How To Cook The Best Kinilaw na Dilis

Kinilaw na Dilis is an extraordinary true-blooded Philippine cuisine that makes for a refreshing appetizer. A plate of this kind dish makes one experience the Philippines’ rich archipelagic resources’ fresh flavors! Hence, no one would say no to learning how to cook our highlighted dish!

This dish is not for the faint of heart as it is not prepared through usual methods. However, we will guide you through understanding how this exotic dish can be prepared and how it came to be. Further, we aim to make this Kinilaw one of your specialty dishes in the kitchen. 

Thus, we won’t spoil you too much! We hope you will enjoy learning everything kilawin-related as you will surely enjoy making this side dish the soonest time possible!

Let’s get started!

What Is This Featured Dish

Before anything else, we first have to clarify the terminologies. Filipinos often use the terms “kinilaw” and “kilawin” interchangeably. However, “kinilaw” refers to the dish which makes use of raw meat as base ingredient (like fish), while “kilawin” refers to a “kinilaw-style” dish in which makes use of meat which is already cooked by heat.

(Photo Credits to: Chef Don Notarte)

Tracing back the history of the dish, the Balangay archeological excavation site located in Butuan suggested that Kinilaw existed in the country around 10th to 13th century AD. They concluded such a premise upon their discovery of tabon-tabon fruits and fish bones which indicates that kilawin is almost a thousand years old.

Kinilaw is sometimes referred to as “Philippine Ceviche.” The preparation method for this seafood dish is 100% Filipino. Besides, this recipe is even adapted in some countries of Latin America; but how is that so?  

During the Spanish colonial period, the Galleon Trade brought Kinilaw to Guam, Mexico, Peru, and Spain. Thus, the colonizing country and the former colonies now have a similar dish named “ceviche.” Like our local dish, ceviche also refers to a cooking process that makes use of acid to denature the raw meat. 

Furthermore, Spanish colonists and explorers mention the dish in the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala as “cqinicqilao.” The term is the Hispanicized spelling of the verb “kilaw” which means to eat raw. Besides, “kilaw” is a cognate of the Tagalog word “hilaw” which means raw or unripe. 

Kinilaw comes in a variety of forms but the most popular is meat-based kinilaw. In the Northern Philippines, some provinces specialize in cooking kilawin dishes using goat meat, carabeef, pork, and even chicken. However, unlike fish kinilaw, meat kilawin is not raw but is already grilled or boiled until medium-rare. 

Moreover, kinilaw allows for a lot of fish as options, from the big tuna and mackerel to small but terrible dilis. Kinilaw is usually eaten as an appetizer or as a pulutan (finger food to pair with alcoholic drinks).

Ways to cook Kinilaw na Dilis

(Photo Credits to: pulutan club)

In cooking 101 class: most dishes are prepared using heat, otherwise, it won’t be cooked. Kinilaw is an exception because ironically this dish does not require actual cooking at all. Hence, you may have to ditch your cooking devices such as instant pot, crockpot, and many more in order to cook Kinilaw. 

But what would it take to “cook” kinilaw without the usual way of cooking food? Acid is the key. The fish is cooked by marinating with either vinegar or citrus juices. 

How is that so? The acids in vinegar or citrus break down the protein in the meat, hence the term “niluto sa asim” (cooked in acid or sourness). The method is also called “chemical cooking” as the chemical reaction of acid can do the job to cook the meat as fire does.


Kinilaw na Dilis is such a very versatile dish. You can mix and match it with a wide range of ingredients and it will result in a distinct variety that you will surely love!

Spicy Kinilaw na Dilis

To add a punch of heat in your Kinilaw na Dilis, add some chopped red and green chilies and an additional dash of pepper. Doing so would also add a hint of freshness in the dish as chilies have a tangy and zesty flavor. For an unusual oriental spiciness, you may replace your regular black pepper with Sichuan peppers– expect your tongue to numb!

This variety will make an ideal pulutan, as the hotness of this dish will call for more ice-cold beer. You can also serve it as a viand, but a word of caution: it will lead you to consume more than a conservative cup of rice. 

Kinilaw na Dilis sa Gata

Some people are not a fan of sour dishes, but that should not hinder from enjoying kinilaw. Adding coconut milk or gata is a tasty solution. 

Simply add the coconut milk after the fish is cooked with vinegar. The creaminess of coconut will neutralize the fishy taste and the sourness of the dish. 

