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: