Kinilaw (kilawin) na tuna tuna kinilaw (kilawin)Kinilaw means to “cook” in vinegar. It’s not really cooking since there is no heat involved. But soaking fish or some other seafood in a strong vinegar solution turns the meat opaque and gives it a texture of having been cooked.

Why do Filipinos love curing fish and meat? Specifically, with the use of vinegar? I was re-reading F. Sionil Jose’s Po-on a couple of months ago and the description of how the Filipinos preserved their food during the 19th century gave me some insight. The operative word is preserve–vinegar and salt are preservatives. Hence, they are used in many of our traditional dishes like adobo, tapa and kinilaw.

There are a variety of fish that can be used for making kinilaw. Tuna, tangigue or tanigue (sea bass), talakitok (cavalla) and lapu-lapu (grouper) are only some of them. I used yellow fin tuna for my kinilaw. raw tuna for making ingredients for making kilawin

There’s really nothing complicated about making this wonderful Filipino dish. You season the cubed fish fillets with salt and pepper (above, left) then soak them in strong vinegar. Of course, you add some spices to perk up your kinilaw (above, right).

Ingredients :

1/4 kilo of yellow fin tuna fillets
half a head of garlic, peeled and crushed
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 green chili peppers, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 c. of vinegar
salt and pepper
1/4 c. of kalamansi juice
1 c. of kakang gata (coconut cream)

Cooking procedure :

Wash the fillets and trim any remaining skin and bones. Cut into one-inch cubes. Place in a glass bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour in the vinegar and mix well. Cover loosely and chill for about two hours.

Drain the fish. Add the kalamansi juice, garlic, chili peppers, bell pepper, ginger and onion. Mix well and chill for another 20 minutes. Pour in the coconut cream, mix well and serve cold.

Note: While it is more common to use red onions for making kinilaw, I prefer the sweet white onions as they give a wonderful contrast to the sourness of the vinegar and kalamansi juice. When eating kinilaw, remember to eat each piece of fish with a few pieces of onions as well. It makes the experience of eating kinilaw really memorable. :)


  1. Marcel says

    :smile: thx you really was helping me for making my kinilaw perfect. it was the garlic what was missing.

    but i also wondered a little because i didnt know that there are so many kinds of kinilaw.

    prepare my kinilaw:

    300g tuna filet
    1 med onion
    1 med ginger
    3 or more chillies (red)

    1. Slice the Tuna filet ( i live in germany, there you can just drop by the supermarket and buy the tuna allready as filet.)

    2.wash the tuna and after that try to press the tuna very strong. (till nearly all liquid left the tuna)

    3. now you have to take a bowl and put some vinegar in it. then slice 2 or 3 red chillies and put it in the vinegar. (you can press the chillie till the vinegar tastes very hot.)

    4. put the tuna in the vinegar, mix it well and put it in the ref.(1-2 hours just as you want)

    5. know you can slice the onion and the ginger into little slices

    6. Sclice some iceberg salad and mix it with the onion and ginger slices.

    7. when you take the tuna off the ref you can put some myonaise into the bowl and mix it well. then sprankle some salt and pepper over it and mix it again

    8. put all the things together and mix it again ;)

    9. wait for 30 minutes and mix it a last time

    Option: i love to serve the kinilaw with some cold rice.


    i will try your kinilaw and i hope you will try mine ;) greetings from germany

    Marcel Jacobi

    • nolimetangere says

      there’s nothing wrong with mayonaise and she’s not crazy. you can even use yoghurt for kinilaw. most often, filipino dishes can be cooked in a “as you wish” manner. chill out, there’s no reason to get rude here. just don’t call people crazy who really aren’t.

      happy eating with your “kinilaw”. cheers!

  2. mark oliver says

    Mayo would also makes it taste good and if the coconut cream may not be available, try using evaporated milk. Its a good substitute.

  3. jhoice says

    this site really helped me a lot..:grin:
    not only in preparing my dish but now i have something to share with my friends..:smile:

  4. Steve says

    As a variation – this is the recipe, I learned on Busuanga (Philippines):

    – Fresh white fish — whatever is available on the local market (Back in Germany, I tried it with 2 filets of halibut, which tasted actually very fine)
    – ½ of cucumber
    – 2-3 Tomatoes
    – Rice vinegar
    – Kalamisi juice (smoother kind of limes) — Impossible to get here, so I substituted them with kaffir limes
    – 3-4 Chillies (red and hot:twisted:)
    – Red onions
    – Coconut milk (add until you can support the hot ingredients:wink:)

    The amount of each single ingredient is not absolute — as Busuanga is very rural, they put in whatever kind and/or amount, they can get that day. If you do have any suggestion, comments are welcome. :grin:

  5. erv barron says

    Please help!
    My kinilaw just does not seem to be “cooking” with the vinegar that i am using….i even let it sit one time over night and it is still not making the fish very opaque? is there a “magic time” when the vinegar should be removed…maybe i am not putting enugh limes…..???please help…I could eat this dish everyday when my filipino friends and family make it…but i have failed at doing so to where it is not very edible…..thanks for all the info…if u could email me direct at ervin_barron attt excite dot com….i spelled this way so email blocker would not remove my email….thanks! salamat po!

