Southern Collard Greens Recipe (2024)

An authentic Southern Collard Greens recipe that is amazing for any occasion! Fresh collard greens are broken down into bite-sized pieces that slowly simmer away and tenderize in a rich, meaty, and flavorful broth; better known as the pot likker. This staple among Southern cuisine and Black culture is an absolute must to be had!

Southern Collard Greens Recipe (1)

Collard greens have such history and significance within America’s culinary traditions; these greens date back hundreds of years. Additionally, they’ve been a part of Black culture for probably longer than I’m even aware of.

Listen, I’ve seen how collard greens have become gentrified. The wellness industry and other food outlets often leave out African Americans’ stamp on these here greens. They are an important part of Black culinary heritage. Southern collard greens are not just a recipe, they’re at best, an honored tradition. A timeless piece of Black history.

What Is The History Of Collard Greens? ✊🏾

Oddly enough, collard greens originated near Greece. Yup, evidence shows Greeks and Romans aided in the cultivation of collards and kale. However, it wasn’t until the early 1600s that collards became known in the States. They were already being grown in a lot of Southern colonies and areas. In addition, these greens are almost exclusively grown in the South.

During the years that African Americans were under enslavement, collard greens were among the only vegetables that we could grow and harvest to feed our families. Consequently, it was enslaved Black people that made Southern collard greens gain popularity. Moreover, how *we* would transform these large, dark, leafy greens into something magical; would be known as one of America’s greatest culinary contributions today.

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What Is The Pot Likker/Pot Liquor?

Enslaved Africans took these collard greens and prepared them in such a unique way. The method consisted of slow cooking collard greens in a rich and flavorful thin-like gravy or brothy liquid gold known as pot likker. The pot likker is found within elements such as onion, garlic, smoked ham hocks, chicken stock, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, and more! With this rich + savory pot likker, collard greens go from bland/bitter to downright delicious, to put it mildly.

How Are Collard Greens Sourced?

My favorite way to get my hands on these big leafy greens is via the good ole farmers market. If you can source them this way, you’ll find that they are likely at their freshest state and super vibrant in color. However, I know that farmers’ markets are not easily accessible to everyone. And they aren’t always convenient. Alternatively, you can get a nice-sized bunch of them at your local grocery store in the produce area. Look for your collard greens to be somewhat limp and not so tough and also have good color. It’ll seem like a lot, but like spinach, the greens wilt down- sooo very much!

Collards and cornbread,

communion meal of

daily resurrection.

I ate the survival leaf as I stood at

the field’s edge, soaking its cure through pores

and spirit.

*poem by Aneb Kgositsile found in The African American Heritage Cookbook: Traditional Recipes & Fond Remembrances From Alabama’s Renowned Tuskegee Institute
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Cleaning Collard Greens:

Since greens may come with grit/dirt (and sometimes little bugs) on them, thoroughly washing them clean is super important! Make sure your kitchen sink is clean and then fill it with cool water. Add the greens in with a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Stir the greens around with your hand to help release the grit. You should see any grit go to the bottom of the sink. Let the collard greens sit in the sink for a few minutes. Then rinse water and repeat at least three times.

Notes On Removing The Stem/Slicing Greens:

De-stemming the greens is fairly easy. Two ways: Hold the collard leaf stem with one hand and with the other hand simply pull the leaf away from the stem. Alternatively, use a paring knife to slice the stem out. Then repeat this process until all leaves have stems removed. In contrast, if you prefer your greens with the stems you could skip this step altogether. To slice the greens, take a leaf and roll it up tightly together. Next, using a sharp knife, cut collard greens into bite-sized pieces. Repeat the process until all greens are chopped up.

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Let’s Talk About Meat: Can I Use A Substitute?

These southern collard greens get a huge bulk of their flavor from the meat that they’re braised in. Traditionally, smoked ham hocks yield a great depth of flavor. The saltiness, the smokiness, and the overall flavor can’t be beat. However, if you are not a fan of using pork products, smoked turkey wings or neck bones work great, too! As long as the meat you’re using is smoked & cooked, it’ll achieve the flavor profile that southern collard greens should have.

What makes this recipe Southern? These collard greens have big, bold flavor! There’s no watered-down, unseasoned nonsense going on here…I’m just being straight up with ya. Authentic greens that are rich, flavor-filled, and hearty. When it comes to the best collard greens, this recipe is the ONE!

Storing Collard Greens & Reheating:

For refrigeration: Make sure the greens have cooled down to room temperature first. Then store the greens inside an airtight container, and it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, simply cook on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through. Alternatively, heat in the microwave until warmed through.

For freezing: Make sure the greens have cooled down to room temperature first. Then transfer the greens into an airtight container or a large freezer-safe plastic bag that’ll lay flat. I like to label the greens with the date made for safekeeping. Keep the greens stored in the freezer and it will keep for up to 4 months. When ready, thaw the collard greens in the fridge overnight. To reheat, simply cook on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through. Alternatively, heat in the microwave until warmed through.

