Southern Style Collard Greens

These slow cooked Southern collard greens are made with a ham hock and a dash of hot sauce. They are a delicious side dish for BBQ or chicken dishes. Make these collard greens for your next meal!

Overhead view of southern collard greens in a black bowl on a wood surface.
Sally Vargas

I grew up with a healthy affection for sautéed greens: Bright, vibrant, spiked with garlic and red pepper and maybe a little citrus at the end.

This was how greens were supposed to be served—alive, vigorous and most of all, emerald green. So you can imagine my shock when I first encountered Southern-style collard greens.

My First Time Eating Collard Greens

It was more than 20 years ago. I was one of the only white employees of a black-owned weekly newspaper in Madison, WI. At some point in springtime we all gathered for a company picnic, and these greens were part of the spread.

Army green, stewing in an olive drab pot broth, with chunks of smoked pork floating around. I asked my boss, Ms. Franklin, what this was. She almost fell over laughing. "Those are collards, son! You've never seen collards before?"

I hadn't, being white, from New Jersey and from a largely Italian-Jewish-WASP town to boot. Ms. Franklin explained that collards are so tough they need long cooking, and aren't really very good without some sort of smoked pork; a ham hock was best.

Overhead view of southern collard greens in a black bowl on a wood surface.
Sally Vargas

Potlikker: The Best Part of Collard Greens

And then she told me the secret to collards: It's the potlikker, the richly flavored, smoky soup at the bottom of the collard pot. She said that's where all the vitamins went after you stewed the heck out of the greens.

Some people reuse the potlikker for their next batch of collards, and some add more ingredients (beans, more pork, etc.) and make it a soup. Whatever you do, don't throw it away.

Southern collard greens, you should know, are one of those recipes that has unlimited variations. Each region, even each cook, has his or her own twist. This is how we had them at our company picnics, so long ago. Or at least it's how I remember them. Ms. Franklin's gone now, bless her soul. This one's for you, Betty!

Side view of a bowl of southern collard greens served with condiments.
Sally Vargas
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Watch This Southern Collard Greens Recipe

How to Buy and Store Collard Greens

When choosing collard greens, look for deep green leaves that are blemish-free, not wilted, and not too tough.

Collards should stay fresh refrigerated in a resealable plastic bag for up to 5 days. Remember not to clean them until you're ready to use them!

How to Trim and Clean Collards

It's important to clean collard greens thoroughly, as they tend to hold onto dirt within the ribs of the leaves.

Here's the best way to clean collards:

  • Give each leaf a good rinse.
  • Soak the leaves in cold water, either in a clean sink or a large bowl.
  • Swish the leaves around in the water to encourage any dirt to fall to the bottom of the sink or bowl.
  • Lift out each leaf (if you're using a bowl, don't drain the leaves into a colander or you'll wind up pouring all the dirt back over them).

Once the leaves are cleaned, you'll want to remove the tough stems: fold each leaf in half and tear the stem away from the leaf, or cut out the stems with a paring knife kitchen scissors. Stack several leaves on top of each other, roll them together, and slice them into ribbons.

How Long Does it Take to Cook Collard Greens?

Start to finish, it takes around 2 hours to cook these collard greens. A little more than half of that time is devoted to preparing the ham hock broth, and the rest of the time is spent simmering the greens, transforming them from tough to tender.

How to Store and Reheat Collard Greens

Leftover collard greens should stay fresh, refrigerated in an airtight container with the potlikker, for 3 to 5 days. You can also freeze them for 10 to 12 months.

The best way to reheat collards is in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat until they're heated through.

Southern Recipes to Try with Collard Greens

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Southern Style Collard Greens

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 10 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or vegetable oil

  • 1 medium onion, sliced from root to tip

  • 1 ham hock

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 4 cups chicken stock

  • 1 to 2 cups water

  • 8 to 10 cups (about 2 pounds) stemmed, cleaned, and chopped collard greens

  • Salt to taste

  • Vinegar and hot sauce to taste

Method

  1. Cook the onions in bacon fat:

    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.

    A large stockpot with sliced onions to show how to make collard greens.
    Sally Vargas
  2. Add the ham hock, garlic, chicken stock and water:

    Add the ham hock, smashed garlic, chicken stock, and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

    Ham hock and liquid added to a stockpot to show how to make collard greens.
    Sally Vargas
  3. Add the collard greens:

    Add the collard greens and cook, partially covered, until they are tender, another 45 minutes to an hour.

    Adding greens to a stockpot for a southern collard greens recipe.
    Sally Vargas
  4. Chop the meat, add to the greens:

    To serve, remove the ham hock, pull the meat off the bones, and chop. Mix the meat back with the greens.

    Pulling the meat off a ham hock for a southern collard greens recipe.
    Sally Vargas
    Chopped ham on a cutting board for a southern collard greens recipe.
    Sally Vargas
    Adding the chopped ham into a stockpot to make pot liquor.
    Sally Vargas
  5. Season the collards, then serve:

    Taste and season with salt, if needed. Serve with vinegar and hot sauce at the table.

    Side view of a bowl of southern collard greens in a black bowl on a wood surface.
    Sally Vargas
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
174 Calories
8g Fat
16g Carbs
11g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 174
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Cholesterol 17mg 6%
Sodium 366mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 29mg 145%
Calcium 227mg 17%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 404mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.