How To Cook Southern Style Greens on the Stovetop


Here is how to cook Southern-style greens on the stovetop for the perfect soul food side dish for any meat and three.

how to prep and cook fresh collard greens (or turnip greens)


Update: I have had requests from some readers for a pressure cooking version of this recipe. So….. here is my recipe for Southern Style Greens Made in an Instant Pot.

For those of us who call ourselves “Southerners,” New Year’s Day is ushered in with black-eyed peas and a “mess of greens.”  Some are intimidated by greens, but they are actually quite easy to make.

“Greens” is a general term encompassing collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale. Collard greens have a slightly bitter flavor, while mustard and turnip greens have a slightly spicy, peppery one. Kale is milder than all the other greens and is often eaten raw in salads. For New Year’s Day, I cook collards or turnip greens.

All types of greens can be cooked using the method below. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned about cooking tasty greens (and a few about shopping for greens for New Year’s Day).

  • Buy greens early. Last New Year’s Day, I ran out to buy greens and found nary a bag of greens anywhere. At my 4th stop (Winn Dixie) I found whole collards (thus the recipe below). If you want to ensure that you get washed, bagged & ready to cook greens (pictured at right)~shop early!
  • Buy pepper sauce early, too! All stores were wiped out of pepper sauce last year too, but thankfully a dinner guest brought a bottle that she had in her pantry. Be sure you have this spicy condiment on hand, as serving greens without pepper sauce is like serving French fries without ketchup:-)
  • Have a large pot or skillet for cooking. Greens take up lots of space until they cook down, and a normal saucepan won’t suffice. (I use an electric skillet; see photo below.)
  • Clean out your sink for washing fresh collards. If you make collards from scratch, they’ll need a good washing, and the kitchen sink makes a great place. I sprayed mine with bleach and cleaned/rinsed it well before filling it with greens.

If you end up with fresh greens, here is how to prep them for cooking them. The recipe that follows is how I cook greens of all types, and it really is yummy.

How to Prep Whole Collard Greens

how to cook greens (turnip or collard)


how to cook greens (turnip or collard)

A bunch of fresh collards is huge. These that I bought last year were bigger than both my rice cooker and slow cooker!

First wash greens. Next, break off lower stalks, then tear large leaves away from the center stalk that runs throughout each large leaf. Then, tear or cut leaves into smaller pieces. I used my kitchen shears.

I prefer an electric skillet for cooking greens, as it doesn’t take up any of my stove burners. I use this 16-Inch Electric Skillet. It is large enough for big jobs and has a glass top with an adjustable opening for air and an adjustable dial for temperature.

Save the bacon fat: Bacon fat is key to making greens savory and yummy. If you regularly make bacon, save the fat~it is liquid gold when cooking “soul food” such as black eyed peas, greens, fried corn, etc…. If you save it, you can skip the frying of actual bacon for this recipe and simply add a tablespoon or two of bacon fat. Another great use for bacon/bacon fat is this Southern style skillet cornbread.

Southern Style Greens on the Stovetop

Southern Style Greens on the Stovetop

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This method makes fabulous, flavorful greens~collard, turnip, or mustard!


  • 2-3 bags prepped collard or turnip greens
  • 2-3 smoked ham hocks or 5-6 slices thick bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (frozen is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or EVOO
  • 2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 (32-ounce) cartons chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes


  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot.
  2. Add diced bacon or ham hocks; saute until fat is rendered and either meat begins to brown.
  3. Remove bacon or ham hocks; leave fat in skillet.
  4. Add diced onion; saute until translucent.
  5. Add garlic; saute until just tender.
  6. Add all ingredients (except greens); bring to a boil.
  7. Once the liquid is boiling, add all the greens.
  8. Reduce heat to simmer; put lid on stockpot.
  9. Simmer on low until tender, adding more liquid if needed.
  10. Serve with pepper sauce.
Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 75Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 6mgSodium 217mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 3g
I love to serve these greens with Nearly Always Perfect Black Eyed Peas, Southern buttermilk cornbread, and Fall-Off-The-Bone Baby Back Ribs. To round off the meal, I like to serve skillet blackberry cobbler. This is a soul-food meal at its best!

If you try any of these recipes, please let me hear how they turn out for you! I am so thankful that you stopped by my site.

And please visit our Family Savvy storefront to see my amazon faves and must-haves for you, your home and your loved ones.

As always, be blessed, and stay savvy!

how to prep and cook fresh collard greens (or turnip greens)

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  1. Hi Skip! I changed it and did not put a time. Simmer on stovetop until tender~which can take 45 minutes or longer depending upon your cooktop!

  2. why does this recipe have two different cooking times?

    one above instructions says 55 minutes and below that it says:

    Simmer on low for 2-3 hours, adding more liquid if needed.

  3. Only thing i can say is i cant not find where you tell how much water to use! That would be nice to know!!

  4. Hi Sandra! The stem or no stem camps are truly divided haha!!! I am fine with them as long as they are cooked until very tender. And it is great to not have waste:-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!!!! XoXo

  5. I use the stems too! Dice into 1/2″ pieces and saute with the onion. Gives a nice bit of crunch, besides no waste :-)

  6. Hi Linda!! Here is my suggestion for great flavor using non-meat options. Use 1) Better Than Bouillon Vegetable along with 2)a good quality vegetable bouillon cube with 3) a good vegetable broth. By using several different “options” you will get complex flavor. Hope this helps;ps!!! XoXo

  7. Just love USA (people, lifestyle, food and CARS!) and been many times driving thousands of miles over many states for holidays. Problem I had in the South was that meat/broth is used in the cooking of vegetables in places like ‘Crackerbarrel’ (being traditional) and I and my daughter are vegetarian. Here in the UK, greens are just traditionally boiled (boring!!)- do you have any advice how to get a good flavor without using meat? I usually make veggie onion gravy or cover them in butter and black pepper – can you help please?

  8. Walmart had mixed greens in a bag, but you have to pick out the thick stems. Don’t buy their bacon, I did, there were “strings” thru the bacon you couldn’t even bite through! And the grease I saved from it was YELLOW. That is a sign it is “no good”. I think maybe they might get their pork from China. Buy good bacon. Fry the greens first just in the bacon grease, then boil, sort of, for in my way one hour or more.

  9. Cass!!!! I am thrilled that Mark approved!!! YOu are such an accomplished cook and hostess~you need to share some tips with ME!!!!:-) Love you, sweet friend!

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