No vegetable says comfort food quite like Southern Collard Greens. Thanks to a slow-simmering braise in a savory, smoky broth, collard greens are infused with all the porky goodness of a ham hock, and like magic, transform from tough and bitter into buttery, silky bites of veggie heaven.
Looking for more Southern sides to add to your recipe lineup? Bookmark these quick and easy Butter Beans for next time!
HOW TO COOK COLLARD GREENS
- Make the Broth – Add the ham hocks (or bacon), spices, and water to a large pot and allow it to boil for an hour and a half.
- Prep the Greens – While the broth is simmering, clean the collard greens and cut them into strips. You could also use prepared greens from a bag.
- Braise the Greens – Add the greens, sugar, butter, and hot sauce to the pot and simmer for one hour.
- Shred the Ham and Serve! – Remove the ham hocks and once they are cool enough to handle, shred them, and add them back to the pot. Serve and enjoy!
Collard Greens | This recipe calls for one bunch of collard greens, however, you can certainly fit two bunches in the pot if you’re feeding a crowd and need to have extra on hand! You don’t need to change anything about the recipe if you add extra greens to the pot.
Using greens from a bag? That’s ok. It’s definitely a time-saver in the prep department! You will need 2 (1-pound) bags of prepared collard greens.
Ham Hocks | Ham hocks are smoky, salty, and all things porky. To say they’re loaded with flavor would be a massive understatement, and it’s for this reason, they’re our number one choice for adding flavor to the cooking liquid for Southern Collard Greens!
If you have bacon on hand and prefer to use that, you certainly can. Feel free to sub in 8 strips of chopped, thick-cut bacon for the ham hocks in this recipe.
Seasoning | The seasoning mix for this Southern Collard Greens Recipe is a simple blend of Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
Brown Sugar | Collard greens are bitter by nature. A little brown sugar helps to balance out the bitterness, and the molasses from the brown sugar pairs well with the smoked ham hock and adds depth of flavor.
Butter | Adding a little butter to the pot as the greens finish cooking adds a richness to the dish, and again, aids in balancing out those bitter notes!
Hot Sauce | Southern Collard Greens are very savory. Sure, hot sauce adds a little heat, but most importantly, it breaks up all that savory with a vinegary finish. It’s the perfect ending to the perfect pot of greens!
THE HISTORY OF SOUTHERN COLLARD GREENS
Southern Collard Greens are considered soul food, which is food that is traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans in the South. This style of cooking originated with Africans enslaved on Southern plantations.
There weren’t many vegetables slaves were allowed to grow and harvest for themselves, but collard greens was one of them. The tradition of cooking greens until soft and buttery in a broth called “pot liquor” is entirely due to African Americans passing down their recipes from generation to the next.
ALL ABOUT COLLARD GREENS
Collard greens belong to the cabbage family, along with kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and the like. The flavor is very similar to kale, although milder.
It is a hearty vegetable with an earthy, bitter flavor that mellows out when cooked in the Southern tradition — a slow-simmering braise, paired with savory, fatty ingredients like a ham hock or bacon grease.
Collard greens have large, dark green leaves with a thick stem, and come fully packed with nutrients, fiber, and vitamins. They could easily be confused with turnip greens at first glance, although turnip greens are lighter in color and not quite as coarse in texture.
Look for collard greens with firm, vibrantly colored leaves, and avoid those with any brown or yellow discoloration if possible.
Once purchased, you can count on them keeping in the refrigerator for about four days.
HOW TO CLEAN THEM
Take the time to rinse each leaf under cool, running water to ensure there is no sand or grit clinging to the greens. You could also fill a large bowl with cold water and submerge the leaves several times to clean them.
HOW TO CUT THEM
- On a large cutting board, stack 4-6 collard green leaves that are similar in size on top of one another.
- Use a paring knife to remove the stem.
- Then, roll the leaves into a bundle and cut them crosswise into strips about one inch in thickness.
CAN YOU EAT THE STEMS?
If you prefer to leave the stems intact, feel free to do so. Although they are fibrous and hard, they are still edible.
HOW LONG DO THEY TAKE TO COOK?
Southern Collard Greens take about one hour to cook and before they become tender. However, there is typically a broth that is prepared before the greens go in. The broth takes about an hour and a half to develop enough flavor, making the total cook time two and a half hours.
CAN YOU FREEZE THEM?
Yes! To freeze greens, wait until they have cooled to room temperature and then transfer them to a freezer-safe, zip-top bag, along with a cup or two of the cooking liquid. The amount of liquid you add to the bag is dependent on how much leftover you have.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SOUTHERN COLLARD GREENS
You can serve these greens alongside just about any pork or chicken dish and have a full-blown dinnertime win on your hands!
6 MORE SOUTHERN SIDES YOU’LL LOVE
- Fried Okra
- Creamed Corn
- Buttermilk Biscuits
- Yellow Squash Casserole
- Easy Fried Green Tomatoes
- Green Beans with Tomatoes and Bacon
How to cook the best Southern Collard Greens with a simple mix of spices, smoked ham hock, brown sugar, and butter! First, make the broth, then add the greens and slowly simmer until the greens are rich with flavor, buttery soft and silky in texture.
- 1 pound (1-2) ham hocks
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 large bunch collard greens washed thoroughly,
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 dashes hot sauce
Add the ham hocks and spices to a large pot with about 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, with the lid slightly ajar, for 1 1/2 hour.
Rinse the collard greens clean of any dirt or grit, and use a knife to remove the stems that run down the center. Stack about 6 leaves on top of one another, roll, and slice into 1" strips. Continue until all of the greens are chopped.
Add the greens, brown sugar, butter, and hot sauce to the pot and stir until the butter is melted. Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the ham hocks with a slotted spoon and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and shred any meat still clinging to the bone and return to the pot. Discard of the bone or save for another use. Serve and enjoy!