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These easy, southern style collard greens with smoked turkey are tender and full of flavor! Everything you love about soul food greens, minus the pork! Includes step by step photos for cleaning and braising the greens!
These collard greens go perfectly with baked mac and cheese! Check out my recipe here!
Why you should make this recipe
Making collard greens doesn’t have to be complicated! If the thought of cleaning and prepping and cooking the greens scares you, don’t worry. This post will walk you through each of the steps with photos. You can even use bagged collard greens that are pre-washed and cut if your prefer.
This recipe has been updated as of 5/19/22 with the addition of 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce to keep with southern, soul food tradition. The Worcestershire sauce is optional.
What are southern collard greens?
Collard greens are a staple dish in southern cuisine. Collards are a vegetable with dark green leaves and the long stems which are removed prior to cooking. The greens are washed, chopped and then braised in a savory, mildly spicy broth.
The braising liquid usually consists of chicken broth, worcestershire sauce, a touch of apple cider vinegar and a mixture of seasonings. As they cook, the greens lose their bitterness and become deliciously tender.
Tips for buying fresh collard greens
Here are some tips for picking fresh, quality greens:
- Fresh collard greens should have healthy looking, green leaves and bright stems. Avoid greens that are wilted, have holes in them or have brown edges.
- Don’t worry if you see dirt on the greens, you’re going to wash them thoroughly!
- Bagged greens can be found in the produce section of any major grocery store. They’re usually kept with the bagged salads.
- Bagged greens should appear fresh and green. Make sure you don’t see any brown, wilted-looking leaves or brown or yellow condensation. It’s normal for some condensation to be present in the bag, as long as it’s clear.
Here’s what you’ll need to make these smoked turkey collard greens:
- 2 bunches of collard greens – fresh on the stem or bagged. Just make sure they’re fresh and not frozen! Inspect the leaves to make sure they’re bright green with no holes or brown spots.
- Salted butter
- Aromatics: onions and garlic
- Smoked turkey meat – your choice of a neck, wings, a leg or tails.
- Low-sodium chicken broth
- Seasonings: smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes
- Apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Granulated sugar – just a teaspoon to balance the flavors
Tools you’ll need
You won’t need anything fancy, just a few basics:
- Large stainless steel mixing bowl for soaking the greens. If you don’t have one, a clean sink works fine.
- Sharp kitchen knife
- Large 8-quart stockpot with a lid.
Chopping and cleaning collard greens:
This part is super important, and probably the most initimidating. Don’t worry though, it’s not hard. Even when I use bagged greens, I still clean and chop them up smaller.
Step 1: Remove the stems
Cut off the part of the stem that extends past the bottom of the leaf and discard it.
Step 2: Roll the leaves and slice
Once you’ve removed the stems, roll up each leaf tightly and slice the greens as thin as you would like. Use the photos below as a reference.
Step 3: Soak the greens in water
Once you’ve chopped all your greens, the next step is to soak them in cold water. This is a crucial step because greens have a lot of dirt in them.
A large stainless steel mixing bowl is perfect for the job. If you don’t have one, wash your kitchen sink and soak them in there. Soak the greens for 10-15 minutes. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Preparing collard greens with smoked turkey:
Steps 1&2: Sauté the aromatics and brown the meat
In a large stockpot, melt the butter and add the crushed garlic, chopped onions and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté them until the onions are translucent.
Add the turkey meat and brown on all sides.
Step 3: Make the braising liquid
Add the paprika, garlic, and onion powder to the pot, then add half of the chicken broth. Add the apple cider vinegar, worcesterhire sauce and sugar. Hold off on adding the salt and pepper for now.
Smoked turkey contains a lot of salt that’s released while cooking. I don’t add any additional salt right away, because I don’t want to over-salt the greens. I’ve made this mistake before, and it ruins the dish!
Step 4: Cook the greens
Add the greens to the pot and pour the remaining broth over them. Don’t worry if the greens aren’t completely submerged in liquid. They’ll cook down after you cover the pot with the lid, and there will be plenty of liquid.
