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

Cook 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.