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Vegetarian Collard Greens

These savory vegetarian collard greens cook up in less than 30 minutes and taste great without the meat! Whether you’re looking for Southern collard greens or soul food style collard greens, this easy recipe will help you create a pot of greens that your friends and family will love.

Few dishes bring as much joy in the winter as a pot of greens on the stove. Collard greens are also a holiday staple. And this vegetarian version cooks up quickly.

Although cleaning and chopping collard greens can take some time, once they’re prepared, cooking is easy and can be a lot quicker than you think. Serve these greens with cornbread, on a veggie plate, or as a side dish for Sunday dinner.

greens without meat

Yes. You can make vegan collard greens that taste just as good as traditional soul food greens!

The key is using a flavorful, rich broth. And onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes are just a few of my favorite blends.

For a smoky flavor, you can add smoked paprika or a pinch of smoked salt. (Many people use liquid smoke but I personally don’t use it in my cooking.)

Ham hocks or fat backs are traditionally used to make authentic Southern collard greens. More recently people use smoked turkey legs or necks to add a savory flavor. My family uses ham hock. And that’s what I eat when I go home to the Carolinas.

But I love this vegetarian recipe for regular Sunday and weeknight meals at home. It’s fast, delicious, and very easy to make — once you’ve got your greens ready. Plus, they’re good for you, too.

nutritional benefits

Collards are one of the healthiest greens. Collard greens contain calcium, fiber and lots of phytonutrients that make them a healthy pick.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I love that I grew up eating these nutritious greens (plus turnip and mustard greens) as a kid. But didn’t know how good they are for us.

Collards are a member of the Brassica family. This cruciferous vegetable has many of the same benefits as cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Collard greens are versatile. You can braise them – drinking potlickers to get all the nutrients. Or blanch them to use as wraps for sandwiches, toss them in soups or even stir-fry them for a side dish.

Clean collard greens in a colander

How to pick the best collard greens

Collard greens are in season during the colder months and taste best in December and January. So, now is the perfect time to pick up a bunch of these healthy winter greens.

Start with the freshest green vegetables you can find.

Look for collard greens that are deep green with no yellow leaves. The leaves should feel tender and firm, not limp or dry. Collards are firm green and keep for some time as long as they are stored without excess moisture in the leaves.

I grew up with my grandmother’s, big heads of collard greens with big mature leaves. Nowadays, I buy small bunches of young collard greens. They are easier to handle, easier to clean and I find they take a little less time to cook.

buying fresh collard greens

For a fresh start, consider buying your greens straight from the farm or at a farmer’s market. They’re cheap at the supermarket about $2 per bunch or even cheaper at the Dekalb Farmers Market if you’re local to Atlanta.

You’ll pay more at some of the community farmers’ markets around here but I advocate that whenever possible.

I do not recommend buying pre-cut bagged collard greens. They are often tough and full of stems. Also, the greens are usually torn into large pieces which I personally do not enjoy.

If you’re adding bagged greens to a soup or stew… this might work. But I’ll give it up for a pot of braised greens.

Canned Collard Greens? I’m also not a fan of canned greens. But frozen chopped collard greens are fine for soup or stew. The recipe below uses fresh whole collard greens. It’s not a fast process but it’s worth it.

Collard leaves on cutting board with knife.

how do i clean my greens

Cleaning collard greens takes time. And there are two main methods:

method one
Separate the bunch of collard greens into individual leaves.
Wash each leaf carefully under cold running water. Take care to scrape off any soil or debris that may have collected around the stem. Be sure to rinse both the front and back of the leaf. Once cleaned, stack the leaves and prepare to slice.

method two
Instead of using running water, blanch and soak the greens in several changes of cold water in a large bowl. The dirt will settle to the bottom of the bowl. You will know that the greens are clean when the water is clear.

Whether you wash or chop your greens first, the key is to be really picky. Because of the way they grow, collard greens are notoriously difficult to clean. If you don’t do it right, your greens will be gritty.

that’s why. Turn on some music and take the time to clean your greens. a lot of time

If it didn’t take so long to prepare them, I could eat collard greens every day.

Prepare ahead: I clean more than one bunch of collards at a time. Chopped, chopped greens will keep in the fridge for a week or more.

Just be sure to remove all excess moisture and store them in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator. This works great if you’re preparing for the holidays or special occasions.

best way to store greens

Fresh, unwashed collard greens will keep in the refrigerator for about a week without thawing. The key is making sure the greens are dry. So wash them just before you are ready to cook them.

You can also prepare saag in this way. Wash, cut and dry the greens. Store in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb any lingering water.

