Spicy southern collard greens with bacon is a well-seasoned welcome to any southern meal. The perfect vegetable side dish to a soul food feast.
I have several recipes for collard greens. This spicy southern collard green with bacon version has a little more kick than the others. Growing up my grandmother used smoked turkey necks to season greens. My preference is smoked turkey wings but I started using bacon as a seasoning option because it is more readily available. I generally buy smoked turkey meat around the holidays. The rest of the year I opt for bacon.
Buying fresh collard greens year-round in Maryland is common but you get the biggest most beautiful collard leaves in late summer/early fall. For the big pretty leaves, I head to my local farmer’s market. They have the freshest leaves already cut and bagged. The one I go to wash the leaves before bagging which is much appreciated.
How to Clean, Trim, and Cut Collard Greens
Although the farm store where I purchase my collards gives a courtesy wash, I still treat them like I was taught. Coldwater in a clean sink to soak for a few minutes then a final rinse after removing the stem.
To remove the stem you tear the greens away from the steam on both sides by hand. You could use a knife but since the collards are in the sink it’s easier to do it by hand. Give a final rinse and set aside.
To cut the collards, stack about 3-4 trimmed leaves and roll them into a rod. Cut them width-wise into ribbons. The steams can be eaten as well. I don’t use them but they are usually sliced into 1/2 inch pieces and added to the pot with the cut leaves.
Make Spicy Southern Collard Greens with Bacon
Greens, especially collards are probably the easiest southern dish anyone can make. They don’t take a ton of spices to season. In fact, I like them sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and onion with a little bit of salt. They are naturally tasty green so it doesn’t take a lot to season them. The idea is to make a flavorful braising liquid to cook them in. This liquid will make the potlikker, the juices in the pot after cooking, worthy of drinking!
Start by using a large heavy-bottomed pot to sauté bacon, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Crumble in a chicken bouillon cube. Next, add the spices then start piling on the greens. I like to let them wilt a little before adding more. Give them a stir so that the seasoning coats the leaves. Then pour in the water and cover the pot with a lid.
Let the greens simmer on low heat for an hour. The greens will be perfectly tender and full of flavor.
How to Serve Spicy Collard Greens
- 4 lb fresh collard green weight before trimming
- 1 1/2 c water
- 1/2 lb thick-cut bacon chopped
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 tsp garlic minced
- 1 chicken bouillon cube see notes*
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional**
- Start by using a large heavy-bottomed pot to sauté bacon, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Crumble in a chicken bouillon cube. Next, add the spices then start piling on the greens. I like to let them wilt a little before adding more. Give them a stir so that the seasoning coats the leaves. Then pour in the water and cover the pot with a lid.
- Let the greens simmer on low heat for an hour. The greens will be perfectly tender and full of flavor.
** Red pepper flakes add a good deal of heat and a little flavor. You do not have to use the red pepper flakes in this recipe. It will still be amazing without it. Just not as spicy. The black pepper adds to the heat as well.