Learn how to make Aguachile, a spicy cold shrimp dish from Mexico! Raw shrimp is marinated in fresh lime juice, cilantro, and jalapenos and then served cold.
This delicious Aguachile recipe is light, refreshing, and exploding with fresh flavors. Made simply with ingredients like shrimp, lime juice, jalapenos, and cilantro, this is the perfect healthy recipe to kick off your summer with.
I would like to start by issuing a gigantic thank you to Mexico for creating some of my absolute favorite dishes on the planet. From hot dishes like tacos and enchiladas to cold dishes like ceviche and aguachile, I simply can never get enough.
I’m not sure why, but I always seem to equate Mexican food to summertime. Something about the bright and bold flavors just seems so perfect for days filled with sunshine and heat. This rings especially true for refreshing dishes like this one that help to cool you down on a hot day.
Aguachile, fondly referred to by many as the spicier ceviche, is super easy to make and beyond delicious. Shrimp pairs beautifully with the fresh lime juice and cilantro, with a touch of heat from the jalapeno peppers. I fell in love with this dish the first time I tasted it and have been hooked ever since. Everyone who I’ve served it for has also fallen in love, so get ready to have a major crowd-pleaser on your hands.
Whether you’re looking for a healthy and quick snack to munch on or the perfect appetizer to bring to your next backyard barbecue or pool party, this vibrant dish is guaranteed to have you running back for seconds and thirds. It tends to go quickly, so I highly recommend making more than you think you need! You’ll thank me later.
What is Aguachile?
Aguachile basically translates to “chili water.” It’s a traditional Mexican dish made with raw shrimp. This shrimp dish is thought to be from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. It is served cold and made with raw shrimp, fresh lime juice, jalapeno peppers (or serrano chiles for extra spice), onions, fresh cilantro, and sliced cucumbers. Additional ingredients like fresh cilantro and garlic are also commonly added.
Many people think of this dish as a spicier version of Ceviche, but there are actually quite a few key differences. The two biggest differences are the consistency and the marinating time. Aguachile has more of a soup-like consistency and is typically served right away with raw shrimp. Ceviche has less liquid and is generally marinated in the fridge for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
It's also important to point out that this is also a different dish than Coctel de Camarones, which is a Mexican shrimp cocktail made with cooked shrimp served in a spicy tomato broth.
Key Ingredients for Making Aguachile
The key ingredients you will need to bring this flavorful dish to life include:
- Raw Shrimp: Any size of shrimp will work for this dish. If using frozen shrimp, make sure to buy raw shrimp and defrost it fully. The shell should be removed and shrimp should be deveined.
- Lime juice: The acidity in the lime juice not only brightens up all of the other flavors, but it also cooks the shrimp by breaking down the proteins.
- Cilantro: Fresh herbs like cilantro add a ton of flavor and brightness to the dish. Not to mention, it gives it a gorgeous green hue. That's also why this dish is sometimes called aguachile verde.
- Jalapenos: I remove the seeds so the dish isn’t too spicy, but if you prefer more heat feel free to leave them in. You can also sub this out for serrano chilies or habanero peppers for a serious kick.
- Garlic: I prefer to use fresh garlic in this recipe for more of a bite, but you can sub this out for garlic powder for a more mild garlic flavor.
- Cucumbers: I like to add sliced cucumbers at the end just before serving. They soak up the delicious flavors of the dish and add a super refreshing crunch.
How to Make Shrimp Aguachile
The key to making this Mexican dish is the sauce. It serves to both flavor the shrimp and also cook the shrimp, similar to shrimp ceviche.
The first step is cutting the shrimp in half. Although this step isn’t necessary, it helps the shrimp to cook in the lime juice more quickly and evenly. It also makes the shrimp easier to eat when it’s time to serve.
Now it’s time to make the sauce. Aguachile sauce is made with lots of lime juice, cilantro, jalapenos, and garlic. Blend the lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust it to the level of spice you like, tasting along the way. For a spicier option, add more jalapenos or swap in serrano chilies. If you find it is too spicy, you can blend in a touch of sugar or extra lime juice.
Once the shrimp is cut in half, then it's time to marinate it in the aguachile sauce. This “cooks” the shrimp and you will notice the shrimp turns from greyish in color to opaque and pink. It’s ready once it is cooked through.
Then it’s time to serve the dish with some sliced cucumbers. You can also add some sliced red onions, avocado, and fresh cilantro. Serve it alongside some baked chips or tostada shells.
Serving Styles and Variations
These are some of my favorite serving styles and substitutions for this dish:
- Cutting the shrimp in half allows for easier eating and also shortens the necessary marinating time.
- For a sweet and fruity twist, add chopped mango to the dish.
- While this dish is famously made with shrimp, you can also switch this out for another type of seafood. Some common choices include scallops, octopus, snapper, white fish like cod or halibut, clams, and tuna. Basically, any raw seafood you might use for a ceviche will work in this dish as well.
- If you prefer more heat, you can leave the seeds in the jalapenos and/or use a combination of jalapenos and serrano peppers.
- This dish can be served on its own, alongside avocado slices, as a dip for tortilla chips, or atop crispy tostadas.
- For an eye-catching presentation, garnish with more fresh cilantro just before serving.
- If you find that the dish is too spicy for your liking, you can temper it with avocado slices or more lime juice.
How to Store This Dish
This dish should be eaten within 24 hours of being prepared but it is best eaten immediately. The dish is soaked in lime juice, which is highly acidic and breaks down the proteins in the other ingredients. After a few days the ingredients will start to get mushy, so it’s best to enjoy the dish while it’s fresh. Don’t worry, this dish is so good that it probably won’t last in the fridge for long.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this vibrant dish:
What is the difference between Aguachile and Ceviche?
The main differences between the two dishes are the consistency and the marinating time. While Ceviche is typically marinated for anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour, Aguachile is served pretty much immediately. The latter is also more of a soup, whereas Ceviche is composed of solid chunks of food.
What do you serve with this dish?
This dish can be served on its own or as an accompaniment with crispy tostadas, tortilla chips, and/or fresh avocado slices. I personally love enjoying it on top of my Homemade Tostada Shells!
How long does Aguachile stay fresh?
This dish stays fresh and delicious for up to 48 hours after being prepared.
Can I freeze this dish?
No. Because of the way the acidic lime juice breaks down the rest of the ingredients, this dish would not keep well in the freezer.
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- 2/3 cup lime juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup cilantro (large stems removed)
- 2 jalapenos (seeded for less heat, this is spicy)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and devined
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
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Add the shrimp and red onion to a shallow dish. Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes until shrimp begin to turn pink. Flip over and refrigerate for an additional 10-15 minutes until pink and “cooked” through. This "cooking" step is optional since traditionally aguachile is served immediately with fully raw shrimp. However, we find the shrimp is more flavorful after it cooks and marinates in the lime juice.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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