Food That Moves: California Spiny Lobster

If you say the word lobster, almost everybody automatically thinks of the brown bugs with big claws that come out of Maine. And I wouldn’t blame them, because those are mighty tasty crustaceans. However, here on the left coast, from October until March of each year, we have our own crop of fresh lobster that shouldn’t be ignored.

California spiny lobsters are only distantly related to the more well-known homard lobsters, but they taste every bit as lobster-y. In fact, many restaurants now use spiny tails for their recipes and diners would be hard put to tell the difference. This is especially good for west coasters — I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a lobster that was caught that morning than one that was imported from Maine earlier in the week. They’ll be plumper and healthier, which always translates into a better meal.

That being said, you might get a shock when you see your first spiny lobster. I know the boy certainly had second thoughts when I introduced him to his dinner. They’re, well, slightly different-looking:


Yep. No claws, huge tail, and a face only a mother lobster could love. But gosh, are they lovely when steamed and dipped in butter. I’m not going to do a long how-to for these guys because there’s really no point. Just follow the steaming directions from my previous lobster cooking post, remembering that the weight is calculated off of the heaviest critter, not off of both of them combined. Steam with the standard additions (salt, bay leaves, whatever aromatics suit you) to the water and you’ll end up with…


Cooked bugs! Spinys actually pack more meat per similarly sized lobster than Maines, so think on that. The majority is in their tail, so twist that off, snip down the middle with a pair of kitchen shears and pop it open. Don’t forget to dig in the tail for the meat in the flippers. There are also chunks at the base of each antennae worth working for. We just ate these guys steamed, plain with a little dipping sauce. Bag the shells for stock.


  1. I love seafood. But the cooking process always intimidates me. I’m always afraid I’ll over- or under-cook it, or it’ll be rubbery or flavourless or any other number of epicurian stresses. So, therefore, I rarely indulge, at least not at home. I’ve never actually tried lobster, even though I lived in Halifax for two years O_o I love shrimp, so I suspect I would love this as well.

    • I suspect you would! And it’s so expensive at most restaurants — I know I wouldn’t be able to have nearly as much as I’d like to if I didn’t learn to make it myself. I’d definitely suggest steaming if you’re worried about over/under-cooking — steaming is much more forgiving than boiling and it’s rare to overcook as long as you’re within the time range. It’s hard to undercook because you can tell if it’s raw — it’s not red. No worries about flavor as long as you add a healthy dose of salt to the water — just about the only thing you’d want to add to the meat is butter and lemon. I say go for it — you’re still in an area where you can get them relatively cheap and it’ll be an adventure!

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