Want more healthy greens in your diet? Turn to The Best Collard Greens! So delicious and rich, this perfectly seasoned side dish with bacon is smoky, sweet, and will have you thinking you’re in the south.
Healthy collard greens recipe
“The South” is known for cranking out some of the best comfort food recipes, and collard greens just happens to be one of them. You wouldn’t think a leafy green could be so satisfying and delicious, but this recipe for The Best Collard Greens is really something special.
The secret? Bacon and sugar. Wilting the greens in bacon fat and a pinch of sugar not only tenderizes the leaves but adds a beautiful balance of flavor. The result is a smoky and sweet southern green that pairs well with roasted chicken or homemade Salisbury steak.
While I think that bacon really is what makes this collard greens recipe truly special, you can also use chopped ham or even turkey bacon to make it a bit lighter and healthier. Cook it low and slow in a pot on the stove or in the Instant Pot for a rich, earthy, and savory side dish to include with dinner or at barbecues.
What are collard greens?
Collard greens are a cold weather leafy green from the cabbage family. Just like Swiss chard or kale, they have large vibrant green leaves with tough stems. The greens have a slightly bitter taste when raw, but this completely disappears as they cook.
Collard greens are a popular side dish in the south, as they’re traditionally stewed over hours with pork. A splash of apple cider vinegar enhances their naturally sweet, smoky, and tangy taste. Southern style collard greens pair nicely next to cornbread, spare ribs, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
How to make sauteed collard greens
Sauteeing collard greens in a pot with bacon or ham lends rich and smoky flavors. If you’d prefer a lighter option, use turkey bacon instead! This beautifully flavored side dish is easy to make in a few steps:
Cook the bacon in a large pot until it’s crisp, then transfer it to a plate.
Add the garlic and let it cook in the bacon fat until it’s fragrant.
Next, add in the collard greens, stir, and cook until the leaves are wilted.
Pour in the broth, seasonings, and sugar. Stir it all together and let the mixture simmer until the collard greens become tender and flavorful.
Add crisp bacon back in and serve. Enjoy!
Instant Pot instructions
Looking to save time? Make the collard greens in your Instant Pot instead! This is how it’s done:
- Cook the bacon and garlic in oil using the SAUTE function. Remove the bacon and set aside until the end.
- Stir in the collard greens. You may need to wait a minute for them to wilt down so add them in batches.
- Pour in the broth, seasonings, and sugar. Stir everything together.
- Pressure cook on manual HIGH for 5 minutes. Do a quick or natural release, add bacon back in, stir and serve!
Recipe tips and variations
- For a vegetarian alternative, try my vegetarian collard greens instead.
- Bump up the protein by stirring in some beans or black eyed peas.
- For some tang, add a splash of apple cider vinegar.
- To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the bacon, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and add a few drops of liquid smoke to replicate the classic smoky flavor.
- Use country ham instead of bacon for a truly southern treat.
- If your greens still taste bitter, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top to cut down on the bitter flavor.
- Clean your greens properly. Collard greens are known to carry lots of dirt on their leaves, so make sure they’ve been fully soaked and washed before cooking.
- Stems or no stems? Because the greens are cooked for a long period of time, each part becomes nicely tenderized. This means you can include the stems!
What can I serve with collard greens?
Collard greens are traditionally served as a side dish for a big meal, but they really can be served as a healthy green with anything you enjoy. Add them alongside some slow cooker spare ribs, a comforting pot roast, or crockpot chicken pot pie.
More healthy green side dishes
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The Best Collard GreensPrint
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 slices bacon
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound collard greens chopped
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Remove bacon from the pot, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
- Add garlic to pot and cook until browned and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add collard greens and stir until they begin to wilt.
- Add chicken broth, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and brown sugar into the pot and stir to fully combine.
- Bring broth to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add cooked bacon back into pot, stir and then serve. Enjoy these delicious collard greens!