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.
To my taste buds, collards are more flavorful than kale. They’re a touch sweeter, with no hint of the kind of bitterness that some greens are known for. And they’re an excellent source of calcium for the vegan diet.
The technique of stir-frying collard green is almost the opposite of traditional recipes that call for them to be cooked to death. This makes collards so much more appealing, both for eating and for looking at!
Look for collards with fresh, unblemished leaves and plump stalks.
In praise of collard greens
Best known from the cuisine of the American South, collards greens were the biggest surprise for me as I was researching and developing recipes for my book, Wild About Greens.
I wasn’t exactly unfamiliar with collards, but I had most often seen recipes that called for boiling the leaves for 20 minutes or more, or braising them for an equally long time. Each time I tried these techniques, I just found the semi-mushy, olive-drab results less than exciting.
But cut into narrow ribbons and stir-fried, this leafy green is 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 coolest way to cook collard greens (in my opinion) is to roll up the leaves, slice them very thinly, and stir-fry them until just tender-crisp, retaining their wonderful color and sweetness.
How to cut collard greens
Cut the leaves away from the stalks with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Unlike other greens like kale or chard whose stalks can be thinly sliced and used, collard stalks are quite tough, so compost or discard them. Stack 5 or 6 like-sized leaves atop one another. Roll each stack up from one narrow end.
Cut through the rolled-up leaves crosswise to get nice narrow ribbons. Give them a good rinse in a colander, then pat dry. Now they’re ready to be stir-fried, easily and quickly.
- 8- to 10-ounce bunch collard greens
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup pre-grated carrots or thin baby carrots
- 2 cups thinly sliced green or napa cabbage (see note)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes, optional
- Cut the collard green leaves away from their stems with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Stack 6 to 8 similar-sized leaf halves atop one another at a time. Roll up snugly from one of the narrow ends, then slice thinly crosswise. Chop the slices in a few places to shorten the ribbons. Place in a colander and rinse well.
- Heat about half of the oil in a wide skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so over low heat.
- Add the collard greens, and layer the carrots, cabbage, and scallions over them in that order. Turn the heat up to medium and add about 1/4 cup water. Cover and steam for about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Drain off the water and drizzle in the remaining oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until all the vegetables are tender-crisp to your liking.
- Drizzle in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Add some red pepper flakes for some heat, if you’d like. Serve at once.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200
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Find lots more delicious vegan recipes featuring collard greens.
When your entree is fairly monochromatic, like a pasta or rice dish, stir-fried collards are a great way to add color to the plate. Below, they’re shown with Jamaican-Inspired Rice and Red Beans.