Southern Style Collard Greens

Comfort FoodSouthernLow CarbVegetables

Southern Style Collard Greens! Slow cooked collard greens with a ham hock, onions, vinegar and hot sauce. A classic with BBQ!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a Southern favorite, collard greens! ~Elise

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.

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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.

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 liquor, 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.

And then she told me the secret to collards: It’s the pot liquor, 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.

Southern Style Collard Green

Some people reuse the pot liquor 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!

Southern Style Collard Greens Recipe

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

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.


  • 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 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.

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

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

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 and serve with vinegar and hot sauce at the table.

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Collard Greens with Ham and Ham Hocks, from Steamy Kitchen

Collard Greens Stew with Chorizo and Garlic, from The Kitchn

Collard Greens with Mushrooms and Smoked Paprika, from Herbivoracious

Southern Style Collard Green

Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

89 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Mary Ann

    I am from Louisiana and this recipe is on point! I’ve always made collard greens for the holidays, but I have never had a recipe before. However, this is exactly how I make it! I add a little bit of Cayenne to mine because that’s the way my family likes it, but I leave it out when I make it for myself. The hot sauce adds plenty of heat for me!

    I’m so glad I have the link to this recipe now. Everybody always asked how I make it and I use the same ingredients as you but I never could tell them the proportions. I just throw everything in a pot! LOL!


  2. Laura

    I found this recipe because I wanted as authentic version as possible so I could veganize it. I used this as a base and made a few changes by WOW, these are the best collards I’ve ever eaten.

    I sauteed the onion in butter and then added the smashed garlic and three pieces of Sweet Earth vegan bacon (it’s smokey tasting.) From there I added the collards, veg broth, red pepper flakes and some apple cider vinegar as someone else mentioned. I let this simmer for about 30 min or so and it’s great! Never added salt, because it didn’t need it.


  3. Laura

    I’m a northern who moved South and now love collard greens! I use this recipe every time!! So good!


  4. Wendy

    Great recipe. Made these for Mardi Gras dinner. I’ve never made collard greens before and Iwas amazed how much flavor came from the ham hock with no added salt. I had not read the cooking time before making these and have never used actual collard greens before and didn’t realize they needed to cook so long so I actually got out my instant pot to speed things up and they turned out great!! Step one with onions and ham hock for 20 minutes then added greens and another 15 minutes. My husband is from Arkansas and said they were excellent. He could tell I hadn’t used bacon fat, but forgave me. We will definitely be having these more often. Thank you!


  5. Sthomas323

    Ham hocks aren’t seasoned like they used to be. A grocery meat manager told me they were dumped into a seasoning barrel then drained and roasted in an oven.
    He slow smokes his own meat in a home smoker for seasoning meat. He uses pork shanks.
    I use bacon and seasoning packs of smoked ham the don’t need refrigeration until opened.
    Smoked southern meats hung in the smoke houses and cured. Not sure how they were stored, but away from animals and without refrigeration. (Traditionally) Refrigeration is a relatively new home appliance….even the ice box.
    Anyway, today’s ham hocks are why additional seasoning is needed.
    I also wilt my collards in bacon grease which help tenderize the final product.

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