How To Cook Collard Greens With Hot Pepper Sauce

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Learn how to cook collard greens with this super simple and easy Southern collard greens and tasty hot pepper sauce recipe.

A forkful of collard greens.

Wanna know how to cook collard greens?  Well, I am gonna tell ya today.

I have always loved greens. Turnip greens, collard greens, or mixed, I just adore them. Among the greens I like, my Grandmama’s is one my favorite southern recipes for collard greens.  No one can make them like her. 

New Year’s Day traditions

Greens are a critical part of our New Year’s Day meal in the South. According to our tradition, the amount of greens you eat is directly proportionate to how much money you will have in the coming year. Even my brother, who has picky eating habits to rival the most obstinate toddler, has been known to manage a bite or two on New Year’s Day! We serve this Southern collard greens recipe with Hoppin John, of course.

No one knows for sure why collard greens can make you rich when you eat ’em. However, the theory is that the green veggie is the color of money. So if you indulge on New Year’s Eve or Day, the legend goes, you will have a prosperous year ahead of you.  The same is said for black eyed peas, of course. And you can click on the link to find out why and then make my crockpot black eyed peas with a smoked turkey leg.

In this post, I show you step-by-step how to cook collard greens, including how to prepare the greens. When cooked in water flavored with salt and apple cider vinegar, your braised collard greens will be perfectly balanced and so tender. Serve this soul food as a side dish with any main meal, like fried chicken, steak and milk gravy, or pork chops. I love to pair this easy collard greens recipe with my homemade hot pepper sauce, so let’s get cooking!

Ingredients for how to cook collard greens.

Recipe Ingredients

Southern-Style Collard Greens

  • Collard greens
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • Ham hock, ham bone, or pieces of country ham (optional)

Hot Pepper Sauce

  • Vinegar
  • Minced garlic
  • Sugar
  • Hot peppers
  • Salt

Helpful Kitchen Tool

How To Make Some Tasty Southern Collard Greens with Hot Pepper Sauce

Bunch of collard greens.

How to prep collard greens

Let’s start with your greens. You can use collard or turnip greens, or a mixture of both.

I am using fresh collard greens because that was what was available to me. This is what a bunch looks like. The bundle I bought had three of these and that is the amount I’ll be making today.

Chop off the green's end.

I start by chopping the end off like this.

Wash greens well.

Then I put them in my pot and run cold water over them to start washing them. Washing your greens is extremely important as they do have dirt on them and you want to remove that.

I also pick up each individual leaf and run that under the water too. Then I place the washed leaves in a clean bowl or dishpan.

Throw away any greens with holes.

These little ones that have clearly been feasted on by little critters just get thrown away. I don’t mind them though, I don’t fault a little buggy who has a taste for some fresh greens!

Remove the spine on each leaf.

Now we need to get that big old tough spine out of them. If you fold the leaf in two and hold it, it will easily tear right off the spine. If you can’t manage this, just tear it off or cut it off, whatever works for you is just fine!

Bowl of collard leaves.

You just want to end up with a nice bowl of collard leaves like this one.

Coarsely chop washed collard greens.

Now take a bunch at a time and just coarsely chop them up a bit.

Don’t worry about making them too small, they will shrink a lot when cooked anyway. We’re just going for big pieces rather than huge leaves here.

Place collard greens in a large pot.

How to cook collard greens

Once that is done, put them in a large pot.

Add apple cider vinegar to pot.

In your pot, pour a 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar…

Add two quarts of water to pot.

About two quarts of water…

Add salt to pot.

and 1/4 cup of salt.

You may put more or less salt to taste but I would wait and let them cook a bit before you decide. If it is too salty, drain some of the water and add fresh, unsalted water. If it isn’t salty enough, just add a bit more. This isn’t rocket science so don’t fret over whether or not you are doing it right. If it tastes right to you, it’s perfect.

Add ham hock to pot.

If you REALLY want some good greens, add in a ham hock or some country ham slices while these cook.

Then shred it up and put it back in after the collards are done.

