Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon

Well, hey, bacon lovers. Here's a quick recipe for collards that turns the greens almost silky and sensuous. Soon you'll be buying bag after bag of those marvelous pre-washed collard greens that show up in grocery stores this time of year, all to ensure our good luck! and good health! and good moods! (duh, bacon) in the year to come. After bacon and collards (or kale! or other sturdy leafy greens!), you'll need little more than onion, garlic and a little vinegar and maple syrup for one of the tastiest side dishes to ever emerge from a skillet. Enjoy!

Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon, another easy side dish ♥

Healthy Collard Greens Cooked Until Silky with Crisp Bacon. A Southern Tradition, Especially at New Year's. Mere Minutes to the Table. A Favorite Side Dish or "Under" Dish. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free.

Bacon. Bacon! Bacon!!

Before Christmas, my thoughtful husband picked up a gift basket of smoked pork chops and smoked bacon to deliver to local family beset with pre-holiday maladies.

"Perfect!" texted his daughter in thanks. "All the kids wanted for Christmas was bacon!"

And we felt the same way a few weeks ago, when I cooked up a 1:1 mix of bacon and collard greens.

Yeah, you read that right.

One for one.

Equal parts bacon and greens make a side dish that is eye-rolling good.

Funny thing, though?

Just to see, I pulled back the bacon to 1:2 bacon:greens. We still love these greens! Do we love them a little more with less bacon? I think so!

Bacon people, you're gonna be very happy here.

A collection of Collard Green Recipes & Tips ♥ Recipes include nutrition into & Weight Watchers points.

What Are Collards? or Collard Greens?

Collards grow in loose leaves, a botanical cousin to broccoli and cabbage but without the "heads" found amid broccoli leaves or cabbage leaves. (In fact, many of us may not even realize that leaves surround broccoli and cabbage heads since they're removed before the vegetables reach grocery stores.)

From a culinary perspective:

  • Collards are "dark leafy greens" that nutritionists encourage us to eat more of.
  • Collards are "sturdy leafy greens" because they withstand and even require a long cooking time to tenderize the leaves.
  • Collards are "winter greens" because they can withstand cold weather and thrive in cool late-winter and early-spring gardens.

Collards are a very old green, cooking practices go back a couple of thousand years! No wonder, they're packed with healthy nutrients.

The leaves are quite thick and a little bitter, see Vegetables 101: What Are Bitter Greens? for more information.

While collards are common throughout the world and especially in Africa, eastern and southern Europe, in the United States, collards are most common in Southern and African-American cuisine.

But at New Year's, collard greens appear in grocery stores across the country. In part, that's because collards are at their sweetest and most tender during the winter months in the northern hemisphere.

SOURCES Personal knowledge + Wikipedia

Do Greens Really Bring Good Fortune?

That's the theory! And that's why by tradition, cooked greens are served at New Year's, often with black-eyed peas and cornbread.

Over the years, I've collected so many lucky recipes for New Years, check out all the lucky soups, salads and more at New Year's.

About This Recipe

  • This is a classic vegetable side dish, just fresh dark leafy greens cooked with bacon in a skillet on the stove until the leaves turn soft and silky. In the American South, cooked greens are traditional at New Years, ensuring good fortune in the coming year.
  • Distinctive Ingredients = sturdy greens + bacon
  • Short Ingredient List = meaty bacon + onion + garlic + maple syrup + balsamic vinegar + salt & pepper
  • It takes about 30 minutes to prepare this dish for the table, about half that is hands-on time and the remaining half you should stay close, adjusting the temperature, adding water if needed, gauging the remaining cooking time.
  • Fresh greens can be so beautiful! This cooking method preserves the deep, dark green color of the greens which contrasts with the dark color of crisp, cooked bacon.
  • This is a budget-friendly recipe requiring no hard-to-find ingredients. The greens themselves are quite inexpensive, even pre-washed and pre-trimmed.
  • In addition, usually, for four servings, I allow a pound of vegetables. Here, because the greens are so fibrous and filling, for four servings, I allow only a half-pound of greens.
  • Not into bacon? No problem. Let me recommend Jubilee Greens at A Veggie Venture, vegan greens (including tender greens), also cooked in a skillet.
Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon, another easy side dish ♥

What's In Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon? Greens & Bacon & Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

The Greens As written, the recipe calls for collard greens but other sturdy greens will also work well. I love Sautéed Kale with Bacon but check the produce section for bundles of other sturdy greens like mustard greens and turnip greens.

