These Garlic Butter Collard Greens are a staple of Southern comfort food. The recipe features collard greens slowly cooked with butter, garlic, onions, and a hint of brown sugar for a perfect balance of flavors. Finished with a topping of crispy bacon, this dish is a hearty and flavorful side dish.
If anyone does comfort food right, it’s the South. My buttery collard greens, reminiscent of my last trip to South Carolina, are sautéed with onion and garlic, sweetened up with brown sugar, and spiced up with red pepper flakes. Everything gets slow-braised all in one pot, then topped with smoky bacon.
Why I Love These Collard Greens
- Easy: With a preparation time of just 10 minutes, once the simple prep work is done, the rest of the time is just letting the greens simmer low and slow without requiring constant attention.
- Flavorful: The dish is packed with rich flavors, from garlic and onion to brown sugar and crispy bacon.
- Great for Any Occasion: Whether it’s a holiday feast like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a cozy family dinner, these greens are versatile enough to fit into any meal.
What Are Collard Greens?
Collard greens are the leafy part of collards, a veggie in the same family as cabbages. The raw leaves have tough stems that get removed before you eat them, a bit like kale or spinach. These leafy greens are a staple in Southern cooking, and if you’ve never tried them, you definitely want to give this recipe a go!
- Butter: I recommend using room temperature butter.
- Onion: A small diced yellow onion will do.
- Red Pepper Flakes: For a little heat.
- Shallots: A couple of shallots, minced.
- Garlic: I highly recommend freshly minced garlic for the best flavor.
- Collard Greens: Make sure to remove the stems and chop the leaves up beforehand.
- Chicken Broth: For the braising liquid. You can also use vegetable broth.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Red wine or white wine vinegar is okay to use.
- Brown Sugar: For the perfect amount of richness and caramelized flavor.
- Salt & Pepper
- Bacon: Dice up thick-cut bacon and cook it to a crisp.
How to Make Garlic Butter Collard Greens
- Sauté: First, sauté the onion in a large pot with melted butter. Add the red pepper flakes and shallots, stirring along the way. Finally, add the minced garlic and cook for about 15 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add Collards and Cook: Add the collards to the pot along with the chicken broth, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Give everything a stir and bring the pot to a simmer, then cover and leave the greens to cook on low for an hour or so.
- Prepare the Bacon: While your greens are simmering, fry up the diced bacon in a skillet. I recommend removing the cooked bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon. Set the bacon aside for now.
- Serve: When the collard greens are tender and ready to serve, sprinkle the bacon over top. Lastly, season with salt and pepper to taste, then dig in!
- Cook low and slow. Sautéeing followed by slow braising with broth and vinegar is the key to collard greens that cook up nice and tender, without any bitterness.
- Adding apple cider vinegar enhances the flavors of the collard greens, and, more importantly, helps cut the bitterness.
- Many supermarkets carry raw collard greens in the produce section next to similar leafy vegetables like Swiss chard and kale. Make sure to remove the stems and chop the leaves up beforehand.
- Be careful not to overcook. Exact cooking times can vary depending on the toughness of your leaves. Collard greens will turn bright green when they’re done cooking.
I love serving these greens as a side to Smothered Pork Chops or Air Fryer Fried Chicken. They’re also great to serve with my Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil and this Light Skillet Cornbread. During the holidays, place them next to Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes or these Instant Pot Mac and Cheese goodies! Over New Year’s, collard greens are a traditional side dish to enjoy alongside a Hoppin’ John Skillet.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Leftover cooked collards should be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months. I like to reheat mine in a skillet with the juices for several minutes until warm.
Easy Vegetable Side Dishes
- Roasted Acorn Squash
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Parsnips, and Carrots
- Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad
- Easy Garlic Broccolini
- Green Beans and Mushrooms in Cream Sauce
- Roasted Cajun Butter Carrots
Garlic Butter Collard Greens
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 shallots, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds collard greens, stemmed and chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion to the melted butter and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the pepper flakes and shallots; cook for 2 more minutes. Stir frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
- Add the collards and cook for 3 minutes; stir in the chicken broth, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours or until very tender.
- In the meantime, cook the bacon in a skillet set over medium heat; cook for 4 to 5 minutes or to a desired crispness. Remove from heat and spoon the bacon out with a slotted spoon.
- When ready to serve the collard greens, top them with the cooked bacon.
- Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust accordingly.
- Collard Greens: If you get regular fresh greens, you should first soak and clean them to eliminate dirt and grit. However, if you get a bag of pre-chopped and pre-washed collard greens, you can bypass this step, although a quick rinse in a colander as a precaution is still advisable.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Incorporating apple cider vinegar boosts the taste of the collard greens and reduces their bitterness.
- Braising: Begin with sautéing, then transition to a slow braise, which is essential for achieving tender collard greens.
- Cooking Time: The precise cooking duration might differ just a bit based on the toughness of the greens. You’ll know the collard greens are perfectly cooked when tender and not tough.
- Storage: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for 3 to 4 months.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.