Kinilaw na Isda: The Filipino Ceviche You Need to Try Now!

We may earn a commission on qualified purchases made through one of our links. Learn more

Kinilaw na isda is a special recipe that’s made out of fish cubes cooked not with heat, but vinegar. It’s usually prepared as a pulutuan (served together with beer) during occasions like birthdays or festivities. This Filipino-style ceviche is sure to win because of its mouth-watering sour taste, freshness, and wholesomeness.

Kinilaw’s original name is “kilaw”, which means eating something uncooked or unripe. Anything that wasn’t cooked, burned, or boiled with fire and stays fresh is what it is. Of course, it’s safe to eat because the vinegar will cook the fish meat instead.

Kinilaw na isda is also good for simple gatherings, like picnics by the beach. Just be very careful, because not everyone can digest and tolerate kinilaw.

What is Kinilaw na Isda

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free


Was it invented by one group, the Tagalogs, Visayans, Mindanaoans, Ilocanos, and Pangasinense? There’s no documented evidence that can pin down its origin to one area.

Even so, the dish is quite popular in the Visayas region. And because of its taste, it’s no secret why Filipinos all over the Philippines love to have it on any day, not just for special occasions!

Apart from that, there’s also a variant of this kinilaw in Latin America that’s served as an appetizer, and another from Hawaii and Spain.

Wherever this dish originated from, there’s no wonder why it’s been appreciated not just in the Philippines, but in other countries as well.

Choosing the Right Fish for Your Kinilaw na Isda Recipe

When it comes to making kinilaw na isda (full recipe here), the freshest fish and seafood are always the best choices. Here are some of the most popular types of fish and seafood used in kinilaw na isda recipes:

  • Tanigue (Spanish mackerel)
  • Tambakol (yellowfin tuna)
  • Tulingan (mackerel tuna)
  • Labahita (surgeonfish)
  • Clams

Preparing the Fish and Seafood

Before you start preparing your kinilaw na isda, make sure to wash your fish and seafood thoroughly with water and pat them dry with paper towels. Here are the steps to prepare your fish and seafood:

  • For the fish, remove the skin and cut it into small cubes or thin slices.
  • For the clams, remove the shells and chop them into small pieces.

Ingredients and Instructions

Here’s a simple kinilaw na isda recipe that you can try at home:


  • 1 pound of fresh fish or seafood
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of calamansi juice (or lime juice)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, chopped
  • 1-2 red chili peppers, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, mix the vinegar, calamansi juice, onion, ginger, and chili peppers.
2. Add the fish or seafood to the mixture and mix well.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the fish or seafood to cure in the vinegar mixture.
5. Serve the kinilaw na isda in small bowls or plates and enjoy!

Cooking Kinilaw na Isda: Tips and Tricks

  • The key to a successful kinilaw na isda dish is using fresh seafood. Check the market for the freshest catch of the day.
  • Make sure to slice the fish thinly and evenly to ensure that it is appropriately marinated.
  • To prevent the fish from going dark, add a bit of cane vinegar to the mixture.
  • If you’re worried about the fish being too solid, you can also steam it for a couple of minutes before slicing it.


  • The essential ingredients for kinilaw na isda are fresh seafood, vinegar, ginger, and onions.
  • You can also add soy sauce, calamansi juice, and chili peppers to the mixture for a bit of a kick.
  • If you can’t find cane vinegar, you can substitute it with regular vinegar, but the taste may not be as authentic.

Cooking Process

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Make sure to pick the best type of fish for the dish. Popular choices include white fish, red snapper, and tuna.
  • Kinilaw na isda is usually served cold, but if you want it hot, you can boil the mixture for a couple of minutes before serving.
  • The dish is best served with steamed rice and loaded with finely chopped onions and ginger on top.

Similar Dishes

  • Kinilaw na isda is similar to ceviche, a popular seafood dish that originated in South America.
  • Both dishes use raw fish that is marinated in a mixture of vinegar and citrus juice.
  • However, kinilaw na isda is a bit richer in flavor due to the addition of soy sauce and other local ingredients.

Level of Difficulty

  • Kinilaw na isda is an easy dish to prepare, but it needs to be appropriately marinated to achieve the best taste.
  • The dish is a common favorite in the Philippines and is often served at local gatherings and celebrations.
  • If you’re new to cooking kinilaw na isda, it’s best to follow a guide or recipe to ensure that you get the process right.

How to Enjoy Kinilaw na Isda Like a Filipino

Kinilaw na Isda is a dish that is best served cold, making it a perfect meal for a hot summer day. Here’s how to serve it like a pro:

  • Transfer the kinilaw na isda mixture to a serving dish.
  • Garnish it with chopped onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.
  • Serve it with a side of sliced cucumber and a wedge of lime.

