Whether you want to start the new year strong or serve a delicious and simple side dish along with dinner, Bacon Collard Greens are the recipe for you! A nod to Southern lore about greens consumed on New Year’s Day bringing money and luck in the new year, this recipe is perfect any time of year. Ready in less than 15 minutes, Bacon Collard Greens are quick, flavorful and a wonderful way to get in some greens!
2023 Update: This recipe was originally shared in December 2014 at My Cooking Spot, where I was a contributor. This post has been updated to include more tips and tricks. I hope you love this greens recipe!
Y’all should know by now that I’m a Southern girl… and today’s post is a nod to a classic Southern recipe.
There’s a Southern tale that goes along the lines of eating greens on New Year’s Day brings luck and money in the coming year.
I love a good food tradition, and I absolutely love an easy recipe like this, which packs in a ton of wonderful flavor in very little time.
Because of this, I whipped up some collard greens for New Year’s Day. They’re a bit on the decadent side, but they’re totally worth it… and completely easy to make. They’re also perfect year-round, assuming you can get your hands on fresh collards.
Why I love this recipe:
While these are not your traditional Southern collard greens that are cooked in a large pot with a ham hock, this easy collard greens recipe is FAST and full of similar flavors. (If you’re looking for the classic, check out Traditional Southern Collard Greens.)
Basically, this green recipe is for those of us who want our greens in about 15 minutes, which is a fraction of the time the traditional greens take. And as someone who adores a good leafy green vegetable throughout the winter months, this recipe really hits the spot.
These collards are the perfect side dish to serve alongside a holiday dinner, but they also are wonderful when paired with a weeknight dinner, too.
More winter side dish recipes to try: Winter Vegetable Hash | Oven Roasted Green Beans | Roasted Lemon Brussels Sprouts | Oven Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple and Cranberries | Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
What you need to make this recipe:
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- Cast Iron Skillet, a large saute pan or your favorite nonstick skillet
- Garlic press
- Citrus juicer
Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
Here’s what you need to grab from the grocery store:
- Fresh collard greens — they need to be thoroughly washed, trimmed and cut into ribbons to make this recipe as quickly as possible.
- Bacon — thick cut or regular is totally fine. Use what you’ve got on hand.
- Garlic cloves — you can use large cloves from a bulb. I prefer this to the pre-minced stuff, as it’s not as flavorful, especially if it’s been sitting in your fridge for a while
- Lemon juice — a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is excellent to finish these tender greens!
Variations on this recipe:
Don’t love this recipe the way it’s written? Here are some ways to adapt this hearty greens recipe to your tastebuds:
- Add more heat. A sprinkle of red pepper flakes will add a nice kick. So will a shake or two of your favorite hot sauce.
- Skip the bacon… and cook everything in olive oil for a vegetarian version of these delicious collard greens.
- Swap the lemon juice for another acid, like apple cider vinegar.
- Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper, if necessary.
- Can’t find collards? Use another type of greens, like mustard greens, turnip greens or even kale.
How to make Quick Collard Greens
Prepare the collard leaves.
- This means wash them thoroughly and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. You can also do this in advance and spin them dry in a salad spinner.
- Use a knife to cut the tough stem away from the leaves, and stack them on top of each other.
- When the stem has been removed from all the leafy greens, roll into a tight roll that looks like a cigar.
- Slice thinly with a sharp knife. This helps them cook more quickly.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon, and fry until it is crispy and cooked through. Remove the bacon from the pan. Drain on a paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.
Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the garlic to the remaining bacon grease. Stir around the skillet with a wooden spoon until cooked, but not burned. This will take 1-2 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.
Add the thinly sliced collards to the skillet a little bit at a time. Give them a stir, let them wilt, and add more until all the collards are in the skillet.
Sauté in the bacon fat until all the collards have wilted down and are bright green.
Remove from the heat, and add a squeeze of lemon juice and the cooked bacon crumbles. (I sometimes leave these off, and the collard greens are as delicious with or without the bacon, so it’s up to you!)
Give the greens a taste. Add a pinch of extra salt, if necessary. You can also add a sprinkle of black pepper.
Serve the sautéed collard greens warm, and enjoy!
Quick tips and tricks to the best collard greens with bacon:
- Mise en place. Make sure your greens have been cleaned and trimmed before getting started cooking. This part is the most time-consuming piece.
- Double or triple the recipe for a crowd. These quick collards are an amazing side dish for the holidays or a weeknight dinner, like Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops.
- How to store: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until heated through.
More recipes featuring greens:
- Sausage Quiche with Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens
- Lemon Kale
- Sauteed Greens
- Creamy Kale
- Brazilian Style Collard Greens
- Mandarin Kale Salad
Ready to make these beauties? Scroll on down to see how easy they are…
Bacon Collard Greens
- 1 bunch collard greens washed, trimmed, and cut into thin ribbons
- 4 oz. bacon
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
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- In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until it has cooked through (or is as crispy as you like.) Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the minced garlic. Stir around the skillet with a wooden spoon until well cooked (but not burned!)
- Add the collards slowly, piling them into the skillet and stirring until they wilt and continuing the process until the entire bunch is in the skillet. Sauté in the bacon fat until all the collards have wilted down and are bright green.
- Remove from the heat, and top with the lemon juice and the cooked bacon crumbles. (I sometimes leave these off, and the collard greens are as delicious with or without the bacon, so it’s up to you!)
- Serve warm, and enjoy!
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…