Aguachile is a type of ceviche originating from Sinaloa, Mexico. It is made by marinating raw shrimp or fish in lemon or lime juice and spicing it up with chile peppers. There are two main types of aguachile – aguachile negro which uses black chile peppers and aguachile rojo which uses red chile peppers. Both have their own unique flavor profiles and heat levels.
What is Aguachile Negro?
Aguachile negro, also known as aguachile oscuro, gets its black color from using dried black chile peppers. The most common type used is the chilhuacle negro, a salsa made from toasted and ground black chiles. Other ingredients in aguachile negro include:
– Raw shrimp or white fish fillets cut into small pieces
– Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
– Onion, cilantro and celery, finely chopped
– Salt to taste
– Cucumber, tomato or avocado for garnish
The black chile peppers add a rich, earthy flavor and subtle smoky aroma to the aguachile negro. The heat levels can range from mild to very spicy depending on the type and amount of black pepper used. Many recipes call for guajillo, pasilla or cascabel chiles which contribute more depth than heat.
What is Aguachile Rojo?
Aguachile rojo gets its bright red color from using fresh red chile peppers. Some common types used include:
– Chile de arbol – A small, potent red chile with medium heat
– Chile guajillo – Mild, fruity flavor with medium heat
– Chile cascabel – Round, cherry-shaped dried red chile with mild heat
The other ingredients in aguachile rojo are similar to the negro version:
– Raw shrimp or white fish cut into pieces
– Lime or lemon juice
– Onion, cilantro, celery
– Cucumber, tomato, avocado for garnish
The red chiles lend a fresh, acidic and fruity flavor to the aguachile rojo. Depending on the type and quantity used, it can range from mildly spicy to very hot. Many traditional recipes use a combination of 2-3 different red chile varieties.
Differences in Ingredients
While both types of aguachile share the same base ingredients, the main difference lies in the types of chile peppers used:
– Black chiles like chilhuacle negro, guajillo, pasilla or cascabel
– Fresh red chiles like chile de arbol, guajillo or cascabel
The black chiles have an earthier, smokier flavor while the red chiles taste fresher and fruitier. The black peppers tend to add more subtle heat while the red ones bring bolder spiciness.
Another key difference is aguachile negro uses dried peppers which need to be rehydrated before use. Aguachile rojo uses fresh red chiles.
Here’s a comparison of the flavor profiles of the two aguachile varieties:
– Earthy, smoky, rich flavor
– Slightly sweet with roasted undertones
– Moderate heat, can range from mild to very spicy
– Chili pepper flavor is prominent
– Bright, fresh, acidic flavor
– Fruity, citrusy notes
– Tendency to be much spicier and sharper tasting
– Allows the lime juice and shrimp to shine more
While aguachile negro highlights the chile pepper flavor, aguachile rojo allows the lime and seafood to take center stage. The red version has more acidity and freshness from the citrus and chiles.
Due to the types of peppers used, aguachile rojo generally tends to be spicier than the negro version:
– Heat levels vary, but typically moderately spicy
– Scoville units range from 1,000 – 30,000 SHU
– Guajillo, pasilla and cascabel bring mild to medium heat
– Tends to be very spicy and sharper tasting
– Scoville units range from 15,000 – 65,000 SHU
– Chile de arbol and serrano add intense heat
However, you can control the spiciness of both by adjusting the quantity and types of peppers used. More black or red peppers equals more heat.
Due to the starchiness from rehydrating dried peppers, aguachile negro tends to have a thicker, more viscous texture than the rojo version:
– Aguachile negro – Slightly thicker, stickier texture
– Aguachile rojo – More liquidy, lighter texture
The viscosity also depends on how much lime juice is used for marinating the shrimp. More lime juice yields a thinner aguachile.
Aguachile negro often requires a longer marinating time to allow the dried chiles to reconstitute and impart their flavor.
