The real secret to these Vegan Collard Greens is the addition of bold, smoky flavors which boost the flavor of the greens above any other. 

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 vegetarian collard greens with a distinctive background smokiness to amp the flavor. With the amount of flavor packed into this dish,

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

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

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

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.

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Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Delicious and flavorful: This recipe offers a delightful combination of fresh and vibrant flavors.
  • Easy to make: The preparation is simple, making it accessible for both beginner and experienced cooks.
  • Versatile: It can be made with collard greens or substituted with kale, chard, or mustard greens.
  • Healthy and nutritious: Packed with nutrients from leafy greens, making it a wholesome choice.
Ingredients for collard greens on a counter top, collards, onion, garlic, spices, herbs

Ingredients Needed

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.

  • Collard greens: The star of the show, these leafy greens provide a hearty, earthy flavor and a good dose of vitamins and minerals. Look for fresh, vibrant leaves without wilting or yellowing.
  • Garlic: Adds a wonderful aromatic depth to the dish. Choose firm, plump garlic bulbs for the freshest flavor.
  • Smoked paprika: This spice imparts a smoky, slightly sweet essence, elevating the overall taste of the vegan collard greens.
  • Olive oil: Helps sauté the greens and infuse them with flavor.
  • Salt: Enhances the taste of the collard greens and helps draw out their natural flavors.
  • Red pepper flakes – These are optional, but if you like a bit of heat, these flakes can add a spicy kick.
  • Lemon juice: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving can brighten up the dish and balance the flavors.
  • Vegetable broth (if needed): You can use this to deglaze the pan or add moisture if the greens are sticking. Ensure it’s a low-sodium variety to control the saltiness of the southern style collard greens.
collard greens in a large pot boiling

How To Cook Vegan 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.

Recipe Tips

  • Cleaning the collard greens thoroughly is crucial. Follow the cleaning instructions in the recipe, as it’s essential to remove dirt and sand.
  • After washing, remove the tough stems from the collard greens, as they can be quite fibrous and chewy. You’ll want to chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces for even cooking.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving. This not only enhances the flavor but also adds a touch of freshness.
  • 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.

Storage Tips

Refrigeration: Allow the cooked collard greens to cool to room temperature before transferring them to an airtight container. Place the container in the refrigerator. Cooked collard greens can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Freezing: If you want to store them for a longer period, consider freezing them. Place the cooled collard greens in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Properly stored, they can last in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

Thawing: When you’re ready to use the frozen collard greens, transfer them to the refrigerator to thaw slowly. This will help maintain their texture and flavor. Reheating from frozen can result in a softer texture.

Reheating: To reheat, you can use the stovetop or microwave. Heat them gently, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through. If they appear dry, you can add a small amount of vegetable broth or water during reheating to restore moisture.

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

Recipe FAQs

What are collard greens?

Collard greens are dark green leafy brassica similar to kale, often used in Southern U.S. cuisine. They can be substituted with kale, chard, or mustard greens. They thrive year-round but are tastier in winter. Southern cuisine features sautéed collard greens with garlic and smoked paprika. Each region and chef has their unique recipe, often passed down through generations.

Can you eat raw collard greens?

Collard greens can be eaten raw in salads, veggie wraps, added to soups, or even dehydrated. They have a bitter taste that is actually milder than kale leaves. Personally, I find raw collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, to be harsh on my digestion when consumed in their raw form. I prefer to eat them after they have been cooked.

How do you clean collard greens?

To clean collard greens thoroughly, soak the leaves in salted water for about 5 minutes to remove dirt and sand. Swish the leaves around, discard the dirty water, and replace it with clean water. Then, wash each leaf on both sides to ensure there’s no residue.

How do you cut collard greens?

I remove the stem that runs down the middle of the collard greens most of the time. There are 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.

Other Southern-Style Vegan Recipes:

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Nutrition

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

Cook Time

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

Ingredients

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  • Clean the collard greens well to remove dirt and sand.
  • Remove tough stems and chop leaves for even cooking.
  • Add fresh lemon juice just before serving for flavor and freshness.
  • Scale up the recipe for larger gatherings; greens will shrink during cooking.
  • Cool the cooked collard greens and store in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
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.