I’m a collard greens fanatic and I’ll eat them even if they’ve been boiled to high heaven, but the way we typically make our collards at home is a faster and easier way: sauteing them. This easy recipe for garlic sauteed collard greens will be a valuable tool in your leafy greens arsenal!
How to make vegetarian collard greens delicious
Greens have a flavor of their own, and you don’t need to infuse these sauteed collard greens with bacon or other meaty things in order to coax out a rounded taste. (Although, they’d be delicious as a side dish with tempeh bacon – I won’t lie).
You ALSO don’t need to pretend collard greens are a tortilla and make collard wraps in order to enjoy them.
Like with so many vegetables, collards taste awesome when they are properly prepped, seasoned with copious amounts of garlic, bloomed with some naturally piquant seasonings, salted well, and then lightly flash fried or stir fried. No pork products needed, and that means these healthy collard greens are cholesterol-free.
Deglazing the pan with a small amount of an acidic ingredient like mirin, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice will help cling the garlic to your greens, and then a quick minute or two of steaming the collard greens with the lid on gets them fully tender.
If you’re looking for more of a smoked greens flavor then you can add a few drops of liquid smoke or use smoked paprika in your seasoning mix, but I personally don’t find this necessary.
How to wash and cut collard greens
This is my method for how to cut and prep collards so that they cook evenly and stems don’t end up in the final product.
Lay a stack of collard leaves flat, and use a small, sharp knife to cut straight down the middle around the stem, then discard the stems. If we were adding these greens to a stew, the stems could stay and just be added earlier than the leaves. With this quick and easy collard greens recipe, we omit the stems so that the whole dish cooks more quickly.
Now, stack the halves of the leafs again, and roll up the whole thing. Then, from left to right, make 1/4-inch cuts to create perfectly even collard green strips. Rolling up the leaves first helps you cut through the whole thing with one motion of your knife, thus improving speed and reducing frustration.
Next comes the washing. It’s best to wash most leafy greens by fully submerging them in water and then swishing them around to remove any dirt and debris. If rinsing them, you tend to miss some spots because they have so much surface area. Repeat the submerge-and-swish more than once if needed, until water is no longer dirty.
Then drain the water away. If you have a salad spinner, this is where you spin the collard greens to dry them off. If you don’t have one, drain them as best you can, then spread them out on a dry baking sheet or cutting board, pat them with a towel, and let them finish air drying. It happens pretty quick. Once the greens are dry, you are ready to cook!
Sauteed collard greens variations and serving suggestions
You can change up the spices to give these collards a bit of a different flavor. For an Indian inspired spin, add whole cumin seeds before the garlic, and add a little bit of minced ginger with the garlic as well. (Psst: blanched collard greens can be used in my vegan saag paneer!)
If you’d like to pair spinach and collard greens in one recipe, you can stir in some spinach after removing the lid from steaming the collards, and stir it in until wilted. If adding spinach, try to serve immediately, as the spinach could make the dish a bit watery the longer you wait.
For a little bit of texture or crunch, you can add pumpkin seeds with the garlic. They add a great texture and flavor. Or, sprinkle the stir fried collards with hemp seeds before serving.
What do you eat sauteed collard greens with? Anything goes, but I like to have this as a side with pasta or noodle dishes, or alongside some saucy tofu with rice. Of course, serving the collard greens with some beans and cornbread would make for a nice and relatively well balanced, healthy Southern inspired platter.
You can store cooked collard greens in a container in the refrigerator once completely cooled. They will keep for up to about 5 days.
Garlic Sauteed Collard Greens
No need for long boiling or steaming times with this quick and easy method for sauteed collards!
- 1 bunch collard greens (about 16oz)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp mirin (or use apple cider vinegar or another "sweet" tasting vinegar)
Warm the olive oil in a wide skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Add the spices (salt through red pepper flakes), stir, and cook for 30 seconds more until toasted.
Stir in the collard greens, stirring well to coat with the spices, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until softened and reduced in size by about half. Add the mirin or other liquid, stir in well, and quickly cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let steam, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and stir well. If needed, continue cooking until desired softness is reached. Serve warm.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.