How to Cook Collard Greens Without Meat

by Lori A. Selke

Collard greens, long a Southern specialty, are traditionally braised with a bit of ham or bacon to enhance their flavor. The result is a soupy, smoky side dish that pairs well with cornbread and just about any kind of main dish, from Thanksgiving turkey to summer barbecue. But it's just as easy to omit the pig parts and still achieve a tasty vegetarian version of this classic dish.

Remove the tough stems from the washed collard greens and slice into long, thin ribbons.

Fill a large bowl full of ice and water and set aside.

Bring a large stockpot of water to boil over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt. When it is boiling, add the collards. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove the collards from the boiling water and plunge into the bowl of ice water. This step, called "shocking," stops the collards from cooking and helps preserve their bright green color. Drain the collards.

Heat a small amount of cooking oil -- olive oil is fine -- in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of chopped or slivered garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the drained collards to the skillet and salt to taste. Saute for a minute or two more.

Add the smoked paprika and saute until combined. Your collards should still be bright green at this point; they are now ready to serve.


  • You can also simply simmer the collard greens in vegetable stock until tender. The color will be muddier. Finish with smoked paprika and a dash of apple cider vinegar.

    If you don't mind the heat, you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the garlic in the sauteeing step.

Photo Credits

  • Kari Sutton/Demand Media

About the Author

Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.