Incredible Spiny Lobster Feast with Garlic Butter

The KING of lobsters: Californian spiny lobsters have the sweetest most buttery meat you will ever taste!

OMG is all I can say about these lobsters! Upon first bite I was moved to tears by how other worldly this morsel of seafood tasted, no kidding. Dipped in homemade garlic drawn butter you are quickly whisked away into seafood euphoria! If you’re looking for a special homecooked meal for Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year this year, Californian spiny lobsters will surely satisfy!!!

Where do you find these might you ask? Well, apparently this delicacy is only available between October to mid March here in San Diego. Prior to living in California, I only knew about east coast Maine lobsters and had plenty growing up. They are delicious without a doubt but until you try these spiny lobsters these guys are lobster at a whole other level!

First, some key differences between the two species. For one they have a large head and thicker spikey body with a reddish brown appearance compared to their cousins. Second, they don’t have claws and rather have these long thick antennas. Good news, no claws = less chance for me to get hurt while handling them haha!

Getting these bad boys required my hubby and I to get up bright and early Saturday morning and driving down 20 min to our trusty Tuna Harbor Dockside Market before they were sold out. Arriving a little sleepy but excited we managed to get to the last fish monger tent and grab ourselves 2 females. Now, these guys are not the cheapest as they set us back $27 per lb (since it’s near the end of the season) you can do the math but man are they worth it! We were told at the peak season they cost about $20 per lb which isn’t too bad.

With the goods in tow we quickly headed back home for our deluxe lunch. Now I always feel guilty cooking fresh seafood as it means doing the ‘deed’ yourself at home so I learned a trick a long time ago to put the lobsters to ‘sleep’ in the freezer. Yes, give them a good scrub and then off into the freezer for 5-10 min until they go into hibernation mode to soften the blow in a more humane way. Mental images of my grandma hacking lobsters into tiny pieces for cooking while still alive have always haunted my animal lover side so this has been the best way to handle them so far in my books.

Important thing about cooking lobsters of any kind is to make sure you got your water boiling and super hot and making sure you time your cook just right. For these spiny lobster I brought about 6-8 liters of water to a rolling boil, salted for flavor and then dunked them head in first and cooked them with the lid closed for 15 min. A great guideline on cooking times I found are listed below here:

  • 10-13 minutes for 1 lb lobster
  • 12-18 minutes for a 1 1/2 pound lobster
  •  18-23 minutes for a 2-3 pound lobster

You will now they are ready when it becomes bright red. Once cooked the fun begins! I have to say that these are the MEATIEST LOBSTERS EVER! So you do get your bang for your buck. I mean apart from the tail which is HUGE, my husband and I found so much more meat in the legs, thick part of the antenna, and also surprisingly in the head as well right behind it’s mouth! The texture of the flesh is also great, a little bouncy with a good bite and as I said already many times it’s so sweet and naturally buttery. Never have I been so full just eating lobster which is a big plus haha 🙂

I like to serve these lobster simply with homemade garlic drawn butter. Super easy to make, all you need to do is melt butter on low with 2 cloves of garlic and continue heating until the milk solids separate out. Then sieve the butter into a dipping bowl, add some salt to taste and garnish with chives! For this feast I also made a side of roasted corn and red pepper salad with scallions. Give these guys are try the next time you’re in California between October to March for a delicious local treat!

Incredible Spiny Lobster Feast with Garlic Butter

Prep time: 5 min     
Cook time: 15 min    
Total time: 20 min   
Servings: 2


  • 2 Californian spiny lobsters (1.5 lb each)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives chopped


  1. Clean the spiny lobsters with a brush under running water to remove any dirt. Then place them in the freezer for 5-10 min to allow them to fall into a deep sleep before cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil on high heat.
  3. Remove the spiny lobsters from the freezer and immediately place them head first into the water then cover the pot with a lid. Allow to lobsters to cook for 15 min for a 1.5 lb lobster (General rule: 10-13 minutes for 1 lb lobster, 12-18 minutes for a 1 1/2 lb lobster and 18-23 min for a 2-3 lb lobster).
  4. While the lobsters are cooking, melt butter under low heat in a sauce pan and add in 2 garlic cloves crushed. Cook the butter and garlic on low for 5 min until the milk solids begin to separate out. Carefully remove the milk solids and mix in the salt to taste. Transfer the clarified butter to a dipping bowl and sprinkle with chopped chives.
  5. Once the lobster is cooked remove the boiling water and onto a serving platter. Enjoy immediately while hot with the garlic butter!

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