Appetizer Main dish Seafood Tex-Mex

Pickled shrimp with lime

Pickled shrimp with lime DSC8658

When the days are hot and muggy, chilled pickled shrimp is a lush and refreshing way to help you forget you’re roasting in a hard, cement-coated city.

Pickled shrimp, which in Spanish would be called ceviche, is simply lightly cooked shrimp soaked overnight in an acidic liquid—such as citrus juice or vinegar—that’s flavored with herbs and aromatics. Pickled shrimp is perfect for summer. And I had some at lunch recently—a bowl so bright and cooling that if I closed my eyes I could imagine that I was no longer in steamy Manhattan but instead lounging on a breezy beach by the sea.

My dining companion was a New York book editor who hails from Texas, whom I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with for the past few months. And it was a real joy getting to know her as I always get a kick out of meeting fellow Texans; our shared love of our home state instantly creates a special bond.

Though, truth be told, I was also interested in talking to her about publishing. People have been telling me I should write a book and for someone who has loved writing her whole life, this is all very flattering.

Pickled shrimp with lime | Homesick Texan

That said, for a long time I’ve struggled with what I’d have to say in a book. Not to mention, if I wrote a book would it be a food narrative or a straight-on cookbook? I’ve been advised to do both, which just adds to my confusion.

Our conversation was constructive. But also edifying was the food, especially an appetizer of shrimp pickled in lime juice with Serrano peppers, red onions and chunks of pineapple.

Straight from the bowl we both ate the pickled shrimp, so fast there wasn’t time to layer it on warm flour tortillas also on the table (though that would have been good, too). We did, however, take the time to deconstruct the dish. While a couple of flavors and textures eluded us, it was still clear enough that I knew I could come back home and recreate something similar with ease.

And that’s just what I did.

I enjoyed my lunch and the chance to get to know a fellow Texan in New York, and I’m feeling a bit more clarity about what sort of book I’ll write. But I know I have some more pondering to do, probably because it’s my silly nature to make life difficult by over thinking things.

Pickled shrimp with lime | Homesick Texan

Fortunately, however, I didn’t have to think too long about making this bowl of pickled shrimp—its flavors came together seamlessly. And, perhaps with a bit of hard work and hope, the right idea for a book will soon come together with such ease, too.

Pickled shrimp with lime DSC8658
5 from 1 vote

Pickled shrimp with lime

Servings 4
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds uncooked medium-sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 Serrano chiles, sliced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into slivers
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Tortillas chips, for serving


  1. Add the cayenne, bay leaf and 2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and then add the shrimp. Cook shrimp for one minute, drain and run cold water over shrimp.

  2. In a large jar or plastic food-storage bag, add the shrimp, lime juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, cilantro, Serrano chiles, red onion, garlic, and cumin seeds. Add 1 cup of water (or enough to cover the shrimp), sprinkle in a bit of salt, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, shaking or turning occasionally.

  3. Serve in bowls with tortilla chips.

  1. Not to mention, if I wrote a book would it be a food narrative or a straight-on cookbook? I’ve been advised to do both, which just adds to my confusion.

    Who says you can't do both? Ever read Like Water for Chocolate? Part of your blog's appeal is the way you combine the recipes with the memories that they evoke. That's why non-Texans can only have a limited love of Texas and its cuisine: if dry rub brisket doesn't taste like a family reunion, sure, Memphis-style is just as good. If tamales aren't reminiscent of the Christmas tamalada, sure, that Fresco Tortilla is "good Tex-Mex." Hell, even the decidedly mediocre Tex-Mex of Taco Cabana makes Texpats weep with joy if it's associated with the memories of midnight taco runs.

    So maybe what I'm saying is that it's the hybrid of good food and narrative that makes Texas magical, and I'd bet the same would apply for your book. Anyhow, if it has your recipes in it, you can count me in for a copy!

  2. Anonymous

    I agree with the comment above- you can do both- a story as part of each recipe- you already do that in a way on this blog. Like–your grandmother- your readers have come to "know" your grandma through this blog.

  3. Howdy from Texas!

    I can not wait to try this one. I am Texan through and through, but have to admit I have never heard of pickled shrimp. Sounds luscious and looks fairly easy to prepare.

    Love your blog and would definitely bu your book!


  4. Anonymous

    About the book….I just read a book by the young woman who writes a blog called "Orangette". She used her blog stories and published it as a book. I read the book and then found the blog.
    I can only imagine that your beautiful woven stories of food and memories would be a fabulous book! Go for it!

