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Originally published January 15th, 2018.
Just like in my homeland of Jamaica, in soul food, no meal is truly complete without a side of Vegan Greens. I love adding a nice cooked vegetable to any delicious meal, as evidenced by my Vegan Southern-Style Collard Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Jamaican Bok Choy, and of course my Jamaican Callaloo.
If you are not familiar with American Southern soul food, you may be wondering why it is necessary to specify that these are a vegan version of the popular dish.
This is because it is traditional to add smoked ham or turkey to greens, to give it a smoky full flavor. As such, the most harmless-looking dish in a soul food spread could actually be the one with meat in it.
I find that with a little creativity, I can replicate the flavors of the south without adding certain ingredients, making delicious comforting vegan soul food.
What Is Soul Food?
Soul food is a subset of southern food that is what was commonly made by the African-Americans, during and after slavery. The difference between soul and southern food is that while both at face value seem high in comfort, flavor, and sometimes fat, the food given to slaves was way lower quality.
This meant that they had to become very creative in order to make the food taste good, and they sure did deliver. Using the leftover undesirable cuts of meat, cornmeal, beans, and greens, they created a delicious landmark cuisine enjoyed and craved by many today.
With the strenuous day-to-day labor required of them, the slaves also had to make their food as filling and calorically dense as well, meaning there are many cooking practices common in soul cooking that we would think of as unhealthy.
As many of us work sedentary office jobs, or maybe just standing, we have to remember that the lifestyle was very different for them and that we have different needs. Soul food isn’t inherently unhealthy, it just wasn’t made with us in mind.
With modifications to certain details, and eating higher calorie dishes as a treat for special occasions, you too can eat soul food with ease.
I love to make a huge pot of greens in the winter. I love to mix a selection of greens instead of having just one, and collard, mustard, and turnip greens are my favorite. If you only have collard greens on hand or that’s all you desire, this is fine as well.
Here in Florida, the weather is perfect for these delicious greens, and my hubby recently brought home turnip and collard greens from a friend’s garden. I decided to prepare them similar to my Southern-Style Collard Greens, and they were a hit.
After all, today we are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day, and what a great day to remember with a pot of delicious vegan greens, Southern Black Eyed Peas, Smothered Tofu Chicken, Southern Fried Cabbage, Southern Green Beans and Potatoes, Candied Yams, Corn Muffins, and Sweet Potato Pie.
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, sautéed greens are fresh and vibrant with a welcome zing from garlic and smoked paprika.
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.
Collard Greens Recipe
- Olive Oil
- Collard Greens
- Turnip Greens
- Vegetable Broth
- Liquid Smoke
- Coconut Bacon or Vegan Sausage (optional)
How To Cook Collard Greens?
I love to wash my greens leaf by leaf because here in the south, particularly in Florida. Our greens are grown in sandy soil, and who wants to eat greens and bite into sand or dirt. At this point, I also remove the leaves that are bad, and if your greens are attached to the root. You will want to cut the leaves off of them and discard the root.
I usually fill a large bowl with water and add salt and soak the greens in here. The salt will take care of the bugs; I’m vegan but I don’t need the added protein, the greens have enough! ;)
After I soak the leaves in the saltwater, I remove them one by one and rinse them under running water. I love to remove the tough stem portion of the collard leaves as well. Basically, deveining it so all the white mid-section is removed.
You can use a knife and slice down the middle on either side of the vein, or simply fold it down the middle and rip it off. I don’t de-vein the turnip greens, as the mid-section is more tender.
To chop greens, I stack and roll about 5 leaves lengthwise, and then cut into roughly 1/2-inch sections.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft, for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook while stirring for 1 minute.
Stir in the greens, broth, salt, and liquid smoke. Cover and bring the greens to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until tender.
The result was so flavorful without meat, and I could seriously eat a bowl of these greens alone.
Other Vegan Soul Food Recipes:
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- Energy: 81 kcal / 339 kJ
- Fat: 4 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Carbs: 9 g
- Preparation: 30 min
- Cooking: 45 min
- Ready in: 1 h 15 min
- For: 8 servings
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft, for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook while stirring for 1 minute.
- Stir in the greens, broth, salt, and liquid smoke. Cover and bring the greens to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until tender.