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April 21, 2022


Fresh, beautiful, herby and spicy, aguachile is Mexico’s answer to ceviche—and it’s our new favorite nibble!


homemade aguachile on a serving platter. layered cilantro sauce, tuna, avocado slices, red onion and Serrano peppers
Photography by Gayle McLeod

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.

red onion, avocado, raw tuna, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt and serrano peppers on a counter for 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!

thinly sliced red onion soaking in a bowl of cold water to be used for homemade aguachile

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:

  • Fresh cilantro

  • Lime juice

  • Soy sauce

  • Garlic

  • Serrano peppers

  • Salt

cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, serrano pepper, water and salt in a food process to make the sauce for aguachile
sauce for aguachile in a food process made with cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, serrano pepper, water and salt

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!

homemade vibrant green sauce for aguachile spread evenly on a serving platter
homemade sauce for aguachile spread evenly on a serving platter topped with thinly sliced, raw sushi-grade ahi tuna
homemade sauce for aguachile spread on a serving platter topped with thinly sliced, ahi tuna and sliced avocado
homemade aguachile on a serving platter. layered cilantro sauce, tuna, avocado slices, red onion and Serrano peppers

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:

  1. 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.

  2. Blitz the cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, serrano pepper, water, and salt in a food processor.

  3. 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!

homemade aguachile on a serving platter. layered cilantro sauce, tuna, avocado slices, red onion and Serrano peppers
homemade aguachile on a serving platter surrounded by tortilla chips for serving

Tools You’ll Need

More Of Our Favorite Mexican Recipes

homemade aguachile on a serving platter. layered cilantro sauce, tuna, avocado slices, red onion and Serrano peppers
homemade aguachile on a serving platter surrounded by tortilla chips for serving

Spicy Fresh!

Whether you’re new to aguachile, or a longtime fan, we hope you love this aguachile recipe as much as we do! When you make it, show us your beautiful aguachile! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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  • Serves: 2
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  0 min
  • Calories: 245


  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 serrano peppers, halved and seeded
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 to 6 ounces sushi-grade ahi tuna, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 small avocado, thinly sliced
  • tortilla chips, for serving (optional)


  1. Fill a small bowl with cold water. Add the onion and set aside to soak.

  2. In a food processor or blender, combine the cilantro, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic,1 of the serrano peppers, 2 tablespoons of water, and the salt. Blend until mostly smooth but some texture remains, about 30 seconds. Spread the sauce on the bottom of a large rimmed plate.

  3. Arrange the tuna in a single layer on top of the sauce. Top with the avocado slices. Drain the red onion and pat dry. Thinly slice the remaining serrano pepper. Layer the onion and pepper on top of the avocado.

  4. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve immediately with chips alongside for scooping, if desired.

Note: If using shrimp to make this dish, allow for a minimum of 30 minutes cure time.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories245
  • Protein22 g
  • Carbohydrates16 g
  • Total Fat12 g
  • Dietary Fiber6 g
  • Cholesterol34 mg
  • sodium1275 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g


Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Catherine

    My family is a level 2 on the spicy range. Is there a much milder chili I could substitute?

    You could try poblanos instead, hope you enjoy Catherine!

  • Jennifer


    Thanks Jennifer!

  • Barnhorst

    The biggest hit at the dinner party. Super simple and so delicious!

    That is so wonderful to hear, thank you Barnhorst!

  • Jenn

    Incredible flavors, I could eat this every day!

    Thanks Jenn, so glad you love it!