Southern Style Collard Greens

While you can make this recipe with chard, kale, turnip or mustard greens, they cook much more quickly than collards, so cut the cooking time to 30 minutes.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish


  • 2 Tbsp bacon fat, lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced from root to tip
  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 8-10 cups chopped collard greens, about 2 pounds
  • Vinegar and hot sauce to taste


1 Heat the bacon fat in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat, stirring often, until the edges begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ham hock, smashed garlic, chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

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2 Add the collard greens to the pot and cook until tender, another 45 minutes to an hour.

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3 To serve, fish out the ham hock, pull the meat off the bones and chop. Mix the meat back with the greens and serve with vinegar and hot sauce at the table.

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  • Cindy

    Don’t forget the corn bread…and not that junk made from Jiffy Mix. I’m talking about corn bread made from corn meal, flour, shortening, egg and milk. (and a little buttermilk). THAT is Southern! I have left over collards in my freezer right now that I’m saving for a special dinner. Oh! And I’m from North Carolina so I would know about these things.

    • Teresa

      Amen, Cindy!!

      • Ruth

        Yes ma’am! I don’t remember my Grandma, from Alabama, ever using garlic or onion, in her collards, but it sounds good. I might have to try this next time I make a mess of green’s. Oh & we use White Lily buttermilk corn meal & flour, for cornbread & biscuits.

    • Lee

      I agree, Cindy! Oh, man, I really shouldn’t read this when I’m hungry…

    • Allen Henson

      make sure the cornbread is made with Martha White’s white corn meal. no sugar, the northern style is really called johnny cake

  • Jan

    I have long wanted to try collard greens but have never seen them in any store here in Victoria BC. Are they similar to kale?

    • Sherry

      Jan they are SO easy to grow. They love cool weather and you can even grow them in a large pot. Look for seeds online at any seed company. You can cut the whole plant or just pull off the outside leaves. They are biennial so if you let some stay over the winter and flower you will have more seeds than you will ever want. I am so cooking this tomorrow!

    • Lee

      Jan, while home made is best Glory brand is one of the better canned options. Amazon (US) sells Glory Brand but I didn’t see it on

    • Fred

      Yes, you could say they’re similar to kale, but collard leaves are more flat. And Sherry is right, they’re easy to grow and do very well in cool weather. In fact, here in Alabama and Georgia many people grow them in the fall to have for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. They’re wonderful with good, greasy buttermilk cornbread that is made in an iron skillet and hot pepper sauce.

  • Lola LB

    I think kale is a milder version of collard greens. These don’t need to be cooked as long as collards. Collards . . . yummy. Grew up with this.

  • Andrea

    Collards are much thicker and waxier than kale, which is why they can’t just be sauteed. The uncooked consistency is kind of like a thick leaf of cabbage but it’s completely different when cooked.

    • Hank Shaw

      Exactly. They are similar, but not very. Collards really need that long simmering to be good.

      • Lee

        Here in the deep south you have left out one of the favorite way people like to eat Collards. One of the most popular ways I have ever seen in my 54 years as a chef here in North Carolina and as far down as Florida is fried. This merely requires one to boil the carefully cleaned and deribbed Collard leaves down with the Ham hock or bacon until tender. Remove the meat from the pot and then drain the collards (saving the pot liquor) Now you chop them and put them back in the pot and fry them in a bacon rendering until they turn really dark Then add your deboned ham hock back in with some hot pepper vinegar and some pf the pot liquor. Salt and pepper to taste. Always with Corn Bread. Most popular side dishes served with Collards, Southern Fried Chicken and Buttermilk whipped mashed Potatoes. Now thats Collards!!!!

  • Susan

    The first time I had collard greens, southern style, was at a pot luck at work. They were out of this world. The cook used juices rendered from cooking ribs that were seasoned and wrapped in foil and baked in the oven before finishing the ribs on the grill with bbq sauce. She drained the juices from the foil into the collards cooking water along with the hock and onions. What a flavor boost!

  • Lisa

    This Southern gal needs some collards, stat, with lots of vinegar, hold the hot sauce! And by all means, sop up that pot liquor with real (not sweet!) cornbread!!! Pass a plate of fresh sliced cukes, maters and scallions too, and that’s a heavenly meal right there!

