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Easy Collard Greens With Ham Hocks

This recipe will show you how to make traditional Southern collard greens by boiling the meat from a smoked ham hock. Collard greens with ham hocks is a soul food staple side dish and is served during the holidays and for Sunday dinners.

southern collard greens with ham hocks in a Dutch oven

Collard greens with ham hocks are an authentic staple of the South. Most Blacks and African Americans grew up preparing their greens with ham hocks.

What Meat is Used to Season Collard Greens?

This recipe is made using ham hocks. You can also use smoked turkey necks, smoked turkey wings, smoked turkey legs, salt pork, country ham, or even bacon to season the greens. If you are planning to use bacon I recommend that you cook the bacon first, and omit the olive oil used in this recipe. Cook the onions in the bacon fat.

Remove the bacon and crumble. Set aside until after the collards have cooked. Sprinkle the bacon throughout once cooked.

What is a Ham Hock

Ham hocks aren’t very meaty (You should try to look for the meatiest one you can find). It’s pork knuckle, where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg and is mostly fat and bone. It’s been known to be used in a dish like this along with red beans and rice, mustard greens, black-eyed peas, etc. because of the immense flavor it provides.

I found ham hocks at standard grocery stores in the meat section. You can also use a local butcher.

ham hocks, broth, Creole seasoning, onions, and garlic in separate bowls

How to Wash Greens

Over the years, I have often stopped washing greens and would purchase the prepackaged pre-washed bagged Glory greens from the grocery store. Sometimes they are harder to find and they often have a lot more of the stems from the greens than the actual thick leaves.

You can buy these if you wish. It will cut down on your washing process and save a lot of time!

If you are buying from the normal produce area, greens are sold in bundles. Look for bundles with really thick, leafy greens. If you wait and shop at the last minute this may be difficult to find and you get stuck with smaller bundles. You may just have to buy more.

Greens have thick stems and veins on the back of the leaves. These areas capture dirt and sand. You will need to clean them thoroughly.

fresh leafy collard greens
  1. Start with picking your greens and removing the stem. Fold the leaf in half (lengthwise) and rip off the stem.
  2. Fill a large bowl or your sink with water.
  3. I like to use this produce vegetable cleaner to spritz the greens. You can also use vinegar. Or you can just use water it’s your choice.
  4. From there load them into your bowl or sink.
  5. Use your hands and swish them around. Rub your hands over the actual leaves to scrub away any dirt.
  6. Drain the water and refill. Repeat this process until your water runs clear and you see no dirt in the water.
fresh collard greens shredded in a bowl

How to Remove the Stems

It’s common southern practice to remove the stems from the greens. This is something that’s optional, and would only need to be done if you don’t purchase pre-washed, pre-bagged greens.

Removing the stems from every item AND washing them over and over to remove dirt is very time-consuming. If you plan to buy bundled greens, be sure to block off half a day.

A lot of people dislike buying the pre-bagged greens because they often include a lot of stems (which are totally edible and delicious, by the way). I often compensate for this, by buying 1 additional bag in case I need it.

collage of 4 photos with a cooked ham hock, sauteed onions and garlic

How to Double the Recipe or Make it For a Large Group

Greens will wilt… A TON! When you first add them to the pot it will feel like a lot, but they will shrink a lot. So you can double the recipe (I would opt for the same size smoked ham hock, or no more than a half-pound larger), but keep the cooking time the same.

Does Cooking Greens Take Away the Nutrients

Greens are leafy green vegetables packed with nutrients and they are labeled as a superfood. They are rich in Vitamin K, fiber, iron and antioxidants. According to The Huffington Post, greens can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

All of these nutrients will mostly stay intact no matter how the greens are cooked. Boiling the greens can break down the nutrients, but then the nutrients are passed to the broth and liquid in the pot of greens. Which is a great reason to enjoy that broth or use it in gravies!

You can read more about How to Cook Healthier Greens here.

Cooking greens in fatty meats, however, will add additional sodium, calories, and fat to the dish. This is where greens have gotten a bad reputation (again, usually from outsiders). Growing up ham hocks, salt pork, etc were used to cook greens. Now there are much healthier options, like turkey.

uncooked southern collard greens with ham hocks in a Dutch oven

How to Season the Greens and Add Flavor

You can really keep it simple with the seasoning. I like to use fresh onions and garlic, and Creole Seasoning but you can use other spices if you wish.

I use a smoked ham hock. You can also use smoked turkey, bacon, or salt pork if you wish.

How to Make Collard Greens With Ham Hocks

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant.
  3. Deglaze the pan by adding chicken broth.
  4. Begin to layer in the greens and add them in batches.
  5. Add in the Creole Seasoning and ham hock. Bring the pot to a boil.
  6. Place the lid on the pot and adjust the heat to medium.
southern collard greens with ham hocks in a Dutch oven

How Long to Cook

I like to let these cook for two hours. If you are really strapped for time you can use this Instant Pot Collard Greens recipe method. Cook time will vary based on how you like your greens. I like for mine to be tender. If you like them super tender you may cook them for 3 hours or more. If you like more of a bite lessen the cook time. Check in on them to be sure you reach your desired result.

