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!

southern collard greens in small white bowl with piece of corn bread on top

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

Listen, I’ve seen how collard greens have basically 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 actually 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, the way in which *we* would transform these large, dark, leafy greens into something magical; would be known as one of America’s greatest culinary contributions today.

southern collard greens in large white pot with brown ladle

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 stock known as pot likker. The pot likker is commonly 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
collard greens in small white bowl on top of yellow linen

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 bottom of 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. Hold the collard leaf stem with one hand and with the other hand simply pull leaf away from stem. 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 process until all greens are chopped up.

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 such 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!

More Southern-Inspired Recipes:

southern collard greens in large white pot with brown serving spoon and pieces of cornbread on the side

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 most favorite; greens paired with cornbread is the ultimate way. And 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 macaroni and cheese, 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 anytime 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 (represents gold) almost every single year, y’all. It’s a time-honored, Southern tradition that dates back to centuries.

close up shot of southern style collard greens

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. 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 in small white bowl with piece of corn bread on top

Southern Collard Greens Recipe

  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Cook Time: 2hr
  • Total Time: 2 hr 20m
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Braise
  • Cuisine: Southern

Description

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!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons oil, olive/canola/vegetable
  • 2 large smoked ham hocks (or 2 lbs of alternate smoked meat)
  • 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
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken stock, plus more as needed
  • 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

Instructions

  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 ham hocks/alternate smoked meat 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, stock, 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, 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 together. 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 1/4 cup more stock to replenish the pot, as you see that it’s needed.
  6. Cover the pot with lid and allow the greens to braise together over medium-low heat for at least another 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Taste the collard greens and adjusting seasoning to preference with more salt/pepper and/or hot sauce, if desired. Serve these greens warm, as-is or alongside your favorite main dishes. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. For best recipe success, please read the blog post & notes in its entirety with video tutorial before beginning.
  2. Store leftover greens inside of an airtight container. These collard greens will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Keywords: collard greens, southern collard greens, collard greens recipe, southern food, southern recipes