Best known from the cuisine of the American South, the big, beautiful leaves of collard greens can make a cook feel a little intimidated. But don’t be — once you known how to work with them, collards may just become your favorite leafy green. Naturally vegan collard greens recipes are filled with with grains, beans, other vegetables, and even fruits in a slew of delectable, creative dishes.
Collards were the biggest surprise for me as I developed my book, Wild About Greens. Until then, I’d most often seen recipes that called for boiling or braising the leaves for 20 minutes or more, and each time I tried this techniques, I found the semi-mushy, olive-drab results less than exciting.
But all that changed when I discovered the method of cutting the big leaves into narrow ribbons, then quick stir-frying or braising collards. Prepared in this way, collards are a standout, and its mild, sweet flavor is up there with the best of them (the leafy greens, that is). Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising; collard greens belong to the family of cruciferous vegetables (which includes cabbage and broccoli), none of which are very appealing when overcooked.
The newest, coolest way to cook collard greens is to roll up the leaves, slice them thinly, then stir-fry or braise them until just tender-crisp, retaining their wonderful color and sweetness. See more detail in this site’ Guide to Collard Greens (and an easy way to prepare them). There you’ll find lots of reasons why collard greens are so good for you, too.
Collard greens are quite versatile, and are especially good in stews, and in dishes featuring grains and beans. With their mildly sweet flavor (they don’t have even a hint of bitterness like other greens do), they’re even fantastic in smoothies, in small amounts.
The Most Basic, Best Way to Cook Leafy Greens: First of all, if you have a huge batch of collards, here’s the most basic to cook leafy greens — a simple garlicky sauté. While there are lots of delicious ways to prepare leafy greens, this one might just become your go-to. And there are so many delicious ways to vary it.
Soups & Stews
Vegan Cream of Leafy Greens Soup: When you have a surplus of greens that need to be used up, this vegan cream of leafy greens soup does the trick deliciously. If you love greens and have plenty of them, you’ll find this nourishing recipe useful as well as delicious.
Sweet Potato and Collard Greens Stew with Corn & Tomatoes: This lively stew of sweet potatoes and collard greens, embellished with fresh corn and tomatoes, is a perfect way to showcase late summer/early fall produce.
Hoisin-Glazed Collard Greens and Sweet Potatoes: There’s something so enticing about the sweet-and-pungent flavor of hoisin sauce enveloping the mild, earthy flavors of collard greens and sweet potatoes. Embellished with sweet red onion, this full-flavored side dish is welcome from early fall through late spring.
Stir-Fried Collard Greens and Cabbage: If you’ve never tried stir-fried collard greens and cabbage, you’re in for a treat! With their impressively large leaves, collard greens might not be your first choice of a vegetable to prep on a busy weeknight. But it’s easier than it may seem, and these leafy greens deserve a place in your rotation.
Rosemary Potatoes with Collard Greens and Vegan Sausage: This bountiful skillet dish features sweet and golden potatoes with collard greens. Flavored with rosemary and embellished with hearty vegan sausage, it makes a quick dinner entrée or a cool-weather brunch dish.
Spicy Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas with Fresh Tomatoes: Collard greens and black-eyed peas with fresh tomatoes make a most companionable trio, pulled together by a smoky heat provided by chile peppers and smoked paprika or barbecue seasoning.
Sweet and Smoky Beans and Greens: Beans and greens are a match made in vegan heaven. Pairing them in dishes like this simple skillet is cheap, nourishing, and with the right seasoning, so tasty and appealing. You can use collards or lacinato kale for this easy preparation.
Roasted Collard Greens with Brussels Sprouts and Polenta: Roasted collard greens and Brussels sprouts are embellished with polenta in a simple and hearty side dish. Prepared polenta adds a bit of comfort to the dish, and briny olives give it a nice flavor twist.
Hoppin’ John Risotto: Hannah Kaminsky presents her unique take on a traditional American New Year’s Day dish. Since one of the first few foods eaten on this first day of the year, it “must be just as full of symbolic luck as flavor. Greens are necessary no matter what the course, promising wealth in the form of monetary greens later. Peas and beans swell when cooked, suggesting prosperity. The combination of the two more directly represent health, because what could be more wholesome than greens and beans?”
Sesame Soba Noodles with Leafy Greens: An Asian-flavored dish of sesame soba noodles is laced through with collard greens (or lacinato kale) and flavored with a triple dose of sesame — tahini, seeds, and oil.
Seitan and Polenta with Fresh Greens: There’s something enticing about the synergy between seitan and polenta. With the addition of greens, the result is a great-looking, hearty dish. You’ll be using two different types greens — the hardier varieties (collard greens, kale, or chard) plus tender greens (spinach, arugula leaves, or bok choy).
Collard-Wrapped Yellow Rice and Black Bean Enchiladas: Large collard green leaves make amazing wrappers for grain and bean dishes, as shown in this photo by Ricki Heller. You can vary this by using other grains, such as quinoa or couscous.
Blushing Berries and Greens Smoothie: Combining berries and greens in a smoothie results in a beautiful burgundy-purple beverage that’s as tasty is it is pretty. Use blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, or a combination of any two. Though either kale or collard greens work well in this, I especially like it with the latter, which I find a bit less biting when it’s raw.
Green Smoothie with Banana And Avocado: Here’s a basic green smoothie recipe featuring collards, kale, or spinach, made filling and tasty with banana and avocado.