Collard Greens is a Dish Every Southern Cook Should Know How to Make (2024)

When I hear the words "Southern cuisine," instantly thoughts of grits, collards and hushpuppies come to mind- as they rightfully should. From Virginia to Florida, and Kentucky to Texas, the South is full of classic, comforting home-cooked meals that make you feel like you're back in your grandmother's kitchen. Cooking with rendered bacon fat, buttermilk, or anything fried is part of what makes Southern recipes so darn good.

So if you're craving Southern food or just missing your mama's home cooking, try one of these 16 classic Southern recipes that are the best of food in the South.

1. Collard Greens with Bacon

Collard Greens is a Dish Every Southern Cook Should Know How to Make (1)

Wide Open Eats

Southern-style collard greens are often cooked with ham hock or hog jowl, especially on New Year's Day as a good luck tradition. What's also popular is using bacon or pork with the greens.

Frying up crisp bacon, the recipe calls for leaving a bit of fat in the pan then sautéing the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, a touch of brown sugar, and a dash of vinegar. Then, by simmering the collards with the crisp bacon and broth, you get a Southern veggie staple cooked in the most delicious way.

Get the recipe here.

2. Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas

Nothing says a Southern recipe like a bowl of these Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas. Letting the slow cooker do practically all the work, sauté bacon, onion, bell pepper, and garlic so the flavors can develop. Next, toss it in the slow cooker with some peas, broth, tomatoes, and Cajun spices. If you're looking to add a bit of smokiness, you can even use some liquid smoke. After cooking on low all day, a hearty bowl of smoky black eyed peas awaits. Serve them over rice for Hoppin' John and New Year's luck.

Vegan? Omit the bacon and you'll still get a hearty bowl worthy of Southern comfort food.

Find the recipe here.

3. Cola Glazed Ham

If you live in the South, you probably don't just drink your cola, you use it in your favorite Southern recipe. Cola glazed ham is a holiday tradition that requires everyone's favorite can of cola. In this Crockpot Brown Sugar Cola Glazed Ham recipe, all the work is taken out of the equation.

Requiring only four ingredients and five minutes of prep, place everything in the crockpot while the ham develops a nice sugar cola coated glaze. Before serving this show stopping holiday centerpiece, brush over the ham with some more glaze and dig in.

Chef's tip:This ham makes a mean bunch of leftover sandwiches.

Get the recipe here.

4. Chicken Fried Steak

This home-cooked Chicken Fried Steak is Southern comfort on a plate. Cube steak is breaded, pan-fried, and served over a bed of mashed potatoes. It's topped off with a pan drippings creamy milk gravy. One bite and you'll feel like your back in your mama's kitchen.

Chef's Tip: You need a cooking pan that can handle high heat when frying. In this case a cast iron skillet works best.

Find the recipe here.

5. Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Of course when it comes to classic dishes, you can't beat a plate of Southern fried chicken. Keeping it simple, a recipe like this buttermilk fried chicken does this staple justice.

The key here is adding spices to your flour and then double dipping. Double dipping the chicken in buttermilk then flour adds a beautiful coating that makes the outside extra scrumptious. Once you're chicken is properly coated in buttermilk, spices, and flour, fry until golden brown. Now you're ready to bit into a crispy, tender piece of fried chicken breasts.

While to dip in sauce or not to dip in sauce is up to you, you can't go wrong with one of these homemade barbecue sauce recipes.

Find the recipe here.

6. Fried Catfish

Chicken isn't the only thing worth frying in the South, catfish is another must for a classic Southern recipe. To do it right though, a fresh filet of catfish is breaded in spicy cornmeal. It's then deep fried until the outside is a beautiful crispy, golden brown. While the serving options are up to you, a tarter sauce and side of hushpuppies (another essential Southern recipe) complete this easy Southern dish.

Chef's Note: High heat pans like cast iron or a Dutch oven work best for frying. Also, don't overcrowd the fish when frying. This can lower the oil temperature causing the fish to soak up oil. And be sure to cool on a rack to prevent the fish from getting soggy.

Get the recipe here.

7. Cajun Shrimp and Grits

When it comes to grits, you can't beat a combo like this Cajun Shrimp and Grits. A true Southern classic, especially in Mississippi and Louisiana, the grits in this recipe are made even tastier with some sharp white cheddar cheese. It's then topped with Cajun spiced shrimp along with sautéed bell pepper and onions. Creamy, spicy, and downright Southern, this comforting staple is a must for breakfast, lunch, or supper.