– Aguachile negro – Marinate raw shrimp for 1-2 hours
– Aguachile rojo – Marinate for 15-30 minutes
Leaving the shrimp to marinate in citrus too long can result in ceviche that is too “cooked” or tough. Aguachile rojo only needs a quick marinating.
The most obvious visual difference between the two varieties is the color:
– Aguachile negro – Intense black or dark gray color
– Aguachile rojo – Vibrant red or orange tone
The black pepper and herbs give aguachile negro its distinctive dark color. Aguachile rojo’s bright reddish hue comes from the fresh chili peppers and tomatoes.
They are easily distinguishable on a plate or in a glass by their contrasting shades.
Aguachile is often served slightly differently depending on the variety:
– Served in a glass like a cocktail
– Garnished with cucumber, avocado, onion
– Accompanied by tostadas or saltine crackers
– Presented in a bowl, plate or molcajete (mortar and pestle)
– Topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion
– Served with tortilla chips
However, both aguachile negro and rojo make refreshing appetizers when served cold in glasses, especially during hot weather.
– Aguachile negro – Originated in Sinaloa and popular along the Pacific coast
– Aguachile rojo – Eaten all over Mexico but closely associated with Sinaloa
The Sinaloa region is renowned for its seafood and recipes like aguachile. Both styles are icons of Sinaloan cuisine but have spread to restaurants across Mexico.
Availability of Ingredients
Fresh red chili peppers are easier to find than dried black pepper varieties outside of Mexico. This makes aguachile rojo more accessible to prepare.
Some substitutions include:
– For black chilhuacle pepper – Use mulato or pasilla negro peppers
– For red chile de arbol – Substitute serrano or habanero peppers
With the growing popularity of Mexican cuisine worldwide, ingredients for both aguachile negro and rojo can be readily sourced online or at specialty grocers.
Both aguachiles make fantastic appetizers, especially during hot weather when the lime-marinated seafood is most refreshing. Some culinary uses include:
– Appetizer – On tostadas, in shot glasses or served in ceviche spoons
– Cocktails – Mixed drink rimmed with chili pepper and salt
– Tostadas or ceviche – Topped with aguachile
– Seafood tacos – In corn tortillas or lettuce cups
– Salad – Over greens or vegetable medleys
– Fresh oysters or clams – Topped with aguachile
– Michelada – Spicy Mexican beer cocktail with aguachile
From street food to upscale restaurants, aguachile negro and rojo can spice up all kinds of dishes beyond just ceviche.
Both aguachile negro and rojo are low calorie, nutrient-dense appetizers when made traditionally with minimal ingredients.
A 3 oz serving contains:
– 100-150 calories
– 15-20g protein
– Vitamins C, B12, iron, calcium from lime juice and shrimp
– Antioxidants from black or red peppers
– No carbohydrates
– Low fat and sodium
The chile peppers also contain capsaicin which has metabolism boosting properties. Overall, aguachile makes a light, healthy appetizer or meal.
Aguachile negro is usually a bit pricier on restaurant menus and in stores due to using more expensive dried chiles.
Some average prices for 3 oz:
– Aguachile negro – $2.50 – $5
– Aguachile rojo – $2 – $4
Prepared aguachile from street food stalls in Mexico is much cheaper, around $1-2 for 6oz.
Making it at home costs only a few dollars for a whole batch using fresh seafood. The dried peppers can be a bit pricier.
Both aguachiles are beloved Mexican seafood dishes, but aguachile rojo seems to be more ubiquitous on restaurant menus, especially in the U.S.
Some reasons why aguachile rojo may be slightly more popular:
– Bright, fresh flavor appeals to many palates
– Easier to source fresh red chili peppers
– Shorter marinating time
– Familiar ceviche-style plate presentation
However, aguachile negro is rapidly gaining interest for its exotic black color and intense earthy flavor. It offers a more unique experience.
As more people try authentic Mexican cuisine, the popularity of both black and red aguachile varieties continues to grow.