When the greens are cooked, eat them within 1-2 days.

Rolled collard greens being chopped

Preparing the Collard Greens to Cook

Learning to chop collard greens is a rite of passage in black families. My family prefers thinly sliced ​​greens. My grandmother cuts her greens into very thin pieces and I do too. In cooking terms it would be called a chiffonade or julienne.

Whether you go for large flat ribbons or more pieces, just make sure they are even. For even cooking, cut your greens into evenly sized pieces. For this recipe, I went with a thin slice which helps reduce the cooking time.

Can you eat collard stems?

Yes. But you need to cut them into smaller and almost identical sizes. Cooking the stems longer will help soften them. And yet, I highly recommend removing the toughest part of the stem—the woody part near the bottom.

I usually cut off most of the stem as a personal preference and for consistency and ease of cooking.

Making Tender Collard Greens

The secret to tender collard greens is moisture, fat and time.

Braised collard greens are a Southern staple. Braising (cooking with liquid in a covered pot) allows the greens to cook until they are silky and tender. This is the most common method. Traditional greens are cooked with the meat (usually ham hock), low and slow.

You’ll also want to include some fat. I like to use olive oil. This helps tenderize tough greens but also helps your body absorb more nutrients from the greens. So once again, fat is good.


You’ll only need a few ingredients to make these vegetarian collard greens. Here’s your grocery list:

bunch fresh collard greens
broth or stock
Sugar (optional but helps with bitterness)
red chili flakes or fresh hot peppers
apple cider vinegar, for serving

Note: You can add pieces of tempeh or textured vegetable protein to the pot if you miss the small pieces of meat common in the greens.

Braised collard greens in a pot with a wooden spoon

add vinegar

Although some swear by hot sauce or chow chow, adding a vinegar-filled hat is a must in my family. From small children to elders, everyone grabs a bottle just before a meal.

A splash of vinegar brightens up a dish without being overpowering.

My Easy Honey Cider Collard Greens uses apple cider vinegar with honey for a sweet, tart balance that just works. Braising collards with cider and honey makes them soft and perfectly balanced with sweet and salty. A comfort food favorite!

Below I am sharing my easy vegetarian recipe.

What to Serve With Collard Greens

Corn Bread I could honestly eat cornbread and greens and call it dinner. It’s the perfect side for flavor and contrast in texture.

You can also serve vegetarian black-eyed peas, fried fish or chicken with collard greens or on a Southern-style veggie plate with your favorite sides.

Corn bread is really essential. but these fritters without cheese Work too.

Vegetarian Collard Greens

These savory vegetarian collard greens are tender and seasoned for Southern-style flavor. Make these as the perfect side dish for Sunday dinner.

prep time15 minutes

Cooking Time30 minutes

total time45 minutes

course: co meal

Meal: american soul food

Keyword: Vegetarian Collard Greens

Servings: 4

Calories: 74kcal


  • 2 big spoon olive, avocado oil (or any neutral-tasting oil)
  • ¼ small spoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Clove garlic, minced
  • 8 cup chopped collard greens (cut into small ribbons, see picture)
  • 1- 1½ cup Vegetable bag
  • pinch of sugar (Alternative)


  • Heat oil on medium-high heat. Add red chili flakes to the oil. cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant.

  • Add chopped greens and salt to the pan. Turn the saag to coat in the oil. Add 1 cup broth (you may need to add more halfway through) and a pinch of sugar, if using.

  • cover. Cook over low heat 25-30 minutes (sliced ​​smaller, as shown in picture), or until desired tenderness, adding more broth as needed to keep pot from drying out.


For added protein and texture:
You can add a little tempeh or a little textured vegetable protein to the pot if you miss the little bits of meat in the greens. I usually don’t do this as I like the greens the way they are.

Note the cut. How small or large you chop the greens affects the cooking time. This recipe is based on a smaller, thinner piece. adjust accordingly.
Look at the pot After about 20 minutes check your greens to see how tender they are. Depending on how soft you like your greens, you can cook them longer. I prefer firmer ones and will stop cooking them for about 30 minutes.


Calories: 74kcal , Carbohydrates: 5Yes , Protein: 2Yes , thick: 6Yes , Saturated fat: 1Yes , Polyunsaturated Fat: 1Yes , monounsaturated fat: 4Yes , Sodium: 132milligrams , Potassium: 162milligrams , Fiber: 3Yes , sugar: 1Yes , Vitamin A: 3713IU , vitamin C: 26milligrams , Calcium: 170milligrams , iron: 1milligrams



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