Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens

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Authentic vegan collard greens, cooked in the Southern tradition of low and slow. This dish contains simple everyday ingredients which are transformed into arguably the best way to cook vegan collard greens

Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens

The real secret within this Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens is the addition of bold, smoky flavors which boost the flavor of the greens above any other. 

 Originally Published on: Dec 9, 2016 

Chopped onions and garlic are sauteed for an aromatic base then the collard greens are slowly braised in juicy tomatoes, fragrant herbs, and deep spices.

Smoked paprika is the spice that provides the vegan collard greens with a distinctive background smokiness to amp the flavor. With the amount of flavor packed into this dish,

it is hard to believe that it only takes 30 minutes to complete. The pot liquor of rich, smoky soup permeates all the vegetables and is almost as delicious as the vegan collard greens themselves.

If you like a spicier side of greens then add a teaspoon of chili flakes to finish or serve with hot sauce, a welcome spice to contrast your main meal. 

The resulting dish is fresh and tender vegan collard green, an amazingly delicious taste of the South!


overlay of collard greens in a white bowl on a white background with mac and cheese in the background and candied yams

There was a good reason to create these vegan collard greens this weekend, it is my husband’s birthday! I’m so excited to create and feed him some of his favorite dishes…

He specially requested that I make my Cranberry Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies, Vegan Gluten-Free Carrot Cake, Jamaican Rice and Peas, Jamaican Spicy Curry Potato, and a big pot of Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens.

What Are Collard Greens?

Collard greens are dark green leafy brassica from the same family as cabbage. They are most similar to kale, this recipe also works perfectly using kale, chard, or mustard greens if collard greens are unavailable.

Greens are cultivated all year round and especially thrive in the heat of summer but are even tastier during the winter months. 

Especially popular in the Southern United States as a staple vegetable, sauteed greens are fresh and vibrant with a welcome zing from garlic and smoked paprika.

Each region of the south and each chef has their own unique version of collard greens, the kind of recipe that

has been passed down by generations. Now I pass my recipe of vegan collard greens onto you to share with your family and begin your own traditions.

Can You Eat Collard Greens Raw?

Collards greens are eaten raw in salads, veggie wraps,  added to soups, and even dehydrated. It has a bitter taste that is actually milder than kale leaves. I personally find raw collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, kale, Brussel’s sprouts,  to be harsh on my digestion, when eaten raw. I prefer to eat them after they are cooked. 

Ingredients for collard greens on a counter top, collards, onion, garlic, spices, herbs

How To Clean Collard Greens

Cleaning your collard greens properly is one of the most important steps in preparing collard greens. You want to make sure all the dirt and sand that the greens are grown in are completely removed. I’m sure you don’t want to be eating sandy pot likker! 

You want to soak your collard green leaves in salted water to remove sand, dirt, and anything else that might be clinging to the leaves. 

Fill a large basin or the sink with water, add salt. Submerge your collard greens leaves in the water let it soak for about 5 minutes. Swish around the leaves, pour out the dirty water. 

Replace with clean water.  Next, I love to take each individual leaf and wash on both sides rubbing the leaf to make sure there is no dirt or sand cling to each leaf. 

How To Cut Collard Greens?

I remove the stem that runs down the middle of the collard greens most of the time. There I times that I really don’t bother, I just chop up the leaves. It is not necessary for you to remove the stem, it actually has lots of nutrients and fiber. 

A mature stem might be bitter and tough.

collard greens in a large pot boiling

How To Cook Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens

I purchase collard greens fresh from the local farmers’ market here in Florida. I find they are very tender and usually cook in 30 minutes or less.

Depending on the conditions collards can be a little tougher so may need cooking for longer, they are ready when tender. If the stalk of the greens is thick and woody, then remove it using a knife for quicker cooking. 

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, thyme, salt and cook stirring for a minute.
  3. Add the collard greens in batches to your pot, Stir the chopped leaves until they are wilted. Add the remaining greens, cover the pot, and let it do its business.
  4. Stir the greens occasionally, the leaves can take up to an hour or even longer depend on how mature the leaves are.
  5. You can taste and adjust the seasoning, also check if greens are tender. You can also add extra water or vegetable broth to make sure there are remaining pot likker to sop up your cornbread.

You might want to triple this recipe if you are serving a large family or guests. Remember that the greens will shrink to about half the size.

Many Southern recipes use bacon, ham hock, or some form of pork as the base for collard greens. To produce a vegan collard greens recipe I add smoked paprika, this provides a real smoky flavor along with onion, garlic, and tomatoes to replace meat.

