Southern-style dish Collard Greens slowly simmered in a savory and spicy broth loaded with ham hocks and seasonings. A flavor-packed take on your favorite leafy greens. Pairs well with cornbread for that soul food meal!
What are Collard Greens?
It’s one of the soul food ingredients that have a distinct flavor that maybe some would find to be too strong.
But, with the right addition of savory ingredients like ham hocks, bacon, onion, garlic, and Creole Seasoning, these hesitations will turn into enthusiasm for eating this comforting Collard Greens Recipe.
Let me teach you how to deliciously cook it the Southern way!😋
What are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are edible leafy green vegetables and a staple Soul Food ingredient. The leaves have a broad dark green color that’s smooth with thick and tough stems.
Included in the same plant family as Kale, its taste is earthy with a subtle bitterness that’s mellowed with cooking.
They are available year-round and are said to be tastier and more nutritious during the cold months. No wonder it’s a must-eat in Southern households during the holiday season.
Aside from that, they are served during the New Year’s because of a belief that they bring good omen and represent wealth for their folded money-like appearance.
- Ham Hocks – its smoky and savory tastes give a lot of flavor to the food. The fats and collagen content helps thicken soups, stews, and braised dishes.
- Collard Greens – an earthy and a bit bitter tasting leaves, it has a similar flavor with Swiss chard which bitter flavors are toned down by cooking.
- Bacon – cured meat that has a lovely smoky taste, you can actually use the rendered bacon fat to saute other ingredients that add more flavor to the collard greens.
- Cooking Oil – you need it if the bacon fat is not enough to saute the spices and vegetables. It’s essential for infusing the flavors into the dish from the ingredients sauteed in it.
- Onion – gives a sweet-savory flavor to the food when it’s sauteed. See my guide on How To Cut Onions here.
- Garlic – it has a pungent taste when raw but the flavor turns into a mellow and savory spice once it’s sauteed. When sauteeing, it imparts a lovely garlic aroma which is quite different from the raw garlic’s smell.
- Tomatoes – an optional ingredient and you can leave it out if you want, though it will definitely give a nice savory and tangy flavor to the collard greens if you do add them in.
- Paprika – sweet and vivid seasoning that gives a nice color to the food.
- Creole Seasoning – one of my favorite seasonings, a nice spicy and savory mix of herbs and spices that’s popular in Southern cooking. See my homemade version of Creole Seasoning.
- Red Pepper Flakes – can’t miss a chance to add a kick of heat to my dish. It also helps mellow down the bitter taste of collard greens. But if you’re not a fan, then leave it out.
- Chicken Bouillon Powder – if you don’t have enough chicken broth then add this to the boiling water to substitute for chicken broth.
- Lemon Juice – adds a refreshing citrusy flavor to the dish, which balances the bold savory flavors and bitterness of collard greens.
- Chicken Broth – a savory liquid used to cut down the collard greens’ bitterness and also to soften them.
- Smoked Turkey – get a smokey flavor minus the excess fat from ham hocks.
- Sausages – like Andouille sausage can also be used and sauteed to impart a smoky flavor to the collard greens recipe.
- Vinegar – either the fresh lemon juice or vinegar will work to lessen the bitterness of the collards.
- Ham Hocks Stock – you can replace the chicken broth with this liquid to add more smokey flavorful taste to the collard greens
Tips and Tricks in Cooking Collard Greens
- Soak the leaves in saltwater. It helps mellow the bitterness of collard greens and also softens the leaves. Leave it submerged in the water for 30 minutes then rinse under running water before cooking.
- Use savory ingredients. Starting the dish with onion, and garlic as the base and then cooking smoked turkey and ham hocks in chicken broth creates a very tasty cooking liquid for the greens.
- Add a bit of heat and spice. That bitterness is nice but it has to be accompanied by smokiness, a little heat, salt, and some protein to make your mouth water.
- Braising the collard greens softens them, just enough while avoiding that dreaded mushy texture. They retain some of their bitterness which is complemented by the ham hocks enhanced liquid and you get juicy bites of meat as well.
- Add vinegar or lemon. The acidity of lemon helps tame the bitterness of the collard greens. Plus, it also adds a subtle sweet flavor to the dish.
- Put a spoon of sugar. Sweetness also helps cut down the bitter taste of the collards.
