Eat Your Greens: Vegetarian “Southern Style” Collard Greens

PUBLISHED ON: 12.24.2014
“Almost any southerner who is a respectable cook has a recipe for collard greens” 

There is history in this pot of leafy greens which is firmly rooted in the African-American communities of the deep south.  Family recipes are handed down from generation to generation.  Collard greens have been available for centuries but it was in the South that collard greens evolved and became part of present day southern cuisine.

Collard greens are slowly cooked producing a “low gravy” and often cornbread is dipped into the concentrated flavorful broth.  If you have never enjoyed collard greens, you are missing out on something really special.

My garden became my foundation for the inspiration to learn how to prepare real southern greens. Collard greens thrive in the mild southern winters and the first frost always adds a sweetness to the leafy greens.  Bending down in the soil to clip the large leafy green leaves from my plant it is understood “soul” is an essential element in the preparation of a pot of greens.  There have been countless pots of collard greens over the last two years in an honest effort to present a pot of greens worthy of respect.  Creating a savory broth with a slight kick is the goal.  I experimented using smoked turkey wings and necks, bacon, to the traditional ham hocks. There were a few hot sauces and pepper vinegars too.

A vegetarian version of collard greens cooked slowly in a rich vegetable broth flavored with onion and garlic, sautéed in olive oil with a pat of butter with a pinch of red pepper flakes would prove to be my pot of collard greens worthy of respect.

There is no meat but there is no sacrificing of flavor here. I think the southerners would agree.

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. 
~Dorothy Day
Vegetarian “Southern Style” Collard Greens
Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from Sunny Anderson

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound collard greens, chopped 
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and butter.  Sauté the onions until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes and garlic, cook another minute.  Add collard greens and cook another minute.  Add vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer.  Add carrots. Cook until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Hi Velva:)I love that you included a taste of history with your Collard Greens today. I'm sure it too adds a bit of flavor in tradition:)I have never been able to make a good collard green dish. I'm sure it is because I don't have the connection like many of my southern friends do. Don't get me wrong, I wish I did but, alas, the magic just doesn't happen for me:)I love that yours is meatless. I didn't think it was possible to get the depth of flavor without some sort of pork. If you say so, I totally believe you though. I'm surprised at the addition of carrot, although optional. Very interesting:) I think I'll save this a give them a try once again. You never know, maybe I'll get it right some time, lol…Thank you so much for sharing, Velva…A Very Merry Christmas to You and Yours, Velva! It has been a pleasure getting to know to you these past years. Onward and upward for a fantabulous New Year and the next 50!!! (at least:)

  • \”Pot liquor\” is what we called the broth. My mother and grandmother cooked many greens but collards were the favorite. Always accompanied by cornbread. Happy Holidays!Best,Bonnie

  • We had a big pot of Collards night before last. Fresh out of the garden. They were wonderful.Merry Christmas Velma.

  • We just had collard greens and cornbread last night. Mine had bacon and ham but I know I would enjoy your version as well…I love all kinds of greens. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • Looks like a fine mess of greens Velva

  • Sounds wonderful Velva. If you can believe it, as southern as I am, I'm ashamed to admit I don't believe I've ever eaten collard greens. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family.Sam

  • Velva, collard greens like this makes the best side dish any time. And I want to try your version. Have a great day!

  • Mmm, I do so love collard greens!! I haven't had them in years, but after your post, I'm craving them. 🙂

  • I love GREENS and have been eating lots of kale and spinach. Time to get some collards! This looks so comforting and tasty!

  • I must make these again. I like your description of the perfect dish of collards.

  • I have seen Collard greens in the store but never knew what to do with them. This sounds delicious. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a happy new year!

  • I made a very un-Southern salad the other night using collard greens as a base!

  • Southern girl here, and collards are my favorite. Give me a chunk of cornbread to sop up the pot liquor and I'm a happy gal. 🙂 Must try your vegetarian version!

  • yes indeed. You are right. if you are a southern cook you not only now how to cook collard greens but you have your own \”special recipe\” for it.! I love yours. they look divine with the perfect about of juice!

  • Although I love greens I'm another who has never tasted collard greens. If I can get my hands on some fresh collard greens I'd love to try your recipe, Velva.

  • Lovely collards recipe – I think they're so often overlooked – thanks for this!Mary

  • Interesting about the first frost bringing sweetness. Your bowl looks lovely – pass the cornbread please

  • Ohhhh Yes!!! I have my black beans soaking right now and will put them in the cast iron cooking pot to cook over night!! My Mom puts in the ham bone from Christmas Dinner – but we didn't have pork, only a turkey. So my black beans and collards will have onion and garlic. We also make cornbread, served with honey!!I have enjoyed your recipes Velva this year and have printed off and fixed several of them!! Happy New Year to you and yours!!! Suzan

  • I feel so ignorant as a person who has lived in the South for nearly 20 years now and cannot make a decadent batch of collards! I love eating everyone else's though! Your recipe may just change things for me! Traditional for good luck in the South, right? Happiest of new years to you and yours Velva!Hugs,Roz

  • I meant 'decent' above and not 'decadent' . . . ah auto-spell! LOL!

  • Why have I never tried collard greens before? I really want to though!

  • Your collard greens look marvelous, Velva!Happy New Year to you…looking forward to another year of blogging friendship and great recipes!

  • I love collards any way you want to make them, but yours sound especially good. Thanks for this recipe Velva. I can't wait to try it.

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