Once you’ve added the greens, cover the lid and turn the flame all the way down. Let the greens simmer for an hour and a half.
Step 5: Shred the smoked turkey
By now the turkey meat should be fork-tender. Remove it from the pot and shred the turkey meat using a fork. Discard the bones along with any fatty pieces and add the turkey meat back to the pot.
Note: skip the shredding step if you’re using necks because there really isn’t any meat to remove.
Step 6: Adjust the seasonings and continue to simmer.
Stir and taste the greens and broth. Add salt and black pepper your liking. Return the lid to the pot and let the greens simmer over low heat for another 30-45 minutes.
Optional: for super-tender greens, simmer for 1 additional hour. Just watch the level of liquid in the pot closely to make sure they don’t dry out.
For a complete southern-style meal serve these greens with fried chicken or ribs. I always like to load up on sides, here are a few recommended dishes that pair well with collard greens:
- Creamy Brie and Cheddar Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Easy Sweet and Savory Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
- Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Sage
Variations and Substitutions
- For vegan collard greens, omit the smoked turkey and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. You can also use plant-based butter or margarine, or avocado or grape seed oil to saute the aromatics.
- If you don’t have reduced-sodium broth, you can use regular chicken broth. Just go easy on the added salt! You may not need to add any.
- For non-spicy greens, omit the red pepper flakes.
- If you’re not a fan of smoked turkey, you can use another type of cured meat like salt pork, smoked ham hocks or smoked pork neck-bones. Follow the directions the same as you would if you were using smoked turkey.
For super-tender greens, add 1 hour on to the cooking time. Just make sure to keep the flame low and watch the amount of liquid. If the liquid starts to dry up, add more chicken broth. You need just enough to keep a simmer.Print
Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey
These collard greens with smoked turkey are tender and full of flavor! Everything you love about Southern-style greens, minus the pork!
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Total Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Sides
- Method: Braising
- Cuisine: Southern
- 3 pounds of fresh or bagged collard greens, thoroughly rinsed and chopped
- 1 smoked turkey neck, leg or wings
- 4 tablespoons of salted butter, divided
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic
- ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
- 4–5 cups of chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce – optional
*Refer to the notes section below for instructions on how to clean and chop the collard greens.
- Saute the aromatics: in an 8-quart stock pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute the onions, garlic and crushed red chili flakes over medium heat, until the onions are translucent.
- Brown the meat: add the smoked turkey meat to the pot and brown it on all sides.
- Make the braising liquid: add the smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and half of the chicken broth to the pot. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce and sugar, and bring the pot to a simmer.
- Braise the greens: turn the flame down low, and add the greens to the pot. Pour the rest of the chicken broth over the greens. Cover the pot and let it simmer over low heat for an hour and a half.
- Shred the meat: remove the turkey leg or wing and use a fork to break the meat up. Disregard this step if you’re using a turkey neck. Discard of any bones and fatty pieces and return the meat to the pot. Stir the pot and taste the greens. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Finish braising: Cover the pot with a lid, and let the greens continue to simmer for another 1-2 hours, depending on how tender you want your greens. Once the greens are done, turn the flame off and let them sit for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors settle. Give them a final stir and serve!
Cleaning and chopping the collard greens
- Cut off the part of the stem that extends past the bottom of the leaf and discard it.
- Roll up each leaf tightly and slice the greens as thin as you would like.
- Soak the sliced greens in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then rinse and repeat as necessary. A large stainless steel mixing bowl or clean kitchen sink can be used to soak the greens.
Serve the collard greens with a dash of hot sauce
Keywords: greens, turkey, smoked turkey, southern, easy recipe, collard greens, vegetables, sides
Here are some everyday food safety tips:
- Make sure to wash the greens really well to remove any rocks, dirt, insects or pesticides
- Never leave food unattended while it’s cooking!
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.