Our Favorite Aguachile Recipe
Lovers of fresh fish, ceviche, sushi and poke bowls—meet your new favorite raw fish obsession! If you’ve never had it before, think of aguachile as Mexico’s answer to ceviche or sashimi! Aguachile is a lovely, simple dish of the freshest fish—traditionally shrimp, though other types of fish are used sometimes—lightly cured in a spicy bath of lime juice and chile water (AKA aguachile!). Our aguachile recipe is inspired by the many many aguachile dishes that Natalie enjoyed on a recent trip to San Jose del Cabo. After her fourth time ordering aguachile at El Burro Sashimis, she finally asked the chef—who caught the fish himself that morning—if he’d share his recipe. He kindly did, and this recipe is our own riff on his delicious aguachile.
What’s in Aguachile?
Aguachile means “chile water” and a good amount of sharp, fresh chile heat is essential for making your aguachile taste the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes you’ll see aguachile called ‘aguachile verde” and that verde refers to the vibrant green color of the cilantro-chile-lime sauce you pour over the fish to cure it. We’ll talk more about that spicy, herby, zingy sauce in a minute, but first a note about fish, authenticity and aguachile. We’re fully aware that the classic fish for aguachile is shrimp, but for myriad reasons we really prefer to use firm-fleshed non-crustaceans, like ahi or yellowtail. Raw shrimp can be a slightly tricky thing to track down, and we like that with ultra high-quality ahi or yellowtail—the kind you’d buy to make sashimi or poke at home—you don’t have to wait for the lime juice-and-chile water sauce to cure the fish. You can simply dive right into the aguachile as soon as you’ve combined the ingredients! So, that’s our preference! You can feel free to play around, though, and use whatever super high quality fresh fish that you prefer to use, as long as you’ve taken care to buy fish that is safe to eat raw. We’ll cover how to shop for fish that’s safe to eat raw, too. But first, let’s get to what makes aguachile so very irresistible—the aguachile sauce!
Fresh, Vibrant Aguachile Sauce
This sauce is what makes aguachile so, so, so good. Fresh cilantro, zingy lime juice and lots of it. Soy sauce for umami, garlic because of course garlic and, last but not least, serrano peppers! All of it comes together in a blender to make a spicy, herby, watery mixture that’ll knock your socks off. Here’s what you’ll need to make our aguachile sauce:
To Make the Best Aguachile, Buy the Great Fish!
This is a must, friends. An absolute must. You cannot eat raw fish unless you are absolutely sure that the fish is ultra fresh and from a trustworthy source. Here are our best tips for buying good-quality fish you can feel confident about eating raw:
Know how to interpret labels! Terms like “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” are not FDA regulated. Because those phrases have become familiar to consumers, some fish companies will use them to indicate quality, but do not trust the words alone.
Prepare to spend money. Good fish that you can eat raw is not cheap. It really can’t be. It has to be caught responsibly, frozen on the spot, and kept at very exacting temperatures in order to ensure safety. That’s a lot of work! And that means it’s going to cost money. As sustainability issues become a bigger deal, good fish is just going to get more and more pricey. But that’s OK! You don’t need to buy a lot to make a beautiful few bites of aguachile. This lovely dish is a splurge, and it’s worth it!
Find a small, local fishmonger you trust. The fish counter at a gourmet grocery shop is usually a good place to start, or if you have a favorite fish restaurant in town, ask someone there where they would buy fish for making aguachile.
Try ordering raw fish online! This sounds weird, perhaps, but it’s actually not a bad way to go if you’re planning ahead of time. The Honolulu Fish Company, Seattle Fish Company or Catalina Offshore Products all come highly recommended!
How To Prepare Aguachile
Aguachile is delicious, but it’s also a recipe that’s meant to be beautiful. Aguachile is spare, elegant. Think of it as a recipe that honors that beautiful fish—whatever fish you choose to serve it with—as the precious gift that it truly is! Aguachile treats the fish with respect and displays it with pride, topped delicately with a bit of onion, a bit of avocado. Though the peppers and herbs are strong, they’re not meant to overpower the fish. All of the flavors should play well together and result in a dish that bursts with the freshness of an ocean breeze. You can serve it with tortilla chips, if you’d like to or just eat it as-is. Here’s how to make the best aguachile:
When you’re almost ready to eat, use a very clean, very sharp knife to slice the fish thinly. Store it in the fridge while you make the sauce.
Blitz the cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, serrano pepper, water, and salt in a food processor.
Arrange the aguachile! First, spread the cilantro-chile sauce on a plate. Lay the fish on top of the sauce and garnish it with onions and avocado. Dig in!