white plate plated with five seared scallops sprinkled with lemon zest, pomegranate arils, cucumbers, and jalapeños

Aguachile with Scallops

Aguachile is a traditional Mexican dish that is profoundly beautiful. Scallops are lightly seared in butter yielding a translucent center and golden edges, topped with fresh lemon zest, dill, Serrano pepper, and pomegranate seeds in a dark cherry “chili water.”

white plate plated with five seared scallops sprinkled with lemon zest, pomegranate arils, cucumbers, and jalapeños

Why this Works

Aguachile may be made in many different varieties. The primary formula consists of salt, acid, heat, and some sweetness. It’s incredibly vibrant, punchy, and refreshing serving as a perfect appetite primer. Every ingredient here is adding another dimension of flavor so be sure not to substitute out too much.

Useful Tips for Making Aguachile

pomegranates, grapefruit, and oranges

What is aquachile?

Aguachile “Chile water” is a Mexican dish typically made with very fresh and raw seafood such as shrimp or scallops that is served with a cold soup. The chile water is flavored with citrus, lime, fresh herbs, and onions.

Is aguachile and ceviche the same thing?

It is very similar to ceviche because raw seafood is “cooked” with lime juice however, in aguachiles the raw seafood is tossed in the chili water and served immediately. In this recipe, the scallops may be left raw or lightly seared.

How do you cook raw seafood with lime juice?

The method of cooking raw seafood (e.g. shrimp or scallops) with lime is known as curing. This can be done by tossing raw seafood with fresh lime juice and allowing the mixture to sit for 15-20 minutes depending on the volume of protein. The acidity will turn the seafood more opaque. The visual cues that you should look for is a while or pink opaque color. If the seafood looks translucent, it requires additional time to cure but be wary that over-curing seafood will yield a tougher protein.

How do you eat aquachile?

Aguachile may be eaten straight up, with plantain, or tortilla chips.

white plate plated with five seared scallops sprinkled with lemon zest, pomegranate arils, cucumbers, and jalapeños

Scallops in Cherry Aquachile

lightly seared scallops with fresh lemon zest, dill, Serrano pepper, and pomegranate seeds in a dark cherry “chili water”
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican, Seafood
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lemon, halved, juiced
  • 1 navel orange, halved, juiced
  • 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup 100% cherry juice
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 10-12 large “dry” (untreated with phosphates) sea scallops
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 serrano pepper, trimmed, sliced
  • 2 tbsp dill, fronds only
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Instructions
 

  • Dressing | Zest lemon and set aside. Add fresh lemon juice, orange juice, cherry juice, sugar, and salt into a bowl. Whisk until combined.
  • Scallops | Add butter to a skillet or grill frying pan over high heat. When the butter melts, add the scallops. Sprinkle with salt to draw the moisture out. Cook without moving the scallops until grilled, 2 minutes on each side. Season with black pepper. Plate scallops.
  • Assemble | Top scallops with a slice of Serrano pepper, pomegranate, fresh lemon zest, dill and English cucumber slices. Spoon over dressing. Add drops of EVOO for decoration.
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