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This Southern collard greens recipe is a classic, easy side dish! Flavored with smoky bacon and sweet onion, the greens are delicious with cornbread and black-eyed peas for a lucky New Year, or alongside roast chicken, buttermilk fried chicken, pot roast, or pulled pork for your next Sunday supper!

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of southern collard greens.
Table of Contents
  1. Why You’ll Love these Collard Greens with Bacon
  2. What are collard greens?
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Cook Collard Greens
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Preparation and Storage Tips
  7. Southern Style Collard Greens Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Southern Collard Greens Recipe
  9. Southern Collard Greens Recipe Recipe

If you’re looking for even more classic Southern side dish recipes, be sure to try Grandma’s old-fashioned corn sticks, this popular squash casserole, our favorite okra and tomatoes, a pot of Southern-style green beans, and this Charleston red rice, too!

Southerners love their greens — from turnip greens and mustard greens to kale, cabbage, and collards! While every home cook has her favorite version, this Southern collard greens recipe is definitely one of the best. It stays true to the classic flavors, ingredients, and preparation, as the tough greens are slowly braised in a rich pot liquor (or “pot likker”) that’s flavored with smoky meat. We love bacon, but a smoked ham hock is also a great option!

Why You’ll Love these Collard Greens with Bacon

  • Easy. Nobody wants to fuss over a simple side dish! That’s why Southern collard greens have stood the test of time. They’re easy to prepare, and you get maximum flavor with minimal effort. Get the pot going and let the stovetop do the work!
  • Versatile. Serve your greens as a main dish with some cornbread for soaking up the pot likker, or offer them alongside a larger holiday meal, fried chicken, or baked ham. They’re one of those great options that tastes good with almost anything else on the table!
  • Affordable. The humble dish is a budget-friendly way to take advantage of a lot of nutritious greens. Whether you pull them from your garden, purchase a bunch at the farmer’s market, or pick up a pre-chopped bag at your grocery store, the basic ingredients in this collard green recipe won’t break the bank.

What are collard greens?

Collard greens are a type of leafy green vegetable that’s a staple in Southern cooking. The plant has dark green leaves and tough stems, and is included in the same family as kale, turnip greens, and mustard greens.

Side shot of southern collard greens in a bowl on a wooden table.

How to Take the Bitterness Out of Collard Greens

Cooking the collard greens slowly over low heat until they’re incredibly tender takes some of the bitterness out of the vegetable. Adding salt, acid (in this case, vinegar), and a touch of sugar also helps to eliminate that bitter taste, giving the dish a more balanced, complex flavor.

Collard Greens Nutrition

This healthy plant is loaded with nutrients, so feel free to dig in. A bowlful of collards is good for the body and good for the soul! Collard greens contain a lot of vitamin K, and are also rich sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. The plant includes calcium and vitamin B6, and a 100-gram serving of collard greens has just 33 calories (source).

Best of all, they taste delicious when simmered low and slow with bacon, onion, and garlic! We enjoy the greens with barbecue, pork, or chicken year-round, but we also love them on New Year’s Day as a traditional “lucky” food for prosperity in the year ahead.

Adding bacon to a Dutch oven

Ingredients

This is just an overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a Southern collard greens recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Hickory smoked bacon: lends a rich, smoky flavor to the pot. You can substitute with a smoked ham hock or other smoked meat if you prefer.
  • Onion and garlic: aromatics that add great savory flavor to the dish. You’ll need about 3-4 large cloves garlic to equal 1 ½ tablespoons.
  • Chicken broth: the liquid that braises the greens. Use a low-sodium chicken broth if you are sensitive to salt, since the bacon will add some sodium to the pot as well.
  • Collard greens: trimmed and washed. Remove the tough stems.
  • Apple cider vinegar: we put vinegar in collard greens for extra flavor, to cut through the bitterness, and to brighten up the dish with an acidic note.
  • Sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
Pouring chicken broth into a dutch oven.

How to Cook Collard Greens

These Southern style collard greens are so simple to prepare, and then the stovetop does the work! You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version for one of our favorite southern cuisine staples:

  1. Cook the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat for 10-12 minutes (or until almost crisp).
  2. Add the onion, and sauté for 7-8 more minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, and sauté for 1 more minute.
  4. Add chicken broth, collard greens, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  5. Simmer the pot for about 90 minutes, or until the collards reach the desired level of tenderness.
Close overhead shot of a bowl of collard greens.

Serving Suggestions

This easy collard greens recipe pairs nicely with just about any Southern feast! Here are a few main dish options to get you started:

Hands eating cornbread and collard greens.

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Make Ahead: Prepare these collard greens at least 1-2 days in advance. Keep them in the refrigerator and just reheat over low heat on the stovetop when you’re ready to serve them.
  • How to Store: Leftover cooked collards will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. You can also freeze the collard greens with the pot liquor in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to Reheat: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat gently on the stovetop. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until warm.
Square side shot of collard greens with bacon.

