These vegan collard greens are tender, smoky, and cooked to perfection. No soul food dinner is complete without them!
Collards are a staple of Southern cuisine and Black soul food. Traditionally, they’re cooked with ham hocks or bacon and served with cornbread, but it’s easy to make them vegan—and they’re every bit as good as the original.
Collard greens have a slightly bitter, earthy flavor, similar to their cousin kale and other bitter greens like broccoli rabe. Luckily, cooking them low and slow helps tame this natural bitterness, bringing out the best in these beautiful greens.
When cooked, collard greens become tender and almost silky in texture. They take on the flavors of the other ingredients they’re paired with, which means you don’t have to cook them with meat to make them delicious!
How Do You Get the Bitterness Out of Collard Greens?
The key to getting the bitterness out of collard greens is slow cooking on the stovetop. This method allows the greens to soften and also releases their natural sweetness.
In this recipe, we’ve cooked the collard greens in a mixture vegetable broth and apple cider vinegar. The acidity from the vinegar helps balance out the bitterness of the greens, while the salt from the broth also tames their flavor.
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Olive oil – Or a neutral-flavored cooking oil.
- Yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Smoked paprika
- Hot pepper flakes – You can use more, less, or substitute this with hot sauce added at the end of the cooking time.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Collard greens – Fresh whole leaves are best, but you can also use a pre-cut bag.
- Low-sodium vegetable broth – You can add more broth if you want more liquid in your finished collard greens.
- Liquid smoke – to replace the smokiness that ham usually adds.
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
What Is Liquid Smoke Made From?
Liquid smoke is made from water that has been condensed from the smoke of burning wood. It’s used to impart a smoky flavor without the use of an outdoor grill or smoker. And don’t worry, because the liquid smoke is filtered before bottling, it’s safer to consume than food that’s cooked over an actual flame!
How to Make Vegan Collard Greens
You only need 5 minutes of prep time (and some patience!) to make these vegan collard greens. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Prepare. Remove the stems from the collard greens using a knife or your hands, then stack the leaves, roll them tightly, and slice them into thin ribbons. Cut the ribbons in half, then rinse them well and pat them dry.
Cook the aromatics. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Stir in the garlic, smoked paprika, and pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the apple cider vinegar and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Add the greens. Add the collard greens a few handfuls at a time; stir them in and once they wilt, add more.
Simmer. Pour in the broth, then stir in the liquid smoke, remaining salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 60 to 90 minutes, until the greens are tender.
Finish. Taste and add more liquid smoke, sea salt, or pepper, if desired.
Tips for Success
Here are some tips for perfect vegan collard greens:
- Wash the greens well. Be sure to clean your collard greens thoroughly before cooking. Sand and dirt can cling to the leaves, so give them a good rinse under cold water.
- Monitor the liquid level. If the pot looks dry, add more broth as needed. You want about an inch of liquid in the pot at all times.
- Adjust the heat level. If you want more of a kick in your collard greens, feel free to add more red pepper flakes or your favorite hot sauce.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftover vegan collard greens will keep in the fridge, in a covered container, for up to 4 days. To reheat, simply warm them up in a pot over low heat or in the microwave.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, vegan collard greens can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let them cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat according to the instructions above.
Vegan Collard Greens
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium sized yellow onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼-½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes to taste
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 bunches collard greens cleaned thoroughly after removing stems (about 1.5 pounds
- 2½-3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth plus more as needed (I usually use 2 ½ cups, use 3 cups for more of a gravy liquid)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper to taste
To cut your collard greens/remove them from the stems:
- Hold onto the bottom stems of your collard greens, and push the greens up to remove
- from the stems. Or, using a knife, cut along the stem in a tight triangle upwards to remove as many greens from the stems as possible. Discard stems.
- Julienne the greens into thin ribbons, then in half (so they are in smaller pieces): To julienne, add the greens on top of each other, roll the greens up tightly together and slice into thin ribbons. Cut those thin ribbons in half width wise.
- Rinse off your greens and clean thoroughly. Pat dry and set aside.
Cook the greens:
- In a pan over medium heat, heat the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, smoked paprika and hot pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Then add the apple cider vinegar and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add in the collard greens in handfuls, stirring into the seasoning and adding more every 5 seconds until all is added in.
- Add in the broth, liquid smoke, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Stir everything together. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, until the greens are tender. If the pot ever looks dry, add more both as needed to keep about an inch of liquid in the pot.
- Taste at the end and add more liquid smoke, sea salt, or pepper if desired. Serve hot and enjoy!