Smoky Braised Collard Greens

Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and last week’s introduction provides myriad more reasons why collards in particular are worth your time. Today I want to share one of our favorite preparations of this healthy dark leafy green.

I most often keep our collards simple, with nothing more than garlic and a spritz of vinegar. Here an extended braise, a duo of dried chillies, and a healthy dose of lemon is still pretty minimal effort, and yields maximum impact. Even those who dismissed collards in the past will approve.

Chillies lemon garlic

The secret is using two types of dried chillies: bright and smoky guajillo + earthy and sweet ancho. Both are very common to Mexican cooking, and impart a faint tart, fruity flavor and mild heat. Together with the lemon they help temper any bitterness of the collards. (Though, this preparation will make just about any sturdy dark leafy green sing.)

This dish improves with age as the flavors deepen and meld together. Sidle it up to pork, chicken, fish or tofu the first night, and reprise later in the week stirred through a bowl of grains or pasta, heaped on top of warm flatbread, or dotted with cooked beans, lentils or feta cheese. It’s even elegant enough to serve to company.

So what do you think? I hope you get to experiment with this and several of the other recipes I shared, and ultimately come to enjoy collards as much as we do!

Cheers, Heather

Tell me… Do you use whole dried chillies in your kitchen? Which are your favorites?

Smoky Braised Collard Greens
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: Side, vegetables, greens, vegetarian, vegan
Makes: 6 side servings (or 2 to 3 entree servings)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried ancho chillies, stemmed, broken into smallish pieces, stems and seeds discarded
  • 3 dried guajillo chillies, stemmed, broken into smallish pieces, stems and seeds discarded
  • 1 pound collard greens, ribs removed and leaves cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick strips
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups water (alternatively, homemade or low-/no-sodium store-bought veg or chicken stock)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. In a large pot or deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook over moderate heat until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the dried chillies and cook until they begin to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the greens and stir until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water (or stock), bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the greens, uncovered, until very tender, about 60 to 70 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot to ensure your liquid doesn't completely evaporate. If it's getting too dry, add a couple splashes of water or stock.
  2. When the greens are meltingly tender and most of the liquid is gone, squeeze over the lemon juice and give it a quick stir. Taste and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, as needed. Remove from the heat, and serve while hot.
HGN Notes
Dried whole ancho and guajillo chillies can be sourced from Latin and Asian markets, as well as most larger groceries. Look for shiny, brightly-hued chillies that are in tact; avoid those with dull skin, broken chillies, and/or lots of dust in the bottom of the package.

+ Try different or a variety of sturdy dark leafy greens, such as kale, chard, mustard or turnip greens, spinach or beet greens.
+ Experiment with different types of the milder dried chillies like mulato, anaheim (New Mexican), pasilla negro, etc.
+ Make it a meatless main by adding chickpeas or other legumes, crumbled feta or chevre, cubes of baked tofu or tempeh, or toasted nuts or seeds.
Nutrition Info
Serving Size: 1/2 cup Calories: 74 Fat: 5 Saturated fat: 1 Unsaturated fat: 4 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 8 Sugar: 3 Sodium: 10 Fiber: 2 Protein: 2 Cholesterol: 0

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

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