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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 a crowd-pleasing option for your next Sunday supper or holiday meal. Pair them with cornbread and black-eyed peas for a lucky New Year, or offer them alongside roast chicken, buttermilk fried chicken, pot roast, or pulled pork at your next Sunday supper!

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of southern collard greens.

Collard Greens with Bacon

Southerners love their greens — from turnip greens and mustard greens to kale 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!

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 Get 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.

Are collard greens healthy?

Yes! This 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 Nutrition

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.
  • 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: for a touch of bright acidity.
  • 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!

  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 until translucent, about 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 uncovered over low heat for about 90 minutes, or until the collards reach the desired level of tenderness.
Close overhead shot of a bowl of collard greens.

What to Serve with Southern Collard Greens

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.

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!

Storage

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. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat gently on the stovetop.

Square side shot of collard greens with bacon.

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, 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

  • Buy pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens for a shortcut. If you choose to wash and chop your own greens, be sure that you rinse them really well to get out any sand or sediment in the leaves. I prefer to remove the tough stems, too.
  • 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 Classic Southern Side Dish Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of southern collard greens.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings 6 – 8 people
Calories 174 kcal
This Southern Collard Greens recipe is a classic easy side dish! Flavored with smoky bacon and sweet onion, the greens are a crowd-pleasing option for your next Sunday supper or holiday 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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
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