More Southern-Inspired Recipes:

  • Real Deal Southern Green Beans
  • Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
  • Gullah Red Rice
  • Smothered Pork Chops
  • Classic Southern Potato Salad
  • Sweet Potato Pie
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Can I Use Store-Bought Bagged Collard Greens?

You can use whatever your heart desires or what’s more convenient for you. As for me and my greens, much like my ancestors, I prefer to make my collard greens scratch-made. That is, buying fresh collard green leaves and breaking them down myself. ⇢ Please feel free to make yours using bagged/pre-chopped greens (often sold in the produce area of the grocery store) if you like. If opting for bagged greens, I would just make sure they’re pre-washed or soak them yourself for good measure before cooking with.

What Can I Serve With These Southern Collard Greens?

The better question is what can’t you serve with these southern collard greens, peeps! Ha. Traditionally, and probably my favorite; greens paired with cornbread is the ultimate way. And a word to the wise, go on and sop up some of that cornbread in the pot likker juices. Yeahhhh. Southern collard greens can also be eaten with candied yams, too! All in all, serving them alongside your main dishes for an ultimate meal, is one of the most popular ways.

While collard greens are a common staple at holiday dinner tables, these greens are truly great any time of the year. Additionally, greens are best prepared ahead of time, before the day you intend to serve them for best results. Consequently, as they sit and absorb the pot likker, the flavor deepens and gets better!

Collard Greens & Southern Traditions

For years and years, specifically in the South; eating collard greens on New Year’s Day is a symbol of calling in good fortune (green) for a financially prosperous year. Furthermore, combining your southern collard greens with black-eyed peas represents good luck as well. I eat my peas, greens, and buttermilk cornbread (which represents gold) almost every single year, y’all. It’s a time-honored, Southern tradition that dates back to centuries.

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Why This Southern Collard Greens Recipe Works (& Why You’ll Love It!) ♡

Here’s why you’ll get hype for these collard greens, friends:

  1. Flavorrr on flava…There’s tons of flavor-filled, heartwarming goodness found here that you will enjoy. A rich and robust pot likker (broth) with tenderly braised greens and hearty pieces of smoked meat, swoon.
  2. Connection to culture…The process of making collard greens is really a true labor of love filled with cultural flair. And you will surely find a big pot of these greens at just about every Black event/function, too. They are every true Southerners favorite and a side dish that just simply does not miss.
  3. So versatile…Whether you eat them on their own or alongside a main entree, you’re in for a treat. In my opinion, there’s no set time of day to devour some collard greens. I’ve eaten them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To me, southern collard greens signify pure comfort.
  4. Holiday staple…Collard greens are a must for nearly any kind of holiday get-togethers in my family. They’re often on the table to be served up for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Easter Sunday, and other holiday-centered celebrations or family reunions.
  5. Fan-favorite & magazine-featured…I’m happy to share this recipe with y’all, gahhh. Tooting my own horn for a hot millisecond: my greens have been magazine-featured (Taste of the South Magazine, Oct. 2020 issue) and also continue to receive rave reviews. You can feel confident to lean on my collard greens recipe to be on your table at home ♡


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Southern Collard Greens Recipe

5 Stars4 Stars3 Stars2 Stars1 Star4.9 from 47 reviews

  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Southern
Print Recipe


An authentic Southern Collard Greens recipe that is amazing for any occasion! Fresh collard greens broken down into bite-sized pieces that slowly simmer away and tenderize in a rich, meaty, and flavorful broth; better known as the pot likker. This staple among Southern cuisine and Black culture is an absolute must to be had!



  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 lbs smoked meat, such as ham hocks or turkey wings
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 68 cups chicken stock or broth, to preference
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 lbs collard greens- cleaned, stems removed, & then chopped into bite-sized pieces


  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, gently swirl the pot to evenly coat the bottom. Add in the smoked ham hocks/turkey wings and cook until a golden brown sear appears, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  2. Add in the chopped onion and sauté with the meat, stirring often, until the onions soften and become tender, about 4-5 minutes. Then add in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt/pepper-to taste, 6 cups of stock/broth, and hot sauce, and stir everything well to fully combine.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot with a lid. Let the mixture simmer together for 1 hour, undisturbed. After simmering, the smoked meat should be falling apart, and very tender.
  4. Carefully remove the meat from the pot and set aside to cool down for a few minutes before handling. Then use a fork or your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to tear the meat off the bones. Discard the bones along with any excess fatty parts and add the pieces of meat back into the pot.
  5. Add in the sugar, vinegar, and collard greens. Stir well to combine all ingredients. It may seem like a lot of greens but the greens will wilt down significantly. If you see that some of the liquid has evaporated from the first braise, add about 1-2 cups more stock/broth to replenish the pot, as you see that it’s needed and to personal preference (for more brothy liquid gold aka pot likker).
  6. Cover the pot with a lid and let the greens braise over medium-low heat for at least another 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  7. Taste the collard greens and adjust the seasoning to your preference with more salt/pepper and/or hot sauce, as desired. Serve these greens warm, as-is or alongside your favorite main dishes. Enjoy!


