What are collard greens? Plus, 8 delicious vegan recipes to try

On the Southern dinner table, a large bowl of hot, ripe leafy collard greens is far from an uncommon sight. This nutrient-dense vegetable may not have originated in the United States (it actually originated in ancient Greece), but it has, without a doubt, become a key part of the country’s culture—especially among the black community.

This is because, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, collard greens were one of the few foods that enslaved people in Africa could grow and harvest for themselves. “[Collard greens] They were adopted by black people in the South, who cooked and pan-fried them with cured meat in their smokehouses and drank pot liquor as medicine,” said cultural preservationist Gabriel E.W. Carter. The Tampa Times. “They really made it their own.”

In addition to being a key element of tradition and heritage for many black Americans, collard greens are rich in nutrients, they’re versatile, and they’re delicious. Here’s everything you need to know about dark greens, as well as eight vegetarian recipes to try for yourself.

What are collard greens?

Collard greens are a dark green, loose-leafed member of the Brassica oleracea genus, which counts nutritious vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage among its many cultivars. They have large, dark green leaves, which are thick, slightly hard in texture and slightly bitter in taste. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéing, braising, boiling or steaming, and are usually served as a side dish or added to soups and stews.

Is kale nutritious?

Like most dark leafy greens, collard greens are a great source of nutrients. They contain vitamin K, as well as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and calcium. On top of that, they are a good source of dietary fiber, which is important for digestive health.

How to Cook with Kale Greens: 8 Vegetarian Recipes

Collard greens are a staple in soul food cooking because they are especially effective at soaking up flavors, sauces, and seasonings. But there are many different ways to enjoy them. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ways to cook with this super nutritious Southern staple. And of course, everything is 100 percent vegan.


1 Southern Collard Wraps

Combine greens with nutrient-dense sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas (another quintessential Southern ingredient) to make these delicious, and incredibly healthy, banana wraps. For a little extra texture and crunch, don’t forget the corn, and for extra flavor, salsa is a must.
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2 Ethiopian lentils and collard greens

In Ethiopia, gomen wat—which includes collard greens, niter kibeh (spiced butter), onion, garlic, and spices—is a popular side dish and the inspiration behind this nutritious plant-based dish. To reduce calories, this recipe uses oil (but you can also choose butter or water depending on your preference). To properly embrace the culture and tradition, put down the knife and fork and enjoy eating with your hands.
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3 Southern-style “sausage” and collard greens

Sausages are especially popular in Southern cooking, but, for obvious reasons, they’re not vegetarian-friendly—at least, when they’re made with pork. If you avoid meat, you don’t have to skip those Southern flavors. Instead, follow the lead of this recipe and replace the pork with Tofurky’s Kielbasa Sausage (or another, similar plant-based meat substitute).
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4 A Collard Wrapped BLT

Typically, a BLT consists of bacon, lettuce, and tomato pressed together on two large slabs of bread. But if you’re looking for something a little different, or you prefer to use only plant-based whole food ingredients, this vegan BLT in a banana wrap is still delicious, and packed with nutrients. You can use your favorite vegan bacon, or as this recipe recommends, opt for tempeh instead.
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5 Crunchy Green Burritos

For a light lunch, use green banana leaves in place of a wrap to make this delicious burrito. It’s loaded with beans, sweet potatoes, cilantro, creamy avocado, and of course super-flavorful salsa.
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VegNews.ChiliCauliKim Julie Hansen

6 Vegan Chili-Lime Cauliflower Bowl

For a balanced, healthy, and delicious lunch, try this vegetarian cauliflower bowl, which features couscous and collard greens, along with a little chili and lime, respectively, for extra heat and a bit of tang. If that’s not filling enough, or you want to add a little protein to the mix, baked tofu, vegan chicken, or crispy chickpeas all make a delicious addition.
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VegNews.GarlickyButterBeanSoupwithGreens Oliver Barth

7 Vegan Garlic Butter Bean Soup with Greens

This warm, comforting soup is as flavorful as it is nutritious, thanks to a blend of butter beans, garlic, onions, spices, and flax seeds. Boost the vitamin by adding any greens you like—kale, spinach, and chard will work, but of course, collard greens are also a great choice.
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VegNews.CollardsCreamSauceCREDITALLYSONKRAMERAllison Kramer

8 Herbed Cream Collards

This herbaceous, creamy, collard green dish is incredibly versatile. You can enjoy it as a side dish with the main dish or dilute it with some extra milk and use it as a sauce for potatoes, spaghetti or fusilli pasta. With extra nutritional yeast and vegan cheese, it would also make a delicious base for mac and cheese twists.
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