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The Southern Style Greens Guide

This guide will ensure that you have amazing southern style greens every time you make them. Regardless if you choose collards, mustard, or turnip green. You’ll always have a delicious pot of greens.

Close up overhead shot of Instant Pot Southern Greens

History Of Greens In Black Culture?

The origin of southern greens goes way back in the history of black culture. The early West African and European foodways were wisely adapted to the environment of their regions. Collard greens, in particular, have been used in southern cuisine for centuries.

However, the southern style of cooking the greens came with the arrival of slavery. Collard greens were one of the few selected vegetables they were allowed to harvest. So, over time, cooked greens gradually developed into traditional food.

The Different Types Of Southern Greens: Collard, Turnip & Mustard Greens

Collard Greens: Wide leaves and thick stalk with a bitter flavor

Turnip Greens: Slightly sweeter with tender leaves

Mustard Greens: Thinner texture, ruffled leaves with a peppery taste

leaf types: collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens

How To Pick Greens?

For starters, always buy the freshest produce. Using fresh greens in dishes add to the texture and taste. Use wilted leaves or stalks, and it will easily show in the results.

How do you know if the stalks are fresh? Use the good and the bad signs as indicators.

Good Greens

  •  Vibrant dark green leaves
  •  Crisp and full leaves
  •  Is a seasonal purchase

Bad Greens

  • Limp or wilted
  • Have small brownish rust-like spots or holes
  • Have yellow or yellowing leaves
  • Are over-mature with prominent cracks or veins

Wilted greens will not revive or flourish again when placed in water.

Cleaning greens in kitchen sink

How To Clean Greens?

Don’t skip this step, I repeat, don’t skip this step!

It is very imperative that you make sure that you are diligent about cleaning your greens. If you are buying them by the bunch instead of the pre-cut bag, I recommend you wash them 2-3 times.

Simply fill up a clean sink with water, submerge your greens in saltwater and inspect leaves for dirt and bugs. Repeat. The last thing you want is to have little critters floating around your bowl.

Why Are My Collard Greens Bitter?

Made mostly of water, collard greens can toughen up pretty quickly after the harvest, turning bitter in taste. The taste is a natural component of the greens’ flavor.

You can remove it by boiling them for a long time, 1-2 hours, depending on the bunch’s size. Do not worry about boiling the nutrients out of collard greens; it is nearly impossible to overcook them.

Once boiled thoroughly, add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice to each bunch of greens. Mix and taste to ensure the bitterness is gone. If not, add another teaspoon of salt and lemon juice. Repeat until the bitterness subsides completely.

how to cut greens for instant pot southern style greens

How to Cut Greens?

Greens, though only a bunch of tender leaves, can be tough to cut. Therefore, it is best to chop the tough (to eat and cut) stem off first.

If the stem runs through the leaf like in collard greens, run a knife or shears on either side to make the process quick (see the video). If you are a gadget-savvy chef, you can replace knives and shears with a unitasker tool.

For the green varieties with stems at the end, stack them together and roll lengthwise. Cut the bottom portion using a knife or tear with your hands. You can now cut the stem-less leaves in bite-sizes, slice them into shreds, or cook whole.

What is Pot Likka (Liquor)?

Pot liquor, also spelled potlikker, is the liquid in which greens, meat, vegetables, or fish have been boiled.

What Are The Best Types Of Meat To Season Southern Greens with?

You can use the following:

  • Smoked turkey (necks, legs, wings)
  • Ham hocks
  • Bacon
  • Salt pork
  • Country ham
smoked turkey leg for greens

How Long to Cook Greens?

The amount of time you cook your greens really depends on your preferred texture. I like a silkier finished green so I tend to cook mine longer. In my opinion it is very hard to over cook greens.  When I cook them on the stove top I typically let them simmer for 3 hours and when I’m short for time I will use my instant pot and pressure cook them for 1 hour.

  • Stovetop (2-3 hours) – takes longer, but you can cook more at one time.
  • Instant Pot (30 min – 1 hour) – much quicker to cook but limited space.
bowl of southern style greens with a spoon

How Much Liquid is Needed to Cook Southern Greens?

You need 15-20 oz. of stock or water per pound of greens.

Should I Use Pre-Cut Greens?

Bagged pre-cut greens offer a great shortcut when you are in a time crunch. One thing to remember is that they still have the denser and more fibrous stem, making it more difficult for an even cook. If you don’t mind biting into the stem then buying pre-cut greens from the supermarkets may convenient option for you.

Southern Style Greens on fork

Can I Freeze Greens?

Yes. Freezing will keep greens safe for use almost indefinitely, although it is best to consume them within 12 months to ensure the best taste and quality.

What To Do with The Pot Likka?

You can use it to elevate the dish’s flavor, serve it in a bowl, or soak it up with cornbread.

Close up overhead shot of Instant Pot Southern Greens

Best Damn Greens Ever

Best Damn Greens Ever – A mix of collard, mustard and turnip greens, smoked turkey and carefully selected seasonings makes this slow cooked southern classic ready right out the stock pot.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 10 bowls
Calories: 237kcal
Author: Meiko Temple


  • 2 lb collard greens stem removed & chopped
  • 1 lb turnip greens stem removed & chopped
  • 1 lb mustard greens stem removed & chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cups picante salsa medium
  • cup apple cider or white vinegar
  • 2 lb smoked turkey legs
  • 8 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoons red chili flakes
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Clean and the stems of the greens then roughly chop them.
  • **Optional** remove turkey meat from the bone and reserve the large bones. If your pot is big enough you can keep the smoked turkey leg whole.
  • Add the chicken stock to a large stockpot on high heat. Once you get to a rolling boil add in all the remaining ingredients (including the large turkey bones), cover, reduce heat to medium and let them cook down for 2-3 hours depending on how tender you like your greens. Make sure to stir occasionally.
  • Serve once the greens have reached your desired level of tenderness.
Tried this recipe?Mention @MeikoAndTheDish or tag #MeikoAndTheDish


You will need a Large Stock Pot.
You can make these greens in an instant pot. I recommend using the 8 quarts so you can fit everything in one pot. Cook on high pressure for 1 hour.
Before I serve my greens I typically take a scan of the pot to remove any of the skin of the smoked meats. I personally don’t find it enjoyable to eat but its totally optional and left to individual preference. 


Calories: 237kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 1347mg | Potassium: 1101mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 11533IU | Vitamin C: 96mg | Calcium: 398mg | Iron: 4mg


Chef’s Knife
Cutting Board
Large Pot

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

**The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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3 thoughts on “The Southern Style Greens Guide”

  1. 5 stars
    I absolutely loved these!! I always add or take away to make my own lil version, but these were spot on! Perfect amount of heat and kick for my taste buds!! I had to search for this recipe to make it again today. Have it pinned to my homescreen now, so I don’t lose it for next time!

  2. 5 stars
    Meiko, I tried this recipe here on a snowy day in Reno, NV. Oh, man – these greens were SO good! I tried to follow your recipe to the letter, but did go sideways just a little bit. I cut everything in half (sort of) because I live alone. My, my, my – I had no idea. Best I’ve ever had. I kept it simple and just had some cornbread with it. They really don’t need anything else. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

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Meet Meiko

Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

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