Southern Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey Legs | Collard Greens Recipe

Collard Greens –  A popular traditional and southern vegetable dish. This recipe features a delicious blend of smokiness, vinegar, and savory – an excellent side dish for the holidays or anytime.

I love collard greens, and it’s one of my go-to green vegetable side dishes because it pairs so well with many main courses. 

This Southern-Style Collard Greens is cooked with smoked Turkey Legs, onions, garlic, and broth; cooking everything in a single pot means that all the flavors are retained. 

There is also a version of collard greens that I love so much. It’s the East African style collard greens called sukuma wiki – a very simple yet flavorful recipe. This is prepared by braising the greens with tomatoes, onion, salt, and oil. 

Well cooked Collard greens in a pan


If you have ever lived in the U.S. Southeast, then you know about collard greens, and this recipe is the real deal. If you are less familiar with this staple dish, welcome! Here is a fresh new way to add green to your dinner plate.

This quintessential dish is deliciously hearty for a vegetable side, and with not much effort needed as the dish mainly just needs time to cook and simmer on the stove. 

How to make Collard Greens with smoked turkey

  1. Prep the collards – remove the thick middle vein. Stack a couple of leaves together, roll them up and chop the leaves.
  2. Simmer the Smoked Turkey leg – I cook till the turkey legs become soft. I lie to cut the Turkey legs before I simmer it because it cooks faster that way. I don’t trash the bone immediately, I also add that to the pot for some extra nutrients.
  3. Cook the onions, garlic and add the seasoning –
  4. Add the Collard greens – Cook the collard greens till soft. I cook between 45 minutes to one hour. It’s okay to cook a little longer if you like your greens softer.
  5. Finish it up- Stir in the aple cider vinegar and shred the Turkey. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Step by step procedure on how to make collard greens


If using fresh collard greens, you will need to clean the leaves well because they can be quite sandy.

  • Fill the kitchen sink with lukewarm water, 1 tsp salt, and a half cup of vinegar-Swish. Soak the greens for about 5 minutes, then toss them up and down to loosen any lingering dirt.
  • Change the water and rinse a couple of times until you no longer see any dirt or sand on the bottom. 

Can you overcook collard greens?

I think it’s almost impossible to overcook collard greens but personally, I don’t like to cook it for too long. 

Over the years, I discovered that the best way to bring out the flavor in collard greens is to simmer the greens slowly on low heat and a splash of apple cider vinegar gives the dish a nice tang and helps balance the flavor. 

How long to make Southern Collard Greens? 

This recipe takes about one hour thirty minutes to complete, but most of that is cooking time!

What are Collard Greens?  

Collards are a very tough leaf in the same family as cabbage and broccoli. Because they are so tough, they are really only pleasant to eat when stewed for a while. When you add any kind of smoked meat to it, this dish becomes mouthwateringly tasty.

Are collard greens good for you?

Yes! Collards have a lot of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and magnesium. 

How long do Collard Greens last in the fridge? 

They can keep for up to five days in the fridge.

What to serve with Collard Greens? 

Southern Collard Greens are a great side dish for other Southern favorites such as gumbo, jambalaya, barbecue, and cornbread!

Save the Likker

If you did not end up drinking the delicious ”pot liquor” which is the liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the collard greens, then don’t forget to save it. This is called the “likker,” and you can use your crusty bread or Cornbread to mop it up. You can also use it as a broth base for your soup, stews, or gravy! That broth is loaded with a lot of the vitamins and nutrients from the stewed collards.


  1. I only use smoked turkey legs or wings for my southern style collard greens because they are really delicious and less in fat than ham and bacon but feel free to use your choice of smoky meat. 
  2. You can use a mixture of collards and other greens if you choose to.
  3. You can also use bacon grease in place of oil.


  1. I will suggest using fresh collard greens. It shows in the taste. However, if you are in a pinch, you can use the frozen packs.
  2. Collard greens tend to be a little bitter, so it’s very important to cook for the recommended time. Otherwise, the greens will end up tough and bitter.
  3. It’s okay if you don’t want to add the vinegar to the whole pot. Individuals can add as needed.
  4. I also like to remove the stems because they are very tough and bitter. 

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