    • Sherri

      Dang girl! A plate of cukes, maters and scallions? If you had added a stack of white bread and a mess of fried chicken, it would have sounded jes like supper at my grandma’s house. YUM!!!

  • A. G. Wright

    Jan I have a brother that is in the Vancouver area and says he can’t find collards or even turnip greens there. Evidently the farmers just don’t pick the greens or grow collards.
    One more thing. Here in Arkansas they are almost always eaten with pepper sauce, which is a sort of pickled pepper but the vinegar is what is used on the greens.

  • Erin James

    Outstanding recipe. That is the only way to cook collards!

  • zh

    Around thanksgiving time, the grocery stores sell smoked turkey necks which you can put in instead of ham hock. They give the collards a really intense smoky flavor. Yum!

  • Cassie

    Wow all of the comments are really hitting home!! If I made some cornbread, what could I add to this to make it more of a soup and thicken it up for a good rick family meal?

    • Carolie

      Cassie, I saute some onion in a little bacon fat (or oil), then add a bunch of water, a ham hock, and chopped collards. I simmer it for a good long time, take out the ham, shred the meat and add it back. I add black eyed peas (cooked from scratch are best, of course, but I usually rinse and drain a couple of cans and add them!)

      You can stop there, add some salt and pepper to taste, and eat…but I usually add some rice (cooked or raw, if raw, simmer until rice is tender) and a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and chilies. Instead of the tomatoes with chilies, you could add a shot of hot pepper sauce (Louisiana Crystal or Tabasco or sriracha), but I prefer the brightness of the Ro-Tel (original or mild if company’s coming, HOT if it’s just me and my husband!) No need to use chicken broth…the collards and ham and onions flavor the water beautifully!

  • Jerry

    Very traditional! I make mine a little quicker though. A quick 10 minute blanch in boiling water, then sauteed up in bacon grease, garlic and onions.

  • [email protected]

    I love leafy greens – collards, kale or similar. So good for you too! Thanks for the reminder about bacon working so well with them. I tried something similar with brussels sprouts last Christmas but it hadn’t occurred to me to try something similar with leafy greens.

  • Donna

    Love collard greens, great recipe! In my south Alabama coastal family, the perfect meal is fried seafood (fish, shrimp, oysters…) mustard potato salad and collard greens and corn bread, with peach cobbler or banana pudding for dessert. My mom has always slow cooked collard greens in a cast iron pot!

  • PinchOfLime

    I’ve never had collard greens before but this looks so good! I might just have to give it a try.

  • Johnny D

    I made this recipe last evening. I added a bit of red pepper flakes & 1 can of field peas seasoned with snaps. The collards are the only thing I ate for dinner. They were just that good~!

  • Darrin Nordahl

    I just returned today from a weekend in Mississippi, where I was able to get my fill of collards! Hank’s recipe is spot on. Indeed, his is a time-honored way of cooking this sister to broccoli (and cauliflower, and Brussels sprout, and even cabbage).

    Hank concludes the recipe with “vinegar and hot sauce to taste.” If you are looking for more specificity, I use apple cider vinegar and sriracha. Guaranteed to make a Southern food lover out of y’all!

  • Lenore

    Thanks for a great post! I’ve recently started using collards and this is a great help.

  • Hiram

    All of these recipes are onion and garlic heavy. My allergies seem to hold me back from dishes like these. Can I substitute onions with something like sliced potatoes? Is there any other option?

    • Hank Shaw

      There is no substitute for onions and garlic. But you can leave them out if you want.

    • Sherry

      You can leave them out and they will still be very good.
      Don’t leave out the ham hock (or leftover ham bone) and
      don’t skimp on the cooking time. I wouldn’t use potatoes in the collards.

      • Jodi

        Definitely,, rather than potatoe, buy medium size turnip not only is it healthier, it adds to the flavor.. yummy

    • becca

      ive had collards with potatoes and add ham pieces along with the hock, makes it more like a full meal with extra meat and potatoes. I wish polk was easier to find for sale….

