Learn how to cook collard greens the ultimate way, cooked low and slow with bacon, ham, and spices for the most tender greens and to-die-for pot likker. You'll never want them any other way.
Southern Collard Greens Recipe
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?
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.
If you've never tried collards before, or are just not a fan of them, this is the recipe you need to try.
What are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are leafy vegetables known for their dark green leaves and slightly bitter taste. They belong to the same plant family as cabbage and kale.
Collard greens are popular in Southern cuisine in the United States and are rich in vitamins and minerals, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
They are versatile in cooking and can be sautéed, braised, steamed, or boiled, often seasoned with ingredients like garlic, onions, and bacon.
Let's talk about how to make collard greens, shall we?
Southern Collard Greens Ingredients
- Collard Greens. Yes, you need fresh collard greens to make collard greens! You can usually find them in the grocery store produce section.
- Bacon. I love smoked bacon for my collard greens.
- Smoked Ham. Extra flavor and meatiness. Ham hocks are wonderful here, too. I love collard greens with ham hocks.
- 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.
How to Make Collard Greens - the Recipe Method
Rinse and Trim the Collard Greens. Thoroughly clean the collard greens to remove any grit. Trim them into ribbons, remove the stems, and set aside in a large bowl.
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.
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.
Cook the Onions, Peppers, Ham and Garlic. Add the onion and peppers (with a little olive oil, if needed - you should have plenty of bacon grease in the pan).
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring here and there, until softened.
Add garlic and ham. Cook for 1 minute.
Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the chicken stock or chicken broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, chili flakes, salt and pepper, hot sauce.
Add the greens to the pot.
Simmer the Collard Greens. Reduce heat, cover and cook the collard greens for 1 hour, then taste for tenderness. Some people like to cook for 2 hours, and some for 3 hours for super tender collard greens.
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 slow cooking the collard greens, 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 greens 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 sometimes prefer to simmer my collard greens for the whole 3 hours, but they are nice and tender with a bit of bite after 1-2 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 leafy 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. Serve this up with fried chicken!
Storage and Leftover Collard Greens
You can store your leftover collard greens in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Use them to enhance soups, sandwiches, wraps and more.
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!
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!
- The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories (affiliate link, my friends!)
- North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time, by Bob Gardner (affiliate link, my friends!)
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.
Southern Collard Greens Recipe (How to Cook Collard Greens)
- 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
- 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 1-2 hours, or until done to your desired tenderness. You can simmer up to 3 hours for VERY tender collard greens.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 12/15/23 to include new information, photos, and video. It was originally published on 10/6/21.