18 can’t-get-enough Southern recipes for collards, kale and every green in between

Chef Jeffrey Gardner, Kate Williams
This classic Southern collard greens recipe is chock full of ham hock and its smoky flavor.

While we may be knee deep in squash recipes this week, there’s still room for one of our other fall favorites — braised hearty greens. From collards to kale and even turnip and mustard, there’s a Southern-grown green for you.

Read on for 18 savory, tangy, meaty and even vegetarian recipes using hearty greens.

Sweet and Spicy Collard Greens

When you think of the flavor profile of classic collard greens, this recipe checks all the delicious boxes. Ham hocks bring smokiness to the party, while the jalapenos and hot sauce offer the spice that most collard lovers crave. Since the best collards also boast a balancing act of sweet and tangy, using twice as much vinegar as brown sugar keeps the acidity in check while not allowing them to become too cloying. Be sure to cook the greens at a steady simmer to prevent them from shriveling up and not absorbing the pot liquor. 

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Instant Pot Collards

Instant Pot Collard Greens

Better living through technology. If you’re a member of the legion of Instant Pot fanatics — or perhaps you’re new to the IP game — this is an ideal recipe for the versatile gadget. Originally designed for a pressure cooker, these collard greens only require 20 minutes of cooking under pressure to become so tender, you’d think they’ve simmered for hours. Cooking the bacon separately ensures it gets crisp before being introduced to the greens.

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Dels Bourbon Collard Greens

Bourbon Collard Greens

Typically, collard greens feature apple cider vinegar, but this particular recipe opts for the more robust balsamic vinegar, which has a more mellow acidic bite. The real star of the show is the bourbon, which provides a sweet backdrop that plays beautifully with the salty, smoky bacon. We love the textural contrast between the hardy collards and the delicate spinach, as well.

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Eddie’s Turnip Greens

Collards seem to get more press, but turnip greens can be equally delicious. Softer and less bitter than their seemingly more famous cousins, these tender greens absorb flavor in a similar fashion while requiring less cooking time. Try this recipe from Eddie Hernandez, chef and owner of Atlanta’s Taqueria del Sol, which eats slightly more like a soup than simply straight greens. The butter and tomatoes harmonize nicely with the turnip greens to create a dish that just begs to be served alongside some rice and pinto beans. (Hint: If you visit Taqueria del Sol, this is an off-menu creation known as “The George.”)

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One Pot Minestrone

One-Pot Early Fall Minestrone

This veggie-packed soup makes a deliciously healthy and satisfying one-pot dinner. Featuring zucchini and Swiss chard, it’s perfect for enjoying at the first sign of fall. A Parmesan rind adds rich umami flavor — don’t skip it!

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Smoky Vegan Collards

Virginia Willis’ Smoky Vegan Collard Greens

Vegans and vegetarians need culinary love too, and Virginia Willis offers a delicious, meatless alternative by using canned chipotle peppers to mimic the smokiness of bacon, ham hocks or turkey. There is also no sugar nor vinegar, as tomato juice covers both bases of sweetness and acidity, helping the greens tenderize as they cook. For other meat-free methods, try cooking your collards in garlic butter with a touch of water or by substituting umami-rich white miso paste for any cured pork a recipe may require.

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Collard Green Pesto

Collard Green Pesto

We like to make pesto sauces using just about any green or herb we can get our hands on, and this collard green-filled twist is no exception. Serve collard green pesto as a dipping sauce — we love it with the pictured Hoppin’ John fritters — or toss it with al dente pasta for an ultra quick Southern dinner. 

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Apple Kale Coleslaw

Cynthia Graubart’s Apple Kale Coleslaw

When it comes time to plan recipes for potlucks and game day parties, leave the tubs of watery, bland coleslaw and dull potato salad in the cold case at the supermarket and try this crisp, healthy apple and kale slaw from chef Cynthia Graubart. Our friend Virginia Willis adapted the recipe for Southern Kitchen.

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Chicken Under A Brick with Kale

Cast Iron Chicken Under a Brick with Kale

While pork may be a traditional accompaniment to braised or sauteed greens, we think that kale really shines when it is paired with chicken — and its schmaltzy fat. Here, we’ve cooked it super simply in rendered chicken fat with a hefty serving of garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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Fall Harvest Salad

Fall Harvest Salad with Kale

Kale salad isn’t just for Californians. In this recipe, we pair thinly sliced Tuscan kale with some super-Southern friends — toasted pecans, diced mirlitons, apples and roasted butternut squash — for a salad substantial enough to eat for dinner all on its own.

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Southern Vegetable Soup

Southern Vegetable Soup

Hearty greens also make a great supporting player in soups and stews. Pair a duo of cabbage and collards with black eyed peas, tomatoes and carrots and you’ll end up with a simple, but super flavorful, Southern vegetable soup chock full of nutrients. Eat this the day after a fried chicken dinner.

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West African Collard Peanut Stew

Virginia Willis’ West African Chicken Stew with Collards and Peanuts

Flavor bomb alert! This stew has it all: heat from the habanero chile, sweetness and richness from peanut butter, headiness from spices and that classic bitterness from the greens. Let them simmer together and you have a stew that captures so much of the culinary traditions of the American South by honoring the roots of the ingredients and techniques.

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Squash And Kale Casserole

Butternut Squash and Kale Casserole

Comfort food is at its best in this simple, cheesy casserole. The deep green kale mixed with the bright orange hue of the squash coincides with the changing leaves. You can use any variety of squash you like and any preferred nutty cheese. Serve this casserole warm alongside your Thanksgiving feast or at your next dinner party.

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Even more hearty green-filled recipes, right this way:

Honey-Braised Collard Greens from OK Cafe

Red Lentil and Collard Green Soup

Southern Collard Greens from Greenwood’s Restaurant

Southern-Style Mussels with Hearty Greens

Spoonbread with Garlic Greens and Smoked Ham