Southern Turnip Greens (Quick and “Fried”)

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These old-fashioned Southern turnip greens are quick to cook, deliciously flavored, and the perfect side to accompany your next Southern-style meal.

fried turnip greens

Turnip greens have been a favored vegetable in the South for generations. The recipe came about when cooks would save the leaves of the turnip roots and prepare them like they did mustard greens or collard greens. Traditionally, Southern turnip greens were served with ham hocks or salt pork, but you can go wild and serve yours with whatever you like, including pork chops, grilled chicken tenderloins, or fried chicken. The one non-negotiable is that you must serve your turnip greens alongside some freshly-baked cornbread. It’s the Southern soul food way, after all.

Now, this Southern turnip greens recipe came about as I didn’t have the time to cook my turnip greens the traditional way, so I decided to try sautéing them (which Southerners call “frying” since we use a little oil and a frying pan). I was thrilled when they tasted every bit as good as the other way of cooking, but with a lot less fuss! Plus, the ingredients are minimal. All you need are the turnip greens, bacon grease, diced onion, and salt.

So if you want a big old mess of simply but delicious-flavored greens in less than 15 minutes, keep reading!

Ingredients for Southern turnip greens.

Recipe Ingredients

  • A mess of fresh turnip greens from either your garden or the produce section at the grocery store. A mess is enough for a lunch for one person or a side dish for two people.
  • Salt
  • Bacon grease (or olive oil or butter, whatever you have on hand).
  • Onion

How to Make Turnip Greens, Southern-Style

Chop turnip greens with kitchen shears.

The most important step is to wash the turnip greens really well in a tub of water. I just cover them up and give them a good swish.

Then take your kitchen shears and go at it like you’re making a chopped salad or something.

I leave stems and everything on because they are delicious. I love the turnips and turnip roots, too, but I usually roast those along with other root vegetables. There really isn’t any part of a turnip I don’t eat. Kinda like how the old folks used to say they ate every part of the chicken except for the cluck!

Bacon grease in skillet.

Now place a little bit of bacon grease or oil or butter in a skillet.

I’m using about a tablespoon or so of bacon grease. Trust me, this makes the dish extra flavorful because bacon grease is one of the most flavorful oils you can cook with. And it only has around 30 calories per teaspoon. It’s also very frugal because you don’t actually buy it but save it. You can read more about bacon grease and its uses by clicking here.

Chopping onions browning in skillet.

What you want to do is melt that in your skillet over medium or medium-high heat (depending on how fast you want it and how close you are willing to watch it). Then add some onions in there and sauté those up until they’re nice and lightly browned.

Don’t like onions? Don’t add onions. It’s that simple.

Adding greens to onion in skillet.

Add chopped greens.

Add pinch of salt to greens.

Add salt to taste.

I’m adding about a teaspoon. I also add some black pepper, too, but it’s really up to you.

If a teaspoon of salt seems like way too much to you, don’t add it. I won’t get my feelings hurt and the world will keep on turning. Cook how you like to cook. That’s what it’s all about.

Sautéed turnip greens.

So to cook turnip greens, you basically just keep stirring this every so often and cook it for about 10 minutes or until it darkens in color a bit, like this.

Southern Turnip Greens in large serving bowl.

Then you get to eat it!

While this makes a great side, I’m totally having it all by myself for lunch.

I just love it when I do things like that for me!


Stored in the fridge in an airtight container, cooked turnip greens will last up to five days. You can also freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to three months. Reheat in a skillet on the stove or in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

  • Serve your turnip greens with hot pepper sauce or apple cider vinegar. For more heat, add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • When you saute the onion, you can also add 1 or 2 garlic cloves for additional flavor.
  • You can use this recipe with any type of fresh greens, but in particular mustard or collard greens.

Recipe FAQs

How do you get the bitterness out of turnip greens?

The salt in this turnip greens recipe helps to make the greens less bitter. Another option they did in the past was to sprinkle in some sugar to counteract the bitterness.

Are turnip greens good to eat?

Yep, they’re a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, alongside kale and broccoli. They’re healthy, high in nutrients, and low in calories.

What do you serve with Southern turnip greens?

You can serve your turnip greens with smoked turkey, crispy bacon, ham hocks, salt pork, or basically any barbecued meat. Alternatively, serve it alongside your other favorite Southern side dishes, like mac and cheese, hush puppies, fried okra, fresh green beans, and buttermilk biscuits.

Want more Southern side dishes? Check out:

Collard Greens Recipe

Dixie Cornbread Recipe

Fresh Fried Corn

How To Make Fried Green Tomatoes

Southern Butter Beans Recipe

Southern Turnip Greens in large serving bowl.

Southern Turnip Greens

These old-fashioned Southern turnip greens are quick to cook, deliciously flavored, and the perfect side to accompany your next Southern-style meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: turnip
Servings: 4
Calories: 105kcal


  • Mess of greens about a handful is enough for two servings as a side or one serving as a meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease or oil, or butter
  • 1/2 onion chopped (optional)


  • Wash greens really well and chop up with scissors or knife.
    Mess of greens
  • Place bacon grease or oil in a skillet over medium heat and melt. Add chopped onion and sauté until onion is lightly browned.
    1 tablespoon bacon grease, 1/2 onion
  • Add greens and salt. Cook, stirring often, until greens become darker in color and tender, or about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
    1 teaspoon salt


Calories: 105kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

“Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.”

~Anthony Douglas Williams

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  1. after visiting Malawi Africa several times and eating their delicious greens cooked with dinde (relish of tomatoes onions and peppers) I now add a can of Rotel to my greens or if I don’t have that I pour some liquid off a jar of sliced jalapeñosdice, a diced onion
    sauted in bacon grease and a small can of tomatoes … makes a difference!

  2. Not a collard fan, but love mustard and turnip greens. Right now, have some black Japanese mustards and a couple of gigantic green ones growing. Plus collards someone managed to sneak in! For New Years, I wanted to make stuffed cabbage rolls, but sub every other one with a collard leaf or mustard. With another cook in the mix, recipe got out of hand! Now looks like it’s going to be eggroll wrappers rolled around the various leaves, rolled around ham and black eyed peas and rice. I’m thinking leaves will need to be blanched or else really tough when fried like an egg roll.

    1. As a mother of two, my best suggestion, if your five year old is not already inclined to like greens, is to put them on a plate next to a bowl of ice cream, give him a spoon, and then eat the greens yourself 🙂 Then try this same thing minus the ice cream around the age of 17. 🙂

  3. Fried turnip greens are my fav. Poke grows all over the place here and Poke Salit is a fave as well. I devoted a pinterest board to it.

    1. I would give a hundred dollars for a bowl of poke salit. I grew up eating these greens (they usually grew near a sawmill pile). I envy you, Barbara.

  4. Now that i got the recipe for the turnip greens , do u have a recipe for the turnips to go in them? Thank you Christy.

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