Southern-style collard greens

Sort of Southern-style Collard Greens

These greens don’t have ham hocks and don’t boil for hours on end, but they’re still good enough to serve at Grandma’s dinner table.

I love Southern food, but living in the suburbs in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not easy to find some Southern ingredients.

(Maybe we have them all and I just don’t know who to ask at the supermarket? Anyway, without easy access, sometimes I have to improvise…)

But is it still Southern if it ain’t got Southern ingredients?

Southern cooking (like all fine cooking) originated with home cooks using readily available ingredients and creating some fantastic recipes from the most common fare.

In essence, that’s what I do with all of my favorite recipes, so I think this does still qualify as “somewhat Southern” at least…

(Plus, it does have bacon. And butter.)

So how do I make it?

To make these collard greens you will need the following equipment:

  • 3-quart saucepan
  • large mixing bowl
  • 12-inch cast iron skillet
  • chef’s knife
  • cutting board
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons

And you will need these ingredients:

  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/4 lb raw bacon
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Clean the greens

Cleaning the collard greens is pretty simple. Using your chef’s knife, cut the leaves away from the stems. Then cut or tear the leaves and stems into several large pieces.

Place all these pieces in a large bowl of water and swish them around for a bit while you sing your favorite Disney working song (or for like, 30 seconds or so…)

This should remove any large bits of dirt or debris from most of the leaves. But, to be extra sure, quickly inspect each leaf as you remove it from the bowl. If you see any dirt, return it to the bowl and rub the dirt off in the water, until the leaf is clean.

Slice the greens

Stack a whole lot of individual leaves on top of each other, and cut them all straight down the middle. Then turn your knife 90 degrees, and slice the leaves into strips about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thin.

Slice the stems into bite-size pieces to add into the mix.

(Some people throw the stems out but I’m all for including them in the meal! Using the stems make me feel like I’m using all the parts of the plant, and I personally think it makes the meal a bit more rustic.)

Boil the greens

Boil 2 1/2 cups water in a 3-quart saucepan, then add all the greens and stir/beat them down with a wooden spoon until they’re mostly submerged.

Add the salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Forget the greens, it’s bacon time!

If the idea of cooking bacon doesn’t make you run into the kitchen screaming at the top of your lungs, I don’t know what will…

But anyway, after the greens have simmered for about 10 or 15 minutes, you can start cooking the bacon and the onion.

Cook the bacon first.

Cut it into bite-size pieces, then cook in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it just starts to crisp.

Add the butter and onion and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the onion starts to caramelize and the greens are done simmering.

Put it together and what have you got?

Carefully add the greens and the water to the cast iron skillet. (Very carefully, as the water will begin to steam almost instantly and it will be HOT!)

Using the same spatula you’re already using, stir everything together until it looks pretty evenly distributed. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until most of the water has cooked off.

(When you stir the greens and the bottom of the skillet is dry, you know they’re done cooking.)

Serve immediately, with or without hot sauce, as company demands.

Why I prefer this recipe

A lot of collard greens recipes I’ve come across either call for ham hocks, or for boiling the greens for several hours to break them and get them tender enough to eat.

I don’t have ham hocks, and while I do have hours to kill, I generally like to speed things up a little bit when I can.

I have found that boiling the greens for a short time and then adding them to a hot frying pan yield a soft, tender green that, as far as I can tell, is similar in taste and texture to the collard greens you might find in most Southern restaurants.

Maybe not Paula Deen’s, but still…

For the home cook, anywhere but the deep south, this is my collard greens recipe of choice. My family loves it for its simplicity and its wonderful depth of flavor. I hope your family will too.

Try it tonight!

And let me know how you like it.

Southern-style collard greens

Sort of Southern-style Collard Greens

Succulent, savory Southern-style greens in just a fraction of the time.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Southern
Servings 4


  • 3-quart saucepan
  • Large mixing bowl
  • 12-inch cast iron skillet
  • Chef's knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons


  • 1 bunch collard greens sliced thin
  • 1 yellow onion sliced thin
  • 1/4 lb bacon (about 4 slices) raw, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper


  • Thoroughly clean collard greens and cut leaves away from stems. Slice the leaves into 1/2-inch thin slices and cut the stems into bite-size pieces.
  • Boil water over medium-high heat. Add greens (leaves and stems), stir until all the greens are just covered with water. Add salt and pepper, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  • While greens simmer, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and butter, and cook until the onion is lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes more.
  • Carefully pour the collard greens and water into the skillet with the bacon and onion. Continue to cook over medium heat until the greens are very soft and tender and most of the water has cooked off, about 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

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