Collard Greens

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The Collard Green is the traditional side dish of the American South cooked low and slow with garlic, onions and bacon until they’re tender.

We love classic side dishes for southern favorites like Shrimp and GritsEasy Pulled Pork and my personal favorite Shrimp Etouffee. Toss in an appetizer like Southern Fried Okra and it’s a party!

Collard Greens in a potCOLLARD GREENS

Collard Greens can feel like an intimidating dish to a home cook since they’re such a tough and fibrous green when you buy them at your grocery store. This doesn’t mean you are in for a difficult cooking process. The hardest part about the recipe is waiting for the delicious end result.

When you’re making this recipe one of the most important things to remember is to time your dishes properly. Short of making my Cajun Roasted Turkey or BBQ Pulled Chicken this recipe is going to take longer than the rest of your meal.

Of course, if you really want to make a statement at your next family dinner, cook Collard Greens with mashed potatoes and a whole smoked turkey! Anything is possible with this leafy green, so let’s begin by going over some of the basics.

HOW TO MAKE COLLARD GREENS

  • Cook the bacon on medium heat until it begins to crisp up. Once it does, remove it from the skillet and chop into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add olive oil and onion, frying it for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Afterwards add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds before adding in the collard greens.
  • After you stir the greens together with the onions and garlic, add in the chicken broth, brown sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir well, reduce heat to low and simmer for 90 minutes until the collard greens are tender.

WHY SOUTHERN COLLARD GREENS ARE THE BEST COLLARD GREENS

Any denizen of the South would tell you that if you’re simply steaming these leafy greens plain, then you’re doing it wrong. This recipe is actually part of a New Year’s Day tradition (enjoy it with a traditional Ultimate Garlic Pork Loin Roast!) where eating collard greens for the first time in the new year is supposed to give you good luck for the 364 days ahead.

All you really need to do to make Collard Greens more than just a glorified bowl of steamed spinach is to add onion, bacon, and a little bit of brown sugar to tie everything together. You can alter some of the flavor notes to this dish by using apple cider vinegar, or you could throw in some black-eyed peas to complete the dish with a legume-based protein!

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ANSWERS TO SOME COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT COLLARD GREENS

Are They Poisonous?

They are not. People are justified in asking this question, seeing as how some of the lesser common leafy greens are known to have poisonous qualities. That said, no single study has conclusively proven that Collard Greens are dangerous to consume, either cooked of raw.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN THE MOST HEALTH BENEFITS FROM COLLARD GREENS?

Sometimes, it’s best to eat vegetables raw instead of cooked. In this case, the opposite is true.

Cooking Collard Greens to the point where they wilt makes them much easier to digest. Better digestion leads to better absorption of essential vitamins and minerals, so even if you sacrifice a small amount of nutrients cooking everything down, your body makes better use of what’s still there!

But nobody ever said you can’t eat Collard Greens raw, so if you want a wide variety of greens in your salad next time, go for it! I recommend cutting the collard greens thinly to make them easier to chew through.

HOW CAN I TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE GREENS AND OTHER VARIETIES?

Collard Greens are quite similar to other fibrous greens, like spinach, Swiss chard, and kale. Kale tends to have greater amount of nutrients within it per serving, but collard greens may be a better option if you have health restrictions on how much you can absorb – vitamin K being a perfect example.

Spinach tells the same story, in that it has more nutrient content per serving, but spinach has less fiber. It shouldn’t surprise you that Swiss chard is also similar to both kale and spinach, but Swiss chard has considerably more sodium in it per serving, so collard greens will be your best bet if you’re looking to cut back on your salt intake.

Whatever you decide to do is entirely up to you. This recipe we have for you below keeps things simple – that way you have the power to use it as a side if you have a much bigger meal in mind.

Collard Greens

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Collard Greens

5 from 6 votes
  • Yield: 8 Servings
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Course: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder

The Collard Green is the staple side dish of the American South cooked low and slow until tender with garlic, onions and bacon.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 pound collard greens , cut into 2" chunks
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Instructions

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Add the bacon to your dutch oven on medium heat and cook it until crisp and the fat has rendered before removing it from your pan and chopping.

  2. Remove half the bacon fat, add in the vegetable oil, onions, and garlic on low heat, cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.

  3. Add the collard greens to the pan, stirring them well to coat them in the oil and onion mixture.

  4. Add the chicken broth, brown sugar, salt and pepper to the dutch oven, stir well and cover.

  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes until the collard greens are tender to chew when tasted

  6. Add the bacon back into the dutch oven and stir through.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 8 Servings, Amount per serving: 146 calories, Calories: 146g, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 868mg, Potassium: 158mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 8g, Vitamin C: 9g, Calcium: 14g, Iron: 1g

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Keyword: Collard Greens
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Collard Green

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

See more posts by Sabrina

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. I loved eating collard greens when I was traveling down south, and this recipe makes me feel like I’m still traveling! It’s so full of flavor and delicious.

  2. That is quite a long cooking time but I’m impressed at how well the greens hold up – still plenty of texture and definition in the finished dish. Oh and the bacon just takes the whole dish up a notch. Gorgeous.

  3. I have not tried your recipe but it is very close to how we cook collard greens in our Southern house. Our only ingredients are collards, bacon, a half cup of black coffee, and two tablespoons of sugar, though many will also add onions. No spices.
    Here is how we cook them:

    It’s important to wash the collards by soaking them in the sink to remove odd bits of dirt or sand which the big leaves will collect from splashing rain as they grow. Do not dry the leaves. After soaking we tear the leaves from the large stems and into pieces about half the size of your hand. We do not cook the large stems, but you can if you like.

    We add a few tablespoons of canola oil to the Dutch oven to speed up the initial frying and it allows you to reduce the amount of bacon if you desire. Add the 8 slices of bacon heat on high and reduce the heat to medium when the bacon begins to fry. After frying remove the bacon and set aside.

    Add the coffee to the pot then scrape the pan a little. Add the collards until the pot is nearly full and then cover. Leave heat on medium and keep the pot covered until done.

    From this point no additional liquids are added except what is on the leaves and cooked out of the leaves. Use tongs to turn the leaves over every 5 minutes or so in the beginning to keep leaves from burning and until the liquid starts to collect in the bottom. When a small amount of liquid has collected in the bottom and begins to simmer, turn the heat down to medium low, about 3 on a radiant cook top. Turn the leaves again, thereafter about every 20 minutes.

    When the volume of the leaves has reduced to half, sprinkle all the sugar and all the crumbled bacon on top of the leaves and add more leaves on top of the sugar if you have them. Continue adding leaves and turning the leaves every twenty or thirty minutes as the volume reduces until done. Where we live, collards are sold by the “bunch” and we will add leaves twice to use the whole bunch.

    Remember to keep the pot covered while cooking. The leaves are in effect steamed and cooked at the same time.

    The volume of the leaves will finally reduce to about 20% of the pot volume when done. Taste the collards and remove from the heat when you are satisfied they are done. The collards should be very limp, about like cooked spinach but with thicker leaves. Save the liquid in the bottom of the pot which is mostly liquid cooked out of the collards. This is called pot liquor and if cooked right will be very tasty with cornbread.

    This recipe is a little labor intensive but worth the trouble.

    1. Thanks for sharing your family recipe! It’s great to hear from someone as passionate about traditional southern cooking!

  4. I only grow Georgia brand collards, hardy, will grow pretty much spring and summer as well as fall. I use frictional recipe with a few added ingredients. Ham hock, smoked ham, bacon, plus I add bacon grease, (I always save the grease when I cook) , salt, pepper, a little ground red pepper, and Adobo. I always get a lot of compliments and request.