Find the recipe here.

8. Crawfish Boil

When you're hosting the perfect crawfish boil, there are some do's and don'ts to getting this southern tradition right. And if you want to get it right, then follow the steps in this Perfect Crawfish Boil recipe.

First, wash and sort your mudbuggers. Next, prepare the pot with all your spices and be sure that potatoes and corn are added to the mix. Add your crawfish, boil, and once done, dump it all out on a giant table lined in newspaper. Then roll up your sleeves and dig in!

Get the recipe here.

9. Boiled Peanuts

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Wide Open Eats

Boiled peanuts are the epitome of Southern snacks. If you're craving this classic southern snack, then these warm, salted Slow Cooker Boiled Peanuts recipe is the answer to your prayers. You'll just want to pre-plan your snacking. This treat requires cooking raw peanuts in spices for a day. But once that day is up, the wait will totally be worth it.

Get the recipe here.

10. Hushpuppies

Hushpuppies are the Southern equivalent of fries, they go with everything. A perfect side for barbecue, seafood, or any meal really, these little poppable balls are like heaven.

Cornmeal is mixed with flour, spices, green onion, buttermilk, and eggs. The batter is then balled and dropped into the deep fryer until golden brown. One bite of this Southern recipe, and you won't be able to stop until they're all gone.

Get the recipe here.

11. Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

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Wide Open Eats

This Easy Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread is a must in the South. Whether company is on its way or you're wracking your brain for a dinner fix, a delicious cornbread is the answer to your problems.

With the help of the baking trio - flour, baking powder, and baking soda - some cornmeal, buttermilk, and a few other ingredients you'll have the perfect crumbly skillet cornbread ready to feed the impatient. And, if you're feeling extra fancy, you can try adding in some jalapeño and cheddar for a twist. Or, if you're starving try this Enchilada Cornbread Skillet.

Chef's Note: Brown the butter in the cast iron skillet to add an extra layer of depth to the cornbread.

Get the recipe here.

12. Buttermilk Biscuits

Flaky, buttery Buttermilk Biscuits are the answer to every Southern side. Better than store-bought, these homemade biscuits are made from scratch with rich buttermilk, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butter. Baked until slightly browned, serve these warm with a dollop of butter. Or, you can go crazy and try this hearty biscuits and gravy bake.

Chef's Note: The less amount of dough handling, the better the biscuits will be. Over handling will make the biscuits tough.

Find the recipe here.

13. Fried Green Tomatoes

Even in the South veggies get fried, and it's amazing. Fried green tomatoes are a Southern recipe delight that certainly hold a place in many a Southerner's heart. If you've never tried them before, then start off with this awesome Fried Green Tomatoes recipe. Green tomatoes are dipped in a batter of flour, then eggs, then cornmeal. Then they are fried until crispy brown and laid on a paper towel to drain off excess oil, and ready to serve with dill or your sauce of choice.

Chef's Note: Dry off tomatoes before frying. This will remove excessive moisture and allow each tomato to crisp nicely.

Get the recipe here.

14. Peach Cobbler

There is something about fresh Georgia peaches in a peach cobbler that scream summer in the South. If you're missing afternoons spent hanging out on the front porch, then bring a little southern flair to the table with this Peach Cobbler.

Using fresh peaches, combine them with some sugar, lemon, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then spoon on the topping and bake until the peaches are bubbling and the topping is a golden brown. How you serve this Southern dessert is up to you, but I recommend a solid quality scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Get the recipe here.

15. Pecan Pie

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When it comes to Southern recipes for dessert, the pecan pie is a must alongside the classic banana pudding, chocolate cake, and sweet potato pie.

Using a tasty vodka pie dough, a filling of brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, butter, eggs, and pecans is poured in. After baking then setting in the fridge, you're ready to get a sweet taste of the South. Serve with ice cream orhomemade whipped cream of course.

Get the recipe here.

16. Sweet Tea

If there were only one drink to sum up Southern classics, it would be sweet tea. Best enjoyed on a hot summer day, this Perfect Sweet Tea recipe is a must when it comes to the classics. Requiring only black tea, sugar, lemons, water, and ice, you can whip up a batch in minutes. Although, it should be noted the longer you let the tea sit, the better the flavor.

Find the recipe here.

This article was originally published on December 29, 2017.

