Soulful Southern Cooked Greens Recipe: A Taste of Home

As I sit down to share with you my delicious recipe for Southern Cooked Greens, memories of my grandmother’s kitchen start flooding in. The aromas of hearty, soulful dishes emanating from the kitchen were enough to bring the whole family together. And nothing was more iconic than a huge pot of dark green, bubbling, Southern-style collard greens. While its origins may be humble, this dish has become a staple of Southern cuisine and is enjoyed at many tables across the nation.

Cooked greens are an easy way to combine seasonal vegetables – such as leafy types like kale, mustard greens, or collards – highlighted by garlic, green onions, or onions that give them a nice flavor. However, cooking them just right takes serious skill and experience. Making southern collard greens is no mean feat but it’s so worth the effort. I’ve perfected this dish over the years by adding my own twists and techniques which yield an irresistible sweetness with a kick of spice.

In this recipe article, I’ll be breaking it all down for you; complete ingredient list along with helpful tips in case you want to make any substitutions or variations along with storing and reheating these greens as leftovers. Stick around; you are in for quite an enjoyable culinary journey!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern Cooked Greens
Southern Cooked Greens

Folks, let me tell you why you’ll fall in love with this southern-style cooked greens recipe. First and foremost, the juicy and tender texture of the collard greens will melt in your mouth like butter. These greens have been cooked low and slow with ham hocks or smoked turkey to yield a flavor that is unmatched by other boiled greens.

But what sets these greens apart from the rest is the dynamic depth of flavor that comes from molasses, vinegar, and beer. The sweet molasses brings a kick of sweetness that balances out the sourness of apple cider vinegar. The beer adds an extra layer of earthiness and richness.

And let’s not forget about the bacon! The savory bacon seeps into every crevice of the dish, adding saltiness and smokiness all in one bite. Combined with garlic cloves, cayenne pepper, diced onions, green onions, and black/white pepper to give it even more zest.

This recipe is also super versatile because you can mix other types of greens like mustard or kale. You could also make it vegetarian by skipping on ham hocks or meat altogether.

So whether you’re craving some soul food collard greens or just wanted to add some vegetables to your diet, this southern-style cooked greens recipe is calling your name. Get ready to indulge in a full-bodied experience that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

Ingredient List

 These greens are just like grandma used to make!
These greens are just like grandma used to make!

Before we start cooking our southern-style cooked greens, let’s get all the ingredients ready.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 bunches of collard greens (with stems removed and leaves chopped into bite-size pieces)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 large smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg
  • 6 strips of bacon (chopped)
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 green onions (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of molasses
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Make sure to have all your ingredients measured and grouped before starting the cooking process.

The Recipe How-To

 A colorful pot of southern comfort.
A colorful pot of southern comfort.

Let’s Get Cooking!

Get your dutch oven out for this recipe. First, grab 1 pound of bacon and chop it up into pieces. Cook it on medium heat in the dutch oven until it’s nice and crispy.

Next, it’s time for the aromatics. Add in 2 diced onions and 4 minced garlic cloves, cook until the onions are transparent – this should take about 10 minutes of cooking on medium heat.

Now, it’s time to add your greens. Rinse 2 pounds of collard greens or kale greens under cold water and chop them into bite-size pieces. Make sure all of the tough stems are removed as well.

Add your greens to the dutch oven with the bacon and onion mixture, along with 1 smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg for extra flavour. Add enough water just to barely cover the greens – about 8 cups should do.

Add in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt and black pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally until the greens are tender.

Once cooked through, remove ham hocks or turkey leg from the pot and discard bones before returning to pot.

You can serve with hot sauce or additional vinegar on top according to preference. There you have it – a soul-satisfying bowl of Southern-Style Cooked Greens!

Substitutions and Variations

 Garden-fresh collard greens for the win.
Garden-fresh collard greens for the win.

I learned this recipe from my grandmother who taught me that the beauty of southern cooked greens is their versatility. Here are some variations to try out once you’ve mastered the classic:

– Vegetarian Collard Greens: For those who prefer vegetarian options or if you ran out of ham hocks, use smoked paprika, liquid smoke, or mushrooms to give your dish more depth and richness.

– Mustard Greens: Swap collards for mustard greens for a little bit of heat and a tangy flavor.

– Kale Greens: Kale can be easily substituted in place of collard greens as it is sturdier and holds up over long cooking times. It has a slightly bitter flavor which pairs well with vinegar and garlic.

– Smoked Turkey: Instead of ham hock, you can use smoked turkey legs or wings for the same smoky flavor.

– Apple Cider Vinegar vs. White Vinegar: White vinegar is sharper while apple cider vinegar has a more subtle sweetness. Feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking.

– Beer vs. Molasses: Instead of molasses, some people use beer to add complexity and a different consistency to the dish.

Remember that Southern-style cooking allows for experimentation and improvisation. Try out these ideas or come up with your own twists on the recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own!

Serving and Pairing

“Eat your greens” has never been easier (or tastier).

Ah, the moment has finally come to savor the fruits of your labor. The Southern Cooked Greens Recipe is a true masterpiece and deserves to be enjoyed in style. I recommend serving this beautiful dish in a large bowl, family-style, so that everyone at the table can indulge in the vibrant colors and fragrant aroma.