Do try the bags of pre-washed, pre-trimmed greens. I find them to be reliably high quality in addition to convenient.

I do take the time to cut off the last of the heavy stems, however. Usually, I just toss those stems in the compost but they can also be cooked: they take longer than the greens themselves so if you want, throw the stems in with the bacon and don't add the greens themselves until the stems are nearly fully cooked. Even fully cooked, the stems will be chewier than the greens themselves.

Do not use this recipe for tender greens like baby kale, beet greens, etc. Their thin, tender leaves just can't stand up to the hot fat, they'll disintegrate and turn to mush.

Bacon Use the meatiest bacon you can find, we have good luck with Wright's Bacon that's sold by both Walmart and Sam's Club. We also love the bacon at Whole Foods.

Cut the bacon up into small pieces before cooking it. If it's too squooshy to cut up, throw it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up first.

Onion & Garlic Use a yellow onion, a red onion, even a white onion but you'll want to avoid the sweet onions like Vidalia and Walla Walla which are better suited for serving raw and very lightly cooked. For shape contrast with the greens, I like to cut the onions into vertical pieces, but really, however you choose to cut them up is fine.

Fresh garlic! Just slice up a couple of cloves although more garlic works well if you're fending off vampires or nosy co-workers.

Balsamic Vinegar & Maple Syrup This pair of ingredients is so important. The vinegar brightens the greens, both color and flavor while the maple syrup contrasts with the astringency of the greens. People who're new to greens may want more maple syrup.

No balsamic vinegar? No problem. Substitute apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, even plain ol' white vinegar. White vinegar can be a little harsh, you'll probably need to play up the maple syrup.

But maple syrup isn't the only sweetener. You might have add sorghum or a little pomegranate molasses or a little dark or light corn syrup. You might even just use a sprinkle of plain ol' white sugar. No shame!

Salt & Pepper That's it!

How to Make Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in just two easy steps. You can definitely do this!

  • COOK THE BACON & ONION Cook the diced bacon and sliced onion until the bacon begins to crisp up and the onion begins to turn golden. Right at the end, stir in the garlic.

  • COOK THE GREENS In two batches, stir in the collard greens, turning the greens to coat them with the hot bacon fat, beginning the wilting process.
  • Once the greens begin to wilt, stir in some water, the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and let the greens continue to cook, this is largely hands-off but do stay close and pay attention and stir occasionally. Taste a small bite throughout, tasting for texture and for seasoning. To reach a silky texture takes longer than to reach a cooked but still-chewy texture, you may need to add another splash or two of water.
  • But once the greens taste right, remove the lid and finish cooking the greens, while the liquid cooks off.
  • That's it!

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Can you sauté other greens? Yes! Just be sure to choose a sturdy green, no tender greens here, please. Kale works really well and turnip greens and mustard greens would too.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Know Your Texture Preference In this household, I'm good with slightly chewy collard greens but my husband likes them cooked longer for a silky texture.

Season Well Sample small bites of the greens as you go along, testing for texture but also for flavor. If they don't taste good to you, try upping the sweetness with more maple syrup or upping the acidity with more balsamic vinegar. This is especially important if you're new to cooking greens. The bacon helps, of course! But do make sure the greens taste good to you.

But Don't Skimp on Salt Salt is so-so-so important with cooking greens, not only does it help tenderize the greens but it also makes them taste good! Start adding small sprinkles of salt right from the start, with the onions, then keep adding additional salt as the greens cook. At the end, adjust the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar first but then, don't skimp on the salt. It's a balance, all three.

