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Instant Pot collard greens are a comfort food dream come true. They’re soft and silky, meaty and full-flavored like the long-cooking southern-style recipes that inspired them, but they’re ready in about 45 minutes.
Why we love this recipe
Traditionally cooked southern-style collard greens are comfort food to the max, even for those of us vegetable lovers with no special personal connection to the south. But when cooked low and slow on the stove, collards take several hours to become soft, tender, and full of robust flavor.
That’s why I love to use the Instant Pot for this recipe, which tenderizes the greens and creates just enough silky sauce to coat the leaves with a mere 12 minutes of pressure cooking. This recipe:
- Makes silky, tender collards
- With just enough gorgeous, flavorful sauce to cling to the leaves
- Is ready in 45 minutes from start to finish
- Makes a great accompaniment to our BBQ pulled chicken, mac and cheese, and cornbread
A word on history
I want to pause for a moment and acknowledge that the culinary history of collard greens is complicated, and that I’m not an expert in that history. For many years, my expertise has included helping people learn to cook and enjoy vegetables — but that’s not all there is to eating.
While developing this recipe, I’ve learned more about the paths by which collard greens were brought to North America by enslaved Africans in the 1600s. If you’re interested in this topic too, you might like to read some of the resources I encountered, including:
- This exhibit from the LATIBAH Museum in North Carolina
- This discussion about the African history of collards from WBUR
- A 2016 controversy on cultural appropriation as described in the Atlantic
And to step back for a moment, one of the very best things you could do with your time, regardless of when you encounter this recipe, is to download and listen to the 1619 Podcast by the New York Times. It’s brilliant and brimming with what should be American History 101, but isn’t.
What you’ll need
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe, and some tips for choosing them.
- Bacon: You want truly thick, meaty bacon for this recipe. Buy slab bacon or, like I usually do, bacon that’s sold sliced about 1/4-inch thick. Either way, cut it into small bite-sized pieces.
- Apple cider vinegar contributes a touch of tangy brightness to this recipe without being overly assertive.
- The onion contributes moisture to this recipe, which is necessary for pressure cooking. So don’t skip or skimp on this ingredient.
- Collard greens often come with a lot of grit still in tow, so be sure to wash them well. I like to remove the stems and chop the greens before submerging and jostling them in several changes of water in my salad spinner.
- We use sweet Hungarian paprika and red pepper flakes
How to make it
You’ll be amazed how quickly these greens cook down in the Instant Pot. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.
- Prepping the greens before you start cooking is key. Use a knife to remove the stems. (You can discard the stems or save them for juicing.) Then stack the leaves and cut them in half lengthwise. Stack again and cut crosswise into short strips. Then wash well in several changes of water. I like to do this in my salad spinner, or you can do it right in a clean sink. Dry the greens a bit, but you can leave some water still clinging to them.
- This recipe is designed for the 6-quart Instant Pot. I don’t often use the sauté function on the IP, but in this recipe it’s important to cook the bacon, onion, and garlic a bit before pressure cooking. The bacon goes in first and cooks until some of the fat is rendered.
- Use the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pot (which means dissolving and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot), and then add the rest of the ingredients.
- Cook on high pressure for 12 minutes and then do an instant pressure release. Give the greens a stir and they’re good to go!
Expert tips and FAQs
Sure! Turnip greens, mustard greens, chard, and kale, alone or in combination, can work in this recipe — and they’re all traditionally used in southern cooking. Depending on the age and thickness of the greens, they may not need as much cooking time.
You can store leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.
Yes! Instead of the bacon, sauté the onions and garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika to the pot along with the Hungarian paprika, to evoke some of the same smoky flavor that bacon would have provided. Everything else can stay the same.
How to serve it
This recipe is great with:
More favorite collard greens recipes
- 1 pound collard greens
- 6 ounces thick-cut bacon or slab bacon, diced
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
- A few good grinds black pepper
- To prepare the greens, cut out and discard the stems. Halve the leaves lengthwise and then cut crosswise into short strips. Wash the cut collards in several changes of water until perfectly clean.
- Set a 6-quart Instant Pot to the sauté function. Add bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it's rendered a few tablespoons of fat.
- Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften (just a minute or two). Turn off the heat.
- Pour in the apple cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add collards, salt, red pepper flakes, paprika, and black pepper.
- Position the lid, set vent to sealing position, and set pot to manual, high pressure, 12 minutes. The pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure before starting to count down the cooking time.
- At the end of cooking, carefully perform an instant pressure release.
- When steam has fully released, you can open the pot and give the greens a stir to coat them with the bit of silky liquid at the bottom of the pot. They're ready to serve right away.
- This recipe is designed for the six-quart Instant Pot.
- Collard greens can be gritty. I like to stem and chop the greens before washing them, since it's much easier to submerge them in several changes of water once they're in smaller pieces.
- You can wash collard greens right in the sink, but I like to use my salad spinner so I can pull out the greens in the strainer insert, pour out the water, and repeat until the greens are perfectly clean.
- After the final rinse, give them a spin in the dryer, but they don't have to be completely dry.
- If you don't want to discard the stems, you can save them for juicing.
- You may be surprised that there isn't any liquid added to this recipe. In the pressurized environment, the onion and collard greens release plenty of moisture to create steam, seal the pot for pressure cooking, and yield a little bit of silky sauce. If you're nervous, you're welcome to add 1/2 cup of water or low-sodium stock to the pot, but it's not necessary.
- You can make these greens a few hours in advance if you like.
- Store leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 269Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 868mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 6gSugar: 3gProtein: 19g