Southern Collard Greens Recipe (2024)

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This is THE best Southern Collard Greens recipe, hands down! How can I say that, well, because it’s my mama’s recipe and if there is one thing she prides herself on (besides pound cakes, of course) it’s her collard greens. You’ve got fresh collard greens gently simmering, getting all tender and cozy in a hearty, delicious pot likker. And this ain’t just any pot likker (not sure what that is – you’ll want to look it up!) – it is PACKED with the rich flavors of smoky ham hock and onions, seasoned just right to tickle your taste buds. Sure, there’s more than one way to whip up some collard greens, but down here my mama and I swear by this method. Low, slow, and with a whole lotta love!

This is the best recipe I have found! Perfect blend of heat, sweet and spice. Family can’t get enough. The pot likker is downright drinkable! Ellie

Southern Collard Greens Recipe (1)

This Collard Greens recipe is a tribute to not only my childhood but to almost every other Southerner. I’ve watched the hands that groomed and raised me make collard greens for decades, and the entire process was always so magical. That’s exactly why I included my Big Mama (grandmother’s) and my mama’s hands in this post showing you how to make them too. The heritage and love associated with making greens for your family is something that can never be replaced!

We just love our greens, whether they be turnip, mustard, or collard. Just about every Southerner has a personal favorite and with such unique, individual flavors I don’t blame them. This is true Southern cooking at its finest! But in my opinion, traditional Southern collard greens are the most popular greens in the South. Give ’em a try and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

Table of Contents

The Heart & Soul Of This Collard Greens Recipe

Cuisine Inspiration: Southern American, y’all!
Primary Cooking Method: Simmering
Dietary Info: Low-Carb, Keto-Friendly
Key Flavor: Slightly bitter, smoky, and savory with a touch of heat
Skill Level: Beginner

Sweet Spots

  • Easy to Make: Jumping into this collard greens recipe might seem like a big ol’ leap into Southern cooking, but trust me, it’s easier than pie. I’ve broken everything down into easy steps (from thoroughly washing the collards to removing any grit to the final simmering) so that even the most amateur cooks will learn how to make the best southern collard greens recipe evah!
  • Slow Cooking Magic: A couple of hours of cooking makes the collard greens tender and almost silky, but they still have substance. They braise low and slow, just like short ribs would. However, braising not only makes the greens tender and pull apart soft – it also develops the flavored pot likker (a.k.a pot liquor) that soul food greens are truly known for.
  • Simple Ingredients, Big Flavor: With the addition of apple cider vinegar along with red pepper flakes to my soul food collard greens recipe, these spicy collard greens really have some kick! There’s no lack of flavor here, and you only need pantry staples. Plus a few easy-to-get ingredients, like ham hock and bacon grease.
  • Perfect for Leftovers: Like many Southern classics, these collard greens are even better the next day. The flavors meld and deepen in the fridge, making leftovers something to look forward to.

Ingredients To Make This Collard Greens Recipe

  • Collard Greens: While bagged and chopped collards might save you a minute or two, nothing beats the fresh stuff. Collards are available all year, but they’re at their peak in winter and early spring. When picking them out at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, look for leaves that aren’t too tough. You wanna make sure that the leaves are easy to pull away from the stem and tear/cut later when preparing them to cook.
  • Smoked Ham Hock: Grab one extra large one so the collard greens end up extra meaty! This is where a big chunk of our flavor is coming from. You can also replace with smoked turkey as well.
  • Granulated Sugar: Just a touch to balance the bitterness of the greens.
  • Bacon Grease: For that unmistakable Southern richness. It really adds to the smokiness!
  • Seasoned Salt & Garlic Powder: Two pantry staples that bring out the savory goodness of the dish.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This brings in a complex, umami flavor that marries well with the greens and the ham hock.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: If you ask me what’s the secret to a fantastic Southern collard greens recipe, I’d point to the ACV every time. Its tanginess cuts right through the fats, balancing everything out beautifully. It’s a non-negotiable for me, darlin’.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: Adjust to your heat preference, but a lil’ kick is always nice.
  • Paprika: For a hint of smokiness and color.
  • Onion: Finely chopped! Any type of onion will do, but yellow onions give a nice balance of sweetness and bite.