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What does adding vinegar to collard greens do? ›

This might seem like an unusual addition if you're new to making collard greens, but the vinegar adds a welcome tangy note that brightens the dish and balances out the salty, savory flavors. A tablespoon of sugar also helps balance out the greens' potential bitterness.

Why do Southerners eat collard greens? ›

While black-eyed peas are said to have the power to bring luck, they also provide hearty, nutritious meals during the winter months because of their volume when cooked. Similarly, collard greens symbolize money and hope for the future, but are hardy crops able to survive harsh winter temperatures.

What are collard greens made of? ›

Collard greens, or collards, are a leafy green vegetable like lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach. Along with mustard greens, turnips, and cabbage, collards belong to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, which are known for their nutritional and health-protective benefits.

What takes the bitterness out of collard greens? ›

The foods that help reduce bitterness are:
  • Salt while cooking and/or while eating (like on bitter salad greens)
  • Sweet or Spicy.
  • Sour or Acids like lemon or vinegar.
  • Long cooking like braising (think southern collard greens that are cooked for hours)
  • Blanch first.
Jul 7, 2021

What does baking soda do to collard greens? ›

In the case of collard greens, baking soda's utility is threefold, serving as a flavor enhancer, a tenderizer, and a color protector. Baking soda is an alkali salt possessing the tenderizing and flavor-enhancing properties of regular salt.

What do you soak collard greens in before cooking? ›

Here's how to properly wash collard greens.
  1. Fill your sink with water, and then add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 3 tablespoons salt. ( ...
  2. Swish this around, and then submerged your greens in the water. ...
  3. Let the greens soak for 20-30 minutes, giving them a good scrub midway.
Aug 1, 2021

What is the best way to tenderize collard greens? ›

Slow Cooking: A couple of hours of cooking makes the collard greens tender and almost silky, but they still have substance. They braise low and slow, just like short ribs would.

Do you cook greens covered or uncovered? ›

Once the liquid is boiling, add all the greens. Reduce heat to simmer; put lid on stockpot. Simmer on low until tender, adding more liquid if needed.

Why did slaves eat collard greens? ›

Collard greens were one of the few vegetables that African-Americans were allowed to grow for themselves and their families back in slavery time. Even after the Africans were emancipated in the late 1800s cooked greens were a comfort in the African-American culture.

Do white Southerners eat collard greens? ›

The pot likker is quite nutritious and delicious, and contributes to the comfort-food aspect of the dish. After the American Civil War, destitute white Southerners began eating collard greens and found what African-Americans had known for ten generations: they are delicious, and nutritious!

What ethnicity eats collard greens? ›

Collard greens have roots in the African American community and to celebrate Black History we're sharing a Finger Lakes Wine-Braised Collard Greens recipe and tracing the history of this ancient vegetable. Collard greens date back to prehistoric times. They are the oldest leafy green within the cabbage family.

What is the liquid in collard greens called? ›

Pot liquor, sometimes spelled potlikker or pot likker, is the liquid that is left behind after boiling greens (collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens) or beans.

How does collard greens affect your body? ›

Was this helpful? Collard greens contain nutrients with many possible health benefits, like supporting bone health, liver function, and digestion. They may also help prevent cancer, improve sleep, and support hair and skin health. The cruciferous family are part of the cruciferous vegetable family.

Can you eat uncooked collard greens? ›

You can eat collard greens raw, but the uncooked leaves tend to be slightly bitter and a bit tough. If you want to try them raw in a salad or smoothie, Feller recommends mixing just a few collard leaves in with a majority of milder greens, like spinach.

Does vinegar take the bitterness out of greens? ›

Acids, like vinegar and citrus juice, help to brighten up bitter greens and provide a light contrasting flavor.

What to do if I put too much vinegar in my greens? ›

If you have added too much vinegar to a recipe, you can try adding a bit of sugar or honey to help balance the acidity. You could also try diluting the vinegar by adding more of the other ingredients in the recipe.

What can I put on my greens to make them taste better? ›

  1. Shake With Cold Water and Ice. For some of the best-tasting greens, all you need is some ice and a good shake. ...
  2. Mix With Juice. ...
  3. Mix With a Sports Drink or Electrolyte Powder. ...
  4. Mix With Tea. ...
  5. Add Honey. ...
  6. Add Cocoa. ...
  7. Blend Into a Smoothie. ...
  8. Try Sparkling Water.
Aug 16, 2023


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