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Easy Southern Collard Greens Recipe (& how to clean)

A flavorful bowl of slowly cooked southern-style collard greens with some spicy pot liquor (hello red pepper flakes) and ham hocks is just the thing  You’ll know the secret to easy southern collard greens recipe (& how to clean) with this soul food collard greens recipe from a sweet little old Southern grandma!

green bowl of collard greens.

Easy Collard Greens Recipe

Southern Style Collard Greens are a delicious easy side dish that is one of the lynch pins of southern cuisine. Southern Cooking is known for delicious side dish and you can’t go wrong with a side of cornbread and black-eyed peas besides a plate of fried chicken! Besides, greens offer good luck, vitamin K and health benefits on New Year’s Day and this time of year! Who could ask for more from a true southern classic like this southern greens recipe that yields tender collard greens, savory flavor and a perfect side dish all in one? 

Why This Recipe Works…

  • Uses fresh leafy greens “out of the garden” to create a flavorful soul food collard greens recipe.
  • It shows you EXACTLY how to clean the fresh collard greens
  • Uses smoked ham hock and smoked turkey necks or smoked turkey wings, spices and things you already have at home to make a wonderful pot likker!

Here’s What You’ll Need: 

  • Leafy green vegetables (fresh collards) from your produce section
  • Chicken Broth
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • white or brown sugar 
  • Small pieces of Seasoning meat (available at your local grocery store)
  • Dutch Oven or large stock pot 
  • Slotted Spoon!

Here’s How It’s Done

 If you have whole collard leaves, mustard greens or turnip greens or you picked them yourself, you MUST clean them fully. 

The collards first wash in the sink - getting ready to start swishing up and down and side to side.
Step 1: Remove damaged leaves, wash collards in vinegar water first.
The leaves floating during their first wash
Step 2. Wash 2-3 more times in cool water.

Showing the technique for cutting the stem out of the leaf.
Step 3. Fold clean leaf in half and cut the thick stem out.
The trimmed leaves in the colander, draining, waiting for another bath
Step 4. Roll up like a cigar and cut into 1/2″-1″ strips.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Southern Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe

How To Remove the Bitterness From Collard Greens? 

If your collards are bitter, then you will want to add a little extra vinegar and salt. 

Can Collard Greens be Eaten Raw? 

Yes, you CAN eat collard greens raw, but you will want to massage them and cut them very small or shred them.Remember they have sturdy stems. 

forkful of collard greens.

What’s the History of Collard Greens? 

Collard Greens have a LONG American history but I think it’s important for us to examine some of their African Roots. Here’s an excellent article about that. 

Can I Freeze Collard Greens?

Yes, you CAN freeze collard greens once cooked. Place the collards in a freezer safe container, remove as much air as possible and freeze for up to 3 months.

How Long Will Collard Greens Last?

Uncooked collard greens are good for a few days before you have to cook them up. 
Cooked collard greens store in an airtight container are good for about 5 days. 
Leftover collard greens should not sit out on for more than 2 hours at a time. 

Easy Southern Collard Greens Recipe (& how to clean) on napkin.

Tips and Tricks for The Best Collard Greens

How to Clean Collard Greens

  • Clean collard greens very well using the process described above. Don’t skimp or you will end up with sandy gritty pieces in your collards and that is gross.
  • Cut into strips – this is an easy recipe and yields the proper mouthful of tender greens
  • You’ll need a big pot of cold water to cook these in, about 6 quarts is good. 
  • After two hours of cooking, if they aren’t as tender as you like, then cook some more – just check every 15-20 minutes so that you don’t over cook them – unless you like them overcooked, in which case – do as you see fit.
  • Washing is the hardest part.

Best Southern Collard Greens Seasoning

  • In this recipe, I use butter, bacon grease, bacon, sweet onions and smoked turkey for delicious collard greens for an authentic southern collard greens recipe but you can use turkey legs, smoked turkey leg, chicken stock, black pepper, fresh onions, garlic powder and cajun seasoning.
  • The hot pepper flakes do not make your green very hot – it just adds flavor.
  • Add hot vinegar to the finished greens if you like yours hotter – that is what I do (it makes the best greens!).
  • You’ll need to be liberal with the salt and pepper and hot sauce when cooking collard greens, just saying!

Watch Me Make This True Southern Classic! 

Can You Give Me a Hand? 

Please leave a 5 STAR comment in the comment section below. This helps others to find the recipes at Loaves and Dishes so Thank You! 