I made these on Sunday….followed the recipe exactly except added one Jalapeño and they were the best greens I’ve had since spending a couple years in North Carolina. Delicious flavorful with just a hint of spice. Corinne

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How to clean Collard Greens

Alright, y’all, let’s talk about the most crucial step in making this greens recipe sing – getting those leaves super clean. Now, I can’t stress enough how important this part is. Collard greens are known to collect a bit of grit and dirt from the fields, and nothing ruins a good bite of greens like a crunch of grit. So, we gotta show these babies a little TLC to get them ready for the pot!

First things first, you’ll want to fill your kitchen sink with lukewarm water. Not too hot, not too cold – just right to loosen up any of that stubborn grit. Then, take your collard greens, give them a good dunk in the water, and spread the leaves apart. Swish them around a bit, and with a bit of a scrubbing motion using your hands, carefully wash each leaf. You’re looking to lift off any dirt without damaging those beautiful greens. This is where the love part comes in – be gentle, but thorough.

After you’ve given them a good scrub, lift the greens out of the water, let the dirty water out, give your sink a quick rinse, and fill it back up with fresh lukewarm water. Submerge the greens again, give them another scrub, and rinse.

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This process must be done over and over and over again. My mother believes in washing greens until you don’t see any grit left in the water in your sink. We like to use the deepest sink bowl available in the house so if this means washing greens in your home’s laundry room, so be it! Just make sure you clean the sink out first before adding them. This will allow the greens to achieve a better texture and soak in more flavor.

It’s funny that I’m just now commenting on this recipe because I’ve made it for years! I live in southern Alabama and no collards around here compare to these! I sometimes like to use a turkey drum, both ways are fantastic!Nichole

How To Make This Collard Greens Recipe

Once you’ve given those collard greens a thorough wash, all that’s left to do is give them a good chop and get to cookin’! For the full details like the quantities and the cooking times, scroll down to the recipe card. You’ll find everything there, boo!

Step 1: Destem and chop the collards

  1. Pull and tear the greens away from the stems. This is a personal choice for most people, but in my family, we believe in removing the stems and leaving mostly just greens to cook.
  2. Take a handful of greens, roll them up, and cut the rolls horizontally into small pieces.
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Step 2: Cook the ham hock

  1. Rinse the ham hock very well and add it to a large pot with enough water to fully submerge it.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat until the ham hock is near being tender.

Step 3: simmer the collards with the rest of the ingredients

  1. Add greens and the rest of the ingredients to the pot once the ham hock is almost tender, plus enough water to cover the greens. This will become your pot likker.
  2. Cook while covered until completely tender. Most water should have evaporated by this point, just having enough to barely cover the greens.
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First time trying it. It was fantastic! I left the pepper out. I could not believe how delicious, well seasoned and silky the pot liquor was! Have cooked this dish 4 times now without any pepper and the amazing flavor is always the same!Nicole

Tips For Making The Best Southern Collard Greens

  1. Keep an Eye on the Greens: You might hear some folks say you can’t overcook collard greens, but take it from me, you sure can. I learned this the hard way when I was just getting the hang of my Big Mama’s recipe. I left those greens on the stove a tad too long, and they turned mushy. They should be soft, but not falling apart!
  2. Be Patient: It’s tempting to crank up the heat, I know… But collard greens are a dish that begs for patience. While you can make an easy collard greens recipe by just adding the greens to a sauté pan with some olive oil and cooking until they just begin to tenderize, soul food collard greens need quite some time (2-3 hours) to braise.
  3. Don’t Leave the Ham Hock Out: Removing the ham hock once the greens are cooked? That’s like leaving the best part of a song unsung! Once those greens are tender and the ham hock is cooked through, I like to take it out, chop up the meat, and stir it back into the pot. This way, every bite gets a little piece of that smoky, savory goodness.
  4. The Right Pot Makes a Difference: Believe it or not, the pot you choose for cooking this collards recipe (a.k.a black folks collard greens recipe!) can have a big impact on the final dish. A heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven is ideal because it distributes heat evenly, preventing those greens from scorching while they simmer away to perfection.

