Pot likker greens

Pot Likker Greens (aka Colonial Commonwealth Collard Greens)

(Try saying that 5 times fast!) LOL.

The first time I ever tried pot likker greens was on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, which officially makes this dish older than America herself…

But hot dog if this soup isn’t worthy of serving at your 21st Century table!

While this is a traditional Southern dish, this version of it is simple enough for any home cook to enjoy, while still boasting a rich, satisfying aroma, and all the flavor you would expect if you had just walked into a corner diner anywhere in the Deep South.

I use a secret ingredient to make up for the fact that we can’t get ham hocks where I live: I add 2 tablespoons of pure unadulterated bacon grease.

(I tried adding actual bacon at first, but with the broth the bacon bits end up losing all their flavor and then you just have little pieces of “what is this supposed to be?” and it’s just not a smart idea…)

It does takes a bit of a long time to cook, though, so plan on making this on a weekend (or rope your kids or your spouse into starting it before you get home!)

How to make it

You will need the following equipment:

  • Large mixing bowl (for cleaning the collard greens)
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large soup pot or Dutch oven
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle (for serving)
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoon

And you will need the following ingredients:

  • 10 cups chicken stock (I use water and ‘Better Than Bouillon’)
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 rutabaga
  • 2 Tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

And it also helps if you can whistle Dixie (or so I’ve heard).

Getting started

The first thing to do is to start boiling the chicken stock, and clean and prepare the collard greens.

This recipe uses all the parts of the collard greens, so after you’ve separated the leaves from the stems and sliced the leaves into thin strips, be sure to cut the stems into bite-size pieces and add them to the broth as well.

#WasteNotWantNot, am I right?

The greens need to cook for a long time in order to break down and get tender, and also to release their flavors into the broth. (And believe it or not, the broth is like the best part of this recipe! It’s true; one taste and you will be sold!)

You’ll want to simmer the greens for at least an hour before you add the other vegetables. Longer is better, but one hour will do.

You will discover at the end of the hour that the greens have absorbed a lot of the liquid – but what’s left will be pure gold by the time this dish reaches your bowl.

Just be sure to keep this soup covered the whole time it’s cooking and you’ll still have plenty of broth when it’s all said and done.

About the time you add the remaining vegetables, go ahead and also mix up the dumplings.

Making the dumplings

(These are seriously the easiest dumplings you can make – just flour, milk, baking soda, and salt. But for this dish, that’s all you need.)

The dumplings can go into the soup at any time, but I’ve found that if you let the dough rest for half an hour or so, they cook up better than if you add them right away.

So, once you’ve mixed the dough, just leave it in the mixing bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel for half an hour. (Meanwhile, let the vegetables cook and get nice and tender…)

When you are ready to add the dumplings, you need to be a little more precise with the timing than you’ve been up to this point. Too long and the dumplings will start to get hard and rubbery, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Using a regular metal spoon, scrape spoonfuls of dough away from the mix and drop them carefully into the soup. You’ll want to measure them such that you end up with about 8-10 individual dumplings.

Once that’s done, cover the pot, make sure it’s on low heat, and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes.

That’s it! As soon as the dumplings are done, it’s supper time!

Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and give each one a couple of dumplings, and serve hot.

Why I prefer this recipe

A lot of traditional recipes call for cooking pot likker for as long as 6 to 8 hours, but I just don’t have that kind of time.

More modern recipes claim you can cook the whole dish in 30 to 40 minutes – but I don’t think that’s nearly long enough for the greens to get tender, or for the broth to develop a deep flavor.

My recipe cooks the greens first, allowing them to fully break down while preventing the other vegetables from turning into mush.

There are also a lot of recipes that call for serving this dish with cornbread – which I am sure would be AMAZING! But when you’re only cooking for a few people, adding cornbread means you have to prepare a whole separate dish.

Cooking dumplings provides a nice, starchy bread, while still keeping the whole meal down to one dish. Meaning easy prep, easy cleanup, and easy brownie points for giving your guests something they can use to soak up that delicious broth!

(And it’s part of American history.)

So make it tonight!

And come back tomorrow, and tell me how you like it.

Pot likker greens

Pot Likker Greens

A dish as old as the American Revolution itself. (Cue patriotic music…)
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Course Soup, Stew, and Chili
Cuisine Southern
Servings 4


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Large soup pot or Dutch oven
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons



  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 white onion sliced thick
  • 2 ribs celery coarse chopped
  • 3 carrots coarse chopped
  • 1 turnip cubed
  • 1 rutabaga cubed
  • 2 Tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Heat chicken stock in a large soup pot or Dutch oven or high heat. Meanwhile, clean and trim the collard greens, saving the stems. Cut the greens into thin strips and cut the stems into bite size pieces.
  • Once chicken stock is boiling, add the greens, garlic, and bacon grease. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour.
    Note: the greens will absorb more than half the liquid as they cook, so although 10 cups sounds like a lot, by the time this dish is ready to serve it'll be more like 3 or 4.
  • At about the one hour mark, chop the other vegetables and add them to the pot. Continue to simmer over a low heat.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in milk until well-combined, then using your hands, shape the dough into a ball to ensure everything is mixed together.
  • Leave dough in the mixing bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. (This will result in a better-baked dumpling – plus it gives the veggies time to cook.)
  • After the vegetables have cooked for approximately 30 minutes, spoon individual dumplings on top of the soup. Using a small spoon to cut them out from the dough, you should get roughly 8 to 10 individual dumplings.
  • Once you've added the dumplings, cover the pot and cook on low for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat one the dumplings are done and serve immediately.

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