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6 October 2021

This southern collard greens recipe makes the best collard greens I’ve ever had, with lots of bacon and smoked ham, simmered low and slow until so tender. You’ll never want them any other way.

We’re cooking up a big batch of collard greens in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen tonight, my friends. Are you a fan of collard greens?

I did not grow up on collards, or any other type of greens for that matter. I grew up in the North, mostly around Chicago, and my mother never cooked them.

It wasn’t until after I married and we began traveling south that I encountered collard greens and instantly fell in love with them. Talk about delicious. I’ve been making them in different ways ever since.

Now that I live in the South, I see collard greens on menus everywhere I go. Collards are a staple in southern cooking. You can easily cook them up in a pan with bacon, onion and peppers to soften them up, more of a sauté, and they’re absolutely delicious that way.

However, southern style collard greens are something special. With Southern Collard Greens, the greens are treated more like a tough cut of meat, simmered low and slow until they are wonderfully tender and loaded with flavor. The greens are so perfect, and the resulting pot liquor is to die for.

If you’ve never tried collards before, or are just not a fan of them, this is the recipe you need to try. This really is the best collard greens recipe out there. 

Give it a go. I think you’ll fall in love with them just the way I did.

Let’s talk about how we make collard greens, shall we?

Southern Collard Greens on a spoon

Southern Collard Greens Ingredients

  • Collard Greens. Yes, you need collard greens to make collard greens!
  • Bacon. I love smoked bacon for my collard greens.
  • Smoked Ham. Extra flavor and meatiness. Ham hocks are wonderful here, too.
  • Vegetables. Onion, jalapeno peppers (or use milder peppers, or hotter!), garlic. Peppers are not traditional when making southern collards, but I just love them, as you may have already discovered.
  • Chicken Stock. Chicken broth is great, or use vegetable stock.
  • Liquids. Apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey for a touch of sweet, hot sauce. 
  • Seasonings. Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. You can use others to your preference.

Southern Collard Greens in a bowl

How to Make Collard Greens – the Recipe Method

Rinse and Trim the Collard Greens. Thoroughly rinse and wash the collard greens to remove any grit. Trim the collard greens into ribbons and set aside.

Collards can be pretty gritty and have lots of dirt clinging to them, so the rinsing and cleaning step is very important. You’ll notice if any of the grit gets into the pot. It isn’t pleasant.

Rinsed Collard Greens in a bowl

Cook the Bacon. Heat a large pot to medium heat and add the bacon. Cook for 10 minutes, or until they begin to crisp up.

Cooking bacon in the pot

Cook the Onions, Peppers, Ham and Garlic. Add the onion and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring here and there, until softened. Add garlic and ham. Cook for 1 minute.

Cooking ham and vegetables in a pot

Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the chicken stock or chicken broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, chili flakes, salt and pepper, hot sauce. Add collard greens.

Simmer the Collard Greens. Reduce heat, cover and cook the collard greens for 2-3 hours, or until done to your desired tenderness. Slow cooked collard greens are the best.

Collard Greens in a pot

Boom! Done! You collard greens are ready to serve. They look so good, don’t they? Sprinkle on the red pepper flakes, maybe a couple splashes of hot sauce. So good! Such a great side dish.

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • About the Pot Liquor (or Pot Likker). After cooking the collard greens low and slow this way, you’ll notice the color of the liquid in the pot has darkened and taken on the wonderful flavor of the collards and other ingredients. This liquid is called “collard liquor” or “pot liquor”, or “pot likker”, and it is delicious. Pot liquor is essentially the liquid remaining from simmering any type of greens or beans. It is enriched with many nutrients from the cooking process. You can enhance the flavor with smoked meats and seasonings, making it not only good for you, but extra tasty, as we’ve done here.
  • Cooking Time. I usually simmer my collard greens for the whole 3 hours, but they are nice and tender with a bit of bite after 2 hours. Just cook to your preference. You can get away with a stronger simmer for 45 minutes, but much will depend on the collard greens themselves, whether or not your particular batch wants to soften up enough for you.
  • Other Greens. You can definitely use other greens for this recipe. Consider mustard greens, kale, beet greens, dandelion greens or other green leaves. You may need to adjust your simmering time.
  • Meat Options. Pork is most often used, like bacon and ham. Ham hocks are very popular and add lots of flavor. Smoked turkey is also a nice addition or substitute. You can realistically use any of your favorite meats.

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my southern collard greens recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!

Collard Greens simmering in a pot

Cookbook Recommendations

If you’re interested in southern cooking and cuisine, check out these cookbooks for some great southern recipes and history. I’m learning quite a lot about southern food and barbecue from them. Definitely some great eating!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Southern Collard Greens in a bowl, ready to serve

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Collard Greens Recipe

This southern collard greens recipe makes the best collard greens I've ever had, with lots of bacon and smoked ham, simmered low and slow until so tender. You'll never want them any other way.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bacon, greens, ham
Servings: 12
Calories: 333kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of collard greens about 3 pounds
  • 1 pound bacon chopped (smoked bacon is ideal)
  • 1 large white onion chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers chopped - optional (use milder peppers for less heat)
  • 1 pound smoked ham chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced (or more to taste)
  • 12 cups chicken stock 3 quarts
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey or use sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste I use 1 tsp each
  • Hot sauce to taste a few dashes will do - use your favorite hot sauce

Instructions

  • Thoroughly rinse and wash the collard greens to remove any grit. Trim the collard greens into ribbons and set aside.
  • Heat a large pot to medium heat and add the bacon. Cook for 10 minutes, or until they begin to crisp up.
  • Add the onion and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring here and there, until softened.
  • Add the ham and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the chicken stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, chili flakes, salt and pepper, hot sauce, and reserved collard greens.
  • Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until done to your desired tenderness.
  • Serve.

Notes

I usually simmer my collard greens for the whole 3 hours, but they are nice and tender with a bit of bite after 2 hours. Just cook to your preference.
Peppers are not traditionally used in most recipes, but I love them and add lots of them in for my own tastes.

Nutrition

Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 1089mg | Potassium: 716mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 5789IU | Vitamin C: 44mg | Calcium: 283mg | Iron: 2mg