    • Joyce

      Perhaps you can tolerate onion powder and garlic powder – the tastes of both really add a lot…

      Add to taste.

  • Rose Lewis

    Couldn’t help but notice the plate in collard’s green. I have this same dinner set which I have been using everyday for the last 30 years. It is a Royal Worcester and mine is the game series, which has quails, pheasants and ducks on the inner part of the plates, etc. There was also an animal series.
    I have never grown tired of using this beautiful set but sadly I am now missing all the cereal bowls…broken over the years.

    • Elise

      Hi Rose, the photo is actually taken with two dishes. The outer dish is Royal Worcester and shows a pair of ducks in the center. The inner dish is a cereal bowl from the Spode Woodland series, with an illustration of a bounding rabbit in the center. Fun, aren’t they? I don’t have a whole set. I just collect one-off dishes for photography purposes. But I do love them.

    • marion carter

      Have you tried “Replacement China” here in North Carolina? They carry tons of old name china. You can look them up on Google.

    • Kristina

      Rose, don’t know if you will see this since it’s 2015, but thought I’d put it out there. If you want to look for your dish pattern, look up Replacements Ltd. on-line. They are based in Greensboro, NC. If they don’t have what you want on hand, they may be able to find it for you. Don’t hesitate to call.

  • Larry

    Some sliced fennel bulb would be a tasty substitute for the onion/garlic thing. I used the left over liquid (with another pint of bold chicken stock) to make black eyed peas. Also added 2 tbsp Steens cane syrup for sweetness.

  • Irvin

    Oh how I would love some collard greens now. Gorgeous photo too, and it’s not easy to photograph collards!

  • Espahan

    Yes, this is the classic ‘soul food’ recipe. I grow collards in a barrel outside my kitchen door. I just keep harvesting leaves from the same plants year after year. I let some go to seed and start young plants in between the old. I find collards best in the winter when the various creatures, that also love collards, are out of sight. If I don’t have a ham hock, I use salt pork. I have been lucky to find meaty chunks of salt pork that I keep in the freezer.

  • M

    Baby collards, young and tender were moms favorite. You can’t buy them. Have to grow your own or have a friend who is generous to give you a mess. Collards cooked with a little ham for seasoning. No garlic or onion, just a little salt if needed. Vinegar pepper sauce on the side(make your own—put a few small hot peppers in a bottle, cover with vinegar and let them marinade for a few days. Add more vinegar as needed.) Stoneground white cornmeal for best cornbread. A cast iron skillet in a hot oven with bacon fat Sizzleing when you pour the batter into it. That’s good eats the old fashion way.

  • Maga

    Collard greens are wonderful prepared in the pressure cooker! Just cut cooking times to one-third; i.e., one hour would be 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Delicious.

  • SGEE

    My grandmother never used onion or garlic. She used the smoked ham hock, salt pepper, and a tblsp of sugar. Then she pressured cooked them for 20 minutes. But she also mixed them with her turnip greens and mustards too.

    • sdarby

      We cook ours like this. I cook my hamhock in my crock pot over-night and then use the juices and all to cook my collards. I do all diced onion after the collards have withered after 15 minutes, but not too much. After the collards cook down i used salt, pepper, sugar, and a dash of vinegar to taste.

  • Tegen

    MY neighbor at my last apartment use to make this. I was standing outside sniffing the air coming out of there apartment.(there back door was right next to ours with a window next to it.) It smelled amazing they walked out side to smoke and asked what it was doing. I told them sniffing there dinner. They laughed and told me to come in and try some. Then my husband came looking for me and found me chowing down. what im having a hard time figuring out is what the cornmeal thing he made was. It wasn’t cornbread It looked like a compact sand castle(not the same color). I know it was cornmeal because he showed me the container. But I cant remember what he said he did to it.

    • maryvonne

      Sounds like hoe cakes. It’s just corn meal fried in bacon drippings. It’s a southern thing.

  • Sondra

    We grow both kale and collard greens every summer. Kale has ruffled leaves that are bit thicker and take a little more cooking while collard greens grow larger and are smooth. You can sauté either if you remove the center stem, roll and cut in strips. Delicious sautéed in olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper with a squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar. Use either in place of spinach in many recipes. Also remove center stem on very large leaves and stuff, roll and simmer in favorite sauce.

