You will love this delicious, simple, vegan, and vegetarian collard greens made without meat or poultry!! Made using just a few ingredients and flavored with apple cider vinegar, this southern-style greens recipe makes for the perfect side dish! This healthy stovetop recipe is also paleo, and keto-friendly making it great for those on these special diets!
If you appreciate easy vegan and vegetarian recipes like our vegan egusi soup, vegetarian lentil bobotie, and ndengu recipe (mung bean curry), then you will love this easy vegan collard greens recipe.
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I love my greens and enjoy having them in different ways. If you want to try another way of making collards then definitely check out this East African collard greens recipe (these are briefly sauteed, making them very healthy as the leaves get to retain much of their vitamins)!
what are collard greens and what do they taste like?
Collards are dark leafy greens belonging to the cabbage family (examples of vegetables belonging in the same family are kale and mustard greens).
Raw greens have a bitter taste (slightly less bitter when compared to kale) and tend to develop a mellow and earthy taste once cooked. They are normally prepared with smoked turkey, bacon, or ham but you can still enjoy this delicious dish without meat, chicken stock, or poultry, for that matter!
what makes this recipe so good
- These vegetarian collard greens are simple and easy to make. It also uses just a handful of everyday ingredients.
- Delicious with a wonderful smoky flavor, and made without meat or poultry more friendly on the pocket!
- healthy - collards are very healthy; they are nutritious and high on fiber, making them great for the digestive system.
- Special-diet friendly - vegan, keto and paleo-compliant!
This is a summary, you will find the detailed measurements in the recipe card provided at the bottom of this page.
This easy vegetarian collard greens recipe uses the following ingredients:-
- oil - any type of vegetable oil will do but make sure to use compliant cooking oils for paleo or keto.
- vegetables - collard greens, onion, garlic cloves.
- sweetener - brown sugar ( use a low-carb brown sugar alternative such as Swerve Gold for keto, and coconut sugar for paleo).
- seasoning - smoked salt (or liquid smoke), crushed red pepper flakes. I need to stress that you have to use smoked salt or liquid smoke as this is what gives the collards a wonderful smoky flavor.
- apple cider vinegar (or the juice of half of a lemon) - introduces a tangy taste and helps balance the flavor.
- vegetable broth - I recommend using a low-sodium broth so you have control on the saltiness.
how to make southern-style vegetarian collard greens with apple cider vinegar (without meat)
I love to use this simple stovetop method as it is pretty straightforward. Before slicing or chopping the leaves, it is very important to clean them properly as the leaves normally bear hidden dirt. See the frequently asked questions below for how to clean the leaves using vinegar.
- First, clean the collards thoroughly by soaking them in a container filled with water or cleaning each leaf under running tap water.
- Separate the hard stems from the leaves. You can pull off the leaves or simply use a knife to cut the stems off. Once you have a pile of collard green leaves (enough to fit in one hand), lay the leaves flat on a chopping board and use your knife to roughly chop.
- Heat the oil in a large pot or pan, add the onions and fry under medium to low heat, until translucent and fragrant. Add the minced garlic and fry until slightly brown and fragrant, taking care not to burn. Pour in the vegetable broth, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar (or suitable keto/paleo brown sugar alternative), the collards, smoked salt or liquid smoke, then stir. Cover and allow to simmer under medium to low heat for 50 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring from time to time.
- Stir in the red pepper flakes, combine and serve.
Stored in airtight containers, pre-washed and chopped collard greens can be kept in the fridge for three to four days. Store cooked greens in the fridge or freezer as follows:-
storing in the fridge
Keep these vegetarian apple cider collard greens in the fridge for 4-5 days. Just make sure to store them in a suitable airtight container as they tend to have a strong smell and can make your fridge smelly.
freezing cooked collard greens
Freeze cooked collards in suitable airtight containers or in small plastic bags, labelled with best-by dates for up to 12 months.
- When making vegan and vegetarian greens, it is important to season the collards appropriately to prevent them from being bland. Do not skip the smoked salt or liquid smoke for the perfect smoky taste. Feel free to use other spices such as smoked paprika.
- Get rid of the bitter taste of collards by stirring in half a teaspoon of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Repeat this process until most of the bitterness is gone.
other frequently asked questions
Because collard leaves normally hide a lot of dirt, mud, or tiny insects, it is important to properly clean them to avoid ruining the dish. You basically need to soak the collards before cooking and here is how to go about it:-
Make sure your kitchen sink is clean then fill it with cold or warm water (do not use hot water). Add a third of a cup of apple cider vinegar or your preferred choice of vinegar to the soaking water. You can also use 2-3 tablespoons of salt, instead of vinegar. Allow the collard greens to soak for 15 minutes (wash, rinse and soak at least three times, with each soak lasting for 5 minutes).
Soaking the leaves helps the dirt settle at the bottom, making it easier to clean the leaves while the vinegar helps destroy any insects which may be present on the leaves.
You may realize that your greens are still tough after being cooked long enough. In this case, there are a few measure you can take to tenderize your greens:-
1. Using some type of acid - add 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or the juice of half a lemon during cooking. The vinegar or lemon juice acts as a tenderizer, introduces tangy flavor and helps balance the bitter taste of the collard greens.
2. Using baking soda - boil some hot water in a large pot and 1-2 pinches of baking soda. The water will foam at this point but do not worry. Add the chopped greens to the pot, blanch for 5 minutes then use a sieve to rinse. This method also helps preserve the color.
3. Cutting off the stems - get rid of the stemmy parts as much as possible during the cutting process. The stems tend to be hard and chewy so getting rid of them helps keep the overall dish tender.
4. Cook longer- finally you can tenderize your collards by adding one more cup of broth and cooking them for 30 minutes longer.
more flavorful recipes to make!!
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This recipe has been modified to a much simpler and user-friendly version (January 2022). Most readers found the old recipe a bit confusing and too long, as it had both the Instant Pot and Stovetop methods. It has now been modified to only include the stovetop method.
Vegetarian Collard Greens with Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 16 ounces collard greens - roughly chopped (approx. 450g)
- 3-4 cloves garlic (finely sliced or minced)
- 1½ cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 small sweet or white onion (sliced in large chunks)
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar or keto brown sugar alternative (use coconut sugar for paleo)
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt (or ½ teaspoon liquid smoke)
- 1 sliced small tomato to garnish (optional)
- First, clean the collard greens thoroughly by soaking them in a container filled with water or cleaning each leaf under running tap water.
- Separate the hard stems from the leaves (you can pull off the leaves or simply use a knife to cut the stems off). Once you have a pile of collard green leaves (enough to fit in one hand), lay the leaves flat on a chopping board and use your knife to roughly chop.
- Heat the oil in a large pot or pan, add the onions and fry under medium to low heat, until translucent and fragrant. Add the minced garlic and fry until slightly brown and fragrant, taking care not to burn.3 tablespoon olive oil, 1 small sweet or white onion, 3-4 cloves garlic
- Pour in the vegetable broth, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar (or suitable keto/ paleo brown sugar alternative), collard greens, smoked salt or liquid smoke, then stir. Cover and allow to simmer under medium to low heat for 50 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring from time to time.16 ounces collard greens - roughly chopped, 1½ cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth, 2 tablespoon brown sugar or keto brown sugar alternative, 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- Stir in the red pepper flakes and combine. Serve this apple cider vegetarian collard greens with cornbread, baked ribs or a side of your choice. You can also cube one tomato and use it as garnish.1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 sliced small tomato to garnish
- Always properly clean and soak your collard greens before cooking.
- I used smoked salt in this keto-friendly recipe to get that smoky flavor, but you can also use liquid smoke.