Popular Substitutions & Additions

  • Use Bacon or Turkey: If you don’t have a ham hock on hand, try swapping it out for some smoky bacon! Cut it into bite-sized pieces and render them down until they’re just crispy. This infuses the greens with a rich, smoky flavor that’s a bit different from the ham hock but equally tasty. Or if you’re looking for a lighter option, replace the ham hock with smoked turkey wings.
  • Turn Up the Heat: How do you make a collard greens recipe even more Southern? You add mo’ heat, baby! Toss in a few extra crushed red pepper flakes, or slice up a fresh jalapeño or two and let it simmer away with the greens (however, you can scale back the spice to 1/2 teaspoon if you don’t like the heat and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes is too much).
  • Chicken Stock Swap: The stock adds a rich, savory base that water just can’t match. Whether you opt for homemade or a good-quality store-bought version, this simple switch can make a world of difference in your pot likker!
  • Make It Vegan: This recipe can easily be adapted by removing the ham hock and bacon grease. Because the pot liquor has everything from apple cider vinegar to garlic and paprika, you can simply add collard greens, garlic, onion, hot peppers, and even liquid smoke and the flavors will still be incredible. I promise you won’t miss the meat at all!
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What To Serve With This Black Folks Collard Greens Recipe

  • Cornbread: No serving of this Southern collard greens recipe is complete without a skillet of golden, buttery cornbread by its side. C’mon y’all, it’s essentially a rule! The thought alone of a piece of fried cornbread, honey cornbread, or hot water cornbread soaking up all that rich, meaty flavor from the pot likker is enough to make anyone’s mouth water.
  • Southern Classics: These greens are amazing as a side for smothered pork chops, buttermilk fried chicken, a crispy chicken fried steak, and pretty much any other Southern dish you can think of.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Whether you go for creamy garlic mashed potatoes, sour cream mash, or cream cheese mash, they all have one thing in common – they’re fantastic at soaking up that delicious pot likker!
  • Traditional Southern Desserts: And to round off your meal, a traditional Southern dessert is just the ticket. Could be a slice of velvety pecan pie, a serving of banana pudding, or a generous helping of peach cobbler topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

THE! BEST! COLLARD! GREENS! RECIPE!!!
I took a chance at making collard greens using this recipe for a year or so go. It was my very first time attempting to make collard greens and it was for Thanksgiving! I know, that was crazy to take on such a family staple in that manner. This was the recipe I used using smoked turkey wings. The family loved it and I’m now in charge of the collard greens for family events.
Clifford

How To Store & Reheat This Collard Greens Recipe

Now that you’ve learned how to make the best southern collard greens recipe (not to brag, but… It is!), you have to learn how to keep its deliciousness for as long as possible. Your best bet is simply transfering them into an airtight container and popping it in the fridge And don’t forget about the pot likker – it’s liquid gold! Store any extra in a separate airtight container to keep it fresh and flavorful.

Reheating your Southern collard greens is a breeze! You’ve got two handy options: the stovetop or the microwave. For the stovetop, just pour the greens and a little pot likker into a pot and warm them over medium heat until heated through. Prefer the microwave? Place the greens in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and heat in short bursts, stirring occasionally, until they’re just right.

How Long Will This Collard Greens Recipe Last In The Fridge?

Stored properly in the fridge, your collard greens will keep their charm for up to 5 days.

Can I freeze Collard greens?

If you want to enjoy your collards at a much later time, freezing is best. I package lots of greens by placing them along with the pot liquor in freezer bags, allowing all air to escape, then freezing. You can keep these bags for up to 3 months at a time.

Just thaw ’em out for a couple of hours in the fridge and then cook (or microwave) over medium heat to bring up to temperature and enjoy them once again!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is pot liquor/pot likker?

In what the internet would term “Black Folks Collard Greens”, pot likker (or pot liquor) is the broth that becomes infused with the flavors in this recipe like fresh onions, garlic, and that smokey, salty ham hock. Nothing else tastes quite like the highly concentrated, full flavored pot likker. I swear, you could drink it by the glass full! Lots of people use this pot likker to flavor other recipes or even make soups.

