Southern Collard Greens – Surprised that this sweet, savory dish starts with a tough, bitter veggie? Learn the tricks that make this yummy transformation possible!
Collard greens are a tough one. Literally… Their leaves are quite tough! In addition to being hard to chew, their flavor isn’t exactly drawing in the average eater, either. If I were to describe the flavor of collard greens in one word it would be bitter.
For such a tough and bitter vegetable, it seems surprising that they are so ubiquitous in the south. The secret is that southern collards are actually tender and savory. There are a couple of tricks for making delicious collard greens, and my recipe for Southern Collard Greens puts these techniques to good use.
Tricks for Cooking Collard Greens
- Cook the collard greens in full-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. The salt is key in cutting the bitterness.
- Add an acid, like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
- Add something savory to the pot such as a ham bone or bacon.
- Cook by braising the greens. That is, first sauté them for a minute or two, then add liquid (broth) to the pan and cook slowly over 30-45 minutes.
You’ll see these tricks are reflected in my recipe for Southern Collard Greens. If you follow them you’ll end up with the most deliciously tender and savory collard greens. They’re perfect for serving up with all things BBQ, eggs, or your favorite recipe for grits!
- 4 slices thick-sliced bacon
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 lb fresh collard greens, stems removed and coarsely chopped
- 3 C chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large, deep skillet until it’s golden brown. Place the bacon on a plate and set aside. Reserve approximately 2 Tbsp of bacon grease in the skillet.
- Add the butter and onion to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to turn translucent. Add the garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt to the pan and cook 1 more minute.
- Next, add the collard greens and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken broth, light brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes.*
- Once the collards are tender and without bitterness, crumble and stir in the bacon that was reserved earlier. Serve hot.
*When the collards are done cooking they will be tender without bitterness. If they are still bitter, just cook longer.