Kilawin / Kinilaw Recipe (Filipino Ceviche, Philippines)

by Recipes38 comments

As a traveler, I always take the time to learn a country’s local cuisine; hence the reason why recipe posts like this one exists on this travel blog — besides, food is a part of travel after all! And for today, I will be introducing you to a dish that is from my home country, the Philippines, and it’s called as kilawin or kinilaw. This is considered as an appetizer much like Latin America’s ceviche or seviche, but for Filipinos it is more commonly used as a side dish during beer-drinking sessions (referred to as “pulutan“).

» TRIVIA: The terms kilawin and kinilaw are used interchangeably — but to be more precise, the former is used to refer to a kinilaw-style dish in which the’meat’ has already been cooked by heat, whereas the latter is the kind of dish that makes use of raw meat or ingredients like fish.

In order to avoid confusion, I’ll simply be using the term ‘kinilaw‘ all throughout this post to refer to the raw ingredients that will be used in this recipe.

Now, if you’re familiar with ‘ceviche’, like what I mentioned before which is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of Latin America, then kinilaw is very similar to it… except for the fact that each are prepared differently. You see, ceviche is normally soaked in citrus juices, but kinilaw is rather soaked in vinegar — nevertheless, both of these processes will ‘cook‘ the seafood since the acid will change its protein structure.

If you ask me, it’s actually an amazing transformation when you see the fish change from translucent pink to opaque white! Also, I like the kinilaw recipe better than ceviche since it takes away more of the ‘fishiness’.

But YES — the best part about this kinilaw recipe is that it is so EASY to prepare and it doesn’t involve cooking at all! There’s really no need to put up a fire, and any cooking-challenged individual won’t have a hard time perfecting this dish either.

Some additional tips to ensure that you make the best kinilaw there is, try to acquire FRESH fish. Also, do make sure that there is a good ratio between the vinegar, citrus juice and fresh fish — but no worries because the kinilaw recipe that I have below will give you that perfect ratio. Enjoy!

Kinilaw Recipe
Yield: 3

Kilawin or Kinilaw (Filipino Ceviche)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Create an interesting appetizer with this Filipino version of ceviche!


  • 500 grams fresh yellow fin tuna fillet, cut into cubes (it’s best to use labahita or Japan Surgeonfish, but yellow fin tuna should do; you can also use deboned bangus or milkfish, or tanigue also called as Spanish mackerel)
  • 3/4 cup vinegar (for washing)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar or spiced vinegar if you have one
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger, sliced into fine strips or small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons of Filipino calamansi (you can also use lime or lemon as a substitute)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 pieces Thai chili or bird’s eye chili, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)
  • 1 tomato, diced (optional)


  1. Prepare all of the ingredients.
  2. Get a bowl and combine the cubed fish and the 3/4 cup vinegar. Mix them well and let it stand for 2 minutes. Afterward, drain the vinegar while slightly squeezing out the fish cubes. (This ‘washing’ procedure will help reduce the fishy smell).
  3. Now, combine all the remaining ingredients. Gently toss until all are well blended.
  4. Cover and place inside the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (It’s fine even if you chill it for more time, but too much might ‘overcook’ the fish. The maximum time I would say is 3 hours!).
  5. Serve chilled. Share and enjoy with a pairing of beer!


Serves about 3 people.

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  • What do you think of this Filipino or Pinoy appetizer dish?

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  1. Samuel

    In Borneo, the states of Sabah and Sarawak we call it Hinava and Umai… Made in the same manner, except the raw fish is sliced thinly instead of cubes.

  2. Ice

    This dish is one of my favorites especially when I travel from one province to another here in the Philippines. I make sure to taste their different versions of this dish. Will make some real soon! :)

    • Aileen

      Ah yes, that’s for sure especially when you go on drinking sessions with friends and family ;) haha!

  3. Eileen | The Food Avenue

    This looks like such an easy way to cook fish! Love it!

    • Aileen

      You bet it is ;)

  4. Elaine J Masters

    I absolutely love any kind of ceviche so was pleasantly surprised by your recipe. Now I’ll have to find this when I’m in the Philippines next spring. Might just try the recipe at home too.

    • Aileen

      Oh you should try it as early as now haha ;) It’s really easy to replicate! But hey, that’s great to hear that you’re visiting the Philippines next spring. Enjoy your trip!

  5. Mei

    This is one of the most famous food (and pulutan) in the Philippines! I don’t like it that much though, because I generally don’t like viands that are sour (sinigang, paksiw, etc.) . Hehe. But everyone else like it so don’t mind me. Haha

    • Aileen

      AW REALLY? NO WAY. Hahahaha I loooooove sour things. In fact, I love mixing vinegar with everything. :))) Hahahaha! But yeah, to each his/her own indeed.


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