Culinary Arts

What Are Collard Greens? How to Cook Collard Greens, and Chef Thomas Keller's Braised Greens Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 28, 2019 • 5 min read

There are few more classic Southern staples than a big pot of collard greens stewed for hours with ham hocks. While collard greens have traditionally been used for heartier cooked dishes, these nutritious greens have made their way into health food diets: shredded raw in salads, steamed, and even used as gluten-free wraps.

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What Are Collard Greens?

Collards are members of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea), and a staple side dish in Southern cooking. They feature dark green leaves and tough stems that need to be removed before eating. The flavor of collards is a cross between cabbage and hearty kale, similar to Swiss chard.

They are commonly used in Southern braises and stews, as the hearty leaves can hold up to longer cooking times. More recently, collard greens have become increasingly popular to use as wraps in plant-based diets.

Health Benefits of Collard Greens

While all greens pack a nutritional punch, dark greens contain more chlorophyll and are better for you—making fresh collard greens one of the healthiest vegetables around. Chlorophyll contains vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that keep you healthy.

Collard greens offer a high fiber content, and are a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, which fortifies bones. It is also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

6 Ways to Prepare Collard Greens

  1. For Salads: Starting with a large bunch, remove the woody center stems by slicing along either side of the stem with your knife, cutting them in half while removing the stem. Stack the collard halves in a single pile and cut crosswise into thick ribbons.
  2. For Wraps: Use a paring knife to remove the stems. Place collard leaves on a flat surface and add your prepared filling. Roll one end of the collard leaf over the fillings lengthwise. Then fold the short ends in, roll again, and place the wrap seam-side down on a serving plate.
  3. Sautéed: Using 2 ½ pounds of collard greens, remove and discard the center ribs and cut the leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a large pot of boiling water, simmer collards for 15 minutes and drain in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with a wooden spoon. In a large, heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until foam subsides and stir in 2 cloves garlic, the collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté collard mixture, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Drizzle collards with a wedge of lemon juice and combine.
  4. Steamed: Using 1 pound of collard greens, remove and discard the center ribs. Cut leaves into ½-inch pieces. Fill the bottom of a steamer with 2 inches of water. Add collard greens along with 1 minced garlic clove to the steamer basket and steam for 5 minutes.
  5. Blanched: Remove and discard the center ribs. Blanch the greens in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid; let cool completely in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Greens can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Stewed: Using 2 pounds of collard greens, remove and discard the center ribs. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces. Simmer collard greens in 3½ cups of chicken broth until tender, about 1 hour. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.

11 Collard Greens Recipe Ideas

  1. Creamed Collard Greens. A variation on creamed spinach with shredded collard greens cooked in a cream mixture, finished with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
  2. Biscuits With Collard Greens. Bring your breakfast egg biscuit sandwiches to the next level with braised collard greens layered inside. Top with your favorite hot sauce.
  3. Shredded Collard Green Salad With Sweet Potatoes. Raw collard greens pair perfectly with roasted sweet potatoes and tangy, rich goat cheese in this hearty salad.
  4. Collard Greens With Ham and Bacon. Classic Southern collard greens are stewed collard green, ham, and bacon. Adding smoked pork or smoked turkey to the dish takes its flavor profile to a higher level.
  5. Rainbow Collard Green Spring Rolls. A healthy veggie wrap with julienned red pepper, carrots, purple cabbage, and tofu wrapped in collard greens and served with a spicy-sweet peanut dipping sauce.
  6. Black-Eyed Pea Soup. A classic Southern dish of black-eyed peas, collard greens, vegetables, and ham simmered in chicken broth.
  7. Stir-Fried Collards. Collard greens cut into thin strips and sautéed with onion and garlic.
  8. Italian Risotto with Collard Pesto. Creamy Arborio rice and field peas studded with sausage and topped with a pesto made from collards and sundried-tomatoes.
  9. Turkey Black Bean Chili. Ground turkey with black beans, tomatoes, corn, and collard greens chopped into ribbons.
  10. Brazilian Collards. Thinly sliced collard greens, sautéed with garlic and olive oil.
  11. Ethiopian-Spiced Collards. Sautéed collard greens, spiced with aromatic paprika, toasted allspice, cardamom, and cumin. Finished with white wine vinegar.
Thomas Keller's braised greens with chicken and potatoes in bowls

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Chef Thomas Keller's Braised Greens Recipe

  • 1000 grams swiss chard
  • 1000 grams collard greens
  • 100 grams canola oil
  • 500 grams yellow onion, ½-inch dice
  • 10 grams kosher salt
  • 40 grams garlic, minced
  • 300 grams bacon lardons, ½-inch dice
  • 200 apple cider vinegar
  • 100 sugar
  • 500 grams chicken stock, plus more as needed
  • 300 grams cherry tomatoes, halved

Equipment:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Salad spinner
  • Rondeau or large pot with lid
  • Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
  • Serving vessel or airtight container (for storage)
  1. Trim the stems of the Swiss chard and collard greens and cut the leaves into 1 ½-inch pieces. Wash the greens well and then dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Heat a rondeau or large pot over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once the canola oil starts to shimmer, add the bacon lardons, onions, and kosher salt and sweat until the onions are soft and translucent and the bacon has rendered. You do not want to brown the onions. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and apple cider vinegar, stir to incorporate, and continue to reduce until a syrupy consistency is achieved. Add 500 grams of chicken stock and the greens. You will have to add the greens gradually as they wilt down. Once all the greens are in the rondeau, cover and continue to simmer over low heat, checking every 15 minutes to add chicken stock as needed.
  3. The cooking process should take about 2 hours or until greens are very tender. Add chicken stock as needed to continue to braise. Once greens are very tender, remove from heat, and season with kosher salt and apple cider vinegar to taste. Fold in the halved cherry tomatoes and serve.

Learn more culinary techniques in Chef Thomas Keller’s MasterClass.