This is the last recipe for collard greens that you will ever need. These southern-style collard greens are cooked with bacon, onions, and garlic and couldn't be more delicious.
When I first made these greens, my husband told me that they are the best collard greens that he has ever had. Coming from a guy raised in Louisiana - that's saying something. (I have also now even adapted an Instant Pot Collard Greens recipe, and it is just as delicious!)
Collard greens are one of those southern staples that everyone should have a recipe for. They are also one of those foods that look and sound gross but taste SO amazing. Collard greens can be bitter, but I have added the perfect amount of heat, sugar, and acid to cut the bitterness so that they are so delicious. This is one of our favorite side dish recipes, and the bold flavors just might blow your mind.
How to Pick the Best Greens
If you are buying fresh greens, be sure to check through the leaves to make sure that they do not feel tough or waxy. Greens are best when they are soft, not too old, and have just gone through a frost.
Also, be sure to look for any yellowing on the leaves or mushy spots. Even with pre-cut greens, you should check through them and discard any yellow or spoiling leaves. (Just like you would with lettuce.)
If you grow your own collard greens in containers, they need mild weather for most of their life (under 60°F) then an overnight freeze before you pick them to have the best flavor. They are really easy to grow!
Table of Contents
- How to Pick the Best Greens
- 🥘 Ingredient Notes
- How to Clean Collard Greens
- 🥣 How to Make Them
- What is Pot Likker (Or Pot Liquor), and How do You Make it?
- 🥬 How to Make Vegan Collard Greens
- 🥬 How to Make Paleo Collard Greens
- 🍳 How to Serve Collard Greens
- How to Store Leftover Collard Greens
- 🙋♀️ Frequently Asked Questions
- What to Serve with Collard Greens
- 📝 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
🥘 Ingredient Notes
- Olive Oil - You can also use butter or vegetable oil.
- Thick Cut Bacon
- Fresh Garlic Cloves
- Fresh Collard Greens or Frozen Collard Greens - This recipe can also be used for turnip greens, mustard greens, and broccoli greens.
- Brown Sugar - Adding sugar will help cut the bitterness of the greens, and brown sugar adds a deep caramel flavor that you don't get with granulated sugar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Red Pepper Flakes - The spice really balances well with the acidity, sweetness, saltiness, and smokiness added to these greens.
- Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Chicken Broth, Chicken Stock, or Vegetable Broth
- Optional, though a delicious addition - Ham hocks, diced ham, smoked turkey legs, or smoked turkey necks.
- For Serving - My husband loves to add a few dashes of pepper vinegar to his greens, and others like to add hot sauce or a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning!
How to Clean Collard Greens
Fresh collard greens do need to be thoroughly washed before you eat them. We grow our own greens, and while we know that they aren't treated with any pesticides, we also know that birds poop on them, they get covered in dirt, and they always have bugs on them, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
Do the Stems Need to Be Removed?
When cleaning fresh collard greens, the tough stems need to be removed, and the greens need to be washed. I find it to be easier to remove the stems before washing the greens - there is less to wash once the stems are removed, and without the (sometimes giant) stems, the greens are easier to fit in a bowl.
I use kitchen shears and cut along the stems, or sometimes just use my fingers and tear along the stems - leaving behind the woody stems and soft green leaves. Discard the stems in your compost.
Then, gently chop the collard greens into ribbons using a sharp knife or kitchen shears and wash the greens in cool water several times to be sure that all dirt and sand get rinsed off. I either use a colander or a salad spinner to rinse and dry the greens. I usually fill a large bowl and dunk the greens, swish them around, then pour out the water.
Repeat the process several times. (A lot of people like to soak their greens in the kitchen sink, but that grosses me out. I feel like something from 1988 is going to come up through my drain.)
Anyway, dry the greens, then you're ready to cook them! If you don't have time to cook them right away, they will keep in the fridge for a day or two, or you can blanch them for just a few seconds, then freeze them.
🥣 How to Make Them
Here's how I make the best southern collard greens:
Dice up an onion, some thick bacon, and some garlic cloves.
Then, heat a large pot or dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, add one tablespoon of olive oil. (You can also use butter or vegetable oil.) (Picture 1)
Once the olive oil is hot, add the diced bacon. (Pictures 2 - 3) Once the bacon is starting to get crispy on the edges but isn't totally cooked (Picture 4), add the diced onions. (Picture 5)
Sauté the onion and bacon until the onion is translucent. (Picture 5) Then, add the garlic and sauté it all in the bacon grease until the garlic is fragrant - about 2 minutes. (Picture 6)
Add the collard greens and sauté until they are soft & wilted but not fully cooked. If you are using frozen greens, break them up, stirring them until they are no longer frozen. (Picture 7)
Add the stock & add all of the spices - salt, pepper, Tony's, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Mix well to combine. (Pictures 8 - 9)
Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the ham hock or smoked turkey now if you are using it.
Simmer over low heat, covered, for 45 minutes to one hour, occasionally stirring as needed.
After 45 minutes, the greens will be dark green and really soft. (Picture 10) There will still be some flavorful broth - that's the pot liquor or pot likker, and it will be delicious.
What is Pot Likker (Or Pot Liquor), and How do You Make it?
The deliciously rich broth that develops after the greens have simmered is called Pot Likker. My husband and I always slurp up the bottom of our bowl when we are finished - you could drink it from a glass, it's that good. (Some people use the leftover pot liquor as the base to flavor their Red Beans & Rice or White Beans or as a base for soup. We hardly ever have enough leftover to do that, but YUM!)
The pot likker forms when the chicken broth sucks up all the smoky pork flavors from the bacon & ham hock (or the smoked turkey leg) and the garlic, onion, sugar, pepper flakes, salt, and vinegar - oh, it is so good!
