This soul food collard greens recipe features slow simmered greens with smoked ham hocks, onions, seasonings, and a dash of red pepper flakes. It’s a quintessential Southern comfort food dish that will transport you to a cozy Sunday dinner at grandma’s house.
Our collard greens recipe is a tried and true family favorite! They are flavorful and tender, and the leftover braising liquid (potlikker), or what our daughter calls “the juice”, is mouthwatering. This recipe, along with mixed greens and cabbage, is on regular rotation at our house for Sunday dinners.
In this post, we go over everything you need to know about preparing collards, including the best seasonings to use, how to make the broth, and how to cut and clean them.
What Are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are a leafy green vegetable commonly served as a staple side dish in the south. This soul food collard greens recipe features a rich and highly seasoned broth with smoked ham hocks, onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
- 2 bunches collard greens: This recipe calls for two bunches of greens. Alternatively, you can use one bunch of collards and one bunch of mustard greens together.
- 2 ham hocks: Ham hocks are used in this recipe because they lend a smoky, meaty flavor. Alternatively, smoked turkey legs, turkey necks, or tails will also work as substitutes.
- Yellow onion: About 1/2 cup, finely chopped. You can also substitute with white onion.
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce: We add a little Worcestershire (or Worcester) sauce to add rich, deep flavor to the broth. Our favorite brand of Worcestershire sauce is Bear & Burton’s “W Sauce” (not sponsored, we just love them!).
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar: ACV adds a little acid to this dish to cut through the salt and dial back the bitterness of the greens a little bit, leaving them perfectly savory and a little tangy.
Note: Mustard greens are considered an herb, unlike collards which belong to the cabbage family. My parents make greens with collards and mustards, whereas Marrekus prefers his greens with just collards.
Collard Green Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt: Seasoned salt is a blend of salt, herbs, and spices, including garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and paprika. Pick your favorite brand to use (Lawry’s, Morton, etc.), or make your own seasoned salt blend. It’s essential not to over-salt greens because they are very absorbent.
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes: Chicken bouillon is essentially chicken broth that’s been condensed in the form of cubes, granules, etc. Another option would be to use chicken base (demi-glace), for example, Better Than Bouillon Premium Roasted Chicken Base. Chicken bouillon is dissolved in water, creating a flavorful broth.
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: Also called red chili flakes, this adds subtle heat to these collards.
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic: Granulated garlic is a preferable substitute to fresh garlic and is less likely to clump than garlic powder. If using garlic powder, however, add a lesser amount because the powder form is more concentrated and lends a more intense flavor.
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion: A little granulated onion goes a long way flavor-wise! One tablespoon is equal to 1 medium onion.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper: We use Diamond Crystal kosher salt (in the red box) for all our recipes. You can also use table salt, but definitely use a lesser amount. One teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt is essentially equal to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt. Ground black pepper adds a little spice.
- Collard Greens and Cabbage: Mixed greens are cooked together, simmered in a flavorful smoky broth, with seasonings, onions, ham hocks, and red pepper flakes.
- Mixed Greens: Instead of 2 bunches of greens, you can use 1 bunch of mustard greens and 1 bunch of collards.
- Smoked Turkey: Instead of using smoked ham hocks, alternatively, you can use smoked turkey wings, turkey necks, or turkey tails as a substitute.
- Potlikker: Potlikker is the flavorful broth left behind after cooking collards. Some prefer to keep it as a soup-like dish by spooning extra broth into the bowl.
- Adjust the Heat: This version uses red pepper flakes for a kick. You can also use hot sauce or omit it altogether.
Step 1: Create the Flavorful Broth: The first step in making this soul food collard greens recipe is to prepare a seasoned, smoky broth that will infuse your greens with mouthwatering goodness.
- Start by taking ham hocks and setting them in a medium-sized stockpot. Pour water over them, making sure it’s about 2 inches above the hocks.
- Next, dissolve two chicken bouillon cubes in the water. Then, add the collard green seasoning: seasoned salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes.
- Pour in Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. These will elevate your broth to a whole new level of deliciousness.
- Now, turn up the heat, and bring the pot to a boil. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until the ham hocks are falling apart tender.
Step 2: Prep the Collard Greens: While your flavorful broth is simmering away, it’s time to get your greens ready for simmering. Cut and wash the leafy greens. Make sure they’re clean and free from any grit or dirt.
Step 3: Shred the Ham Hocks: After the hocks are tender, carefully remove them from the broth. Shred the meat from the ham hocks, and when you’re done, return the meat to the pot. Discard the bones.
Step 4: Add the Greens and Simmer: With the shredded ham hock meat back in the pot, it’s time to cook your greens. Carefully add collards to the pot, making sure they’re fully submerged in the seasoned broth. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
Step 5: Let Greens Simmer to Perfection: Let those collards simmer away in that flavorful broth until they reach the desired tenderness. This will take about an hour. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re tender and bursting with flavor.
How to Cut Collard Greens
Follow our step-by-step guide for how to cut collard greens. You’re basically going to remove the leaves from the stems, then stack and roll the leaves into a tight cylinder and cut them with a chef’s knife.
How to Wash Collard Greens
- Transfer collards to a large bowl of water or place them directly in a sink.
- Sprinkle salt onto the greens, then turn on the faucet to rinse.