Serving and Storage Instructions
- Refrigerator: Transfer the leftover collard greens to an airtight container and keep refrigerated for 5 days.
- Freezer: Transfer the leftover collard greens to an airtight container and keep frozen for 12 months.
- Reheating: Heat up a pan and add the leftover collard greens, cook on low-medium heat while occasionally stirring until it’s hot.
To curb the bitterness of collard greens, you may add lemon juice, sugar and braise them in a savory liquid.
Yes. Definitely healthy! As it contains a lot of vitamins especially vitamin K that helps in better absorption of calcium, which reduces the risk of acquiring bone diseases like osteoporosis.
Collard greens are a popular ingredient in a healthy dish called mixed greens. Also, because of its availability all year round, collard greens along with mustard, turnips, and kale have become a staple ingredient and comfort food of Southern cooking.
More Soul Food Dishes
How To Make Southern Collard Greens
- Prepare the ham hocks. Start by boiling the ham hocks in a pot fully covered in water, bring to a boil then lower heat and boil for approximately 11/2 – 2 hours or until meat falls off the bone. The best and easy way to do this is to use a pressure cooker. It’s faster and takes me only about 12 minutes or less once it starts cooking. Let it cool then cut the meat into bite size pieces. (Photos 1-2)
- Prepare the collard greens. Remove collard green leaves from the stem. Then wash, rinse and chop. Repeat until all the collard greens have been removed from its stem. Discard stem and reserve chopped leaves. (Photos 3-6)
- Rendered Bacon. Heat up a medium or large dutch oven. Then add chopped bacon, cook for about 6-7 minutes or until brown.
Cook The Collard Greens
- Add oil for sauteing. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil – there should be about 2 tablespoons of grease in the pot.
- Saute. Add onions, garlic, ham hocks, and sauté for about 3-5 minutes. (Photo 7)
- Add and saute other ingredients. Throw in tomatoes, paprika, creole seasoning and some pepper flakes. Sauté for another about 2 minutes. (Photo 8)
- Add the collard greens and broth. Finally add collard greens, chicken bouillon and lemon. Pour in chicken broth or water – lightly salt, if desired. Or wait till the last few minutes of cooking. (Photos 9-10)
Watch How To Make It
- 2 -3 ham hocks
- 2 pound collard green
- 2-3 bacon thick cut
- 2 tablespoon or more cooking oil
- 1 large onion , sliced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1-2 tomatoes diced, (optional)
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning (adjust to taste)
- 1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder to taste
- 1/2 lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 5 cup or more chicken broth
- Start by boiling the ham hocks in pot fully covered in water , bring to a boil then lower heat and boil for approximately 11/2 – 2 hours or until meat falls off the bone . The best and easy way to do this is to use a pressure cooker . It's faster and takes me only about 12 minutes or less once it starts cooking . Let it cool then cut the meat into bite size pieces .
- Remove collard green leaves from the stem. Then wash, rinse and chop. Repeat until all the collard greens have been removed from it’s stem. Discard stem and reserve chopped leaves.
- Heat up a medium or large dutch oven . Then add chopped bacon, cook for about 6-7 minutes or until brown.
- Add about 1 tablespoon oil – there should be about 2 tablespoons grease in the pot .
- Add onions , garlic , ham hocks, and sauté for about 3-5 minutes.
- Throw in tomatoes, paprika , creole seasoning and some pepper flakes. Sauté for another about 2 minutes.
- Finally add collard greens , chicken bouillon and lemon . Pour in chicken broth or water – lightly salt , if desired . Or wait till the last few minutes of cooking .
- Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes or more or until collard greens are tender .
- Serve warm with hot sauce and cornbread.
Tips & Notes:
- For the health conscious, switch out the ham hocks in place of smokey turkey. It’s healthier and takes less time to cook.
- Collard greens tend to have a lot of dirt trapped all over the folds of it’s leaves. So it’s best to wash them thoroughly – soaking them in salt water. Or rinse your leaves individually by placing them under water to wash away dirt. Remove each green leaf individually from the colander.
- Discard old leaves with large patches of yellow and/or brown.
- Chicken bouillon adds more flavor to this humble dish, so don’t be shy about it – adjust to taste.
- Lemon or vinegar helps cut down on some of the bitterness and adds some sweetness to it.
- I add a tablespoon of sugar to it, to cut down on the bitter taste. Feel free to adjust to taste or leave out completely.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.