Keep us traveling and blogging. Purchasing products from links on this site earn a small commission for Laurie and Neil at no cost to you. We appreciate your support!

The Secret Ingredient in Ceviche in Costa Rica.

Do you want to know the secret ingredient that makes ceviche in Costa Rica so delicious? Then this article is for you.

However, you should know that we don’t put this ingredient in our ceviche anymore. You’ll find out why soon. But first, a little story and a small history lesson.

While staying in Atenas, Costa Rica, we enjoy getting our groceries at the local market, the “mercado central”.

Most of the stalls in the market sell various kinds of foods although a few sell household goods and souvenirs. We like to get our fresh fruits and vegetables from a number of the Ticos that sell their farm produce there.

On our first visit, the sign for ceviche at the fish monger stall caught our eye. We both really enjoy this dish and the price was listed as just 1000 Colones (US$2.00). What we got for this small price was a Styrofoam cup full of the marinated fish, onion and cilantro mixture and we thought it was quite tasty.

The next time we were in the mercado, we headed for the same stall again, but the fish monger was not there. Another man was, and from him we eventually learned through our exchange of broken Spanish, that he was just keeping it safe. The owner would be back soon.

We waited a few minutes and the fish monger did indeed return carrying, what looked like a 2-liter bottle of soda pop. He proceeded to pour some of it into the bucket from which he dished out our ceviche which was again delicious.

Further research into the way ceviche is prepared in Costa Rica solved the puzzle for us of what was in the 2-liter bottle. Many Costa Rican recipes call for the addition of ginger ale; in fact, it is the traditional way that they prepare it.

After that, we began to include a small amount of ginger ale in our ceviche and find that it adds a nice amount of sweetness and a hint of ginger that improves the flavor.

The dish calls for firm flesh white fish. Traditionally, Costa Ricans make it with Sea Bass, Red Snapper, Grouper, or Tilapia. The fish should be very fresh or freshly frozen. Some folks feel that freezing the fish first will kill parasites.


Why We Don’t Use Ginger Ale Anymore

As I mentioned at the start, we don’t put ginger ale in our ceviche anymore, because we have found something better. We still love ceviche and make it often. We have decided that we don’t really want to consume sweetened beverages or products with preservatives. 

We now make a version of the Costarican ceviche recipe by replacing the ginger ale with two tablespoons of fresh chopped ginger. If you miss the sweetness, a little honey goes a long way toward balancing the sour lime juice. However, you choose to make it—enjoy!


Here is our recipe for Costa Rican Ceviche:

Costa Rican Ceviche

Ceviche is a dish ripe for variations. There are endless ways to adapt and serve it. The quantities of the vegetables can all be altered to what is on hand, although the onion and cilantro are important to the overall flavor of the dish.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: costa rica ceviche
Servings: 4 people
Author: Neil & Laurie Stolmaker


  • 1 pound firm flesh white fish, diced
  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup ginger ale
  • hot sauce to taste (optional)


  • Put all ingredients into a ceramic or glass bowl (not metal). The solid ingredients should be covered in the liquid. 
  • Marinate for at least 1-2 hours or until fish is opaque white throughout. Add some hot sauce if desired.
  • Serve on a bed of lettuce, with tortilla chips, crackers or bread.
Here are a few popular variations:

  • Costa Ricans often add a small amount of mayonnaise and ketchup before eating
  • Add chopped celery in the recipe for more crunch.
  • Add a chopped jalapeno pepper in the recipe in addition to/instead of the hot sauce
  • Use lemons instead of limes. In Costa Rica, they traditionally use a lime called mandarina which has orange flesh and a slightly orange flavor
One of our favorite Paleo Diet bloggers, Melissa Jouhwan has her own version of Costa Rica Ceviche on her Well Fed blog.  You can try both and see which one you like better!
Both times that we visited Costa Rica we had wonderful experiences. The wildlife there is remarkable. We saw stunning birds, adorable monkeys, huge lizards, even wild alligators and sloths. Read about our Costa Rica Jungle River Trip here.

The lush scenery is gorgeous and the people are friendly. We took lots of photos. You can view them in our Costa Rica Photo Journal.

Costa Rica is also a very budget-friendly destination. If you haven’t gotten to visit  yet, we unhesitatingly recommend it!

Best of Costa Rica Tours and Experiences

  • Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical lunch and Arenal Volcano Hike
  • Guachipelin Adventure: Volcano, Zipline, Horseback, and River Tubing Combo
  • Rio Celeste Hiking, Sloth Sanctuary, and Llanos de Cortes Waterfall Tour
  • Coffee Experience, Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens
  • Full day Tour of Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Hotsprings
  • 3-Hour ATV Jungle Waterfall Adventure
  • Manuel Antonio Park Nature Guided Tour

Liked this post? Please share it!

Travel on your bucket list?

Join us to learn how to travel more and stay longer!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This