Can You Make Them Ahead/How Long Will They Last in the Fridge

For holiday cooking you typically make these a day in advance. The greens will last in the fridge covered for 3-4 days.

southern collard greens with ham hocks in a Dutch oven

Freezing Tips

I freeze greens pretty much every time I make them. I use these freezer molds from Amazon and they work perfectly. You can freeze greens in 1 cup portions, which is great for when you want to pull a portion out for dinner.

You can freeze greens for up to 6 months. I throw them in the slow cooker for an hour or two to reheat.

Vegetarian or Vegan Collard Greens

Omit the ham hock for meatless collard greens. Use vegetable broth. Add in 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for flavor.

southern collard greens with ham hocks in a white bowl

Recipes to Pair with Collard Greens

Cornbread is always served with collards during a soul food meal or Sunday dinner.

Southern Cornbread Recipe
Cornbread Salad
Homemade Cornbread Muffins
Keto Cornbread
Vegan Cornbread
Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes

More Collard Greens Recipes

Grandmas Southern Collard Greens
Ethiopian Collard Greens
Pressure Cooker Collard Greens
Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey

If you want to use a Crockpot or slow cooker check out our Slow Cooker Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey.

southern collard greens with ham hocks in a Dutch oven
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5 from 2 votes

Easy Collard Greens with Ham Hocks

This recipe will show you how to make tradtional Southern collard greens by boiling the meat from a smoked ham hock. This soul food staple side dish is served during the holidays and for Sunday dinners.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 8 cups
Calories 128kcal
Author Brandi Crawford

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onions
  • 3 garlic cloves Minced
  • 3 pounds fresh collard greens This is usually 3-4 bundles. Weigh for accuracy. Weight includes the stems.
  • 3/4-1 pound smoked ham hock
  • 1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth You can also use water.
  • 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning Adjust to taste.
  • sugar or sweetener Optional and adjust to taste. See notes.

Instructions

  • Place the ham hock in a pot large enough to fit along with water. Add enough water to cover the ham hock. Bring the water to a boil. Cook the ham hock for 45 minutes to an hour until it becomes tender. You may have to keep a close watch and add additional water as the water evaporates.
  • While the ham hock cooks, wash your greens. Fill a large bowl or your sink with water. Use your hands and scrub the veins of the leaves to remove any dirt or sand. Wash the greens thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  • Remove the stems from the greens and slice the greens into smaller pieces.
  • Heat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic. I like to use a Dutch oven because you can saute the vegetables and cook the greens all in one pot.
  • Saute the onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding the chicken broth.
  • Begin to layer in the greens and add them in batches. Greens will need to wilt down a lot in order to fit in the pot. Add in the greens and then stir and allow them to cook down.
  • Add in the Creole Seasoning and ham hock. Bring the pot to a boil.
  • Place the lid on the pot and adjust the heat to medium-low. Allow the greens to cook for 2 hours or until the greens are soft and the ham hock is tender (fall off the bone tender). Check in throughout the cooking process and stir the greens when necessary.
  • Open the pot and remove the ham hock. Shred the meat from the ham hock using forks and return it to the pot. Taste the greens repeatedly and add seasoning and spices if necessary.
  • Serve.

Notes

  • Collard greens are slightly bitter in comparison to other greens. Often, sugar is added to take away some of the bite. This is optional and you can wait to taste the greens after they have cooked. Decide if they need any sugar and add it to taste.
  • Start with 1/2 tablespoon of Creole seasoning and adjust to taste. You can substitute Creole seasoning for whatever spices you like.
  • It’s also common to serve collard greens with vinegar. Feel free to add it if you wish.
  • I like for my greens to be tender. If you like them super tender you may cook them for 3 hours or more. If you like more of a bite lessen the cooking time. Check in on them to be sure you reach your desired result.
  • Greens will wilt… A TON! When you first add them to the pot it will feel like a lot, but they will shrink a lot. So you can double the recipe (I would opt for the same size smoked ham hock, or no more than a half-pound larger), but keep the cooking time the same.
  • Smoked turkey legs, turkey wings, bacon, country ham, etc can be substituted for a ham hock in this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal
Recipe Rating




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Friday 17th of June 2022

I love collards, but I am vegetarian. Have you ever tried to replicate this delicious recipe for vegetarians? Please develop a similar tasting vegetarian version.

Brandi Crawford

Friday 17th of June 2022

There's a section of this post that tells you how to make it vegetarian.

Lana

Friday 27th of May 2022

Brandi, thanks for a great recipe, cooked for 3 hours on medium low heat, creole mustard seasonings, pork jowl in there, when soft, I added some butter. No potlikker to save for later, ate it all up with my home-made cornbread. Delicious, along with nutritious.

Brandi Crawford

Wednesday 1st of June 2022

You're welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe!

Wendy

Sunday 27th of February 2022

Best collard green recipe . . love the potlikker with sour dough bread or corn bread!

Brandi Crawford

Sunday 27th of February 2022

That sounds so good!