This recipe for slow cooker collard greens is a healthy, vegetarian version made without meat. Learn how to cook collards in the Crock-Pot so that you can serve greens with the perfect texture and loads of flavor, thanks to the low and slow cooking method. They make a great side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or a barbecue.
I’ll admit I never know what to do with collard greens, even as a professional veggie blogger. I love collard greens that I get at Southern restaurants, but I struggle to make them as good at home. Until now, that is.
I finally cracked the code for making collards with the best texture and flavor in my own home. All you have to do is use the trusty slow cooker! (Or you can try my Coconut Braised Vegan Collard Greens for something different.)
Since they’re cooked for a few hours (at least), slow cooker collard greens spend a lot of time soaking up the delicious flavors of vinegar-spiked broth. I also seasoned them with maple syrup and red pepper flakes, and WHEW, that really made them turn out tasty!
In terms of texture, these collards surprisingly still keep some of their crunch while becoming just the right amount of tender. You can choose to cut back or increase the cooking time, depending on how tender you want them to be. There’s really so much to love about this recipe!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Collard greens: The greens will shrink while cooking, so I recommend using at least 2 bunches or about 2 pounds.
- Onion: Yellow or sweet onions work best, but you could substitute red onion if needed.
- Garlic: Don’t be shy!
- Vegetable broth: You can use chicken broth if that’s all you have and you don’t need your greens to be vegetarian.
- Apple cider vinegar: This contributes some tang and helps to tenderize the collard greens. Substitute red wine or white wine vinegar if needed.
- Maple syrup: Increase or decrease the amount you use, depending on how sweet you want your slow cooker collard greens to be. You can also use honey or a couple teaspoons of brown sugar instead.
- Spices: Salt, ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. For a smoky flavor similar to what ham or bacon provides in non-vegetarian collard green recipes, add some smoked paprika. If you don’t need your greens to be vegetarian, you can also add ham, bacon, or chicken.
For the full recipe card, which includes ingredient quantities and all of the recipe steps, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Here’s a preview of the process.
Dice the onion.
Cook the onion and garlic in some olive oil in a skillet. If you have a slow cooker with a sauté function, you can cook them right in there.
Begin preparing the collard greens. After washing and drying them, fold each green in half and slice along the stem. Discard the stems.
Stack several leaves on top of each other, and roll them up.
Cut the roll of leaves lengthwise to get thin strips. See my tutorial on How to Cut Collard Greens for more information.
Combine the ingredients for the broth in the slow cooker: vegetable broth, maple syrup, vinegar, and spices.
Put the sliced collard greens and cooked onion and garlic into the slow cooker with the broth. Stir well.
Cook on high for at least 3 hours or low for at least 6 hours until the collards have your preferred texture.
If you’re wondering how long you should cook slow cooker collard greens, there really is no set limit. Using a Crock-Pot is a great way to allow greens to cook “low and slow,” so you really could simmer them overnight on low if you wanted to without making them mushy.
In terms of a minimum cooking time, I found that they should cook for at least 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low to be tender enough to serve. Keep in mind that slow cookers vary in efficiency, so you may need more or less time depending on your slow cooker.
Storage and Reheating
Keep your collards in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you want to make them in advance to serve a crowd, you can reheat them right in the slow cooker. Just be sure to give yourself enough time for them to get warm enough. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
Slow cooker collard greens are a delicious side dish that pair especially well with barbecue or Southern-inspired meals. Try serving them on the side of my Vegetarian White Bean Chili, BBQ Lentils with Shredded Carrots, or Healthy Sweet Potato Skins with Barbecue Beans.
If you are making barbecued meat, serve these collards as part of your spread along with my Blackened Green Beans and Grits, Sautéed Sweet Potatoes, Greek Yogurt Coleslaw, Greek Yogurt Broccoli Salad, and Scallion Dill Potato Salad.
More Collard Green Recipes
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Slow Cooker Collard Greens
- Slow cooker (at least a 3- or 4-quart one)
- Wash the collard greens under cold running water to remove any dirt. Pat dry. Then, fold each green in half over the stem and use a knife to slice along the stem to remove it. Discard the stems. Next, stack some leaves on top of each other and roll them up. Slice lengthwise along the rolled up leaves to make thin strips. Repeat with all of the leaves.
- If you have a slow cooker with a sauté function, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. If you don't have this function, just cook the onion and garlic in a separate skillet.
- Combine the vegetable broth, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in the slow cooker.
- Add the collard greens (and the cooked onion and garlic if it's not already in there), and stir well.
- Cover and cook on high for at least 3 hours (and preferably 4 to 6 hours) or low for 6 to 8 hours. Increase or decrease the cooking time depending on how tender you want the greens to be.
- You can simmer the greens overnight on low if desired to get them very tender.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds until warmed through.
- You can also make the greens in advance if you’re planning on serving them to a crowd, then reheat them in the slow cooker. Give yourself enough time for them to get warm.
- For a smoky flavor, add some smoked paprika. If you don’t need these to be vegetarian, you can also add cooked bacon, chicken, or ham.
Enjoy this great way to eat collard greens! – Lizzie