Chefs are using aguachile negro and rojo as the basis for all kinds of creative fusion dishes, like:
– Sushi rolls with shrimp aguachile and mango
– Agachile gyoza dumplings with fish
– Aguachile spaghetti with avocado pesto
– Aguachile risotto or paella
– Roasted cauliflower aguachile salad
– Grilled octopus with aguachile sauce
– Watermelon & jalapeno aguachile shooter
– Goat cheese aguachile stuffed piquillo peppers
– Aguachile ceviche tacos with pineapple salsa
From Asian to Italian to modern twists, aguachile adapts well to all types of fusion cuisines while keeping its Mexican zest.
When prepared traditionally, both aguachiles are naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.
They can easily be modified for other diets:
– Nut allergy – Omit avocado garnish, use seed oil instead of olive oil
– Shellfish allergy – Use a firm white fish like halibut instead of shrimp
– Vegan – Use hearts of palm instead of shrimp or fish
The main allergens are citrus, shrimp/fish, onion, cilantro and peppers. Substitute ingredients as needed.
Just be sure to check with the restaurant or recipe on ingredients and preparation. Those with severe allergies may need to avoid pre-prepared aguachile.
Where to Eat Authentic Aguachile in Mexico
Some top spots to try real deal aguachile negro and rojo in Mexico include:
– Los Arcos – Mazatlan
– Mariscos Chelo – Culiacan
– Mariscos Tono – Los Mochis
– Mariscos Ruben – Tijuana
– Mision 19 – Ensenada
– La Cevicheria – Puerto Vallarta
– La Pechuga de Mula – Guadalajara
– Contramar – Roma neighborhood
– La Casa de Tono – Seafood institution since 1963
Where to Try Aguachile in the U.S.
Some top restaurants to enjoy aguachile in major U.S. cities:
New York City
– Cosme – High end Mexican by Enrique Olvera
– Empellon – Creative aguachile variations
– Rosie’s – Mexican cantina with 6 kinds of aguachile
– Mariscos 4 Vientos – Fresh Mexican seafood market
– Holbox – Hip seafood restaurant with blue shrimp aguachile
– Sonoratown – Tacos and aguachile cocktail
– Quiote – James Beard-nominated Mexican restaurant
– Dos Urban Cantina – Extensive aguachile menu
– Mi Tocaya – Upscale Mexican with aguachile tostada
– CVI.CHE 105 – Peruvian-Mexican ceviche bar
– Bodega Taqueria y Tequila – Tacos, tequila and aguachile
– Seafood Shack – Laidback spot for Hawaiian aguachile
How to Make Authentic Aguachile at Home
Making Restaurant-Quality aguachile at home is easy to do with the right ingredients and steps:
– 12 oz raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
– 1 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
– 1⁄4 cup olive oil
– 1 red onion, diced
– 3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, stems removed and sliced
– 1⁄2 bunch cilantro, chopped
– 2 tbsp chili powder
– Salt to taste
– Avocado, cucumber, tomato for garnish
1. Marinate the cleaned shrimp in 1 cup fresh lime or lemon juice for 1 hour.
2. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, onions, chiles, cilantro, chili powder and salt.
3. Add the marinated shrimp and toss to coat well.
4. Let sit 5 more minutes to allow flavors to meld.
5. Serve chilled, garnished with sliced avocado, cucumber and tomato.
6. For aguachile negro, use dried black chiles instead of chili powder.
7. For extra spice, add more serranos.
Making it fresh at home lets you control the heat level and flavors. Serve with tostadas or tortilla chips.
While aguachile negro and aguachile rojo share the same ceviche-style preparation, they get their unique flavors from different types of chili peppers. Aguachile negro has a deep, earthy taste from dried black chiles while aguachile rojo is brighter and spicier from fresh red peppers. Both make refreshing appetizers and can add a Mexican flair to all kinds of seafood dishes. Their popularity continues to rise as more people discover authentic aguachile beyond basic ceviche. Whichever variety you prefer – obscure negro or fiery rojo – aguachile is a delicious way to enjoy fresh lime-marinated Mexican shrimp with a kick of peppery heat.