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Kilawin / Kinilaw Recipe (Filipino Ceviche, Philippines)


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Merilee Canada



Welcome to the world of kilawin and kinilaw, a traditional Filipino dish that will take your taste buds on an incredible journey. Kilawin, also known as kinilaw, is a type of ceviche that originated in the Philippines. This delightful dish combines the freshness of raw fish and a tangy marinade made with vinegar or citrus juice, herbs, and spices.


Kilawin or kinilaw may be unfamiliar to some, but it is a beloved dish in the Philippines and holds a special place in the hearts and palates of locals. It is not only a delicious plate of food but also an embodiment of Filipino culture and heritage.


What sets kilawin/kinilaw apart from other ceviche dishes is its bold and vibrant flavors. The combination of the acidic marinade with the freshness of the raw fish creates a harmonious balance of flavors that is both refreshing and satisfying.


Traditionally, kilawin/kinilaw is made with seafood, particularly fish like tuna, tanigue (Spanish mackerel), and lapu-lapu (grouper). However, variations of the dish also include other seafood such as shrimp, squid, and even octopus. The versatility of kilawin/kinilaw allows for a wide range of ingredients to be used, ensuring that there is something to suit everyone’s taste.


Whether you are a seafood aficionado or a curious food explorer, delve into the world of kilawin/kinilaw and discover the unique flavors and textures that make it a standout dish in Filipino cuisine. Join us as we embark on a culinary adventure and learn how to prepare this delightful dish in your own kitchen.



To make a delicious kilawin or kinilaw dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Fresh Fish: Choose a firm and fresh fish like tuna, tanigue, lapu-lapu, or any other seafood of your preference.
  • Vinegar or Citrus Juice: The acidic component of the marinade is essential for cooking the fish. You can use vinegar such as coconut vinegar, cane vinegar, or white vinegar, or citrus juices like calamansi or lime juice.
  • Onions: Red onions are typically used in kilawin/kinilaw for their mild and sweet flavor.
  • Ginger: Fresh ginger adds a zesty and aromatic flavor to the marinade.
  • Garlic: Minced garlic adds depth of flavor to the dish.
  • Chili Peppers: Include chili peppers like siling labuyo or bird’s eye chili for a spicy kick. Adjust the amount based on your preference for heat.
  • Salt and Pepper: Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Coconut Cream (optional): Some variations of kinilaw incorporate coconut cream to add richness and creaminess to the dish.
  • Fresh Herbs: Cilantro or parsley adds a refreshing aroma and enhances the overall flavor.
  • Other Fresh Ingredients: Some recipes may include additional ingredients like tomatoes, cucumber, or radishes to add a crunch and extra freshness to the dish.

Ensure that all the ingredients are fresh and of high quality to achieve the best flavors in your kilawin/kinilaw. With these ingredients ready, we can move on to the next steps of preparing this delectable Filipino dish.


Step 1: Preparing the Fish

The first step in making kilawin or kinilaw is to prepare the fish. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Start by choosing a fresh fish of your choice, preferably one that is firm and suitable for raw consumption. Popular options include tuna, tanigue (Spanish mackerel), and lapu-lapu (grouper).
  2. Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the skin from the fish fillet, if desired, and cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, you can also thinly slice the fish into sashimi-like strips.
  3. Place the freshly cut fish pieces in a clean bowl and set them aside for now. It’s crucial to use a clean bowl and utensils to prevent any cross-contamination and maintain the freshness of the dish.

By properly preparing the fish, you ensure that it is ready for marinating and will absorb all the flavors of the marinade. Now that the fish is prepped and ready, let’s move on to the next step of making the tangy and vibrant marinade.


Step 2: Making the Marinade

The marinade is a crucial element in kilawin or kinilaw as it imparts the distinctive tangy and flavorful profile to the dish. Here’s how to make the marinade:

  1. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar or citrus juice of your choice. You can use coconut vinegar, cane vinegar, white vinegar, calamansi juice, or lime juice. The amount will depend on your preference and the amount of fish you are preparing.
  2. Add finely minced onions, ginger, and garlic to the bowl. These aromatic ingredients will lend depth of flavor to the marinade.
  3. If you prefer a touch of heat, include some thinly sliced chili peppers like siling labuyo or bird’s eye chili. Adjust the amount based on your spice tolerance.
  4. Season the marinade with salt and pepper to taste. Remember to start with a small amount and add more if needed.
  5. If you want a creamier and richer flavor, you can add a splash of coconut cream to the marinade. This is optional but adds a delightful twist to the dish.
  6. Give the marinade a good stir, ensuring that all the ingredients are well combined.

The marinade is now ready to infuse the fish with its tangy and aromatic flavors. It’s time to take the next step in the process and mix the fish with the marinade.


Step 3: Mixing the Fish with the Marinade

Now that the marinade is prepared, it’s time to combine it with the fish to create the perfect marriage of flavors. Follow these steps to mix the fish with the marinade:

  1. Take the bowl with the prepared fish and pour the marinade over it.
  2. Using a spoon or your clean hands, gently mix the fish and the marinade together, ensuring that each piece of fish is coated evenly. Be careful not to overmix or break the fish apart.
  3. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld together and the fish to absorb the tangy marinade.