Southern Style Collard Greens Recipe Variations

  • Instead of a bacon, add flavor to the collards with a different smoked meat, such as a smoked ham hock, ham bone, smoked sausage, smoked turkey wings, a smoked turkey leg, or smoked pork neck bones.
  • Give the greens even more smoky flavor by adding a dash of smoked paprika to the broth.
  • Brown sugar is a fine substitute for the white sugar.
  • Herbs: add some fresh (or dried) herbs to the pot of beans, such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary.
  • Instead of vinegar, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the pot for an acidic touch.
Overhead shot of hands holding a bowl of the best southern collard greens recipe.

Tips for the Best Southern Collard Greens Recipe

  • It’s important to clean greens really well before using, since dirt, grit, sand, and soil can get trapped in them. To clean them, fill a sink or large bowl with cold water. Add the greens and swish them around so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the sink. Pull out the greens, rinse out the sink, and repeat the process until the greens are completely clean.
  • Buy pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens for a shortcut.
  • Add vinegar. The apple cider vinegar gives the dish a nice “tang,” and it helps to cut the bitterness of the greens. It also balances out the salty, savory flavors in the recipe.
  • Adjust the total cooking time to suit you preferences. An hour might be sufficient if you like slightly more crisp greens, while a full 2 hours might be necessary for really tender, broken-down collards. That’s the beauty of using a Dutch oven (rather than a slow cooker or Instant pot) — you have full control and can easily take them off of the heat when necessary.
  • For a spicy “kick,” garnish the greens with crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
Overhead shot of a bowl of southern collard greens with bacon.

More Southern Collard Greens Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a bowl of southern collard greens recipe with a side of cornbread.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings 8 people
Calories 174 kcal
Smoky and tender, these Southern collard greens are a delicious side dish for any homecooked meal.

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces hickory smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 48 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 lbs. fresh collard greens, trimmed and washed
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional garnish: crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce

Instructions

  • Cook bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until almost crisp. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 7-8 minutes.
    Adding bacon to a Dutch oven
  • Stir in garlic and sauté 1 more minute. Add broth, collard greens, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Use a wooden spoon to stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
    Pouring chicken broth into a dutch oven.
  • Simmer (uncovered) over low heat for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally (or until collards reach desired level of tenderness). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
    Side shot of Southern collard greens recipe served with cornbread

Notes

  • Buy pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens for a shortcut. If you choose to wash and trim your own greens, be sure that you rinse them really well to get out any sand or sediment in the leaves.
  • Add vinegar. The apple cider vinegar gives the dish a nice “tang,” and it helps to cut the bitterness of the greens. It also balances out the salty, savory flavors in the recipe.
  • Adjust the total cooking time to suit you preferences. An hour might be sufficient if you like slightly more crisp greens, while a full 2 hours might be necessary for really tender, broken-down collards. That’s the beauty of using a Dutch oven (rather than a slow cooker or Instant pot) — you have full control and can easily take them off of the heat when necessary.
  • For a spicy “kick,” garnish the greens with crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
  • Instead of a bacon, add flavor to the collards with a different smoked meat, such as a smoked ham hock, ham bone, smoked sausage, smoked turkey wings, or smoked pork neck bones.
  • Give the greens even more smoky flavor by adding a dash of smoked paprika to the broth.
  • Herbs: add some fresh (or dried) herbs to the pot of beans, such as thyme, oregano or rosemary.
  • Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the recipeCalories: 174kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 7gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 975mgPotassium: 459mgFiber: 4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 5700IUVitamin C: 53.5mgCalcium: 281mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: collard greens, collard greens recipe, collard greens with bacon, Southern collard greens, southern collard greens recipe
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in January, 2019. The photos were updated in December, 2021.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made a half batch of this to go with your black eyed peas for New Year’s dinner. Loved how simple this is, especially since I used the already prepped collards. Flavor is spot on. One thing I really like about collards is you can cook them for a shorter time or a longer time and while the flavor is mostly the same the texture is a little different. I love it both ways, so I cook the first meal so it’s still got a freshness to it; when I have it leftover I cook it longer and it starts getting softer. Very good!!! I think next time I might try cooking in the slow cooker or Instant Pot to see how it comes out and also so I can just get it in a pot and then walk away. Thanks, Blair!

    1. Awesome! I love these greens, and I’m so happy that you enjoyed them too, Norma. Thanks for your kind note!

      1. I LOVE collard greens and your recipe looks spot on all except for one thing. Instead of adding any sugar or vinegar we cut up a head of cabbage into bite sized pieces. The cabbage adds just the right amount of sweetness to take away any bitterness from the greens. Try it, I’m sure you will like it.

  2. thank you i have been looking for a good way to fix collard greens it took me a very long time to even try them now i love them i’m 72 years young lol thank you for sharing this recipe stay safe and may god bless you and all you love have a blessed day

  3. 5 stars
    Loved these greens! So flavorful! I only did half the recipe for my little family and used leftover ham, and it was perfect.

    1. Thanks, Cassie! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, and that it worked with what you had on hand. Thanks for your note!