Collard Greens, Vegetarian Style

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Heather says:

These collards have a kick! They are peppery and wonderful, something I never thought would be possible without sausage or bacon, but as of last night I know it can be done. This recipe is adapted from the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, a birthday gift from last year. Their version is called Sneaky Collards and is written for fresh greens. Some occasions, such as  New Years or on a chilly afternoon with chicken bog already working, I’m quite willing to wrestle with fresh collards. Other days, busier days, I quite happily use frozen. That’s sacrilege to some, but hang tight and see what happens before turning up your nose.

This recipe yields 8 – 10 servings, leftovers would be absolutely amazing stirred into a soup near the end of cooking or added to a pot of beans and rice. Well, if you have any leftovers that is. . .

Vegetarian Collards Recipe - These have a kick! They are peppery and wonderful, something I never thought would be possible without sausage or bacon, but as of last night I know it can be done.


  • 2 lbs frozen collard greens
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 TBSP crushed red pepper (I cut it in half from my experiment)
  • 1 tsp salt + more to taste at the end
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 4 cloves of garlic, still in the papery peel (added to make up for the reduction in pepper)
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Kitchen equipment needed:

In a large pot, heat the water, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring it to a boil, then turn it to low.  Cover and ignore for 10 minutes or so, this isn’t a recipe where exacts matter.  The point of this step is to draw out some of the oils from the pepper.

Cut both ends off the onion, peel it, and cut it into quarters or eighths depending on its size.  Core the tomato and again cut it into quarters or eighths.  How do you know which? If it fits comfortably into the palm of your hand, go with quarters, larger eighths.  Now, the next step depends on your coordination / comfort level and whether you wish to wash a bowl or mop the floor. If you are new to the cooking scene, place the onion, tomato, and garlic cloves in a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Then, sprinkle with the paprika and ground pepper. Stir to coat, then pour into an oven proof skillet or onto a baking sheet.

If you’re comfortable with your skill level, toss everything in an oven proof skillet. Toss to coat.

Now the comes the magic moment. Turn your broiler to high and place the vegetables about 3″ from the heat source. This is typically the highest rack setting of your oven.

Set a timer for 6 minutes. Take a peek after five minutes.

Not quiteIf it looks like this, you’re getting close, but it needs to go a few more minutes.

When using this technique, it is very important to remember that dark brown equals intense flavor, but black is burnt. Watch your vegetables carefully, it’s totally worth the attention to detail.

collard greens

While the tomatoes are broiling, add the collards to the peppery water. Bring it back up to a simmer and cover. This needs to cook for at least 20 minutes, but it can go much longer without ruining the greens.


When the tomatoes, onions, and garlic are done. Set the skillet aside until the garlic is cool enough to handle. The cloves should slip right out of their paper, discard the paper. Place the garlic cloves and everything else from the skillet into the blender, be sure to catch as much of the liquid as you can, it carries a lot of flavor. Puree the broiled vegetables until smooth.

Once the collards have cooked for at least twenty minutes, add the puree and stir.

Serve when the rest of the meal is ready.


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22 thoughts on “Collard Greens, Vegetarian Style”

    • I never had either until just a couple of years ago, when my husband made them. I've since learned to LOVE greens of all sorts – collards, chard, mustard greens, beet greens . . .

  1. I too have never had 'greens' of any sort aside from regular salad stuff and spinach………..but i might try these, i do have a question though i don't do spicy either, could i cut the pepper in half again or is there another spice that might work as well (although it would change the flavor total)


  2. Okay, I feel really dumb asking this, but are the only things you puree potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic? Like, everything BUT what's in the collard pan? Everything that went in the broiler? You really did make this pretty clear, it just doesn't LOOK like the photo. So I guess I just ain't gettin' it. Is the end result sorta creamy? It sounds great, and with those ingredients, I can't see how anything would taste anything but amazing. Okay, you're free to point and laugh now…

    • I edited this to make it more clear, but only puree the broiled items and pour the puree into the collards. Yes, the pureed stuff is sort of creamy, but it is also very thin and gets mixed in with the greens.

  3. I do something similar, but I cheat. I just mix a cup of sofrito, homemade or store bought, with my frozen greens when I am cooking them.

  4. I know this is a family blog, but reading "dark brown equals intense flavor, but black is burnt" made me think of an infamous Gordon Ramsay quote: "If it's brown it's cooked, if it's back, it's f***ed" (only rhymes if you're English)!

    Your recipe sounds yummy; will have to give it a try.

  5. Being a Yankee, I'm new to collards and all forms of "greens", but this sounds SCRUMPTIOUS. I will look for frozen greens and try this for my Fearless Friday. (Hubs, who hails from WV, will no doubt faint with joy if I make him greens!) Thanks, Heather.
    P.S. Tell Ivy hello from us. She's in our prayers.

  6. Being here in N Ireland, I have no clue what Collards are, or what our equivalent would be.

    I "googled" it, but am none the wiser!!!

    So that is what I have learned – that I don't know what they are!

    • As a transplanted Southerner now living in Bristol, let me see if I can help. I've made something similar to collard greens over here by substituting chopped kale for the greens. If you cook everything else up the same, it works out pretty well. So, imagine cooked kale with all the other scrumptious goodies, and you'll get the idea.

  7. Found your recipe googling vegan frozen collard greens. Made it tonight (Thanksgiving) for my husband and self and we loved it. The broiled mixture came out so gorgeous I didn't want to puree it, I just put it on top of the greens like a sauce. Thank you for a delicious, beautiful and easy recipe!!!

  8. You know, I also used to think that recipes like this would taste bad without bacon fat or any animal products in it, but once I learned to get my seasoning right, it turned out just as good! Butter and salt almost tastes as good as bacon fat!

  9. Excellent kick to it from the peppers and vinegar! Definitely watch the veggies broiling…the onions became a bit dark on the tips after 5 minutes.


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