  1. For best recipe success, please read the blog post & notes in its entirety with video tutorial before beginning.
  2. Storing & reheating greens: See blog post for complete notes on proper refrigeration and freezing of collard greens.
Southern Collard Greens Recipe (2024)


How do you make Patti Labelle collard greens? ›

Add the collard greens, chicken stock, onions, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt. Mix in the smoked turkey. Turn the heat to low and cook, covered, until the greens are tender but not too soft, 35 minutes.

Why do you put vinegar in collard greens? ›

This might seem like an unusual addition if you're new to making collard greens, but the vinegar adds a welcome tangy note that brightens the dish and balances out the salty, savory flavors. A tablespoon of sugar also helps balance out the greens' potential bitterness.

What takes the bitterness out of collards? ›

The foods that help reduce bitterness are: Salt while cooking and/or while eating (like on bitter salad greens) Sweet or Spicy. Sour or Acids like lemon or vinegar.

Should collards be soaked before cooking? ›

Prep The Collard Greens

Let the collard greens soak for 15-20 minutes, giving them a scrub midway. Drain the water and refill with plain water and allow the greens to soak again if needed. Repeat as many times as needed until the water is free from any dirt or grit. After the final soak, drain the water.

How to cook collard greens Martha Stewart? ›

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the garlic in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add greens, and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in stock, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the zest, and cover. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Why put baking soda in collard greens? ›

Baking soda has infinite uses in cooking and beyond: It's a leavening agent, an odor neutralizer, and an antacid to name a few. In the case of collard greens, baking soda's utility is threefold, serving as a flavor enhancer, a tenderizer, and a color protector.

What kills the bitterness of greens? ›

Blanch Them

Blanching your greens is key to getting that bitterness level down. Because glucosinolates are water-soluble compounds, a lot of them are leached out into the water, allowing for a less bitter green.

How long do you soak collard greens before cooking? ›

Hint: If you do not want to go through the cleaning process above, soak the entire bunch of leaves in salt water for about 30 minutes then rinse the greens in running water for about 3 minutes before cooking fresh collards.

Do you have to soak bagged collard greens? ›

The best way to clean collard greens is to soak them. Clean out your sink basin, then plug it and fill it to the top with cold water. Let the collards soak in that water for ten to fifteen minutes.

Can you overcook collard greens? ›

It is important to not overcook collard greens or kale, as they tend to give off a sulfur smell and taste bitter. Cut the leaves into one-half inch strips and steam for 5 minutes on the stove. Collard greens make a great addition to eggs and bean soup or can be served alone as a steamed vegetable with a dressing.

Why are my collard greens mushy? ›

Yes you can overcook collard greens. If cooked too long, they turn mushy, not so much the stalks, but the thinner leaves.

Why are my collard greens bitter after cooking? ›

The chemicals that give collard greens that distinctive bitter taste are called glucosinolates. If you blanch the greens, some of those compounds will be released into the water. First, separate the leaves from the stems.

Can you put too much water in collard greens? ›

Make sure you let the water drain out of you collard greens as much as possible. Too much water in your pot will ruin your greens.

What is the best meat for collard greens? ›

The most authentic collard greens, in my opinion, are made with smoked ham hocks or bacon. But, as time has passed, society has gotten more health conscious. So, many families began using alternatives such as smoked turkey necks, wings, and tails.

Do you eat the stems of collard greens? ›

Why: Most collard recipes call to discard the stems because they're so fibrous, but if you chop them small, they will cook just like the leafy greens. The finished dish is just as delicious and a lot thriftier than traditional collard greens, and the pleasantly-supple stems give these greens a distinctive bite.

Do you put baking soda or baking powder in collard greens? ›

Add about 1/8 cup of vinegar per pot of greens. Add a dash of baking soda to cut gas and keep green... I use about 1/4 cup of the broth and lay the hamhock and whole hot pepper laid on top.

How are the greens to be cooked? ›

How to Prepare Cooking Greens
  1. Prep the Greens. Wash 12 ounces of greens in cold water. Drain well in a colander. Remove the stems by cutting them away with a sharp knife. ...
  2. Cook the Greens. Bring a small amount of lightly salted water to boiling in a Dutch oven. Add the greens. Cover the pan and cook until tender.
Dec 18, 2023

What is the best way to cook canned collard greens? ›

Canned collard greens are already cooked to some extent, so they require less cooking time compared to fresh collard greens. Typically, simmering them for about 20-30 minutes is sufficient to allow the flavors to blend and the greens to become tender.

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