Smoky Collard Greens

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Sweet, tender, salty greens mixed with savory, melt-in-your mouth ham, in just 5 easy steps you can enjoy my southern-inspired Smoky Collard Greens.

Collard greens in white bowl next to cloth napkin. Text reads "Smoky Collard Greens".

What are collard greens?

Collard greens are a savory comfort food staple that highlight the ingenuity of southern cooking. Applying the low and slow approach BBQ is famous for, the natural sweetness of the greens shines. Finding a way to bring out the naturally delicious flavors in things the slow way is what BBQ is all about. The salty bites of tender, fall-off-the-bone, shredded ham mix perfectly with your chewy, slightly sweet greens.

With a little chopping from you, and some patience, you can make this entire savory dish in one pot. Oh, and that pot will be doing most of the hard work so you can relax. Let’s get started by covering what you want when picking leaves for the most flavorful collard greens.

How to Choose Greens

You want each leaf to be fresh, and there are some things to look out for to ensure you select the best collard greens. You can find these leafy greens near the spinach and mustard greens at your grocery store. Look for dark green leaves without any blemishes or browning. Opt for full leaves and avoid yellow tinting. It’s similar to cooking kale or cabbage, the way you unlock the subtle sweetness through slow boiling. Because these greens will have some bitterness you’ll cook into sweet, chewy goodness, freshness is key.

Chopped leafy greens in colander.

How to Wash and Prep Collard Greens

With my methods, you’ll learn exactly how to prepare your collard greens to unlock all those sweet and herby natural flavors. And honestly, starting with fresh greens is the best way to go. When you get fresh greens from the store, they’re going to have some dirt leftover you don’t want your guests eating. For one of the most lovely stories about the history of collards greens and the women that washed them (along with a recipe for a classic, passed down generational recipe for southern greens), read my lovely friend Jocelyn’s post.

I like to rinse or wash my greens by putting them in a colander and then spraying them down. If you’ve got a larger batch of greens, submerging them fully and agitating the greens in a sink full of water allows the dirt to separate and fall to the bottom. Dry your greens thoroughly. Then, simply chop your fresh collard greens into large chunks. Voila, your collard greens are ready to use with the rest of your ingredients.

Ingredients for Southern Greens

In order to get the absolute best natural flavors out of your collard greens, you have to give them plenty of time to develop in a rich broth. Here is everything else I use for this recipe, including the spices and seasonings:

  • bacon fat, lard, or beef tallow
  • yellow onion
  • garlic cloves
  • chicken stock
  • smoked ham hocks (usually available at the butcher counter, you may need to ask)
  • collard greens
  • apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • vinegar based hot sauce (I like Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • smoked paprika
  • black pepper

It’s traditional with a lot of collard green recipes to wait until you’ve boiled your greens to add spices. I like to add mine before boiling because it seems to release the oils in the paprika and bring out more of the smoky flavor, but that’s totally up to you.

Chopped leaves poured from colander to pot.

How Long to Cook Collard Greens

Once you’ve got your freshly chopped collard greens and the rest of your ingredients in your pot covered with a lid, you’ll want to let everything simmer for about 2 hours. You’ll make your both and let your ham hock simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, you’ll add your spices and aromatics, and of course your collard greens, and then cover and allow to simmer for 2 hours. You’ll know they’re ready when your greens are completely tender and your ham shreds easily with a fork.

What is pot liquor?

The broth you develop making leafy greens is called pot liquor (or potlikker). You do not want to waste this stuff. It’s delicious all on its own as a dip for bread, and also works great as a base for all kinds of yummy soups. In traditional methods, you allow your greens to simmer before adding any spices. Personally, I like to add these in before the long cook. It may not be traditional, but I love giving all these elements time to develop and deepen in flavor. It’s totally up to you, and you’re going to have tender and delicious collard greens either way.

Sauce in white bowl pouring into pot of cooking greens.

