Easy Sweet Collard Greens Recipe

A white bowl of Easy Sweet Collard Greens on a woven mat with red wine glasses in the background.

Are you looking for an easy collard greens recipe? Try my favorite Sweetened Collard Greens side dish recipe.

It's based on a classic Southern collard greens recipe from Hugh Acheson's cookbook, A New Turn in the South.

This is a lovely side dish that goes with just about any dinner entrée. Serve with cornbread for a true Southern meal.

What are collard greens?

Collards are a staple Southern side dish and a member of the cabbage family.

They feature dark green leaves and tough stems (remove before cooking). The flavor is a cross between cabbage and kale.

Collard greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and calcium. They are a good source of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.

You can find them at most grocery stores along with leafy greens like mustard greens.

It’s a big time-saver to buy bags of already pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens.

Sure, buying bunches of collard greens is cheaper. But the bags of pre-washed and chopped collard greens are worth the extra cost.

Also, when cooking fresh greens, you’ll need a very big pot (or several smaller pots) since a big mess of greens does cook down.

Closeup of a white bowl of sweet collard greens on a woven mat with wine glasses in the background.

Why sweet collard greens?

The first time I cooked up collards for Thanksgiving, I found them too bitter. While my husband and I liked them, the kids thought the recipe was too bitter.

After reading Hugh's recipe, I thought I found a solution – add something sweet!

Hugh recommends sorghum syrup or maple syrup. I used maple syrup, but I bet honey or brown sugar would work, too.

The best way to cook this easy collard greens recipe

I made some changes to Hugh's collard greens recipe since I wanted to use up a few things in my kitchen.

Bacon grease: I had some leftover bacon grease from breakfast. I figured a few teaspoons of bacon fat per pound of collards wasn't too unhealthy and would add a lot of flavors.

Ham: Most recipes use ham hocks. Instead, I used thick ham slices leftover from the kids' lunches.

Broth: I defrosted some ham broth that I made over Thanksgiving. But you can use vegetable or chicken broth.

Vinegar: I used red wine vinegar instead of Hugh's sherry vinegar. But you can use apple cider vinegar, too.

Spices: I left out the red pepper flakes in order to entice the kids to eat them. You can add the chili pepper flakes back (or a pinch of cayenne pepper) if you like spicier food.

The family had mixed reactions. My daughter, Lucie refused to try them.

But my son, Nathan loved them and asked for seconds! My husband, Paul, also ate seconds while telling me how good they tasted.

Overhead shot of a white bowl of sweet collard greens on a woven mat and red wine glasses.

Tips for making sweeten collard greens

This will take some time to cook up – about an hour for the fresh collard greens to soften. So if you're making Sweetened Collard Greens on a busy weeknight, plan accordingly.

Initially, these take up a whole pot, but they'll eventually soften and cook down.

If you don't have a large stockpot, divide and cook up a batch in two smaller stockpots.

Leftovers taste great cold or heated up in the microwave.

How to serve southern-style collard greens

Serve them in a bowl family-style with a bottle of your favorite hot sauce.

These go great with Southern-style foods like Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread and iced tea.

I love serving greens with Thanksgiving turkey dishes like:

Instant Pot Turkey Breast

Smoked Turkey Breast

Smoked Turkey

Or chicken recipes like:

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs

Crockpot Whole Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken and Waffles Recipe

You can serve this versatile side dish with pork or beef with these beautiful greens, too.

Yield: 6 SERVINGS

Easy Sweet Collard Greens Recipe

A white bowl of easy sweet collard greens on a woven mat with red wine glasses in the background.

Looking for an easy collard greens recipe? Try this tasty Southern-style sweet collard greens side dish recipe for dinner.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds cleaned collard greens, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum or maple syrup
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 thick slices black forest ham, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  1. Heat the bacon grease or olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until it starts turning color.
  3. Add the collard greens to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar and cook down for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the maple or sorghum syrup, stock, ham, and kosher salt to the pot. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until stock is just about gone and collards are tender.
  6. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve while hot.
  7. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 162Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 1291mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 7gSugar: 4gProtein: 8g

Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.

Originally published on January 25, 2013. Updated with new photos and information.

10 thoughts on “Easy Sweet Collard Greens Recipe

  1. Linda Castleberry

    Just want to know how to make canned collard greens sweet, not tangy. Just add sugar or what? No vinegar or that stuff simple please

    Reply
  2. elayne

    the only place I ever had collard greens was at the buffet. most of their food I do not eat. I was looking at it and a lady said get it. it is rich in vitamins. I was hooked. $10 is a lot for a bowl of collard greens. thanks for the recipe. I can cook them my self and save money. thanks elayne

    Reply
  3. Dee

    I love collard greens, it was a staple growing up in the South. All good cooks added a pinch or two of sugar to take the bitterness from the greens. Of course, some folks liked to add vinegar to their greens…..different strokes for different folks, I guess. LOL

    Reply
  4. lisaeyt63

    any and all greens are great using this. i use mustard,turnip, kale,and collard greens i even add a few turnips if i can get my hands on them. I must admit its a challenge doing as i am in the north now.

    Reply
  5. Rajean

    Yum. I haven’t had ‘true’ southern collard greens in a few decades and now my mouth is watering. I’m pretty sure my mom did a similar recipe with kale, the food of the moment 🙂 One thing I was always amazed by is how much of it cooks down – a huge bunch which looked like it would feed an army was just enough as a side for my small, three person family.

    Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      I think you could use this recipe for kale, turnip greens and similar bitter greens and it would turn out great. Thanks for visiting Rajean!

      Reply
    1. Anne-Marie Nichols Post author

      Cathy, A New Turn in the South, is a lovely cookbook and a MUST if you want to explore the new ways chefs are cooking traditional Southern foods.

      Reply

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