Can I make this recipe with other leafy greens?

Fo’ sho! You can experiment with other leafy greens like kale, turnip greens, or mustard greens. Just keep in mind that cooking times may vary slightly depending on the toughness of the greens you choose.

Can I leave in the stems?

Yes, you can! They actually pack a good amount of fiber and vitamins. For those who don’t mind a bit of extra texture and are looking to get the most out of their greens, finely chop those stems and toss ’em in with the leaves.

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This Collard Greens Recipe isn’t just about feeding the belly with tender, smoky and savory greens – it’s about warming the soul, Southern style, through and through. Each bite carries the essence of home, the comfort of family, and the unconditional love that only homemade cooking can bring. Here’s to good food, great company, and the kind of recipes that feel like a hug from Big Mama herself. Enjoy, y’all!

This was the best recipe for collards that I have ever found! They were so delicious. I made a gigantic pot and canned them. Thank you!Lisa

More Classic Southern Side Dish Recipes

  • Southern Buttermilk Biscuits (Big Mama’s Recipe!)
  • Southern Hot Water Cornbread Recipe
  • Cheese Grits
  • Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
  • Creamed Corn

*Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating and leave comments below!* Post a photo of how your version of the recipe came out on Instagram (using #grandbabycakes)!!

Southern Collard Greens Recipe (10)

Southern Collard Greens Recipe

These authentic Soul Food Collard Greens are braised in a savory meat flavored and perfectly spiced pot liquor resulting in an amazing tender silky texture.

4.73 from 433 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: soul food, Southern

Prep Time: 30 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours hours 45 minutes minutes

Total Time: 3 hours hours 15 minutes minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Calories: 88kcal

Author: Jocelyn Delk Adams

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 6 small bunches collard greens about 3 – 3 1/2 lbs
  • 1 extra large smoked ham hock make sure it is meaty!
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 tbsp seasoned salt
  • 2 tsp worcheshire sauce
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes you can go down on this to 1/2 teaspoon if you like less heat.
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Instructions

  • Start by pulling and tearing greens away from stems. Take a hand full of greens, roll them up and cut the rolls horizontally into small pieces. We personally remove the stems but this is a personal decision.

  • Next, add greens to empty clean sink and wash them removing all grit, sand and debris thoroughly with cold water until water becomes clear.

  • Next rinse the ham hock very well then add to a large pot along with enough water to fully submerge the ham hock then cover with a lid. Cook over medium high heat for about 45 minutes or until ham hock is near being tender.

  • Once ham hock is almost tender, add greens and about 4-5 additional cups of water (or chicken stock for more flavor) or enough to just barely cover greens to the pot. This will become your pot likker.

  • Add along the rest of the ingredients to the pot and cook while covered for at least 2 hours or until completely tender. Most water should have evaporated by this point just having enough to barely cover the greens.

Video

Notes

  • Keep an Eye on the Greens: You might hear some folks say you can’t overcook collard greens, but take it from me, you sure can. I learned this the hard way when I was just getting the hang of my Big Mama’s recipe. I left those greens on the stove a tad too long, and they turned mushy. They should be soft, but not falling apart!
  • Be Patient: It’s tempting to crank up the heat, I know… But collard greens are a dish that begs for patience. While you can make an easy collard greens recipe by just adding the greens to a sauté pan with some olive oil and cooking until they just begin to tenderize, soul food collard greens need quite some time (2-3 hours) to braise.
  • Don’t Leave the Ham Hock Out: Removing the ham hock once the greens are cooked? That’s like leaving the best part of a song unsung! Once those greens are tender and the ham hock is cooked through, I like to take it out, chop up the meat, and stir it back into the pot. This way, every bite gets a little piece of that smoky, savory goodness.
  • The Right Pot Makes a Difference: Believe it or not, the pot you choose for cooking this collards recipe (a.k.a black folks collard greens recipe!) can have a big impact on the final dish. A heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven is ideal because it distributes heat evenly, preventing those greens from scorching while they simmer away to perfection.

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 936mg | Potassium: 100mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 485IU | Vitamin C: 3.2mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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Southern Collard Greens Recipe (2024)

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