Besides, adding gata will improve the nutritional profile of your Kinilaw na dilis. Coconut milk is in fact a healthy fat. Consuming it would also make you feel full for a long duration, hence you can say no to impulsive cravings and in-between-meal snacks!

Kinilaw na Dilis with Mayonnaise 

If you are not so sure that adding gata will turn you to a kilawin fan, try adding mayonnaise instead. It will be creamier than the mentioned variant. However, this addition is calorie-dense and does not result in prolonged satiety as coconut milk does. 

Kinilaw na Dilis with Cucumber

To add more substance to your kinilaw, add diced cucumbers. Not only it will make your dish more filling, but it will also make it look more appealing and taste more refreshing. 

If you are on a weight-loss diet, this variant is good for you. Adding cucumbers can serve as a good rice replacement. Also, it has zero fat and low in calories, so munching on Kinilaw na Dilis with Cucumber would make a tasty and guiltless meal!

Kinilaw na Dilis with Green Mangoes

For the Sama-Bajau people, Kinilaw (in their local language, kilau or kinilau) is not complete without Green Mangoes. This fruit is diced and added as a souring agent. 

However, you can add it as an added component in the dish to add a fruity twist. Adding green mangoes is even good for your body. Unripe mangoes aid in treating liver disorders, clean the intestines, and is rich in Vitamin C. 

Kinilaw na Dilis with Mint and Grapefruit

This is a combination that you might not have expected. Kinilaw na dilis with Mint and Grapefruit is a gourmet-level take on your humble dish. 

This variant is done by adding peeled grapefruit in the kinilaw and garnishing with freshly chopped mint before serving. The mint gives a refreshing hint in the dish that will remove any fishy aftertaste, while the grapefruit provides a fruity and sweet addition to the kilawin. 

This elevated take on kilawin makes for a perfect pulutan with a mojito, white wine, and even sangria! 

Kinilaw na Dilis with Carambola

If you can’t get enough of sourness and still want more, you’ll surely go ecstatic with this variant. Adding freshly diced carambola in Kinilaw na Dilis adds a tart flavor to the dish and its apple-like texture complements well with the anchovies making it more enjoyable to eat. 

In fact, this tropical food incorporates nutritional benefits in the dish. Carambola has impressive anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that can fight infection and inhibit free radicals. It is also rich in Vitamin C, which helps in removing toxins out of your body. 


Not everyone can perfect a dish in one shot. So just in case kitchen mishaps occur, stand by these troubleshooting advice to save your dish and yourself from further stress. 

  • We can’t blame you if you went overboard with acids to ensure that your anchovies are well cooked. However, if the dish becomes face-crumpling sour, balance the acids with some sugar or spice! To do so, add some chilies or sprinkle a little amount of white granulated sugar according to your liking.
  • While if the dish turns out salty, balance the sodium by adding diced fruits (green mangoes, carambola, pomelo), as also done in some kilawin variants mentioned above. 
  • Sprinkle some calamansi or lime juice to fight off the unpleasant aftertaste especially if the fishy stench stays in the dish even when the fish is already cooked with acid.


Do not ever underestimate Kilawing Dilis as its nutritional benefits can surely persuade you to have some!

Photo Credits to: Pinterest
  • Anchovy (Dilis)

Please don’t get tricked by its size as dilis are big in nutrients. This kind of fish is rich in B vitamins, essential in energy production, red blood cell production, digestion, and maintaining healthy skin, nerves, and eyes. Further, like most fishes, dilis are rich in Omega-3, which is beneficial to the heart. 

  • Ginger

This intense aromatic helps ease digestion and saliva flow. Besides, ginger can help reduce nausea in pregnant women. However, (word of caution!) pregnant women should be careful with consuming ginger as it could cause miscarriage when taken in high doses.

  • Red Chili

It doesn’t only come with heat but also with loads of Vitamin C! Hence, red chilies are useful in enhancing the immune system. Plus, it has potent antioxidants, which help in clearing congestion in blood vessels and arteries.

  • Green Chili

Like its red counterpart, green chilies are also rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene. Thus it helps improve your eyes, skin, and immune system. Remember to store green chilies in dark and cold areas; otherwise, they will lose their Vitamin C content. 

  • Onion

This staple aromatic has sulfur-rich amino acids, which are essential in detoxifying your liver. 