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How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for leafy greens hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Sautéed Collard Greens with Bacon, another easy side dish ♥


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time-to-table: 30 minutes
Makes 4 side-dish servings

Kale works really well with bacon, too!
  • 1/4 pound (112g) meaty bacon, diced
  • 1/2 (75g) medium onion, diced or halved & sliced lengthwise

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 8 ounces (225g) collard greens from a bag of already-washed, trimmed and torn collards, heavy stems removed (see ALANNA's TIPS)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt (be generous) & pepper

COOK BACON & ONION In a large non-stick skillet (including a well-seasoned cast iron skillet), cook the bacon and onion on medium heat until the bacon pieces begin to turn crisp and the onions turn golden, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

COOK THE COLLARDS (Be careful here! That hot bacon fat can definitely "pop" when the greens first hit the skillet.) Turn about half the chopped collard greens into the skillet, stirring well to coat the greens with the bacon fat; let wilt a minute, then return in the remaining half, again stirring well and allowing to wilt a bit.

Add the water, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens soften to the point they "feel good" (that's about 10 minutes for still quite-chewy collards, about 20 minutes for greens with a silky feel) and "taste good" (adjust the maple syrup, balsamic and salt, pepper to taste). For longer cooking time, you may need to add more water, maybe a quarter cup. Once the greens are "almost good," remove the lid to cook off any excess liquid.

SERVE hot as a side dish, so good!

LEFTOVERS keep well, just refrigerate. Reheat if you like, otherwise, they're good cold.

VARIATIONS Cook collard greens a few times and you'll soon be changing it up. I like to add mushrooms (with the bacon) or leftover Roasted Roma Tomatoes or ... what've you got? It might be good!

ADD EGGS? Honestly, sautéed greens are one of my best go-to, no-think Quick Suppers! Once the greens are cooked, make wells in the greens with the back of a spoon, then slip an egg to each well. Sprinkle with eggs with a little salt and pepper, then re-cover the skillet and cook until the whites cook and the yolks are as runny or firm as you like 'em. If I'm feeling extra-ambitious, there's hot corn bread just out of the oven, usually Skillet Cornbread or Sweet Cornbread.

ALANNA's TIPS Bags of pre-washed collard greens are a time-saver, I'm a big fan! Do take the time to remove the heavy stems that remain, they just don't cook as well. Of course, you may also use fresh collards sold in loose bundles in the produce section. But! Do allow an extra 15 minutes of prep time and do clean and trim them before starting to cook. If you haven't cleaned greens before, it's kinda tricky to remove all the grit so check out Leafy Greens from A Veggie Venture for how-to steps. This recipe works for other sturdy leafy greens too. I'm especially fond of kale, which also comes in convenient pre-washed, pre-trimmed bags. But this recipe is also well-suited for other sturdy greens like turnip greens and mustard greens. Or a mix! Please, no "baby" greens here, no tender greens either. Collard greens cook down less than other leafy greens, 8 ounces is all that fits into my everyday skillet, that's this large non-stick everyday cooking pan from Cuisinart, it has a clear glass lid, very handy. So you'll need a bigger skillet or pot if cooking more than 8 ounces. Anyone who keeps bacon on hand probably also keeps a container of leftover bacon grease in the fridge. Very handy! To use bacon fat instead of bacon, just cook the onion in a couple of tablespoons of fat. It's almost as good as bacon itself, just faster!

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, nutrition info will be added later. Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, Weight Watchers points will be updated later. This recipe has been Alanna-sized with less bacon.

More Leafy Greens for Good Luck & Good Health

~ leafy greens ~
~ collard green recipes ~

Tired of the same old vegetables the same old ways? Try collard greens, the sturdy greens we eat for good luck at New Years. Recipes & inspiration in this collection of Collard Green Recipes ♥ Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo and whole30 recipes, from weeknight easy to weekend special.
Jubilee Greens, Another Master Technique ♥ How to sauté dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale and more.
  • THE RECIPE Jubilee Greens How to sauté leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale & more.
  • ANOTHER TAKE Greek Greens How to flash cook dark leafy greens to eat later.

Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.

Slow-Cooked Greens & Smoked Turkey ♥, healthy leafy greens cooked until tender and luscious with a smoked turkey leg or ham hocks. Low Carb. Low Cal. High Protein. Gluten Free. Great for Meal Prep and Weight Watchers.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ leafy greens ~
~ bacon recipes ~
~ maple syrup ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.