My mom has always had an affinity for greens.
From gorgeous salads tangled with tangy cheeses and colorful veggies to wilted Swiss chard under a glowing mound of fried eggs, her glossary of green leafy ingredients is practically infinite.
As a kid, I simply wouldn’t have it.
She would teasingly shake enormous bundles of coarse kale at me in the kitchen, hoping that I would hop on board and ask for my own bowlful. Though the smell of her sauteeing oniony leeks and greens in butter always felt cozy and familiar, I was okay simply partaking via the occasional deep inhale.
It wasn’t until I discovered creamed spinach that my indifference towards leafy veggies began to morph into something closer to desire. If you’re wondering if I stumbled upon this sinful side dish at a gourmet steakhouse, let me stop you right there.
My beloved creamed spinach came straight from the drive-thru window of a fast-casual rotisserie chicken chain. I’d be lying if I said that every time I pass one today, I don’t start to get the same warm fuzzies inside that I experienced the first time a big forkful of this tasty dish hit my lips.
I mean, sure, I would eat my own shorts if they were folded into a silky sauce of cream, butter, and cheese.
I knew that preferring my greens “creamed” didn’t necessarily mean I was making a healthy choice, but it was certainly better than no greens at all.
As an adult who now loves to cook and does it for a living, I’ve spent my fair share of time trying to reinvent that creamed spinach recipe I held so close to my heart.
I swapped in all kinds of nutritious leafy vegetables – tender Lacinato kale, vibrant rainbow chard, and the like. But when it came to collards, I always kept my distance.
Growing up in the South as a non-southerner, you’re no less surrounded by cornbread and collards than you would be if you were born under the Mason-Dixon line and used expressions like, “These are slap yo’ mama good.”
The collard greens I encountered throughout my North Carolina childhood always seemed to be over-salted and overcooked.
In an attempt to wash away the memory of those dreary greens, I decided to take it upon myself to take the creamed route.
And I’m never looking back.
Ready to learn the three secrets to making the perfect creamed greens? Here we go:
1. Moisture Is the Enemy
My rookie attempts at making creamed spinach never seemed to turn out as I had hoped. I was set on using fresh over frozen, but couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t nailing the texture.
Then I realized: it’s all about the blanching, baby!
Once I took the extra step of blanching my greens in salted boiling water and then squeezing out all the moisture I could, my creamed greens were on the train to texture town.
2. Skip the Bechamel
For this recipe, I finally said buh-bye to béchamel.
Anytime I make a cream sauce from scratch, I typically start with this infamous mother sauce. It’s comprised of equal parts fat and flour, plus milk. But not this time.
For my creamed collards, I simply sauteed my aromatics in butter, added heavy cream, simmered, and thickened. No flour needed.
3. Don’t Forget the Nutmeg
Freshly ground nutmeg’s warm, elusive flavor deepens the comforting creaminess of a white sauce.
Don’t ask questions. Just do it. It will add that little something extra that you’re looking for, without fail.
In half an hour, I ended up with one of the richest, most satisfying bowls of creamy greens I had ever tasted. The collards were heavenly as a side dish, and the star of my breakfast plate, scooped up with some crusty bread.
I guess my mom was right all along. Damn, I hate it when that happens.Print
Need a creative way to get your greens? These savory creamed collards are silky smooth, garlicky, and indulgently delicious.
- 2 large bunches collard greens (about 3 pounds), stemmed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- Prepare an ice bath. In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the collard greens until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs and transfer to the ice bath.
- When they’re cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Finely chop the leaves into strips. You’ll end up with about 1 1/2-2 cups chopped greens.
- In a large pan over medium-low heat, add the butter and swirl to coat the pan. Once it begins to foam lightly, add the onions and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Fold in the greens, remaining salt and pepper, cheese, and nutmeg. Simmer until greens are tender and fully coated in the cream sauce, about 5 more minutes. Season with additional salt to taste if desired, and serve warm.
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Southern, Vegetables
Keywords: collard greens, creamed collards, Southern, side dish
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Rinse and Prep the Collards and Boil Water
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.
Rinse the collards under cold running water, and then lay the leaves onto a cutting board. Remove the thick, fibrous center stems by slicing along either side of each stem with a sharp knife, cutting them in half while removing the stem.
Step 2 – Blanch and Chop the Greens
Blanch the collards in the boiling water until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
Transfer the greens to the ice bath, and when they’re cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as you can. The ice bath stops the cooking process, and also helps to retain the collards’ vibrant color.
Stack the leaves in a pile, roll into a bunch, and finely chop into strips. You’ll end up with about 1 1/2-2 cups of chopped, blanched collards.
You can even try a new technique for this step by cooking the greens in the pressure cooker.
Step 3 – Chop and Saute the Aromatics
Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
In a large pan over medium-low heat, add the butter and swirl to coat the pan. Once it begins to foam lightly, add the onions and garlic.
Saute, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Season the onions and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. I like to use freshly cracked black pepper in my cooking, for the best flavor.
Step 4 – Add the Cream and Simmer to Thicken the Sauce
Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to stir often.
Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened. This will take about 10 minutes and the sauce will have reduced slightly.
Step 5 – Fold in the Greens, Seasonings, and Cheese
Fold in the collards, remaining salt and pepper, grated cheese, and nutmeg.
Simmer until the greens are tender and fully coated in the cream sauce, about 5 more minutes.
Give it a taste, and add a little additional salt if needed. Serve warm.
Once You Go Creamed, You’ll Never Go Back
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to steer you away from enjoying the wholesome elements of simple sauteed greens. Especially when you’re serving a decadent entree, something light and fresh makes for a balanced meal.
But when you’re in the mood to amp up the indulgence of an already nutrient-dense ingredient, creamed collards are a delightfully leafy dream come true.
Playing with your food is totally acceptable. Here are three other veggie recipes that will inspire new adventures with leafy greens:
How do you take your creamed collards? Inside of a fluffy omelet? Blended with some dairy and served as a dip for chips? Share your tasty suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on March 9, 2011. Last updated: April 26, 2021 at 18:14 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”