- Mix the collards around in cold running water. Clean them by hand thoroughly and firmly for 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat until the water runs clear.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Choosing Fresh Greens: Look for leaves that are firm and have a deep green color. Avoid wilted or yellowing leaves.
- Thorough Washing: Wash the greens thoroughly to remove any dirt or grit.
- Cutting Collard Greens: Cut into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. Remove and discard any tough stems to enhance the texture of the dish.
- Adjusting Spice Levels: Tailor the amount of seasonings to your spice preference. If you prefer milder greens, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes, or omit them altogether.
- Cooking Time for Tender Greens: Pay attention to the cooking time after adding the collard greens. Simmering for one hour is a general guideline, but adjust as needed to achieve your desired level of tenderness.
- Potlikker: Save the flavorful liquid, known as potlikker, for serving. It’s a concentrated broth packed with flavor. Drizzle a bit over the collard greens when serving for an extra burst of taste.
- Customizing with Additional Meats: For added variety, consider incorporating other meats such as smoked turkey, bacon, or sausage along with or instead of ham hocks.
What to Serve with Collard Greens
If you are wondering what to serve with our soul food collard greens recipe, the options are endless. Many soul food dishes and BBQ recipes go with collards. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Fried Chicken: Crispy fried chicken is a natural companion to this collard greens recipe. The contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender greens is pure comfort food.
- Smothered Chicken: Smothered chicken, featuring tender, juicy chicken smothered in a rich, flavorful gravy, is a Southern classic.
- Smothered Oxtails: Smothered oxtails are another soulful favorite. The slow-cooked oxtails in a savory gravy create a delicious and hearty pairing, offering a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
- Candied Yams: Sweet, tender yams cooked with butter, sugar, and sometimes marshmallows provide a sweet contrast to the greens’ savory flavors.
- Red Beans and Rice
- Pork Chops: Juicy, pan-fried or grilled pork chops are another protein option that harmonizes with the greens.
- Barbecue Ribs: The smoky flavors of barbecue ribs pair nicely with fried cabbage.
- Cornbread: Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb.
- Baked Macaroni and Cheese: The cheesy goodness of baked macaroni and cheese pairs well with the savory notes of fried cabbage.
- Fried Catfish: This is a Southern-style meal that captures the essence of comfort food.
- Grilled or Smoked Meat: Serve alongside grilled or smoked meats such as pork chops or beef ribs.
Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas
The pairing of black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day is a longstanding Southern tradition in the United States, particularly in Black and Southern communities. This culinary custom is deeply rooted in cultural symbolism, with each component carrying special significance.
- Black-Eyed Peas: Black-eyed peas are often associated with good luck and prosperity. In Southern folklore, it’s believed that these peas resemble coins, and consuming them on New Year’s Day is thought to bring financial abundance and good fortune for the coming year.
- Collard Greens: Collards, with their vibrant green color, symbolize wealth and economic prosperity. Eating collards on New Year’s Day is believed to ensure financial success and overall well-being.
- Symbolism of the Pairing: When black-eyed peas and greens are served together, the dish represents a wish for a year filled with both financial prosperity (from the black-eyed peas) and good health (from the collards).
- Culinary Tradition: This tradition is not only about the symbolic meaning but also about celebrating culture and heritage. Many families pass down recipes for black-eyed peas and greens from generation to generation, making it a cherished part of their culinary legacy.
Commonly Asked Questions
Leafy green vegetables with tough stems that belong to the same plant family as kale, cabbage, and turnips.
Collards have an earthy, bitter taste (especially when raw). They are milder than kale, however, and slightly acidic. Cooked greens have a mild flavor, and when paired with rich broth and smoked meats, they turn out smoky and savory. Collards are also highly absorbent, so it’s important not to add too much salt.
Collards take one hour to cook. However, these soul food greens are simmered in a seasoned broth. The broth is made with ham hocks, chicken bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and seasonings. The broth takes one hour to make and the greens cook for one hour, for a total of 2 hours for this recipe.
We recommend eating cooked collards that have been refrigerated within 2 to 3 days at most.
Collard greens are available at most grocery stores in the fresh vegetable department. If you can’t find fresh bunches, you can also buy fresh greens in a bag.
This soul food Collard Greens recipe features slow simmered greens with smoked ham hocks, onions, seasonings, and a dash of red pepper flakes. It’s a quintessential Southern comfort food dish that will transport you to a cozy Sunday dinner at grandma’s house.
- 2 ham hocks (alternatively, you can use smoked neck bones, turkey legs, turkey necks, or tails)
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt, or as needed
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (start with less and adjust to taste if using any other type of salt)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 bunches of collard greens, trimmed, chopped, and washed
- Place ham hocks in a medium stock pot and cover with water two inches above the hocks.
- Stir in onion, seasoned salt, chicken bouillon, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and red pepper flakes.
- Pour in Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 45 minutes or until the hocks are fall-apart tender.
- Meanwhile, pick and wash the collard greens, and cut them to the desired size.
- After 45 minutes, remove ham hocks from the pot and shred the meat; add ham hock meat back to pot and discard the bones.
- Place collard greens in pot, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1 hour until the greens are tender.
- Ladle collards with a bit of ham hock meat and liquid broth (potlikker) onto a bowl or plate, and serve hot.
Save the “potlikker” liquid broth after the greens are done cooking for dipping your cornbread in.
Keywords: soul food collard greens, southern collard greens, collard greens, ham hocks, soul food, sides