How it’s Done: South Carolina Collard Greens

By:Staff Writer


When it comes to southern cooking, it’s often the side dish that takes the center stage. In South Carolina, a heaping side of collard greens fits the bill. One of the most popular complements to any South Carolina meal, collard greens are a staple of the Palmetto State’s cuisine and were named the official state vegetable in 2011.

south carolina collard greens
Collard greens are the official state vegetable of South Carolina.

Just how did these leafy vegetables become such a prominent part of South Carolina’s cuisine? It all boils down to how they were prepared. While collard greens were already being grown in the Southern colonies, they didn’t gain popularity until the African slaves began preparing them in their own unique way. This method consisted of cooking the greens in a liquid called pot likker, a stock usually made up of chicken broth, onion, salt, pepper or pepper flakes and a smoky ham hock. This flavor-rich stock is what transformed collard greens from simple, leafy greens into a cherished South Carolina tradition.

southern food collard greens
Collard greens are easy to make and offer great health benefits.

Visitors of South Carolina often overlook this leafy delight at first glance, opting for something which sounds more appetizing than a side of vegetables. But if they’re lucky, a friendly local will steer them in the right direction. Aside from being uniquely delicious, collard greens also boast several health benefits. They’re rich in vitamins and calcium, help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer.

collard greens south carolina soul food
A “mess of greens” is southern-speak for “enough to feed a large group.”


1 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup white onion, chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

Smoked turkey (fully cooked leg, tail or neck)

32 oz. collard greens (thoroughly washed, stems removed and cut into strips)

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large, deep pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add in chicken broth, garlic and smoked turkey. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Add collards to pot, pushing them down if necessary. Add salt and pepper to season if desired. When the greens begin to wilt down, cover and simmer for about an hour or until your desired tenderness/texture is reached, stirring occasionally.

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