Let the collard greens cook for about 2 hours.

Give those ingredients a mix and then cook your collard greens on medium heat for about two hours or until tender.

Collard greens after cooking for 2 hours.

You’ll notice the greens slowly shrink into the water the longer they cook.

If your water starts getting too low at any time, add some more while these are cooking.

Cooked collard greens.

But your collard greens should look like this after cooking for a couple of hours.

Add water to pot for hot pepper sauce.

How to make the hot pepper sauce

In a pot, place all of your pepper sauce ingredients. Starting with the water… 

Add vinegar to pot.

Then the vinegar…

Add sugar and salt to pot.

Then the sugar and salt…

Add peppers to pot.

The hot peppers, of course…

Add minced garlic to pot.

And finally, the minced garlic.

Bring the hot pepper sauce to a boil.

Give it a stir and bring it just to a boil.

Hot pepper sauce is done when it's reduced like so.

Then, reduce the heat and simmer until it is cooked down by about half like so.

By that I mean, look at the level it is at now and when it is half that amount (thanks to evaporation), your sauce is done!

How to cook collard greens.

Drain your collard greens and place them in a serving bowl after cooking them for about two hours.

Drizzle hot pepper sauce over collard greens.

Drizzle individual servings with the pepper sauce. This sauce is great for so many vegetables!

Decide how rich you want to be in the new year and eat greens accordingly!


Store leftover collard greens in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them for up to 1 year. The best way to reheat them is on medium-low heat on the stovetop until heated through.

Recipe Notes

  • If you want to make spicy collard greens without making the hot pepper sauce, simply add a tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes or serve with some hot sauce.
  • Add a tablespoon of sugar or brown sugar to your southern collard greens recipe to add sweetness to the smoky flavor.
  • Instead of smoked ham hock, you can serve your collard greens with some crispy cooked bacon. Fry the bacon in olive oil with chopped onion before adding them to the saucepot alongside the other ingredients. Alternatively, substitute the ham hock for another smoked meat, like a smoked turkey leg.
  • Another option is to substitute the water for 4-5 cups of chicken broth. The chicken stock will make the collard greens more rich and flavorful.

Here are more sensational Southern side dishes:

Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese (Southern Plate Favorite)

Southern-Style Fried Okra Recipe

Southern Butter Beans Recipe

Rare Southern Hoe Cake Recipe

Hush Puppies

A bowl of collard greens.

Southern Collard Greens

A southern staple side dish, learn how to cook collard greens with this super simple and easy southern collard greens and hot pepper sauce recipe.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: collard
Servings: 4
Calories: 189kcal


Southern Collard Greens

  • 3 bunches collard greens
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • ham hock, ham bone, or pieces of country ham (optional)

Hot Pepper Sauce

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 whole hot peppers from a jar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic


  • Rinse the collard greens well. Remove the spines and chop coarsely, then place in the pot.
    3 bunches collard greens
  • Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until collards are tender, about two hours, adding more water if needed.
    3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 quarts water, 1/4 cup salt, ham hock, ham bone, or pieces of country ham (optional)

How to Make Hot Pepper Sauce

  • Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a different saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until amount is reduced by half. Drizzle over greens or other vegetables. Refrigerate remainder.
    3 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 4 whole hot peppers from a jar, 1 tsp minced garlic
  • Serve your collard greens warm with the hot pepper sauce.



Calories: 189kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!


Thank you all and Happy New Year!


Stacey Lynn

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  1. 5 stars
    I grew up with southern dishes like collard greens. Living in Ohio my southern dad would order a “leg” of country ham from NC. But it was my southern aunt who showed me how to make it like a southerner. She added the country ham to the water, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cover. Then she prepped the collard greens. After done with that the greens were added to the pot. They seemed to cook all day-really only three hours. The real treat was the apple cider vinegar with red peppers in it-20 years old!! She put some in a shaker bottle to put on your dish of collard greens. Yum.

  2. Thank you for the recipe. I love turnip and mustard greens but I don’t remember if I have eaten collard greens.

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