Cook Collard Greens Southern Style – The Easiest Way

Collard greens are a southern staple at the dinner table. If you have ever lived in the south or visited long enough to eat at a home-cooking restaurant, or have had a friend’s mother cook you dinner, then you have most likely had collard greens on your plate. Some people find themselves trying to cook collard greens after having them one time and they never turn out right. That might be because there are a few different techniques as to how to cook collard greens southern style.

What Are Collard Greens

Collard greens are big green leaves with a thick stalk. Collards are a part of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea) like mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale. In fact in southern cooking, most of these greens are prepared the same way, or even mixed together. Collard greens taste bitter like kale, but not as strong, and are tough to start with. Cooking them the right way can take the bite out of them and make them tender. Collard greens have many health benefits being full of nutritionally important minerals and are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

If you are at a loss for what you can cook with collard greens as a side dish I have many different meals here you can choose from.

Preparation

It does not matter which way you choose to cook collard greens you will prepare them the same way, or at least I do.

This is why you want to wash your greens well
  1. First, you will want to remove the large thick stem in the leaf. This is too tough and will not make for good greens if you try to cook it.

For the first method of stem removal, you can fold the leaf back opposite of its natural fold and just pull the leaf away from the stem. Second is you can fold the leaf and take a little knife and cut the leaf away from the stem. This is purely your preference here. You can keep the leaves in big pieces if you would like, but I prefer to tear them into smaller pieces or you can cut them into bite-size pieces.

2. Then the collards have to be washed well. Fill your sink with cool water and toss all the leaves in. Move them around and drain the water. Repeat this process until you see no grit in the bottom of your sink after the rinse.

Dirt and grit will settle on the leaves and you can tell if someone did not wash their greens well before cooking when you eat them. The first bite you get that is gritty will be the sign, you are literally eating dirt  So do not skip this step.

Stewing

Stewing collard greens is actually a pretty simple process. You will put the flavors that you like together in a big stockpot and let it simmer away until the collard greens are tender. Below is a recipe that I like. If you have never cooked collards before then I think this would be a great start.

  • 2lb of collard greens (washed and stemmed)
  • 1/2 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1-2tsp of sugar
  • 8 strips of bacon cut into 1in pieces
  1. In a large pot brown the bacon
  2. Add butter and cook onions until tender about 4-5min more
  3. Add chicken stock, collards, and sugar
  4. Simmer over low to medium heat until collards have reached the tenderness you desire.

With this recipe, many widely say 20 minutes is adequate to make the collards tender. I beg to differ and will tell you that it will probably take no less than 1 hour to make the collards tender. You can use broth instead of stock in this recipe if you would like.

When in doubt if your collards are done enough yet, pierce them with a fork and pull up, if they do not slide off of the fork they are not tender enough yet. in my own opinion. We prefer to have our collards super tender in my house.

True Southern Style

I am not quite even sure whatever else to call this style of cooking collard greens but true southern. It seems to be a mix of stewing and frying.

  • 2lbs of collard greens (washed and stemmed)
  • Water
  • 4-6 slices of bacon
  • 2-3 eggs (personal preference)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Place the collard greens in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and stir often until collards are tender.
  2. Once tender drain in a colander and let cool.
  3. Once cool, squeeze all the water you can out of the collard greens.
  4. Cut bacon into bite-size pieces and cook in a large skillet.
  5. Once the bacon is cooked add collard greens to the same skillet with the bacon grease.
  6. Crack eggs over the collards and saute until eggs are cooked. Add salt and pepper.

This way can be a little time consuming with waiting on the collards to cool down enough to squeeze the water out of them, but it is well worth it. In the south, you will find it common for people to eat their collards just the way this recipe calls for, or to eat them with vinegar. I like them personally both ways, it just depends on how I feel that day.

collards-cooked
Ready to eat

Slow-Cooked

With this way of slow cooking collard greens, you can set it and forget it until dinner time.

