Creamed Collard Greens

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.

Vertical overhead image of two oblong fluted white ceramic dishes of creamed collard greens, with the corner of a blue-green cloth at the top of the frame, on a rough, unfinished wood surface, printed with orange and white text in the top third and at the bottom of the frame.

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.

Vertical overhead closely cropped image of two oblong ceramic dishes and a frying pan of homemade creamed collard greens, on a blue-green cloth partially covering a light brown unfinished wood surface.

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.

Overhead vertical image of an oblong ceramic dish of creamed collard greens with more in a frying pan at the top of the frame, with whole nutmeg and cloves of garlic, and a folded blue-green cloth, on a brown wood surface.

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.

Vertical overhead image of a frying pan and oblong ceramic dish of creamed collards, on a folded blue-green cloth, with cloves of garlic and whole nutmeg at the top right corner of the frame, on an unfinished light brown wood surface.

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.

Vertical overhead image of two fluted ceramic dishes that are red on the outside and white on the inside, filled with creamed collard greens, with more of the dish in a frying pan at the top of the frame, on a wood surface with a folded blue-green cloth, three cloves of garlic, and three whole nutmegs.

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.

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Overhead closely cropped image of creamed collards in an oblong ceramic dish with a fluted edge, on a folded blue-green cloth.

Creamed Collard Greens


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Need a creative way to get your greens? These savory creamed collards are silky smooth, garlicky, and indulgently delicious.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a single collard leaf laid out flat on a wooden cutting board, with the stem sliced away for removal.

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.

Collard greens being blanched in a nonstick pan of hot water with steam rising from it, on a light brown wood surface.

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.

Closeup overhead horizontal image of chopped blanched collard greens with a knife, on a wood surface.

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.

Step 3 – Chop and Saute the Aromatics

Dice the onion and mince the garlic.

Overhead horizontal image of piles of chopped collard greens, chopped onion, and minced garlic, on a pale beige unfinished wood cutting board.

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.

Overhead closeup image of finely diced onions and minced garlic sauteeing in oil in a nonstick frying pan.

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.

Horizontal image of cream being poured into a pan of sauteeing minced garlic and chopped onion in oil, in a nonstick frying pan, on a wood surface.

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

Grate the fresh nutmeg.

Overhead closely cropped closeup horizontal image of a pile of cooked greens to the left side in a nonstick frying pan of cream sauce, on a wood surface.

Fold in the collards, remaining salt and pepper, grated cheese, and nutmeg.

Overhead horizontal image of collard greens, grated cheese, and cream sauce in a nonstick frying pan, being stirred by an orange rubber spatula with a wooden handle, on a light brown unfinished wood surface.

Simmer until the greens are tender and fully coated in the cream sauce, about 5 more minutes.

Overhead closely cropped image of cooked collard greens in a cream sauce being stirred with an orange rubber spatula with a wooden handle in a large nonstick frying pan, on a light brown wood surface.

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.

Horizontal overhead image of an oblong fluted white ceramic serving dish of creamed collard greens, on a folded blue-green cloth, on a wood surface with whole nutmeg and cloves of garlic to the right.

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: October 1, 2019 at 19:52 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.

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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.”

24 thoughts on “Creamed Collard Greens”

  1. I love collard greens, most especially slow cooked for a couple of hours! They are definitely a perfect match for cornbread. I’ve never tried a creamed version, though!

    Reply
  2. Psssst. Just a quick tip from a born-and-bred Southerner: The correct spelling is “collard greens”.

    What an interesting recipe! I usually just cook down my greens and flavor them with a bit of grease/oil. This is a new idea for sure!

    Reply
  3. Dorothy, Mmmm that sounds great!

    Stephanie, Oh, wow! Thank you so much for telling me! I’ve updated it in the post. How did I think it was collared? HA!

    Reply
  4. I grew up in a broccoli-and-carrot household, too, so introducing greens to my diet has been interesting, to say the least. I’m now okay with greens in soup, and greens with pasta and crumbled Italian sausage—but greens with cream sound doable, too. Thanks for sharing, Southerner!

