How to Bring Life to Your Collard Greens

Why are collards so good? 

There’s no shortage of reasons to make collards a staple in your diet. Rich in vitamins A, C, and K and some good-for-you fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid, collard greens will keep your liver happy. Collards also provide a refreshing, palate-cleansing flavor that can offset some of the heavier fall and winter foods, like sweet potatoes and root veggies. It’s no wonder classic Southern meals keep a side (or main) of these greens on the table.

Getting choosy with your greens

When shopping for collards, pick a bunch that looks full and bright green with minimal tears and holes. A bright color indicates nutrient richness. Especially if you plan on making collard wraps (we’ll get into that in a moment!), having large, whole leaves will make your culinary adventures run a bit more smoothly.Always be sure to wash your greens thoroughly before eating, as they can get a little sandy or gritty, especially if you buy them fresh from the farmers market.

Cooking collards to perfection

There are a multitude of ways to prepare collards. But here are a few universal tips:

Stems off!

Especially if your digestion is delicate, cut off the tough end stems before cooking up your collards. If your gut is particularly finicky, you may want to remove the entire center stem. This is easy to do with a sharp knife.

Use oil and salt

Collards are delicious simply sautéed in a little good-quality oil (such as avocado or coconut) or ghee. I prefer to use oils that stand up to high heat, since collards are best when cooked for at least several minutes. A pinch or two of salt complements the pleasant mildly bitter, astringent flavor of the greens. Sea salt or rock salt is fine. For a good salty flavor with a little umami, I particularly like a dash of tamari or liquid amino acids, such as coconut aminos.

Time your cook color

Speaking of your gut, the more you cook your greens, the easier they’ll be to digest. However, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. I like to turn off the heat when my collards are tender and are a bright, deep green color. If you’re using a classic Southern-style recipe, the cooking time will be longer and slower and the greens will be a darker color when finished.

Super-easy spicy collards

This is one of my favorite ways to cook collards, and it works great if you’re short on time and looking for a filling, nutritious small meal. You can buy roasted red peppers in a jar or chop a fresh red bell pepper and add it along with the onion and pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients

1 bunch fresh collard greens
1 tablespoon coconut or avocado oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Small handful of raw pumpkin seeds
Pinch of smoked paprika
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Tamari or liquid amino acids
1–2 tablespoons roasted red peppers
Small block of sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

Curried collards

If you’re looking for another easy recipe, Coconut Curried Greens requires just a handful of simple ingredients and has a wonderful warming, mild spice and South Asian flavor. I love the combination of ginger, garlic, curry, and coconut in this simple dish. The recipe calls for collards and kale (double the greens), but it’s up to you if you want to use just collards, just kale, or both. This dish pairs nicely with peanut sauce noodles or zoodles.