  6. ireen says

    hello ms. connie…browsing thru your blog everyday has become a habit, or shall i say addiction…. :D you got lots of good stuffs that i already tried and as always, they are a major hit among my family and friends…on april, our photography club will step foot in babuyan islands and its neighboring islands for a photoshoot spree…i heard that tuna, talakitok and other fish were very cheap…i heard tuna is around P40 per kilo….thats why am browsing on your blog to check out some seafood dishes that i might cook there as i am one of the group members in charge of the cooking…jsut wonder if you also have a recipe for spicy tuna sashimi ala gerry’s grill style?…i tried makin my own version before but it was a flop…mejo malangsa yung tuna that i even threw up after tasting it…i used the yellow fin tuna…maselan kasi ako sa langsa…i only eat sashimi at harbor view or at gerry’s grill…am scared to try sashimis from other restaurants kasi baka malangsa again…. =(

  7. ireen says

    i wanna try this recipe too, the kilawin…kaso natatakot ako to make a mistake and maging malansa sya ulit just like the spicy tuna sashimi i did a few months ago….hope you could help me out…thanks… =)

    • d0d0ng says

      Vinegar will cure the fish. And the kalamansi juice will add sweet flavor. I usually add lemon if kalamansi is not available in my area.

  8. says

    Sorry for slightly reviving the post but coming from a beachside village….

    1.) Best bet vinegar for kilawin — sugar cane vinegar or white (Paombong or sukang puti).
    2.) Tuna must be fresh.
    3.) Crushed siling labuyo ensures maximum potency. :D

  9. talakitok says

    Hello people, nakakatawa kayo! You’re so fanny(ala Bb. Pilipinas 2008, if youv’e seen the Q&A). But thank you very much for all the helpful info and the giggles that I had from reading some of the comments. My father who is Bisaya used to kilaw almost every week. Sadly enough I wasn’t a fan of it until I came over to OZ to live here. I had the chance of eating a friend’s kilawin na tuna and it switched on long lost memories of my father’s kilawin and ignited my taste buds to crave for it. Anyway, so after all the soaking and garnishing has been done, my father will toast freshly grated coconut in very hot coal (literally!), mixing them and tossing them to and fro together in an aluminum kaldero for about a minuite or until he’s satisfied with its toastiness. He then cools it down a bit, separates the coal (of course you have to throw this one out!)and grated coconut in a bowl, pours in a little warm water then squeezes the juice out. Well you know where it goes after that. Mix ’em, cool ’em and eat ’em. And yeah, sometimes he just kilaws it with kalamansi. Yum, naglalaway na ko. I’m making one actually today for a friend’s birthday so wish me luck!

  10. aileen casuga says

    hi…heheheheh nice food…hi ireen just in case your kilawin is malansa you can use ginger ..just slice it in a small cubes, kasi nakakaalis yan ng lansa or just in case you can’t find hard vinegar for your kilawin you can use hot water(hot water for washing the fish , pero dapat mabilis lang ha kasi maluluto ang fish. just put hot water then remove faster)thats it..very simple dont make your self complicated ……God bless……

  11. aileen says

    you can use ginger for your kilawin to remove lansa or u can wash your fish in hot water but you have to move the hot water quickly….

  12. aileen says

    hi ireen yeah just find the good quality of your fish…its better if you buy in market so you can see if your fish is fresh….enjoy cooking…god bless…

  13. nar says

    You cannot call kinilaw kilawin even if you enclose in parenthesis. Kinilaw is kinilaw and will never be kilawin. Kinilaw is fish or any other seafood for that matter but usually it’s fish. Kilawin is meat.

  14. says

    nar, HAHAHAHAHAHA is that so? If you can cite a good authority, that’ll be swell. See, not all agree with you and the quote from this blog sounds more credible.

    Kinilaw (pronounced ki-ni-lao) involves fresh ingredients doused with an acidic component such as vinegar or citrus juice. Also known as kilawin, it is the Filipino version of ceviche, most commonly used to prepare freshly caught seafood. Kinilaw can also feature fruits, vegetables, and half-cooked meats. Additional ingredients include aromatics such as ginger, onions, and chiles. Coconut milk may also be used to soften the acidity and bring all of the flavors together. [Source]

    And it is not even indigenous to the Philippines. The Polynesians have had their poisson cru for far longer.

  15. kim says


    The recipe is good but I like to put in some cucumber, which really adds more flavor to the dish. There is one thing I noticed though, you seem to refer to tanigue as sea bass. Pardon me but tanigue belongs to the mackerel family. It is not sea bass at all.

