How to Cook Southern-Style Collard Greens

by Denise Schoonhoven

Southern-style collard greens on a plate with pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cornbread.

Warren Price/iStock/Getty Images

Keep the practice of including leafy green vegetables in your diet interesting by cooking up a pot of collard greens. Collards, a member of the cabbage family and closely related to kale, are rich in vitamins C and K, beta-carotene and calcium. Add smoked pork products, aromatic vegetables and a splash of acidic liquid to the greens and you have the makings of a classic down-home, Southern-style side dish. Widely available throughout the southern states where collard plants thrive in the extended growing season, fresh collard greens may be found elsewhere at specialty grocers and farmers markets.

Cut the tough stem off the bottom of the collard leaves. Swish the trimmed leaves, two or three at a time, in a large, deep bowl of cool water to rinse off sand and grit. Dump the bowl of water frequently and refill it with water. Repeat the rinsing process on all the leaves until there is no longer any sign of debris in the water.

Chop the collard greens in 1-inch wide strips, cutting across the width of the leaves so that each piece has a section of the leaf's center vein in the middle.

Dice the onion into small, 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces. Smash the garlic cloves and chop them repeatedly until they are finely minced.

Cut the smoked bacon strips into 1-inch pieces. Chop the smoked ham into 1/2- to 1-inch size pieces.

Drop the bacon pieces into a heavy cooking pot set on medium heat. Stir the pieces once a minute as they cook for eight to 10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the remaining meat is starting to develop light brown coloring.

Stir the chopped onion into the pot with the bacon and cook for another four to five minutes or until the onion is soft.

Add the ham pieces and the minced garlic to the pot. Stir the mixture as it cooks for a minute or two and barely begins to sizzle.

Place the chopped collard greens, 3 cups of chicken broth and the 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar in the pot. Stir until the meat and aromatic vegetables are evenly distributed through the mixture.

Cook the collard greens on a low simmer -- just lightly bubbling, but not boiling – for 1 1/2 hours if you used young, small collard leaves or 2 hours for large, more mature leaves. Stir the greens occasionally and add 1/2 to 1 cup additional chicken broth part way through cooking, if necessary, to maintain a soupy consistency.


  • You may replace the bacon and ham with smoked turkey meat for a lighter version of Southern-style collard greens. Saute the onion lightly in 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil instead of in the bacon fat. Add a dash of hot pepper sauce with the chicken broth to add a spicy zing to the dish.

Photo Credits

  • Warren Price/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Denise Schoonhoven has worked in the fields of acoustics, biomedical products, electric cable heating and marketing communications. She studied at Newbold College and Middlesex Polytechnic in the UK, and Walla Walla University. A writer since 2008, Schoonhoven is a seasoned business traveler, solo tourist, gardener and home renovator.