Southern-Style Collard Greens, Veganized – Recipe

Veganized Southern-Style Collard Greens

So my brother and sister-in-law were browsing their farmer’s market in Greensboro, North Carolina a few years ago when they spotted a pile of unfamiliar leafy greens. They asked the farmer how to prepare them, and her answer was simple: “well, you just boil them three times. Just like you would with any other salad.”

Now I’m from Louisville, and I realize this is actually just a colloquial use of the word salad. But it does make a good point. In the American South, the standard treatment for bitter greens (collards, mustard greens, kale, beet greens, and so forth) is to boil the heck out of them, generally with some pig parts.

I don’t eat pigs, but I do know some other tricks for adding an umami counterpoint to the vegetal intensity of these greens. If you don’t like bitter greens, this recipe isn’t going to convert you. But if you are like me, and can’t get enough, you are in for a treat.

Specifically: fresh shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce. Now I know that sounds like I’m making an Asian dish, but hold on a second. The shiitakes are going to be sliced thin and fried to extract their flavor, and the soy is used in a small quantity, just to add background complexity. A bit of smoked paprika adds another layer of flavor.

Serve this up with cornbread and fried green tomatoes, maybe some red beans and rice, and you’ve got yourself a feast.

Southern-Style Collard Greens, Veganized
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
Serves at least 4 as a side dish

  • 2 big bunches collard greens
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera for example)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons shoyu, tamari or other good soy sauce
  • salt to taste
  1. Strip the collard greens from the stems, wash thoroughly in three changes of water, and slice into 1″ ribbons.
  2. Heat a dutch oven or soup pot over a medium flame. Add the oil, shiitake, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until they have some color. Add the collard greens, smoked paprika, chili flakes, soy sauce and 1/2 cup water, reduce the heat to low, and cover. You may have to add the collards a bit at a time if the lid won’t fit on.
  3. Cook for, oh, at least 45 minutes, until completely tender, checking occasionally to see if they need a little more water.
  4. When the greens are fully cooked, remove the lid and cook off the water. Taste and adjust the seasonings; they will probably want more salt or soy sauce, and maybe more of the smoked paprika.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

30 Responses to “Southern-Style Collard Greens, Veganized – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    October 15, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    This looks fantastic! I never would have thought to adulterate my collards with shiitake and shoyu, but I’m gonna give this a try 🙂

  2. Reply
    October 16, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    I love Southern style collard greens. I like your umami substitute.. have you ever considered kombu for added umami?

  3. Reply
    October 16, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    I often use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce. Works the same, minus the association with Asian food.

  4. Reply
    October 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    The greens were very tasty but the shiitakes bothered me. I used thinly sliced, dried versions that I soaked in a little water for 30 seconds before adding them to the pot. IMO, dried shiitakes smell like feet. But what the heck, I had them in my cupboard so I used them. When they were cooked, they left a foot odor aftertaste in my mouth. The weird part is that the “foot” flavor would surface 30 seconds after the fact. Strange, I know. Any suggestions? should I just use fresh mushrooms next time?

  5. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

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    @c – Yep, dried shiitakes and fresh shiitakes really aren't interchangeable. The dried ones are great for making broth, and rehydrated they are good in certain chinese dishes where their texture is expected. This collard green dish needs the fresh ones. BTW, whenever you are working with dried ones, they need much more than 30 seconds of hydration. More like 10-15 minutes in water that was brought to the boil.

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

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    Thanks Alice – I think a bit of kombu would work well!

  7. Reply
    October 17, 2009 at 4:56 am #

    this recipe look great. I have two types of paprika. Does it make a difference which one I’ll use?

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 17, 2009 at 7:48 am #

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    @easyrecipes – we want a smoked paprika, like a pimenton de la vera or pimenton agridulce. If both of the ones you have are smoked, I'd just go with the one you like the best.

  9. Reply
    October 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    We are really surprised by how little fat you have in this recipe. Our relatives down in the ‘bama put use butter for flavor and pig for tradition. How come you decided against greasing this sucker up?

  10. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

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    @susan+sanjay – that's just how I like 'em, but if you feel you need more butter in them, you won't hurt my feelings 🙂

  11. Reply
    October 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Ha – except the word, “well” was at least three syllables long when she said it. Are these the very same greens you served with the awesome cornbread and jalapeno butter? If so, I am totally surprised there were mushrooms in there.

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    @sara Those are they.. I mean thems are those… oh forget it. Yes. I'm glad you didn't notice the mushrooms, I wanted them to be background flavor.

