Last year at this time I was preparing a big batch of sauteed beet greens. Today, I’m bringing you sauteed Swiss chard.
What can I say, I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to vegetables early in the summertime.
Lightly oiled and wilty, warm and comforting, sauteed greens are a staple of American traditions, historically part of African American cuisine during slavery, Southern culture, and immigrant dishes for everyone from Asians and Italians to Latinx people and others.
While the name chard was originally a corruption of another French word, historically it’s been called everything from leaf beet and strawberry spinach to Roman kale, defined in comparison to other greens considered similar.
To a Nashville girl back in 2014, carrying home bags of local greens from my CSA drop-off on a Monday night, that made sense. Because the main thing I was thinking about while I washed crumbly earth off just-picked plants, cooking some and storing the rest for later, wasn’t how I wanted to highlight lamb’s quarters over collards or how intricate and nuanced the differences were between the two.
What I chose to call the vegetables in my hands didn’t really matter.
Instead, I pondered a real and pressing need, something that all of my leafy greens have in common, namely this: that I would need to find a way to cook and eat them all, preferably within the span of a week.
With a CSA – or community supported agriculture – box subscription that runs roughly from June through December, providing a share of a local farm’s produce to feed my family throughout the growing season, I certainly had my hands full.
The start date can change depending on how the weather affects what grows, and that year it was a little later than the last, so I remember my options feeling a little monochromatic in those initial weeks.
We pick up our haul and leave with early-season bags that bear twenty shades of green.
And while this past week we’ve had beet green chips (excellent!), potato and beet green hash, and, even in the sauna that is a Nashville June, some pretty dreamy soup, we’ve also fallen back on the ever-beloved classic, a dish that reminds my husband Tim of his childhood and me of years past: sauteed greens.
From a health standpoint, cooking down greens is actually a benefit as opposed to eating them raw, crazy though it sounds, because it destroys the oxalic acid that can block calcium and iron absorption.
The fact is, some raw vegetables (such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale) can actually negatively affect the thyroid when eaten raw in large quantities – but when you cook them, especially in oil as you do with a saute, that changes.
The oil locks in the flavor and nutrients, making fat-soluble vitamins more bioavailable in the process.
When they are done right, they are oh-so-right.
With a dash of oil and maybe some garlic or spices, gently wilted, seasoned, and cooked to perfection, sauteed greens are satisfying and nostalgic. Even if you didn’t grow up eating them (and I certainly didn’t), they taste like home.
To further this point, the problem is that when they’re done wrong, they are so, so very wrong: limp and tasteless, swimming in a greenish liquid, the sort of mixture that makes people claim they don’t like vegetables.
While writing this, I actually realized that I never order sauteed greens at restaurants anymore, and I don’t blame you one bit for thinking this is a pretentious thing to say.
But the truth is, once you’ve had just one gloppy mess of greens and tried to force it down, you know you never want to do that again.
Now I’m here to help you make the most delicious greens you’ve ever tasted, and the best part is how simple and satisfying the process is going to be.
It’s easy to highlight all that fresh, flavorful, texture-rich goodness. And to make it even better, we’re going to saute our farm-fresh Swiss chard with caramelized onions, raisins, and toasted almonds.
Maybe you grew your own chard in the garden this year (which you can find instructions to do on our sister site, Gardener’s Path) or you picked up a bunch at the store. Those will work too. You can even sub in a different type of leafy veg for this recipe, and I’m sure it will still be incredible.
Here’s what you do:
After toasting the nuts and setting those aside, you start by melting your choice of fat – whether it be vegetable oil, ghee, coconut oil, or butter – in a large pan. The onions are cooked low and slow, until they caramelize, before seasoning them and adding the raisins and chard.
The greens cook pretty quickly, but the flavorful, aromatic add-ins contribute so much to the dish, they’re worth the extra initial time that it takes to prepare them. Once the greens are soft and wilted, you season to taste, garnish, and serve.
Make them your own, and enjoy.Print
This sensational side stars nutrition-packed Swiss chard tangled with savory caramelized onions, juicy raisins, and toasted almonds.
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, or oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 8 cups roughly chopped Swiss chard, stems removed (about 16 ounces)
- 1/4 cup water
- In a large dry skillet over medium-low heat, add the almonds. Shaking the pan and tossing the almonds occasionally to promote even browning, cook until golden and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Set the almonds aside.
- In the same skillet over medium heat, melt the butter or oil and tilt to coat the pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and season the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 15-18 minutes. Stir in the raisins.
- Add a handful of the chard and allow it to wilt slightly. Before adding the next handful, and in between each addition, stir in about 1 tablespoon of water to help the leaves keep cooking down. This process should take about 10 minutes.
- Season the greens with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste), divide among plates, and serve warm topped with the toasted almonds.
- Category: Leafy Greens
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Vegetables
Keywords: swiss chard, caramelized onion, raisin, almond
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Chard and Toast the Almonds
Clean the Swiss chard well. Remove the stems and discard them, or save them for another use – keep reading through to the end of this article for a few suggestions!
Roughly chop the leaves and set them aside.
Place a large dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add the almonds.
Shaking the pan and tossing the almonds occasionally to promote even browning, cook until golden and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.
Set the almonds aside in a bowl so they don’t continue to cook from the residual heat. Save the pan to cook the onions.
Step 2 –Caramelize the Onions
Thinly slice the onions.
In the same skillet over medium heat, melt the butter or your choice of fat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and season the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown and caramelized. This will take about 15 to 18 minutes.
Stir in the raisins. Any residual liquid in the pan from the onions will plump and rehydrate the dried fruit.
Step 3 – Saute the Chard
Add a handful of the chard to the pan, stir, and allow it to wilt slightly.
Before the next handful is added, and in between each addition after that, stir in about 1 tablespoon of water to keep the leaves cooking down. This process should take about 10 minutes total.
Step 4 – Season to Taste, Garnish, and Serve
Season the greens with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more or less to taste, depending on your personal preference.
Divide among plates, and serve warm topped with the toasted almonds.
Taking a Leaf of Faith
When it comes to sauteed greens, turning to your chum Swiss chard is a stellar move.
Snag the rainbow variety if you spot it, and save those vibrant ribs for pickling, adding to veggie stocks, or frying for a crispy treat.
If you’re not nuts about almonds, toasted pine nuts make a deliciously buttery substitution, and walnuts are tasty as well.
Speaking of swaps, caramelized red onions bring a rich color to the dish, and using dried cranberries instead of raisins offers a tart bite that can’t be beat.
Check out these other recipes that lead you down a path of leafy greens if you’re hungry for more:
Will you top this sauteed chard with fried eggs at the top of the morning, or bring it to the dinner table alongside a juicy chicken or steak? Are you a CSA subscriber with tasty tips for using up your seasonal haul?
Share how you’ll pair this side 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 June 21, 2014. Last updated on June 23, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and 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 Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.