  • 2-3lbs of collard greens stemmed and washed
  • 32oz of chicken broth or stock
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 ham hocks
  1. Remove collard greens from stems and wash well.
  2. Cut or tear into more bite size pieces.
  3. Add all ingredients into crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  4. After the cooking time is up, remove ham hock bones and any big pieces of meat left of them.
  5. Cut the meat into small pieces and add back to collard greens and serve.

This is not my preferred method as we do like them with the eggs fried in them at my house. Although, if you are going to be short on the actual time you can spend standing in the kitchen doing preparation, this is a great way to still have collard greens with your dinner.

I have left the brown sugar here to be optional along with the amount of vinegar you will actually add. It is really all up to your own preference. Some will like them with a touch of sweetness, so you would want to add the sugar. You can actually use a little bit of regular white sugar as well here.

Last Thoughts

It is really not that hard to cook collard greens southern style. The hardest part is really just more of the time-consuming preparation of it. Once you cook them once or twice you will get the hang of it and things will go a little faster with the preparation. I like to mix my greens when I cook them. Usually, I will do half or 3/4 of collard greens and add 1/4 mustard greens in with them. Do not be afraid to mix things up and try something different.

chicken dinner
Collard greens with a baked chicken dinner

When you are trying to decide if you should add that little bit of sugar or another tablespoon of vinegar, give it a little test bite first. You can always add more, but you can’t take it back out once you have added it.

Have you ever eaten and prepared collard greens before? Do you have a favorite add-in that you add when preparing your collard greens?

Eat Well

10 thoughts on “Cook Collard Greens Southern Style – The Easiest Way”

  1. Cheyenne,

    I didn’t try collard greens until I met my husband who grew up in MS. I have to say, I love them! I grew up in Alaska and my parents were very simple when it came to what they cooked. I was raised on canned corn, peas and green beans. I never even had beans until I turned 18 and moved out.

    I love so many flavors from the South and I always look forward to any food his Mom cooks. I love my Mom’s food, but I sure missed out on the flavors of the world until an adult.

    Anyone that hasn’t tried this recipe really needs to! It will change your life!

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Katrina

    Reply
    • Oh gosh, I am so sorry to hear that you missed out on all the good southern foods growing up. At least you have discovered them now as an adult. I am so happy that you love collard greens now.

      Reply
  2. Hi Cheyenne,

    Is it a kind of kale? It sounds delicious; all your recipes. I am not from the states but Germany. We cook kale a lot and cabbage. I would really love to try to cook your collard greens. But I can’t find any translation. The translation I get is kale. So I don’t really know what collard greens are. Do you think I could use kale as well? 

    Reply
    • Yes, collard greens are a part of the kale and cabbage family. Kale might be a little bit more bitter than a collard green but it most definitely can be cooked the same way. I used google translate for german and this is what I get for collard greens (kohlblatt) I am not sure if this is of help or not since I do not know German. Here is a link to help you see more of collard greens. If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I hope you enjoy the recipe.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collard_(plant)

      Reply
  3. Hi Cheyenne,

    This is my first introduction to collard greens and Southern Style cooking in general. Thanks for this very elaborate and helpful guide. I like the emphasis on proper washing of the greens until all the grit is gone. Grit takes the fun out of the most appetizing meal. I’m more familiar with kale and all conventional types of cabbage mostly steamed with lots of onions, carrots and a dash of pepper and herbs. The South clearly knows how to turn things up! 🙂

    We are Blessed.

    Mark

    Reply
    • Well, I hope your first introduction to southern style collard greens makes a good enough impression for you to try them 🙂 Grit and dirt is a big no on my food, and some people do not know they need to wash greens so well, so I hope to teach them so. I love steamed cabbage and onions too. Maybe I should write a recipe for those as well. The one thing most of us southerners do know how to do is cook good food. I agree we are Blessed Mark! 

      Reply

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