Made without any meat, these collard greens are steamed and sauteed for a lighter version of a popular Southern side dish. Pair with black-eyed peas and cornbread for a traditional New Year’s Day meal!
I have had a lot of greens in my life, y’all.
As a Southern child, my favorites were mustard greens. Bitter, sopping wet, and a little mushy (sorry Granny), I would slurp those things up while my grandparents laughed. The very idea of it finding a child liking a food funny should tell you it might not be very good!
Grown-up me loves the earthy heartiness of all greens. Collards are one of my favorites because they are so sturdy, seem to be available everywhere, and are so versatile. After experimenting, I found that sauteing them and keeping them vegetarian make for a much better dish. They aren’t falling apart, and they honor the vegetable by not covering up the taste with pork fat.
Why Make these Vegetarian?
There are so many versions of collard greens that are boiled to death and so full of salty pork that they just taste like pork. That’s great if that’s what you want. In my family, we don’t eat meat for every meal, not even close, so having meat as the seasoning for every side dish is too much for us.
This simple, quick vegetarian version can be a great side dish to a meaty main. You can also serve them over rice or just on their own with a big hunk of cornbread.
Tips for Making Vegetarian Southern Collard Greens
This is NOT a boiled recipe. We’re not going to cook these for an hour. Most importantly, and I seriously mean this, we are NOT going to add sugar. This is a straight-up vegetable lover’s version of collard greens. They are cooked enough to be tender, but they are not mushy.
- Keep an Eye on the Skillet. You need to pay attention to these greens, honey. You have a lot of leeway in how long you cook them, but you need to pay attention to how long it takes to cook them YOUR way.
- Taste Your Food! How are you going to know if it tastes good if you don’t taste it? You will want to try a leaf or two as you cook these to gauge tenderness and saltiness.
- Wash Those Greens! Collards grow in sandy dirt, guys. They are going to be dirty. Thoroughly wash your greens before you prep them. Fill up a sink or large bowl with water. Add your greens, jostling them in the water. Let them soak, allowing all the sand to fall to the bottom. Lift out your greens, give them a rinse, and discard the sandy water.
How to Make Ahead and Store Vegetarian Southern Collard Greens
These are awesome to make ahead. You can store Vegetarian Southern Collard Greens in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can freeze these in an airtight bag or container for up to 1 month.
To reheat these, gently warm them over medium heat on the stovetop until they are completely warmed through and as hot as you like.
Other Great New Year’s Day Recipes
Collard greens are said to bring good wealth and fortune in the New Year! Eat these on New Year’s Day along with these other traditional recipes:
Vegetarian Southern Collard Greens
- Cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a lid
- 1 bunch collard greens
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup diced onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- sprinkle of hot sauce Optional: Sprinkle finished greens with your favorite hot sauce.
Prep Your Greens
- Fill a large bowl or sink with water.
- Submerge your collard greens completely in the water, washing them off.
- Let them soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Lift the greens out of the water, being careful to not disturb the bottom of the sink or bowl.
- Discard the dirty water. Rinse the collards in running water.
- Pat collards dry with a dishtowel.
- To cut the collards, lay a leaf flat on the cutting board. Run a sharp knife down each side of the rib in the middle. Discard the ribs. Cut the remaining leaves into strips.
Cooking the Collard Greens
- In a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, making sure the vessel has a lid that fits, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
- Saute the peeled, diced onions for at least 5 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the peeled, diced carrots and saute for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the clean, chopped collard greens on top of the carrots and onions. It is okay if they are still wet. You may need to carefully press the greens down into the skillet.
- Sprinkle the top of the greens with salt, then cover with the lid.
- Allow the greens to sweat for several minutes.
- Carefully lift the lid and stir the collards. You will see the collards beginning to wilt and release liquid.
- Stirring occasionally, continue to saute the collard greens. Cover with a lid when you are not stirring.
- When your collards are wilted, tender, and dark green, around 10 additional minutes, remove from heat. Taste and adjust the salt level if needed.
- Serve warm.