Now, let’s talk about pairing. In my humble opinion, there’s nothing better than a cold beer to complement this savory Southern dish. The bitterness of the hops perfectly balances out the sweetness of the molasses and vinegar, while the effervescence helps to cleanse your palate.

However, if you’re looking for something non-alcoholic or with a little more zing, try apple cider vinegar mixed with a splash of water and a pinch of cayenne. The acidity will cut through the richness of the dish and add a spicy kick.

For sides, I recommend pairing these greens with some freshly baked cornbread or hot buttered biscuits. These carb-y delights soak up all that delicious juice from the greens and are perfect for mopping up every last drop.

Finally, dessert. If you’re feeling indulgent, why not try a slice of classic Southern pecan pie? The nuttiness pairs beautifully with the smokiness of the ham hock and bacon in this recipe.

In conclusion, this Southern Cooked Greens Recipe is a soulful dish that deserves to be celebrated. Pair it with your favorite beverage and sides and enjoy it with your loved ones around the dinner table. Savor each bite, because this one is special.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A flavorful and budget-friendly way to get your greens in.
A flavorful and budget-friendly way to get your greens in.

When it comes to Southern Cooked Greens, they can easily be made ahead and stored for later. In fact, I often make a large batch on the weekend and enjoy it throughout the week. The flavors intensify as it sits, making it even more delicious with time.

To make ahead: Simply prepare the recipe as normal and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, transfer the greens into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.

When ready to eat, simply heat the desired amount in a pot over medium-low heat. You may need to add a little splash of water or broth to loosen up the greens as they cook.

If you have leftovers that you’d like to reheat, you can do so in the microwave or on the stovetop. Just keep in mind that reheating can cause the greens to become more tender and lose some of their texture.

To freeze: If you plan on storing for longer than just a few days, consider freezing your cooked greens. Allow them to cool completely before transferring them into an airtight freezer-safe container. They will last up to 3 months in the freezer.

When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat following the same instructions as above.

Overall, Southern Cooked Greens are a great make-ahead dish that is perfect for soul food lovers on-the-go.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Pair these greens with some cornbread and hot sauce for a true southern experience.
Pair these greens with some cornbread and hot sauce for a true southern experience.

Over the years, I have developed some tips for perfecting Southern Cooked Greens. While they may seem simple, incorporating them into the cooking process can make a significant difference in the outcome of your dish.

Firstly, be sure to wash the greens thoroughly to remove all the dirt and grit. This is particularly important for collard greens since they often have sand trapped inside their folds.

Additionally, when seasoning your greens, use a blend of both cider and white vinegar. The acidity of these types of vinegar enhances the flavors of the greens without being overpowering. Adding a tablespoon or two of molasses and a splash of beer can also add depth and richness to your greens.

For a meaty flavor, consider adding smoked turkey or ham hocks to your recipe. However, if you are looking for a vegetarian option, try using vegetable broth along with a good quality smoked paprika or liquid smoke.

When it comes time to simmer the greens, resist the temptation to raise the heat too high; instead, keep it on medium-low heat for approximately two hours. Low and slow cooking allows the fibers in the greens to break down slowly for optimal flavour.

Finally, once the greens are cooked, taste and adjust seasoning as needed, and feel free to add additional spices such as cayenne pepper or black pepper diced onions and garlic cloves. Serve with cornbread or rice to round out this soul food classic.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to create a delicious pot of Southern Cooked Greens that will make any Southerner proud!

Bottom Line


As a chef specialized in southern-style cuisine, I urge you to try this mouth-watering southern cooked greens recipe. The rich and robust flavors of the ingredients such as bacon, ham hock, vinegar, and molasses will truly leave your taste buds in awe.

This recipe is perfect for those who want to make Southern-style dishes that are easy and quick to prepare. Whether you’re a salivating soul food lover or just someone who wants to try something new, this recipe is perfect for you.

Feel free to experiment with different greens such as collard greens, kale greens, or mustard greens. These variations will give you a delightful combination of flavors and textures that will surely satisfy any appetite.

Overall, this recipe brings together all the elements of Southern comfort food- it’s hearty, flavorful, and comforting. You won’t be disappointed when trying it out for your next family dinner or potluck gathering.

So go ahead and make your own Southern-style collard greens with this recipe. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make with only a few simple ingredients. It’s an excellent way to bring some cultural diversity to your plate and impress your guests with a truly delicious meal.

Southern Cooked Greens

Southern Cooked Greens Recipe

Best greens ever!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Southern American
Calories 178.9 kcal


  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle beer
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 6 lbs greens (mustard, collard, turmip, kale, spinach)


  • In a large pot, fry bacon until crispy.
  • Add onions, cook for 6-7 minutes, until wilted.
  • Add garlic, cayenne, green onions.
  • Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in beer, vinegar, molasses.
  • Add greens, 1/3 at a time, pressing down as they start to wilt.
  • Cook uncovered about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 745gCalories: 178.9kcalCarbohydrates: 8.4gProtein: 4gFat: 12.8gSaturated Fat: 4.3gCholesterol: 19.3mgSodium: 241.3mgFiber: 0.7gSugar: 3.3g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Low Cholesterol, Low Protein, Very Low Carbs
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