the seafood.


This balance will make the marinade taste a little bit too sharp, too strong, and too flavorful before it's added to the meat. While it is "cooking", the seafood will impart its flavors to the marinade and temper its flavors. The result is the perfect "sauce" to the kinilaw that you can actually sip without any of its raw sharpness. 

So, make your sauce and add in all the usual ingredients (garlic, ginger, onion, chilis, sugar, salt, and pepper) plus any special ingredients you also want to toss in. Just remember to give it a taste so you know it tastes good before tossing in the seafood.  

Photo by Yuna Kim from Pixabay

3 Use your favorite seafood. 

Once you have your marinade, you can start the kinilaw process. Did you know that it's not just tuna and tanigue that you can make into kinilaw? Other kinds of fish fillets, shrimp, squid, and even frozen seafood such as frozen salmon, tuna, and shrimp can be used as the seafood for kinilaw. Frozen seafood is actually quite "fresh" since these are usually flash-frozen soon after these are caught. These may be even fresher than the "fresh" seafood than you think since these are stored at lower temperatures to preserve that freshness. 

This means when making kinilaw, the fresher the seafood is, the better it is to not only eat, but also, the better tasting it will be and frozen can be the "fresh" seafood you need and can source easier. 

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4 Time it right. 

A kitchen timer is the best tool for this. You need to know when the kinilaw is ready to eat and you need to know the moment it is. That's because if it marinates any longer than necessary, you will be faced with tough seafood. The acid in the vinegar and citrus juice does not stop working! Unlike the flame, the acids will continue to "cook" the seafood as long as it is in the marinade. Since it's served with the marinade, it never stops cooking unless you dilute the acidity to a neutral level which means it becomes flavorless.  

Your timing is important. In as few as 5 minutes up to 30 minutes, the seafood is still at that tender state that's desired. Longer than this when the seafood starts to turn rubbery and tough. Leave it for far too long and the seafood not only becomes completely "cooked" but it will start to turn chalky. For the perfect kinilaw, this chalky states means you've "overcooked" it. 




Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here!

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