How to Make Southern-Style Collard Greens

Let me show you how to make this tender, salty southern collard greens recipe in just five easy steps:

  1. Rinse your greens. You want to use fresh collard greens, and that means a little cleaning. Wash them by placing them in a colander and spraying them down. You can also fill your sink and agitate them. The important thing is have your fresh greens rinsed clean before discarding the stems and chopping them up.
  2. Melt cooking fat. Preheat a large pot over medium heat. You want a pot to have a large bowl to hold your whole recipe. I use bacon fat for this recipe, but you can also learn How to Make Beef Tallow and use that. You’ll stir in your onions and garlic here as well.
  3. Simmer ham hock. You want to give ham hocks plenty of time to simmer in broth to get a tender, juicy ham. Pour your chicken broth or stock into your pot before adding your ham hock. Then, cover your pot with a lid and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the ham hock starts to pull away from the bone.
  4. Simmer your greens. Add your chopped collard greens to your pot liquor (or potlikker). You want your greens just barely covered in liquid, so add wader as needed. Then, stir in your remaining ingredients, and allow to simmer covered for 2 hours. Let the heat do the work.
  5. Shred and serve. Once your greens are completely tender and taste slightly sweet, it’s time to shred your ham. It will shred easily with a fork after this long stewing in your pot liquor. Then, just stir it all together and season with additional salt and pepper to your preference.

Wooden spoon stirring ham and leafy greens in pot.

More Southern Recipes to Serve with Greens

This smoky collard greens recipe is savory and sweet, and goes great on the side of grilled or fried chicken. Oh, and it’s so meaty it totally works as a main dish with some rice. Here are a few of my favorite dishes that go great with these salty, chewy, yummy collard greens:

Smoky collard greens in white bowl next to cloth napkin.

Smoky Collard Greens Recipe

Now that you can make this classic Smoky Collard Greens recipe, you’re on your way to become a real southern cook. Don’t stop at these savory, delicious collard greens. Next, try your hand at over 500 amazing BBQ recipes available in Hey Grill Hey app. May of the recipes include how-to videos, and all of them include simple, easy-to-follow steps to help you make better BBQ.

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Smoky Collard Greens

By: Susie Bulloch
0 from 0 votes
Sweet, chewy, salty greens with savory, melt-in-your mouth ham. In just 5 easy steps, you can enjoy my southern-inspired Smoky Collard Greens.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Servings8 people


  • 2 Tablespoons cooking fat bacon fat, lard, or beef tallow
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock low sodium
  • 1 large smoked ham hocks
  • 3 pounds fresh collard greens rinsed, stems removed, and slightly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar based hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper fresh cracked


  • Rinse your greens. Wash your collard green leaves by placing them in a colander and spraying them down, or filling a sink and then agitating them. Then, remove the stems and roughly chop.
    3 pounds fresh collard greens
  • Melt cooking fat. Preheat a large pot over medium heat and melt your cooking fat. Add in diced onions and cook . You want a pot to have a large bowl to hold your whole recipe. I use bacon fat for this recipe, but you can also learn How to Make Beef Tallow and use that. You’ll stir in your onions and garlic here as well.3-4 minutes or until fragrant. Add in minced garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes.
    2 Tablespoons cooking fat, 1 yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic
  • Simmer ham hock. Pour your chicken stock into your pot and stir together. Add your ham hock to your broth, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
    6 cups chicken stock, 1 large smoked ham hocks
  • Simmer your greens. Add your remaining ingredients and then chopped collard greens to your pot. Your greens should just be covered by your broth. Add water as needed. Then, stir, cover with lid, and allow to simmer for 2 hours. You want the ham to shred easily and the greens to be tender.
    2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar based hot sauce, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 3 pounds fresh collard greens
  • Shred and serve. Once your greens are cooked to your liking, shred your ham with a fork, and then stir greens and ham together. Add salt and pepper taste, and enjoy.


Calories: 244kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 973mg | Potassium: 688mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 8795IU | Vitamin C: 63mg | Calcium: 416mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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