Cleaning and Cooking Collard Greens

A Staple of the Southern Diet

It seems that cleaning and cooking collard greens is a Southern girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood in the South!

 Collards have been part of the Southern diet for centuries now. When I hear the word “collards,” I think of the days before the mega marts. These were the days when life was simpler, when every Southern family farmed the land.

It is too bad that these wonderful greens are now only prepared at barbecue restaurants. With a little motivation and a spot of fertile land (you don’t need a lot, maybe a 4’x8′ section) you can easily grow your own “mess of greens.”

Growing Collards

The first step in growing collards is, of course, buying the seed. I plant the variety Green Glaze, an old heirloom from the 1820’s, but other varieties such as Georgia Green are great as well.  Plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep around 8 weeks before the first frost (Nov. 15 for central Alabama).

After the seedlings are about 4 weeks old, start thinning, spacing the collards first to about 4 inches, then to 6 inches. Don’t throw away the outcast; this can be your first harvest of collards. 

After you thin, you can continue to harvest the collards by snapping off the larger outside leaves and allowing the head to continue to grow.  Once you have your collards inside, you are ready to start the cooking process.

How to Clean Your Collard Greens

Many people are scared to cook fresh collards for the hassle of having to wash away the grit and fearing the texture to be mushy and grainy (I know, I’ve had it too many times).  It doesn’t have to be this way.

When you prepare to cook your collards, the first step you need to take is not to reach for the spices, but for the sink.  This is the hardest step, but is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, or you will be taking a visit to the dentist.  The easiest way to do this is to fill the largest pot you have up with water and place the collards in the tub.  Give them a stir and let them bathe for about a minute.

Now remove the collards, pour out the dirty water, and replace with new water. When you see that pile of sand at the bottom of the pot, you will be glad you took the trouble.  

Repeat at least 2 more times or until the collards release no more sand. 

Enjoy delicious, clean collards–or any kind of greens, for that matter.

Note: Collard greens are loaded with Vitamin K, which is essential for health. It helps increase bone mass and may decrease the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage.

Hint: If you do not want to go through the cleaning process above, soak the entire bunch of leaves in salt water for about 30 minutes then rinse the greens in running water for about 3 minutes before cooking fresh collards.

Collard greens with bacon on top in an antique white casserole dish with china plates in the background
Collard greens are among my favorite winter vegetable and they are incredibly easy to prepare. You can cook every part of this vegetable from the leaf to the root.

Cooking Your Collard Greens

Follow the easy recipe below for delicious, nutritious collard greens.

Southern Collard Greens

Collard greens are among my favorite winter vegetable and they are incredibly easy to prepare. You can cook every part of this vegetable from the leaf to the root.
5 from 2 votes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Southern


  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2 pounds collards washed and pulled from the stem
  • 2 cups dry white wine such as a Chardonnay
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tablespoon freshly ground pepper


  • Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds longer.
  • Placed washed collards into sauté pan.  You may have to add half of the greens to the pan and let them shrink and then add the other half.  Add wine, broth, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pan.  Bring mixture to a boil and lower to simmer for 1 hour. Serve with Southern Fried Corn Bread crumbled up in your tasty collard greens!
If you like this recipe, please give it a star rating to help other cooks find it!
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Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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  1. Ruth Robbins says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe for collards. Thank you. Does it matter whether you use white or red wine? I really enjoy your site. Just found it a couple weeks ago.

    1. Stacy Harris says:

      I think that you will like this recipe. I think you could use either white or red. Let me know how yours turns out! Thanks for reading my site. I am so glad that you found it. Share it with your friends. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Diana Duncan says:

    After cleaning the collard greens, how should I store them in the refrigerator until use (a day or two)?
    Should they be laid out and drained until dry?

    1. Stacy Harris says:

      Hi Diana! If you won’t need your collards for a few days, I would put my freshly washed collards into a salad spinner and get all water off of them and store them in a breathable container or bowl. They do need to be stored dry. I have heard of layering them in single layers between paper towels, but I don’t think that is necessary. To keep them breathable, I put mine in a bowl and lay a moist paper towel over the top of them. It keeps them really fresh for when you are ready to use them.

  3. I love collards and want to try your recipe, however it’s unclear what kind of wine (or a good substitute) AND broth to use, that could definitely affect the taste.

    1. Stacy Harris says:

      I adjusted the recipe for you. Any dry white wine will work and I use chicken or vegetable stock, whichever I have on hand or in the freezer. I hope you enjoy the recipe!!

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  5. Nancy Yauch says:

    Hi Stacy. I have a few questions about collard leaves. I hope you can help me? I live in Virginia so, we get our collards from California. Sometimes there’s little tiny brown spots all over the leaves and areas that have really dark green lines maybe from creases? I’m trying to find out if those are still edible. Also, I forgot and left a bunch of collards soaking in a bowl of water overnight and now they smell is that bad? The main reason why I am asking is I need to know at what point should they not be given to my rabbits. Thanks, Nancy

  6. Hi, A high quality video, both technically and for content. You are also fun to listen to: -) Congrats and thanks. I did not know collards need to be washed so much. Mine looked real clean but still had lots of grit. Is the “dirt” inside the stems?

    1. Yes, Ron. The dirt is in the stems along with the outer leaves. Inevitably if I wash them any less I get grit. I am glad that you enjoyed the video.

  7. I am wondering if it is okay to use the greens that have a mottled green yellow color or are those too old or bitter. l would love to see which leaves to throw away here on your website! l know to throw some away but not this type.

    1. Teri, I usually have so many greens that I don’t use the ones that are discolored. They do taste a bit bitter to me, but if some make it in there it’s o.k. Hope that helps.

  8. I’m trying your recipe for our Thanksgiving Dinner. Nothing like testing out a recipe for a gathering of 30! 😉 One thing I did differently since I was making such a large quantity and bought fresh collards was I washed them in my washing machine! I posted on fb asking if anyone had tried that and many said that their mothers and grandmothers did that. I tore mine from the stalks, put in a really large mesh lingerie bag, made sure it was sealed WELL and put it on the Hand Wash cycle for cold/cold. We will see how they turn out. I can’t tell if they are gritty or not, my hands are so rough from being in so much water the last 2 days. I did run an empty cycle first to make sure there was no fragrance in the washer.

    1. That is so cool Tacy!! Did it work? This would make life with dirt a lot easier! Thanks for sharing that!

  9. I cook collard greens in my instant pot for 15 to 20 minutes. They turn out wonderful.

    1. I’ll have to try that some time!! I’ll bet it concentrates the flavor too!

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