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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Kinilaw Recipe


Kinilaw Recipe

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  1. Mommy Pehpot

    I din’t know that kinilaw and kilawin are two different things!

    I’d go for KIlawin anytime of the day.. Kinilaw na atay is one of my least favorite ulam e

    One of my faves is kinilaw na tuna with lots of sili and manggang hilaw! YUM!

    • Aileen

      I’m glad to have taught you that trivia then ;) I think not a lot of people know it. And yes! I soooo miss manggang hilaw.

  2. Miles L.

    I love Filipino food. Their cuisines are adventurous and delicious at the same time. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten kilawin. I normally see this during birthday parties and special occasions. I would to prepare this at home.

    • Aileen

      That’s great to hear! Might you be Filipino? Anyhow, I hope you’d like this!

  3. Stacey

    So you never actually cook it? I had no idea you could eat fish without cooking it, now I totally want to try it! Thanks for the great step-by-step!

    • Aileen

      Nope, there’s absolutely NO cooking involved! :D Ah, you would love it. Let me know!

  4. Lori Bosworth

    I am not familiar with Philippine cuisine, but I have had ceviche before and like it so I would probably enjoy this dish. I like that this recipe is quite easy to make and that you don’t need to cook it!

    • Aileen

      I’ve tried ceviche once too but I found myself loving kinilaw version more especially when it has those ginger bits and whatnot :D

  5. Chef Rafi

    One of my favorites. We usually eat this with tanigue but it’s also great with escolar fish here in the east coast. The trick is to not over cook the fish in vinegar. In Visayas some also add grilled pork (sinuglaw).

    • Aileen

      Ooh, that’s great to hear! And I agree with you; soaking it in vinegar should not be done for too long. :D

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