Collard Greens Recipe – Southern-style Collard Greens slowly simmered in a flavorful and spicy broth loaded with ham hocks and spices. A flavor-packed take on your favorite greens.
What are collard greens?
Collard greens are a type of a thick, slightly bitter, edible leafy green vegetable commonly used in U.S. Southern cooking and in many parts of Africa (known as sukuma wiki in Tanzania and Kenya). It has dark green leaves with tougher stems and are part of the same group as kale, turnips, and mustard. The name “collard” itself is derived from the word “colewort” or the wild cabbage plant.
They are available year-round and is said to be tastier and more nutritious during the cold months. No wonder it always makes an appearance in Southern households during the holiday season. Holidays would never be the same without it! And yes it’s a great way to kick off the New Year.
How long to cook collard greens?
Cooking collard greens certainly takes time. But I can guarantee you, it’s worth all the wait knowing how nutritious they are and delicious especially when paired with smoked meat. After you trim off the stems, you need to thoroughly wash them first before cooking. Then chop them into 1-inch pieces or so and cook them until tender in a well-seasoned broth around 45-60 minutes along with the turkey and/or ham hocks.
Southern Collard Greens
Southern greens and ham hocks are the ultimate side dish. The greens themselves are super tender and the flavor is just incredible. 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. The smokiness infuses the broth with that deep, complex taste and the turkey meat certainly doesn’t hurt.
I like to use both ham hocks and smoked turkey. And although it might not be a traditional addition, if you have some chicken you can certainly throw it in.
As you probably know, smoked meats pack a punch of flavor. It slowly cooks with the rest of the ingredients until it literally falls-off-the-bone.
As for the greens themselves, they have a naturally bitter taste which is why making a delicious liquid to cook them in is a must. That bitterness is nice but it has to be accompanied by smokiness, a little heat, salt and some protein to make your mouth water.
As the greens cook and their fibrous texture turns into tender goodness, they absorb every layer and nuance in the broth. Soon enough, they are a hearty and soulful side that happens to be nutrient dense.
In other words, everything about this recipe works. Braising the collard greens softens them just enough while avoiding that dreaded mushy texture. They retain some of their bitterness which is complimented by the ham hocks enhanced liquid and you get juicy bites of meat as well.
This side goes with a number of main courses and can be eaten alone. You can also pair it with this Pinto Beans Recipe OR this super moist, buttery Skillet Cornbread with THE perfect crumb and crispy edges. A MUST and a perfect match to this green recipe.
How to Cook Collard Greens
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 its stem. Discard stem and reserve chopped leaves. If desired, soak in water.
Heat up a medium or large dutch oven or pot. 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.
Serve warm with cornbread.
Watch How To Make It
This post was first published on September 2016 and has been updated with new photos and write up.
Southern Style Greens
- 2 -3 ham hocks
- 2 pounds collard greens
- 2-3 bacon (thick cut)
- 2 tablespoons or more cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic , minced
- 1 large onion , sliced
- 1-2 tomatoes , diced , optional
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt free creole seasoning (adjust to taste)
- 1 tablespoon bouillon powder (chicken) (adjust to taste)
- 1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
- 5 cups or more chicken broth or water
- 1/2 Lemon Freshly squeezed Juice (adjust to taste)
- 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.