    Reply
  5. So, now my little southern belle is making collard greens!!! Ok, I can see
    that I guess. I just made some creamed cabbage and it was so delicious, even
    though you were not raised up on that either! It’s really good to get more
    veggies in our meals. I’m all for it. Have fun in your 68 degree weather!!!
    I’m eating my heart out! Love and Hugs, Mom (:

    Reply
  6. You know, I’ve never made collard greens! I eat them in restaurants (mostly places that serve Southern-style BBQ or chicken and waffles, it seems) but I’ve never ever cooked them (I didn’t grow up on them either)! This recipe looks super easy and delicious!

    Reply
  7. OK, so sauteed greens are not my favorite. You have made a liar out of me because now you have sauteed them in HEAVY CREAM, which I am sure to love!! Can’t wait to try this!

    Reply
  8. Kim, Well, eating them in restaurants is still a step ahead of most people. This recipe IS super easy and delicious– try it!

    Food Hound, Ha! I so understand. Heavy cream is a beautiful thing.

    Reply
  9. I grew up in a green bean-peas-carrots household. I don’t think I even tried broccoli until I was in junior high! Recently I’ve been trying new things – different squashes & kale. I made chips from the kale & man oh man! They were yummy but they made me SICK. Now I don’t even like the smell of them & I’m working up my nerve to try more greens. I’ll keep this recipe in the back of my mind for when I have my new vegetable trying fortitude back 🙂

    Reply
  10. You have me so intrigued! We don’t see collard greens in our part of the country much, but your preparation has me hankerin’ for some!

    Reply
  11. I’ve always just braised collard greens, but creaming them sounds absolutely delicious too! Can’t wait to try this out!

    Reply
  12. I have actually always been very fond of all those leafy vegetables. This recipes sounds delicious (love the nutmeg), and your photos always makes me hungry.

    Reply
  13. MaryAnn, I’d love to hear how you made the chips since they made you sick! I wonder if it has something to do with the oil used maybe? That, or maybe you have an allergy? So sorry to hear that though. It is such a bummer to get sick. 🙁

    Anna, Nice use of hankerin’! 🙂 Very fitting.

    Peggy, Braised doesn’t sound bad either!

    David, Of course you have, my Green Kitchen friend! I totally get having a fondness for them– but I didn’t always, for sure. Thank you for those kind words!

    Reply
  14. Mmm…cream and collard greens. I’ve never though to put those two together, but I think I’m going to have to give that a go this week.

    Reply
  15. Om nom nom nom! Cream + Collard greens? Yes please! Although I haven’t grown up eating collard greens, they’ve been an obsession of mine ever since my father first made them a few years ago.

    Reply
  16. I usually come here to read what you ‘re eating and specially what you write and I find you an inspiration for me, I love your blog.

    From the picture I can see that collard greens are what we call in Portugal ‘Couve Galega.’ It’s not a ‘soft’ kind of green so we have to boil it in water for a while before melt in butter/garlic, or whatever…

    We have a typical plate with it: caldo verde (green soup). Only with a lot of potatoes (puree), collard greens sliced, and olive oil, normally served at barbecues…

    Reply
  17. Hey there! I grew up eating collard greens (my folks are BIG gardeners), but I’m always open to a new way to cook em! I look forward to trying this.

    Reply
  18. oh this is taking me back ‘home’ myself! my family eats tons of mustard greens and collards, but i’ve never ever liked them. since i’ve started liking kale, chard, etc, i’m thinking i might give them a shot again.

    Reply
  19. That part of the produce section is still a mystery to me. I’ve yet to discover most greens and stick to the traditional veggies still. This recipe seems like a great introduction and I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks!

    Reply
  20. Molly, Let me know how it goes (or went)!

    Kamran, An obsession with collard greens sounds like a good one. : )

    Cristina, Thank you for that sweet comment and window into Portugal’s cuisine!

    TJ, Hope this does your childhood memories proud!

    Heather, That’s awesome. I still like kale more, but collard greens are worth another go, for real!

    Amaranthian, Oh, I hope it goes well for you!

    Reply
  21. I love collards and I think they don’t get as much fame as they deserve because they get cooked to death in the South (still delicious) – I’ve never had them creamed, but am putting that on my to do list.

    Reply
  22. Sauteed collard greens are common in Brazil where I grew up, but I’ve never had them with cream. I’ll have to try it. I saute them with onion, garlic, and bacon or olive oil. Then, I add a little water and salt to cook it with until the water evaporates.

    Reply

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