  5. If you write it, I'll read it! Laurie Colwin wrote about her life and cooking; I love her work, too. I know you'll find just the right framework. In Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate", the recipes advanced the storyline. In Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News", each chapter began with a prologue on a different type of fisherman's knot and wove its relevance into the chapter. Of course there is Fanny Flagg's "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe" for a great southern memoir featuring that great old cooking.

    You have an amazing voice and I can't wait to see what you come up with.

  6. Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy

    I'm torn between the narrative / cookbook as well, but obviously people like your narrative because they are reading your blog! I like narratives but as far as a cookbook goes I really want beautiful pictures and sometimes editors don't like combining the two.

    Instead of telling a story for each recipe, maybe you can do stories for each group of recipes (or type)…

    Let me know if you want to bounce ideas off someone!

  7. I love, love, love ceviche! I make it with half some sort of sturdy white fish, like tilapia or orange roughy, and half with shrimp. I also add some pico, avocado, green onions, and celery along with many of the spices you mentioned. (Pineapple juice sounds like an interesting (and delicious!) addition, though) There's a wonderful hole-in-the wall Veracruz-style Mexican seafood restaurant in my Texas hometown that first introduced me to ceviche on a tostada years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. Now you've got me wanting to go home and start up a batch right now!

  8. i think your stories would be fantastic – and i think your style and narrative a lovely, so you know which I'd prefer 🙂 i hope that you do get to write something – I would be thrilled to read it!

  9. Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady")

    I love cookbooks. I ADORE cookbooks with a story – how the dish came to mean something to the author, who liked it, a special memory attached to it. So my vote, as if it would turn any tide, is for a cookbook WITH stories! Let the dish be a main character but by all means tell as story too.

    One of the things I've always enjoyed about your blog (besides being a fellow Texan – that's a given) is the lead-up to your "recipe de jour" often with photographs. I'm specifically remembering two types – the ones about things your relatives made (your gramma?) and your trek across Texas in your rental car and the eateries you found on the way. It's a novel, cookbook, travel guide all rolled into one.

    Shoot, you could take your blogs for the past gazzlion posts and fill a book complete with histories, photos, how-to's just in it's current form! I'd buy it!

  10. I love your blog – the narrative and the recipes! Whatever you write will be fabulous and I'll be sure to buy it. And who says you have to pick one – I'm sure you have more than one book in you!

  11. gabrielaskitchen

    I really love your blog and think you have great potential for a cookbook/memoir. As a southwest native living in Manhattan (New Mexico to be specific) I really appreciate your point of view and your recipes. xogabriela

  12. Anonymous

    By the time you get the first one done, you should have enough material pretty well gathered up for a second book, so just pick a method and go for it! The second book can be the other way.

    When I first saw you writing about doing a cookbook, I immediately thought of Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet. Many years ago, I bought his books BECAUSE they were much more than a collection of recipes.

    Just do what you do! Someone out there will publish it.

  13. Lisa Fain

    Farrah–I couldn't imagine writing any sort of book without recipes–I love telling stories but I love cooking, too! Thanks for the insight.

    Evy–She'll get a kick out of seeing that, and no book I wrote about Texas would be complete without my grandma.

    Brandi–Howdy! I have to admit I'd never heard of it either until I saw it in Paula Disbrowe's excellent book, Cowgirl Cuisine. It turns out, however, it's just another way of saying ceviche and it's quite common in the Low Country part of the south.

    Anon–That's quite a coincidence–Molly's book is one that the editor brought up as well.

    Celeste–Why thank you! And Laurie Colwin is one of my food-writing heroes. I've never read The Shipping News, but that's also an interesting analogy at least in terms of structure–I'll have to add that to my pile on the nightstand.

    Sara–That's been sort of my problem–I like taking photos and telling stories and people say you can't have both, which just seems silly, but I understand at least from a financial point of view where they're coming from.

    Emily–It's definitely one of my summertime favorites–so cool and refreshing. And wonderful on a tostada with fresh slices of avocado!

    Cheri–Lord knows there is indeed a wealth of content here! And I agree, it couldn't be my book without all those things that I love–Texas, food, family, photography and travel.

    Vanessa–Thank you! And (I'm slapping my head) why hadn't I thought that I could do more than one book? But of course!

    Garbeilaskitchen–Thank you! And you, too, know how it feels to be in Manhattan so far away from those spicy flavors that we love. I was so sad when the one local resource for fresh Hatch chiles closed a couple of years ago.

  14. Lisa Fain

    Anon–My mom met Jeff Smith many years ago when he lived next door to her best friend's son. She said he was quite the storyteller, so what you say makes sense. (I admit, I've never seen one of his cookbooks.) And thank you for the support! I'll have to use these comments in my proposal!