  • Black Pepper

Also known as the “King of Spice,” Black Pepper has a compound named piperine rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies also found that this spice can improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and even brain and gut health.

  • Salt 

This all-around seasoning is a must for our body. Salt has helpful minerals that transform into electrolytes. This compound helps maintain fluid balance in the body, aids in nerve transmission and is essential in muscle function.

  • Vinegar

In this condiment, polyphenols have the same effects as antioxidants as it protects cells from oxidative stress and prevents tumor growth. It also helps prevent the growth of cancer cells in the body.

  • Calamansi

As a common characteristic of citrus fruits, Calamansi is rich in Vitamin C. Hence; this fruit helps you build strong immunity against viral and infectious diseases. It can also help your body combat flu, common cold, and fever.


We seek perfection and hassle-free prep in every dish. In that regard, we have here some kitchen tips that you can surely rely on in making this side dish perfect!

  • Thoroughly clean the dilis before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. We have to stay away from health hazards brought by consuming uncleaned raw fish!
  • Do not leave the ingredients lying around for a long time. It is of utmost importance to maintain the freshness in the dish. Plus, this dish’s cooking process does not involve any heat and will only rely on the interplay of acids and meat, so you have to ensure that no ingredient is spoiled (nobody wants a foul stinky fish stench!).
  • Do not marinate the fish longer than the prescribed period. Otherwise, it will become rubbery. 
  • Always remember to keep tasting as you go. The key to having a delicious Kinilaw na Dilis is achieving a perfect balance of flavors (salty seafood flavor, acids, and spices). 

Other Recipes Ideal To Be Served With

The coexistence of different flavors in Kinilaw na DIlis makes it easy to pair with other recipes. Please get to know it’s BFF dishes that you can serve it with!

  • Beer – We previously mentioned that Kinilaw na DIlis is a perfect pulutan. It would go well with an ice-cold beer! No one in your peers would refuse a drinking session with Kinilaw na Dilis as a snack.
  • Inihaw na Liempo – No problem thinking of viands to serve in a boodle fight as Inihaw na Liempo and Kinilaw na Dilis can already complete the menu. The combination will turn an impressive and enjoyable family feast with flavorful grilled and savory pork plus the refreshing seafood dish! Don’t forget to eat with your hands!
  • Plain Rice – For Pinoys and most Asians, this does not require any explaining. The savory and tangy Kilawin na DIlis can be served as a viand to eat with plain steamed rice. 
  • Lato – If you’re stuck for a seaside snack, you’ll never go wrong pairing Kinilaw na DIlis with Lato. You can eat it with your hands and have a fresh and light taste that perfectly complements our featured dish’s strong taste.
  • Toyo Mansi with Chili – It is such a Filipino thing to always have dipped. In that case, Soy sauce, Calamansi, and Red Chili dip add a savory touch to your Kinilaw!


Kinilaw na Dilis is a unique dish that newbies might raise their eyebrows on. However, this will surely not disappoint as it has been in the country for almost a millennia. Besides, it even went its way to the rest of the world in several forms!

So now that you know how to make Kinilaw na Dilis, you can now apply it in your kitchen! Make sure to prepare extra servings so no one in your family would miss out! Taste the tropical island flavors even in the comforts of your home.

For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!

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Best Kilawing Dilis Recipe

A raw fish dish that is complemented with vinegar and chilies. A popular appetizer in the Philippines partnered with liquor.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Keyword Filipino Food, How to Cook the Best Kilawing Dilis, Kilawing Dilis, Seafood Recipes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 18kcal
Cost $4 – $20


  • 1 lb Anchovy (Dilis)
  • 1 thumb Ginger diced
  • 2 pcs Chili sliced
  • 2 pcs Green Chili sliced
  • 1 medium Onion cubed
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Calamansi


  • Wash anchovy, soak in 1/4 cup vinegar for 5 minutes.
  • Peel the ginger and onion, slice into small pieces.
  • Lightly chop the red chili and green chilies.
  • Remove the heads and bones of anchovy (dilis).
  • Take a small bowl, place the clean anchovies together with ginger, onion, salt, crushed pepper, calamansi, cayenne pepper, green chilies, and the remaining 1/4 vinegar.
  • Mix well and serve.


Calories: 18kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1752mg | Potassium: 40mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 74IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
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