A photo of a fork full of greens THE SECRET TO PERFECT SOUTHERN COLLARD GREENS

Easy Southern Collard Greens Recipe (& how to clean)

Perfectly flavored and delicious easy southern collard greens recipe plus how to clean them!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: greens
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to cook and clean collard greens
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 280kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 6 strips of heavy flavorful bacon – cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion – chopped small
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 lbs of greens cleaned and stemmed
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 2 whole smoked turkey necks
  • 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp white granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Using a large heavy stock pot (I use my 6 quart porcelain coated cast iron dutch oven), melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) in the bottom of the pot over medium heat.
  • Cut up 6 strips of thick bacon into 2 inch pieces.  Add to the melted butter. Cook  until done.
  • Add 1 onion, chopped small, and cook in the fats until translucent.  Add the garlic and heat for 1 minute.
  • After sauteing the garlic for 1 minute, add the greens a few at the time, allowing them to wilt as you go.
  • Once the greens are all in the pot, Add 1- 32 oz box of chicken stock. Add smoked turkey neck.
  • After the the greens come to temp, have wilted down in the pan, Add 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 2 tsp sugar,  1 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Give everything a good stir.
  • Put the lid on and set the stove on low.  Check and stir every 30 minutes or so.  Add more stock if needed.  After 2 hours the greens should be done, tender and flavorful

Notes

Clean Those Collards Really Good!
  • Clean collard greens very well using the process described above. Don’t skimp or you will end up with sandy gritty pieces in your collards and that is gross.
  • Cut into strips – this is an easy recipe and yields the proper mouthful of tender greens
  • You’ll need a big pot of cold water to cook these in, about 6 quarts is good. 
  • After two hours of cooking, if they aren’t as tender as you like, then cook some more – just check every 15-20 minutes so that you don’t over cook them – unless you like them overcooked, in which case – do as you see fit.
  • Washing is the hardest part.
Best Southern Collard Greens Seasoning
  • In this recipe, I use butter, bacon grease, bacon, sweet onions and smoked turkey for delicious collard greens for an authentic southern collard greens recipe but you can use turkey legs, smoked turkey leg, chicken stock, black pepper, fresh onions, garlic powder and cajun seasoning.
  • The hot pepper flakes do not make your green very hot – it just adds flavor.
  • Add hot vinegar to the finished greens if you like yours hotter – that is what I do (it makes the best greens!).
  • You’ll need to be liberal with the salt and pepper and hot sauce when cooking collard greens, just saying!

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Southern Collard Greens Recipe (& how to clean)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 280 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Cholesterol 44mg15%
Sodium 719mg30%
Potassium 768mg22%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 4240IU85%
Vitamin C 80.6mg98%
Calcium 57mg6%
Iron 2.5mg14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @loavesanddishes or tag #loavesanddishes!

***This post originally appeared on the pages of Loaves and Dishes on October 21, 2018 and has been updated with “why this recipe works” “Here’s how its done”. Step by step instructions, Frequently asked questions, video, nutrition information, updated instructions***

A VERSE TO SHARE

Here is an amazing fact that I totally hope is true. Recently, I heard this on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah when her guest said,  “There are 365 instances in the Bible where God says, “Be not afraid” .

God tells us NOT to be AFRAID 336 times which is nearly ONE FOR EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR!

Apparently, God tells us not to be afraid MORE than he tells us anything else!

Luke 12:4

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

Wendi is the writer, CEO and dishwasher at Loaves and Dishes! When not in the kitchen or behind the computer, you can find Wendi serving on International Food Conference Boards, Speaking at various conferences, Leading and Cooking for the local Arts Council's "Taste of Stokes" events or donating home cooked goodies to various local non profits such as the Danbury Songwriters and Stokes Partnership for Children. Wendi is also a Registered Nurse with a Master's Degree and serves on her town's board of councilmen.

Recipe Rating




Emily G.

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Excellent recipe, I’ve been making these for several years now & they’re delicious every time! Also thanks for including how to properly clean them

Ed Walton

Friday 30th of December 2022

As a 64 year old man, who learned from the BEST,..you NEVER cut your collards, you tear them. That said,..everything else in your recipe is a moot point,....smoked pork is the key.

Dayna

Saturday 18th of June 2022

The best collards I’ve ever had. Gets rave reviews every time I make them & this is a much requested dish for family celebrations. Thank you for sharing!

Wendi Spraker

Sunday 26th of June 2022

Wonderful!

Tiana

Monday 22nd of November 2021

If I cook the greens the night before, is it ok to leave them out on the stove (off of course) overnight and reheat them the next day? I’m unsure how to store them for best taste on the next day. As a kid I just remember them still being on the stove the next morning.

Wendi Spraker

Tuesday 23rd of November 2021

Hi Tiana, You know, our parents and grandparents did all kinds of things that turned out ok in the end, but now we know maybe weren't the best way? They were doing what they could with what they had, right? My grandmother would leave all the food from lunch out on the table, cover the whole thing with a table cloth and we would come back and eat it for supper. She would put the milk and a few other things in the fridge but mostly, it sat out. No one ever got sick. That said, the best thing to do with your greens is to allow them to cool a bit on the stove (maybe 2 hours) and then, put them in the fridge overnight. The next day, if they need a little liquid in them, add some stock or water and bring to a light simmer OR you can put them in a crockpot the next day and set it to "warm". Happy Thanksgiving!

Jaira

Friday 1st of November 2019

Thank you so much for the clear and exact cleaning instructions! It was exactly what I needed, and I am so happy to have found this! Thank you!

Wendi Spraker

Saturday 2nd of November 2019

Jaira, Thank you so much for leaving me a comment! I'm glad you found the info that you needed. A dear older lady who I knew about 30 years ago taught me to clean them that way and that is what I am sharing here. Blessings to you!

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