Kilawin refers to a traditional Filipino dish similar to ceviche, involving raw seafood or sometimes meat, which is "cooked" primarily through the acidification from vinegar or citrus juices. It is a popular dish in the Philippines and is known for its sharp, tangy flavor profile.


Kilawin is often made with fish (commonly tuna, mackerel, or swordfish) but can also include meat such as pork, which is sometimes lightly blanched or pre-cooked. The primary cooking medium is vinegar or a mix of vinegar and citrus juice, typically calamansi, which is a small, sour citrus fruit common in the Philippines. The acidity of the vinegar or citrus juice effectively denatures the proteins in the seafood or meat, similar to cooking with heat.

The dish is usually seasoned with salt, pepper, chili peppers, and onions, adding layers of flavor that enhance the natural taste of the seafood or meat. It's often garnished with ginger and sometimes includes vegetables like cucumber or radish for additional texture and flavor.

Application Areas

Kilawin is typically served as:

  • Appetizer: Due to its tangy and vibrant taste, it's often used to stimulate the appetite before the main course.
  • Side Dish: Accompanies main dishes at a meal, providing a refreshing contrast to richer, heavier flavors.
  • Small Plate: Common in casual gatherings and traditional Filipino "pulutan" - food consumed while drinking alcohol.

Well-Known Examples

Examples of ingredients commonly used in Kilawin include:

  • Kilawing Tanigue (Spanish Mackerel): Features thick cuts of fresh tanigue fish marinated in vinegar, calamansi juice, onions, and chili peppers.
  • Kilawing Baboy (Pork): Made with boiled pork (often from the ears or belly), sometimes mixed with chicken liver, and marinated in a similar acidic mixture.

Treatment and Risks

Consuming Kilawin involves minimal cooking which means:

  • Risk of Foodborne Illnesses: Similar to other raw seafood dishes like sushi or ceviche, there is a risk of consuming harmful bacteria or parasites unless the seafood is fresh and properly handled.
  • Allergic Reactions: As with any seafood or meat product, allergens are a consideration for those with specific food sensitivities.


To make a simple Kilawin, you can follow these steps:

  • Basic Kilawing Isda (Fish Kilawin):
    • Ingredients: 500g fresh tuna fillet, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup calamansi juice, 1 medium red onion (thinly sliced), 2 green chili peppers (sliced), salt and pepper to taste.
    • Method: Cut the tuna into small cubes. Combine with vinegar and calamansi juice, and let marinate for about 10 minutes. Drain slightly, then mix in the onion and chili peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.

Similar Terms

  • Ceviche
  • Poke
  • Tartare
  • Sashimi
  • Acid cooking


Kilawin is a distinctive Filipino dish that showcases the traditional use of acid to cook seafood or meat. It's a beloved part of Filipino cuisine, valued for its health benefits and the bright, tangy flavors it brings to the table. Whether as a starter, side, or a casual dish to accompany drinks, kilawin provides a refreshing taste experience.

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