The result is bursting with flavors that you won’t even miss the meat at all!

cooked collard greens in a white bowl with a spoonful of likker

Other Southern-Style Recipes:

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(Per portion)
  • Energy: 92 kcal / 385 kJ
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Carbs: 11 g

Cooking Time

  • Preparation: 20 min
  • Cooking: 35 min
  • Ready in: 55 min
  • For:
  • 4 servings



  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, thyme, salt and cook stirring for a minute.
  3. Stir in collard greens until wilted.
  4. Add liquid, cover saucepan and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
Recipe author's Gravatar image

Michelle Blackwood, RN

Hi, I’m Michelle, I’m the voice, content creator and photographer behind Healthier Steps. I share vegan and gluten-free recipes because of past health issues. My goal is to help you make healthier choices and show you how healthy eating is easy and delicious.

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Rate this recipe

  1. Stacey
    October 22, 2020

    This was delicious and easy! Even the non-vegans in my family loved it. I’ll have to double the recipe next time I make it since my daughter inhaled the leftovers for breakfast.

  2. Victoria Wright
    October 10, 2020

    Never cooked with collard greens before but I’m so happy I found this recipe! It was so good! So fresh and healthy with lots of flavor. Thank you!

    • Michelle Blackwood, RN
      October 11, 2020

      Victoria, that is wonderful that you found it and I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your feedback with us.

  3. Rebecca
    August 12, 2020

    This is definitely a keeper recipe. Made it just as the recipe is written and Hubs loved it. Next time I will add more tomatoes, which seem made for collards. Thank you for the resources you are posting.

  4. Tracy
    May 20, 2020

    Easy to prepare and very tasty. There is a nice blend of flavors. Makes me want to use smoked paprika more often.

    • Michelle Blackwood, RN
      May 21, 2020

      I’m so happy you enjoyed it Tracy, yes smoked paprika gives a nice flavor. Thank you for sharing your feedback.

  5. Melina
    February 17, 2020

    Another 5 star recipe as far as we are concerned. I used curly kale instead of collard greens since I can’t buy those here. The combination with Cajun Quinoa Pilaf and Southern Black Eyed Peas was absolutely great.

  6. Susan
    August 4, 2019

    Thanks, Michelle! I love this recipe…left out the onions for allergy reasons, but added a bit more garlic instead. The thyme and paprika is not a combo I’d normally use, but it was delicious! Made the greens to serve with oven-roasted golden beets and my husband asked when I would make them again.

    • Michelle Blackwood
      August 4, 2019

      Susan, that’s wonderful to read, happy it turned out great and your hubby enjoyed it. Thank you for your feedback.

  7. Anna
    June 8, 2019

    Hi my question is, my question is do you get after eating collard greens, I just bought some collard greens yesterday and I like your recipe I want to try it, but did you get gases after eating this? Thank you I’ll appreciate your honesty:) how should I cook this without hurting my stomach,do you know

    • Michelle Blackwood
      June 8, 2019

      Anna, that’s a very good question. I honestly never get gas from collards greens but I understand why some people would. Some person’s digestive system reacts to different foods. Some digestive systems are weak because of years of abuse from eating the wrong foods, whether it be improper food combination, eating highly processed foods too often, high frequency in eating (not giving the digestive tract rest), overeating, underlying digestive issues. So many reasons. If you follow my recipe as written it will be the best collard greens. Remove the thick middle rib of the collard green leaf and discard.

  8. Pippen
    January 19, 2019

    Thank you Michelle! I made this with kale, as I couldn’t find collard greens, and it turned out great. I made it with the black eyed peas… Yum!!

    • Michelle Blackwood
      January 19, 2019

      I’m glad you enjoyed it with kale thank you for your feedback.

  9. Mercedes
    January 2, 2019

    Michelle, the collards recipe is really good! This one is a keeper in my rotation. I didn’t have fresh tomatoes so I improvised using an entire pack of sun-dried tomatoes with smoke flavor. Came out great, made that pot likker taste smoky & just delicious. Thanks for a great recipe.

    • Michelle Blackwood
      January 2, 2019

      You are welcome Mercedes, I’m happy you enjoyed it and I love your adjustment. Great idea. Thank you for your feedback.

  10. Paige
    November 16, 2018

    I have been making this recipe a lot lately, my new favorite!

    • Michelle Blackwood
      November 16, 2018

      Thank you Page, I’m happy you are enjoying it.

      • Kami
        October 25, 2020

        Hi, I want to try this recipe but my husband can’t eat tomatoes. Could I substitute with bell pepper or is the juice from the tomatoes helping to soften the collards?
        Thank you in advance,

  11. Vicki
    November 6, 2018

    Love this

    • Michelle Blackwood
      November 6, 2018

      Thank you Vicki for your feedback, I’m happy you enjoyed it.

  12. Danele Williams-Taylor
    January 13, 2018

    Simple Vegan collard greens that contain affordable ingredients. I will make this dish. :-)

    • Michelle Blackwood
      January 13, 2018

      Thank you Danele,hope you enjoy it!

  13. Anita ray
    January 4, 2018

    I truly love this recipe I made it several times I do not missed using meat at all I did had to cook it longer then recipe call for because I like them very tender but they were delicious

    • Michelle Blackwood
      January 4, 2018

      Thank you so much Anita for your feedback, I’m so happy you love them!