  13. Reply
    October 18, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    Just watched a rerun of Top Chef and a bunch of the chefs used shiitaki to satisfy the “umami” component of a meal. Have shiitake always been recognized for their umami factor–what about other mushrooms? BTW, we’re meat-eaters but usually do our kale/chards/collards w/o meat. Love ’em sauteed simply in oil with a little garlic, soy, and maybe a dollop of apple jelly.

  14. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 18, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    My understanding is that all mushrooms have a decent level of natural glutamates (the source of umami). Drying shiitakes seems to dramatically concentrate them. I love to use them to make broth, like in this dish: link to . Apple jelly with greens? Now that is really interesting, never heard of that but I could see how it would work.

  15. Reply
    October 20, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    This recipe was so delicious. While I love kale and swiss chard my relationship with collards and mustard greens has never been as simple. When I received mustard greens and shiitake mushrooms in my CSA box this week this post immediately came to mind. The flavors were spot on. Thanks for such a wonderful creation. I’m now even more excited about the long winter green season that is just beginning down here in Louisiana.

  16. Reply
    December 16, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    can this recipe be done with mustard greens instead of collard greens?

    • Reply
      December 16, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      Absolutely! It will work well with any of the hearty leafy greens.

  17. Reply
    December 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    you never say when to add the paprika

    • Reply
      December 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

      Fixed, thank you!

  18. Reply
    Shannon Dea
    December 27, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Made this recipe last night. It was great. I love collards (or bitter greens of any kind), but my partner and daughter aren’t sold on them. They quite like them prepared this way though. My usual method is to blanche them in boiling water, roughly chop them and then briefly saute them in evoo with kosher salt, garlic and chilli flakes. My family finds collards done my way too tough and bitter; they liked the tenderness and sweetness of this method. I couldn’t stand the colour, though. I like my greens bright green, not muddy green-brown. But, I must say, my collards looked exactly like the photo above. I was at least reassured that I wasn’t the only one producing this colour of greens!

    • Reply
      December 27, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      Hah, yep, it was hard for me to accept that the heartier greens taste better when fully “hammered” too. We’ve been so programmed in recent decades to prefer the bright green colors of lightly cooked vegetables, and in most cases I prefer them that way too. But collards, mustard greens and so forth really are much more delicious when fully broken down. The color isn’t lovely, but the taste is!

  19. Reply
    May 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I had the biggest craving for greens and remembered that I had a bunch of Collard greens in my fridge. I’m Puerto RIcan, and it’s not something that we typically make so I had no idea how to approach it. I found this recipe and wow, it’s amazing. Simple yet flavorful. I tweaked it a little. I used sesame oil, and garnished the collard greens with Vegbits (bacon bits), and chives. My friend and husband also approved! Thanks for the recipe and the guidance! I tweeted you!

  20. Reply
    November 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Making these for Thanksgiving. Can I make them a day or two ahead of time? Thanks.

    • Reply
      November 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

      I think they will reheat ok!

  21. Reply
    January 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I’ve been looking for something to do with my CSA collards that doesn’t involve pig! I’m so excited to try this–but I’m a little afraid because shiitakes are my least favorite mushroom 🙁 Do you think any other one would substitute ok? Thanks for the recipe and the fun discussion, J

    • Reply
      January 7, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      I think if there is another mushroom you prefer, you should go for it!

  22. Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement! I made them with criminis and added a little garlic and red wine and they were a spectacular success! Thanks so much for the recipe, it will be a regular in our kitchen 🙂

  23. Reply
    October 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Perfect recipe! I serve this up with homemade cornbread and a can of baked beans and life is good!

  24. Reply
    December 30, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    Fantastic recipe! My wife grew up in the South eating pork-cooked collards, and for years I’d been trying to come up with a suitable vegetarian replacement that still hits all the right savory and smoky notes. These are always a hit.

    For the past two years, I’ve used some variation on these greens for New Years’ brunch, and I plan to make them again this year. (I make them throughout the year as well, whenever I get my hands on good looking greens, but New Years is when I really go all out and make them for a crowd, served alongside Nigerian-inspired black-eyed pea fritters.)

    Last year I replaced the water with a quick broth made from dried shiitake and kombu, and finished the dish with a tea-smoked salt, which came out just about perfectly. This year I’ve got some of your umami broth kicking around my freezer, so I think I’ll use that and try cooking these in the pressure cooker.

    Thanks as always for a great recipe!

    • Reply
      December 31, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      I love that you’ve been experimenting with variations on them! They all sound great.

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