🥬 How to Make Vegan Collard Greens
To make vegan or vegetarian greens, omit the bacon and ham hock and use vegetable stock. You may need to add extra salt and a little bit of liquid smoke, but you can definitely make a delicious vegan pot of greens with this recipe!
🥬 How to Make Paleo Collard Greens
To make Paleo or Keto greens, use your favorite sweetener in place of the brown sugar. I have made this recipe hundreds of times using coconut sugar instead of brown sugar - that's actually how I often make it because we love coconut sugar!
🍳 How to Serve Collard Greens
We like to finish our greens with a little pepper vinegar and salt and pepper. The pepper vinegar gives it a little extra heat and mellows out any leftover bitterness in the greens. Greens are an amazing side dish for any kind of dinner.
How to Store Leftover Collard Greens
Once cooled, leftover collard greens should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will keep for about five days.
You can also freeze your greens. When I grow a ton of greens in the fall, and we have more than we know what to do with in November, I like to make huge batches of greens and freeze them in blocks in Souper Cubes. I freeze them in their pot liquor, then thaw and reheat them on the stove. The pot liquor keeps the integrity of the greens, and they stay delicious.
🙋♀️ Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Collard greens are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Calcium, as well as a pretty good source of Vitamin K, Iron, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium. Collard Greens (like most leafy greens) also contain thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and choline. More on the nutritional benefits can be found here.
Collard greens have bitter oils that are produced from a naturally occurring chemical called glucosinolate. It is released when greens are cut, chewed, or cooked. Did you know that some people can find greens to be up to 60% more bitter than other people? If you find greens to be REALLY bitter, you might just have taste buds that are sensitive to glucosinolate.
To reduce the bitterness in greens, you need to add sweetness, acid, and heat. I add apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar, and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. When serving greens, we add a little bit of pepper vinegar.
If you use fresh greens, even precut & washed greens, they should be soaked in tap-cold water for 5-10 minutes and swished around several times to rinse off any dirt or bugs. You might need to do this a few times to get off all the grit. I like to do this in a salad spinner - just submerge the greens and swish them around, then lift the strainer portion out, rinse again, then put them back in the empty salad spinner and then spin them to dry them off.
Yes, collard greens are loaded with nutrients. This article has some more information on the nutritional benefits of collard greens.
What to Serve with Collard Greens
Serve your greens with your favorite Southern recipes:
- Southern Cornbread
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders
- Copycat Raising Cane's Sauce
- Potato Salad
- Sweet Skillet Cornbread
- Hoppin' John Black Eyed Peas
Have You Tried This Recipe?
Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!
Southern Style Collard Greens
- a large pot
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound bacon diced
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 - 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 pounds collard greens, frozen Fresh or frozen. Frozen collard greens generally come in 16 oz bags, so I use two.
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar use coconut sugar to make paleo greens
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
- First, heat a large pot over medium heat while you dice up your onion, bacon, and garlic.
- When your pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.1 tablespoon olive oil
- When your olive oil is hot, add the diced bacon. Once the bacon is a little crispy on the edges but not totally cooked, add your diced onions.½ pound bacon, 1 large onion
- Saute your onion and bacon until the onion is translucent, then add your garlic and saute until the garlic is fragrant - about 2 minutes.3 - 4 garlic cloves
- Next, add your collard greens and stir until they are no longer frozen. If you are using fresh greens, saute until they are soft but not fully cooked.2 pounds collard greens, frozen
- Now, add your stock and mix well to combine.3 cups chicken broth
- Then add all of your spices (including the coconut sugar) and your apple cider vinegar.1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, ¼ teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
- Bring everything to a boil, and once your broth is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer over low heat. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally as needed.
- After 45 minutes, uncover and serve. The greens will no longer be bright green and they will be really soft. There will still be broth and it will be delicious.
- Finish your greens with a little pepper vinegar and salt and pepper.
We like to finish our greens with a little pepper vinegar and a touch of extra salt and pepper. The pepper vinegar mellows out any leftover bitterness in the greens. Collard greens are an amazing side dish for any kind of dinner, but we enjoy them as an acidic side dish to otherwise heavy or greasy meals, like fried catfish or fried chicken. Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions
Are collard greens healthy?
Yes! Collard greens are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Calcium as well as a pretty good source of Vitamin K, Iron, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium. Collard Greens also contain thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and choline. More on the nutritional benefits can be found here. 🤢 Why Are Collard Greens Bitter?
Collard greens have bitter oils that are produced from a naturally occurring chemical called glucosinolate. It is released when greens are cut, chewed, or cooked. Did you know that some people can find greens to be up to 60% more bitter than other people? If you find greens to be REALLY bitter, you might just have taste buds that are sensitive to glucosinolate. 🥬 How Do You Remove the Bitterness from Collard Greens?
To reduce the bitterness in greens, you need to add sweetness, acid, and heat. I add apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, coconut sugar, and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. When serving greens, we add a little bit of pepper vinegar. Do you need to soak collard greens?
I like to use frozen greens - it is much easier and faster - but if you use fresh greens, they should be soaked in tap-cold water for 5 - 10 minutes and swished around to rinse off any dirt. You might need to do this a few times to get off all the sand and dirt. I like to do this in a salad spinner - just submerge the greens and swish them around, then lift the strainer portion out, rinse one more time, then put them back in the empty salad spinner and spin them to dry them off. Are collard greens a superfood?
It seems so, yes. This article has some more information on that. Tips
- Add leftover ham, seasoning ham, or a ham hock to give a more meaty and smoky flavor to collard greens.
- Serve collard greens with a little pepper vinegar.
- We love to enjoy collard greens with "fried" chicken meatballs and Copycat Raising Cane's Sauce.
- They are also really good with a side of homemade cornbread.
Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.