These old-fashioned Southern turnip greens are quick to cook, deliciously flavored, and the perfect side to accompany your next Southern-style meal.
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!
- 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.
- Bacon grease (or or butter, whatever you have on hand).
How to Make Turnip Greens, Southern-Style
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!
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.
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.
Add chopped 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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:
How To Make Fried Green Tomatoes
- 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
“Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.”
~Anthony Douglas Williams
Christy, I just love all of your recipes! I moved to Nashville from upstate in Pennsylvania fifteen years ago. When I married my husband who was born and raised here, I had to acquire a whole new set of recipes. He is absolutely over the moon about everything I cook from your blog. You have made my life much easier in the kitchen. May GOD continue to Bless You and Yours.
Oh Sheila, you just made my day!!!! I am so glad he is enjoying the recipes!! Thank you so much for giving them a try and I pray for continued blessings for you and your family!!
Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, cooked in smoked hamhocks, macaroni and cheese, with candied sweet potatoes and cornbread. Sunday special, please don’t leave out the fresh peach cobbler! Please Lord bring back my Mama, Big Mama, Auntie and Mama Granny! Sweet memories. Thanks Christy for the Turnip Greens memories!
Oh my, now I am starving!!
This is about the way I cook greens, but I just sort of made it up as I went along. Never had cooked greens growing up, so I had nothing to compare to. Just trying not to waste something edible.
Now you’ve got me wondering what the “long” way of cooking greens could be! 🙂
If you weren’t a southern girl I probably wouldn’t try cooking my greens this way, but am going to give it a try. I always thought they had to be boiled and also cooked with a piece of fat meat if you had it. That’s how my Mom cooked them. Am anxious to give this recipe a try. Do enjoy your posts. Thanks.
Let me know what you think when you get a chance to try it Doris, I think you will be amazed!!
Never been a big fan of greens. I cook my cabbage like this so maybe cooking turnip greens like this would make them better tasting. Must have jalapeno corn bread with them though. Thanks for the recipe.
Christy, did you ever have polk ? It grows mostly wild, but I know some people who grow it in their yard too….guess they planted it there tho… It is good cooked liked turnip greens, and you pick the very small shoots as they come up out of the ground and dip in egg mixture and corn meal mixture and fry it and it is delicious ……and I have made polk patties too, cook the greens and add egg, onion, salt, pepper a little splash of hot sauce and form into patties and fry…..a few minutes on both sides…..yum, yum are they ever good…..polk season doesn’t last very long tho, usually it’s the first greens that come up…..
Yes, I actually wrote about that in a post once. When I was in college and living with my Grandmama she pulled over to the side of the road, got out and started picking it from a ditch!! She made me a whole mess of it fried up with eggs when we got home…it was heaven!!
Old timers around the Muscle Shoals area know where the choice patches of “polk salat” are on the TVA Reservation and they are free for the picking. You see them wondering the edge of a patch of woods with their brown paper sacks picking. I have personally never eaten any but I have heard of it all my life. Fried or sauted turnip greens sound good but my favorite thing about turnip greens is the “pot liquor”. It they are fried, what do you dip your cornbread in?
I made fried turnip greens for supper this week and my husband really thought I had done something special and he said “Thank You’ Christy Jordan.
Have a blessed day,