Important Tips for Preparing Kinilaw na Isda

Preparing kinilaw na isda is an easy process, but there are a few important tips to follow to ensure that it is safe to eat:

  • Use fresh seafood that has been properly cleaned and deboned.
  • Soak the fish in vinegar for at least 10 minutes to kill any bacteria.
  • Boil the marinade for a few minutes to kill any bacteria before adding it to the fish.
  • Keep the kinilaw na isda refrigerated until ready to serve.

Learning how to prepare and serve kinilaw na isda is a great way to experience Filipino cuisine. Follow these tips and enjoy this delicious dish with your family and friends.

Other Fresh Seafood Dishes to Try

Tuna poke is a Hawaiian dish that is similar to kinilaw na isda. It is made with fresh raw tuna that is cubed and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and other seasonings. Some versions also include avocado, seaweed, or mango. Tuna poke is typically served as an appetizer or a light meal.

Tanigue Ceviche

Tanigue ceviche is a Filipino dish that is similar to kinilaw na isda. It is made with fresh tanigue (Spanish mackerel) that is marinated in vinegar, lime juice, onions, and chili peppers. Some versions also include coconut milk or ginger. Tanigue ceviche is typically served as an appetizer or a side dish.

Grilled Fish

Grilled fish is a simple and delicious way to enjoy fresh seafood. To prepare, simply season the fish with salt, pepper, and other seasonings of your choice, then grill it until it is cooked through. Grilled fish can be served with a variety of sides, such as roasted vegetables, rice, or a salad.

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are a popular Mexican dish that is made with fresh fish that is battered and fried, then served in a tortilla with toppings such as cabbage, salsa, and avocado. Some versions also include a creamy sauce, such as sour cream or aioli. Fish tacos are a great way to enjoy fresh seafood in a fun and flavorful way.

Seafood Paella

Seafood paella is a Spanish dish that is made with rice, saffron, and a variety of seafood, such as shrimp, mussels, and clams. Some versions also include fish, such as cod or halibut. Seafood paella is a great way to enjoy fresh seafood in a hearty and flavorful dish.

Is Kinilaw na Isda a Healthy Dish?

Kinilaw na Isda is a popular seafood dish in the Philippines that is prepared by marinating fresh fish in a mixture of vinegar, ginger, onion, and sliced chili peppers. The fish used in this dish can be any type of seafood, including tuna, mackerel, or even shrimp. The dish is loaded with protein, making it an excellent main course for people who are looking to increase their protein intake.

The Health Benefits of Kinilaw na Isda

Kinilaw na Isda is a healthy dish that uses fresh ingredients and a simple cooking technique. Here are some of the health benefits of Kinilaw na Isda:

  • High in protein: Kinilaw na Isda is loaded with protein, making it an excellent main course for people who are looking to increase their protein intake.
  • Low in fat: Kinilaw na Isda is a low-fat dish that is perfect for people who are watching their weight.
  • Rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids: Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health.
  • Contains vegetables: Kinilaw na Isda often contains chopped vegetables like onion and ginger, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals.

The Key to Making a Healthy Kinilaw na Isda

While Kinilaw na Isda is a healthy dish, it’s important to choose the right ingredients and follow the proper technique to ensure that it’s prepared in a healthy way. Here are some tips for making a healthy Kinilaw na Isda:

  • Choose fresh fish: The key to making a good Kinilaw na Isda is to use fresh fish. Look for fish with clear eyes, shiny scales, and a clean smell.
  • Use a clean bowl: When preparing Kinilaw na Isda, it’s important to use a clean bowl to avoid contamination.
  • Use a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce: Some recipes call for using only vinegar, but using a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce can add a rich flavor to the dish.
  • Add vegetables: Adding chopped vegetables like onion and ginger can add flavor and nutrition to the dish.
  • Serve with steamed vegetables: To make the dish even healthier, serve it with steamed vegetables like broccoli or bok choy.

The Similarities and Differences with Other Dishes

Kinilaw na Isda is similar to other marinated seafood dishes like ceviche and sushi. However, there are some key differences:

  • Kinilaw na Isda uses vinegar as the main ingredient, while ceviche uses lime juice.
  • Sushi is made with rice and seaweed, while Kinilaw na Isda is made with fresh fish and a vinegar-based marinade.
  • Kinilaw na Isda is a popular dish in the Philippines, while sushi is a Japanese dish that is popular all over the world.

In conclusion, Kinilaw na Isda is a healthy and delicious dish that is easy to prepare and loaded with protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. By choosing fresh ingredients and following the proper technique, you can create a healthy and satisfying meal that is sure to please.


Kinilaw na isda is a Filipino dish made with fresh seafood and a vinegar-based dressing. It’s a popular dish that’s perfect for a light meal or a snack.

You can’t go wrong with a dish that’s so fresh and delicious.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.