By mixing the fish with the marinade, you are allowing the flavors to infuse into the fish, resulting in a vibrant and satisfying taste. Now that the fish and marinade are combined, let’s move on to the next step of marinating the fish.


Step 4: Marinating the Fish

Marinating the fish is a critical step in the kilawin or kinilaw-making process. This allows the fish to absorb the flavors of the marinade and ensures a delicious and well-rounded dish. Follow these steps to marinate the fish:

  1. Cover the bowl containing the fish and marinade mixture with plastic wrap or a lid. This will help seal in the flavors and prevent any contamination.
  2. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and let the fish marinate for at least 30 minutes. This will give the fish enough time to soak up the flavors and create a harmonious blend.
  3. If you prefer a stronger and more intense flavor, you can marinate the fish for up to a few hours. However, avoid marinating for too long, as the texture of the fish may become too soft and mushy.
  4. During the marinating process, gently stir the fish and the marinade every now and then to ensure that all parts of the fish are evenly exposed to the flavors.

Marinating the fish is an essential step that allows the flavors to meld together and enhances the overall taste of the kilawin or kinilaw. Now that the fish has had time to marinate, let’s move on to the next step and add some flavor enhancements to the dish.


Step 5: Adding Flavor Enhancements

While the marinated fish is already packed with flavor, you can take your kilawin or kinilaw to the next level by adding some additional flavor enhancements. These optional ingredients will complement the dish and elevate its taste profile. Here’s how:

  1. Start by finely chopping fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. These herbs add a refreshing and aromatic element to the dish. Sprinkle them over the marinated fish and mix gently to incorporate.
  2. Consider adding some finely diced tomatoes, cucumbers, or radishes to add a crunchy texture and a pop of freshness. These ingredients not only enhance the visual appeal but also provide a delightful contrast to the tender fish.
  3. If you prefer a touch of sweetness, you can sprinkle some thinly sliced onions soaked in vinegar over the dish. This adds a subtle sweetness and tang that complements the overall flavor profile.
  4. Some variations of kilawin or kinilaw include adding grated green mango or green papaya for a tangy and slightly sour note. These fruits add a unique twist and bring a refreshing element to the dish.
  5. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Taste the kilawin or kinilaw and add more salt, pepper, or citrus juice if desired. Remember to keep the flavors balanced and to your liking.

By adding these flavor enhancements, you can customize your kilawin or kinilaw according to your preferences and create a truly unique and tantalizing dish. Now that the flavors have been enhanced, it’s time to move on to the final step of serving the kilawin or kinilaw.


Step 6: Serving the Kilawin/Kinilaw

After all the meticulous preparations, it’s time to present and serve the delectable kilawin or kinilaw that you’ve created. Follow these steps to serve the dish in a delightful and appetizing manner:

  1. Take a clean and attractive serving platter or individual plates to showcase the kilawin or kinilaw.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the marinated fish from the bowl to the serving platter. This allows any excess marinade to drain, ensuring that the dish isn’t overly wet.
  3. Garnish the kilawin or kinilaw with additional fresh herbs, such as sprigs of cilantro or parsley, to add a pop of color and freshness.
  4. Consider placing some lemon or calamansi wedges on the side of the platter or plates. This allows diners to squeeze fresh citrus juice over their portions for an extra burst of tangy flavor.
  5. Serve the kilawin or kinilaw immediately to ensure optimum freshness. The dish is best enjoyed when the fish is still tender and the flavors are at their peak.
  6. Pair the kilawin or kinilaw with steamed rice or warm crusty bread to soak up the flavorful marinade. This provides a satisfying and balanced meal experience.

Now that you have mastered the art of serving kilawin or kinilaw, it’s time to gather your loved ones or friends and indulge in this tantalizing Filipino dish together. Enjoy the explosion of flavors and the cultural experience that this dish brings to the table.



Embarking on a culinary adventure with kilawin or kinilaw opens up a world of flavors and cultural exploration. This traditional Filipino dish showcases the vibrancy of fresh seafood combined with tangy and aromatic marinades, resulting in a delightful and refreshing culinary experience.


By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create your own kilawin or kinilaw masterpiece. Remember to choose the freshest fish or seafood, prepare it with care, and marinate it in a tangy marinade infused with onions, ginger, garlic, and other flavorful ingredients. Adding optional enhancements such as fresh herbs, diced vegetables, and tangy fruits will take your dish to new heights.


Serving kilawin or kinilaw with flair and presenting it beautifully on a platter or individual plates enhances the overall dining experience. Pairing it with steamed rice or crusty bread completes the meal and balances the flavors perfectly.


Whether you are exploring Filipino cuisine, craving a refreshing seafood dish, or simply wanting to expand your culinary repertoire, kilawin or kinilaw is sure to entice and satisfy your taste buds with its unique blend of flavors.


So go ahead, gather your loved ones, embrace the flavors of the Philippines, and enjoy the delightful journey of kilawin or kinilaw. Happy cooking!