  15. Anonymous

    Whatever you write, I'll buy it!

    Texas Jen

  16. Anonymous

    I've been reading this blog for a couple of years and never tire of your engaging and easy way of introducing readers to the joys of Texan cuisine. So, even though I don't normally comment, I felt I ought to add my voice to everyone else encouraging you to take the plunge with a book – you can sign me up for a copy now!

  17. You might enjoy the cookbook the Olive and the Caper for inspiration. It is a fine example that doing both is quite possible and enjoyable! Good luck to you! Can't wait to purchase whatever you write.

  18. Rebecca McCleskey

    As an expatriated Texan who has lived for the past 12 years in Ecuador, I have appreciated your blog site. I think that few things evoke more memories than that of food and my wife and I have tried many of your recipes. We live in the birthplace, according to the Ecuadorians, of ceviche,(although our Peruvian neighbors to the south would beg to differ)and because Ecuador is the 2nd largest exporter of shrimp in the world, it is relatively inexpensive here. But, the addition of chiles in this recipe will, I'm sure, give it nuances which are decidedly Texan. I am anxious to try it. And thank you again for your nostalgic site.-Mark

  19. Virginia

    Sounds good. I've never made it with pineapple juice, so I think I'll try it.
    Whatever you write, I'll buy and read–you have an artier sensibility than I do, so my suggestions wouldn't do you much good.
    Now I have something I've been wondering about and since you mentioned heat and concrete, I think I'll ask: Do they ever use oyster shells for parking lots in the northeast? I just heard one of my favorite songs, with the line "God ain't it hot
    Here on this oyster shell parking lot", which of course is very Texan. Well they have oysters up there, but I've never seen an oyster shell parking lot except on the Gulf coast.

  20. Sine Botchen

    Never would have thought of pineapple.. interesting. Those are some generous slices of serrano though.. Yow!

    I'm usually too spontaneous to actually be able to marinade anything overnight.

  21. lisaiscooking

    The shrimp sound perfect. I have to try this. Good luck planning your book. Can't wait to hear more about it.

  22. Oh yum. I had something similar to this at a wedding last weekend. Pickled shrimp with mango & jimica really hit the spot considering it was outdoors, in the middle of the afternoon & June!

  23. Kim Lane

    You'll figure it out, Lisa… and I'll buy it and cook from it – just like I do with your blog. 🙂 Please, please, please try to convince your editor that photos are paramount, though. Words are lovely, heady and inspiring, but if recipes are part of the bargain, many of us NEED eye candy to push us over the line of making/not making. At the heart of it all, you want us to make the food, yes? 😉

    Wishing you well,


  24. Michele

    You are an outstanding writer – all your blogs have a "hook" and then go on to a lovely story, not to mention a yummy recipe. I am sure inspiration will come to you, probably over a delicious meal just as this one sounds like it was. As a Southerner who now lives in California, I find your blog and recipes very nostalgic and comforting. You go girl!

  25. Ooh, sign me up for a book by you.

    Back to the recipe – do you think ground cumin would work? I'm out of cumin seeds but need to make this ASAP. Also, not that it's likely to last long at all, but given that it's pickled, how long do you think it would last in the fridge?

  26. Lisa Fain

    Texas Jen–Thanks!

    Anon–Vote noted–many thanks!

    Sara–I don't know that book so I'll keep an eye out for it.

    Rebecca–I did not know that ceviche was from Ecaudor (or Peru), though I did eat it Spain–it seems to be found anywhere there's sea food and vinegar.

    Virginia–I've never seen oyster shells in parking lots here, but maybe they do use them up in Maine or Massachusetts.

    Sine Botchen–It makes it a bit sweet, if you like sweet things. And I hear–I have little patience!

    Lisaiscooking–I'll keep you posted!

    Laura–Oh! I love the addition of mango and jicama. It's hard to find the latter here but I grab it whenever I see it.

    Kim Lane–I'll do my best–it would feel weird to not have photos.

    Michele–Thank you! And I plan to have several wonderful meals over the holiday weekend so here's hoping inspiration strikes, indeed!

    Susan–Ground cumin would be fine. And I try to eat it within a few days.

  27. I have mentioned you should do a book and I certainly hope you do.

    It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Rachael have cookbooks out these days and most of them don't interest me in the slightest.

    You on the other hand are passionate and proud about food and your home state and it would seem you would be the most deserving to have a blockbuster Texas cookbook hit the shelves. These are the type of cookbooks people really crave. I hope you do it soon. Time to execute.

    btw, your recipe sounds like a spicy shrimp ceviche.

