Collard greens are a Southern classic, and this is my favorite way to make them! They’re smoky, savory, and perfect for serving alongside homemade cornbread.
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Collard greens are related to kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens, but unlike kale, they’ve never exactly become an everyday food for most of us. While kale salads are everywhere, you’re not going to find very many raw collard salads on restaurant menus! That’s because collard greens are tough and naturally bitter. So why would anyone want to eat them?
Southern Collard Greens Recipe
Well, when you cook collard greens low and slow, magic happens! They get tender and almost silky-soft, and the bitterness gives way to a smoky flavor. There’s a reason why so many Southerners love collard greens! Everyone has their own favorite recipe for collard greens, and this one is mine.
Collards are often served with black-eyed peas as part of a New Year’s Day meal; the black-eyed peas are said to bring prosperity, and the green color of collard greens brings good fortune! The perfect addition to this duo is a slice of homemade cornbread or buttermilk biscuits.
- Bacon fat
- Onion – A yellow or white onion is perfect here.
- Smoked ham hocks – This, along with the bacon fat, is the key to allll the flavor in this collards recipe.
- Seasoned salt
- Red pepper flakes
- Collard greens – Choose greens that aren’t wilted or slimy, with a uniform dark green color.
- Chicken broth
How to Make Collard Greens
- Cook the Aromatics: Heat a tablespoon of bacon fat in a stockpot set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened.
- Cook the Meat: Add the ham hocks, water, seasoned salt, pepper flakes, and sugar to the stockpot. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the ham hocks are tender, 55 to 60 minutes.
- Cook the Greens: Add the collards to the pot, along with the chicken broth and remaining bacon fat. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to cook uncovered until the greens are tender, 55 to 60 minutes.
- Finish: Pull the ham hocks out of the stockpot. Remove the meat from the bones; finely chop and return the meat to the pot. Serve with a slotted spoon.
How to Store and Reheat Leftover Collard Greens
Refrigerate collard greens in an airtight container for about 4 days. You can reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop. Collard greens can also be frozen for up to 3 months; I recommend letting them thaw in the refrigerator, then reheating them.
What exactly are collard greens?
Collard greens are an edible leaf that’s related to cabbage, mustard, and kale, among others. The leaves are large, with tough stems.
What do collard greens taste like?
Uncooked collard greens are tough and bitter, but when you make them the traditional Southern way, they become smoky and tender.
Are collards and kale the same?
Nope! They come from the same family of greens, but they are not the same. Kale doesn’t require the same amount of cooking time as collard greens.
More Southern Side Dishes
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat divided
- 1 large onion chopped
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1-1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large bunch collard greens about 2 pounds, coarsely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon bacon fat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender.
- Add ham hocks, water, seasoned salt, pepper flakes, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, 55-60 minutes.
- Add collard greens, chicken broth, and remaining 1 tbsp bacon fat. Return to a boil.
- Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until greens are very tender, 55-60 minutes. Remove meat from bones; finely chop and return to pan. Discard bones. Serve with a slotted spoon and cornbread