    Those who like the taste of tanglad try to add a little bit of chopped stalks. It gives it a really exotic taste. Enjoy your kinilaw.Thanks.

  16. says

    hello i just want to say that all u write here is correct because thats your stle and i respect it…i just want to know if how to make a kilawin a pinoy stle that is composed of tangigue fish…tnx…godbless..

  17. says

    hi…!!! I would like all of you to know that this site is the answer to my ultimate question, how to make kinilaw. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  18. eld says

    Just for clarification, among Visayans kinilaw is fish only. Kilawin is kinilaw with grilled pork that are cubed. Or grilled tenga ng baboy with green mangoes.

  19. jal says

    hi! ang saya naman ng site na to.well, i’m also a bisaya from mindanao. para mawala ang langsa, we have 1 ingredient na wala sa mga comments ninyo…TABON-TABON…ewan kung anong tawag nyo dyan…basta yan na…every week, merong kinilaw sa ang pinakamasarap sa lahat…KINILAW na BANGUS & SHRIMp…hindi sya malansa. promise…w/ the help of course ng TABON2X…

  20. says

    In northern Mindanao where I am, they use this juice of a native lemon and the juice of a nut like fruit called tabon-tabon whose insides are grated and squeezed with vinegar to take out the smell of the fish. Also the best kinilaw is that which is cooked with the native tuba or coconut wine. Here in CDO they add chopped grilled pork. This is now called sinuglaw (sugba and kinilaw). In Cebu where I am from, crushed chicharon and coconut milk is mixed with the kinilaw.

    Kinilaw should also be served immediately after mixing all the ingredients. The fish should not be overcooked with the vinegar else it would turn rubbery.

    I myself add chopped tomatoes in my kinilaw to give it that sweet umami taste instead of putting in MSG as the usual practice in most restaurants.

    Kinilaw where I am is best served as either main dish or as pulutan. I have tasted kinilaw here made from a variety of fishes like tanquinge, malasugue or even bolinao and squid. I think the best fish variety to use is that whose meat doesn’t crumble during the mixing process and yet soft and fresh enough to be easily cooked by the vinegar in just a couple of minutes.

    Hope this helps.

  21. Noy P. says

    I live in the South Pacific near Tahiti; but nothing beats Pinoy style kinilaw (or adobo) for taste – even expats here love those two dishes. I’ve been trying other recipes (and tips from comments) which I found in this website and have had great results. Thanks for this great website.

  22. Gary O. says

    hey guys…

    my secret in making kinilaw is to soak the fish meat to SPRITE or 7-UP for about 30minutes; maybe while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients your can soak the fish; this will prevent the fish from getting over cooked; it maintains the fresh look and the fresh texture of the fish. hope this helps.

  23. Harry Salzlechner says

    Hi there ,

    I would like to thank you all for sharing these wonderful recipes.

    After work I will go to the fish market to buy some tuna. Since you all gave different comments and recipes, I will try to taste most of your suggestions.
    Each one of you gave me an idea how my Kinilaw should taste good.

    Regards from Dubai,


  24. chef ray says

    Hmmm interesting. Ill add something here. Kinilaw is simallar to south america’s ceviche. And they use a lot of things as ceviche. Even clams, oysters plus scallop with fresh corn out the cob of course. So as a conclusion for u folks who like to make your kinilaw look great. Place some freshly boiled corn on the plate with it. Cut some cabbage leaves and form it as a flower n place your kinilaw on it. Side it with corn and garnish kinilaw with some chives if u like.

  25. chef ray says

    Fern its kinda hard to kinilaw pusit but best advice is cut it in small cubes so it’ll cook faster :P ill experiment on that

  26. hassim diakem says

    for me.kinilaw tuna,bolinaw,tangigue or any fresh fish with fern or lato with sukang tuba and sili labuyo,cold rice or bahaw ,put cucumber,raddish or mango hilaw sarap dri sa cotabato,magkilaw ta pre…

  27. karen carder says

    Am making this right now for the first time…what do you eat with it?…crackers?…or as someone said, grilled corn and cabbage….just a newbie….so need some tips….smile

    • Chris says

      Just plain rice is what I eat with it. I am more used to making it more without the coconut milk, but its great either way and the selection of fish is up to you imagination. The two types I make are: firm flesh fish like tuna, halibut, swordfish, etc with just sili (hot sliced peppers like thai chilis or jalapeno, whatever suits your spice level). then lemon/lime or better yet if you can get it kalamansi juice. Vinegar, diced tomatoes, onions, minced fresh ginger. For the type with coocnut milk, its pretty much the same but no tomatoes and some diced bell peppers instead.

      I have also made this with other things like talaba (fresh shucked oysters) etc and its also good.

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