  • Tony

    always cook collards for news years with hog jowl’s, black eyes, cabbage and corn bread…I’ve always added about six tablespoons of the hog jowl grease to the collards for season…they are excellent collards, but I will have to try adding the smoked ham hock for added flavor…sounds like a great idea…I always use ham hock in my black eyes and pinto’s but not collards…thanks for the recipe…

  • Elaine

    I’ve been making collard greens all my life. I am a 60 year old Nana; whose grandparents were both from Tennessee. One was from Knoxville; the other Nashville.

    I’m always amazed when people use chicken stock to cook collards. THERE IS NOT NEED FOR CHICKEN STOCK!

    Just place your ham hock/ham bone in a pot of water, with seasoned salt, garlic, onion and black pepper and bring to a boil. I usually cook the meat for about an hour. Again, no need for chicken stock; use your homemade ham stock!

    After simmering/boiling the ham for an hour, clean and add your collard greens. Put a lid on the pot and cook for an additional two hours. After two hours, tilt the lid so some of the juice cooks down (add tons of flavor). After two hours, add two teaspoons of vinegar and cook for an additional half hour.

    Goes great with homemade cornbread or if in a pinch, I’ll use Jiffy Cornbread (not as good; but still delicious).

    My dad used to add minced onions, tomato, and hot sauce!

    Good eating!

  • Elaine

    I should have added that I mince a LARGE onion and add to the ham hock/ham bone while cooking!


    I made a FANTASTIC green mix on Fathers day! Collards/ Kale/ Mustards in hamhocks cook 1st /add crushed red pepper/ lawrys seasoning salt/ 3 tablespoons of oil that chicken had been cooked in/ some shakes of vinegar & cook for a few hours. OMG YUMMY! Ive a few boxes of jiffy cornbread mix sooo Im gonna use that HOWEVER what I do is since I’m single I make a huge pot then once cooled down I make 11 individual servings in containers then freeze OMG thats LOVE everytime I’m not able to cook from scratch and want a hit of greens on the side with My meal YUMMY!

  • Teri

    To reduce the fat a friend uses smoked turkey necks and adds balsamic rice vinegar to hers while she is cooking. Me I love it with ham hocks, smoked rib tips or smoked turkey thighs. Really any smoked meat can’t go wrong. Add some corned bread, black eyed peas, smoked turkey or fried chicken, fried okra and a big ol glass of butter milk and YUM got dinner! I hate living in WI but can make it tolerable by cooking real southern dinners. I would kill for some blackberry cobbler for dessert!

  • cathy

    Sorry ya’ll , a real southerner does not put flour in their cornmeal to make cornbread. I’m 55 yrs. old and have only lived in Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina. I have yet to meet a real native that puts flour in their cornmeal. Only yankees do. My mother is one, she made cornbread that way. She even puts sugar on grits, yuck! And we wonder why yanks don’t like grits.

    • A reader


      Sorry ya’ll , a real southerner does not put flour in their cornmeal to make cornbread. I’m 55 yrs. old and have only lived in Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina.]]


      The general spirit of this website is one of sharing, not one of absolutely “right” or “wrong” ways to do things. When you explore more comments on other recipes, where people ask Elise if it’s “okay” to try a variation on a technique, you’ll see that Elise usually suggests the reader try it out and report back.

      None of us will ever eat your cornbread, but I’m sure we’ll manage to muddle through.

      Take it easy.

  • lady4life

    I Cooked greens for first time
    tried this recipe and loved it..very simple but extremely flavorful

  • Luther brown

    I’ve been using kale for a while now. As collards aren’t readily available in Calgary or if they are the price is way too damn high.

  • Robin

    If you don’t eat pork add smoked turkey legs or wings. For those in the southwest that have trouble finding fresh greens go to Trader Joes for the Country Greens; it’s a mix of collards, mustard, turnip and spinach. Make your cornbread, get the vinegar, onions, and tomatoes and enjoy!