  28. California Country

    NARRATIVE!!!!!! (You didn't live in Iowa City for nothing.) ….but with recipes please. To me the best writing is always a marriage of story and place, character and place. To me the best food is always a marriage of flavor and place. I place your food blog above all others because of the narrative you weave in to your recipes. I think you could write a book I would love and cherish – a hot and languid blend of place, character, story and fantastic flavor.

  29. Well you know I'm just waiting to preorder that thing on Amazon. Whenever it comes together. 🙂 As a fan, tho, I'd love for it to be very similar to your blog. Stories and recipes. Did you ever see the pie cookbook Sweety Pies?

  30. Catharine

    I just wanted to let you know I love reading your blog. I am a native Texan, born and raised, living in Paris with my husband. French food is great, but I am pregnant and your delicious posts bring back a (metaphorical) taste of home. Thanks!
    BTW, your pickle recipes are the best.

  31. Anonymous

    This is the Anon who read Molly's book….Didn't mean to be anon, just hit the key too soon!

    You and your stories evoke memories, tastes and smells that draw us all in to your website. You have a gift for bringing those memories, tastes and smells to life.

    My grandma always said>>>
    "Don't fix it if it ain't broke!"

    Your stories are unique and thought provoking. Take us all on the journey that made a Texas girl follow her dream to NYC yet left her heart and her taste buds in the Lone Star State!

  32. Kristin

    YUM! I've been making a lot of grilled shrimp cocktail… this is my cue that it's time to try something else. These sound refreshing.. the perfect thing for 106 degree summer days.

  33. The Yummy Mummy

    Whatever you do – just write the book.

    There are a bunch of people cluttering up the bookshelves with their meaningless meanderings and luke warm recipes, that will end up filling up the bargain bin at Borders and no one will even notice.

    But you have something to say. You have a viewpoint. A story to tell. A love of this food, this State, this way of being that ricochets off the page.

    You are different than most other food bloggers, too – a sharp, clear writer, an animated storyteller, a voice with edge, nothing too overly poetic or sentimental. No waxing melancholy about green beans or something. You have bite. You write with economy. It sets you apart. Not to mention that no one of your caliber actually writes about this area of food.

    You have something special. It would be a shame not to take that and run.

    Anything I can do to help you make it happen, I'm here. Just do it.


    PS: Is this the writing project you said you were excited about on Twitter?

    PPS: I hope you don't think I'm a freak for telling you all this, but, you know, I'm a fan 🙂

  34. David in San Antonio

    Lisa, today is HEB shopping day, so I'll be sure to get some shrimp so we can try it this weekend. I'm also thinking of trying some in a fusion dish by making a few summer rolls as well as serving the shrimp on tortilla chips.

    Also, I'm a big fan of books/blogs that combine stories with recipes, so that's my vote. I recently finished _Mouth Wide Open_ by John Thorne, and I'm almost finished with Jeffrey Steingarten's, _The Man Who Ate Everything_.

  35. I'm late to this conversation, so you may not see the comment – but here are some thoughts about the book.

    Your blog is all about people and place, and I think those should be at the heart of your book. So that means stories, for sure.

    Have you lived in different places in Texas? Are there family/friends in those places? Are there specific foods (and related stories) associated with those people/places?

    What are the stories/foods/people associated with your life as a sort of "ex-pat"? What about returning – going back and forth between the two worlds? Has the idea of "home" changed for you? What are the foods that represent that shift? "Hybrid" foods that link your different homes?

    Personally, I don't think a blog format translates well to a book – too chunky, no flow. If a book is not going to use typical cookbook structure (soup, salad, bread, blah, blah, blah), I like to see some kind of a theme or over-arching narrative that gives the thing some shape and flow and meaning. Think M.F.K. Fisher, only with more recipes. And pictures! By all means pictures – and not just of the food – pictures that carry a sense of place as well.

    Just my possibly irrelevant thoughts!


  36. Lisa, You should check out John Folse' Encyclopedia of creole and Cajun cooking. Beautiful pictures, great history and incredible recipes.


  37. Dorien_O


    i've used your recipe before to great success. mil gracias! i was wondering about adding octopus or fish, or scallops. any help there. wouldn't want to food poison anyone. i'm pretty sure the scallops would cook the same way as the shrimp, but what about the fish and the octopus?

    ciao ciao

  38. Lisa Fain

    I think fish would be fine, though I've never cooked with octopus, so I don't have any experience with it.

  39. Michele H

    Hi Lisa, do you think cold-pressed orange juice would be a suitable substitute for the pineapple juice? Or is that pineapple enzyme thing essential to the pickling?

    • Lisa Fain

      Michele—There’s enough acid that I think it would be fine to use OJ instead.

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