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Smoked Collard Greens With Bacon

smoked collard greens with bacon ready to serve

Smoked Collard Greens With Bacon

If you’ve ever spent any time in the South, you’ve eaten (or at least heard of) collard greens. These green leaves of goodness are a staple throughout the southern states and are traditionally braised for more than an hour in a large pot with ham hocks. They make the perfect side dish for any BBQ staple and are sure to be a hit at your next cookout or family gathering.

Ham hocks bring a hint of smoky flavor that I love, but I’m not a fan of ham hocks in collard greens for various reasons. They cook at a different rate than the collards, and they are generally a bit of a hassle and better suited, at least for me, in a pot of southern soup beans. 

So, what to do? Replace the ham hocks with bacon because who doesn’t love bacon? And then put these greens on the grill or smoker. These greens take a lot of smoke in a short period of time, just like smoked mac n cheese, so they only need 90 minutes or so to get tender and to take on some great hickory smoke flavor. 

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Even if you’ve had collard greens in the past and didn’t like them, I really hope you’ll give these a try. First, I’ll answer a few common questions about collard greens and then offer a couple tips for smoking these flavorful veggies on your grill or smoker.

What Are Collard Greens?

Collard greens are large, green, leaf vegetables that are a member of the cabbage family, though they look more like kale. They have a tough spine that runs down the middle of the leaf that should be removed before cooking. The leaves themselves are sturdy (nothing like a delicate spinach leaf) and often bitter, but we’ll fix that today.

How To Get the Bitterness Out of Collard Greens

There are many ways to get the bitterness out of greens. We’ll take advantage of four different ways for this recipe in order to create a mild and very pleasant collard green recipe. By using fat, salt, acid, and smoke, the greens become a delicious side dish without a trace of the bitterness that turns so many people off.

What Foods Go Well With Collard Greens?

Collard greens are a very versatile vegetable. They of course pair nicely with typical BBQ main dishes like BBQ ribs or pulled pork. But don’t be afraid to pair these at your next upscale dinner party when you’re making an incredible porterhouse worth writing home about. I also love to serve these during the holidays. They’re actually one of my favorite sides to go along with the grilled Thanksgiving turkey.

Tips for Making Smoked Collard Greens

The Smoke: I prefer to use wood chunks with charcoal, but if you have a gas grill you can use wood chips wrapped in aluminum foil or a smoke tube.

The Fat: Bacon not only provides great flavor, but the fattiness helps cut the bitterness of the greens. If you’re going meatless, double the butter in this recipe to help increase fat content.

The Service: When serving these, I like to serve them in individual ramekins, which allows each person to add salt and vinegar to their individual taste.

Smoked Collard Greens With Bacon Recipe

Serves: 6-8 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch collard greens
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
1 large shallot, sliced thin
3 cup chicken stock
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp salted butter
1 small chipotle chili pepper, canned in adobo sauce
2 tsp adobo sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
chive blossom vinegar, to taste (or apple cider vinegar)
kosher salt to taste

How to Make Smoked Collard Greens With Bacon

Step 1: Light your grill or smoker and set up for two zone cooking, establishing cooking temperature at 275°F. 

Step 2: While your grill is preheating, cook the bacon in a cast iron pan over medium heat till it just starts to render. 

Step 3: Add shallots and reduce heat to low; do not crisp the bacon. Cook for five minutes, then add chicken stock, mustard powder, butter, chipotle chili pepper, and adobo sauce. Whisk together and remove from heat.

Step 4: Cut the tough stems from the collards and discard; wash leaves thoroughly. Roll several collard leaves tightly together and chiffonade (which is French for slice into thin strips).

TIP: It’s easiest to remove the stems by turning the leaves upside down when cutting the leaves away.

Step 5: Add the collard greens to the stock and mix together to ensure coverage of all the greens.

thinly sliced collard greens mixed with bacon in a cast iron skillet

Step 6: Place the collards on the grill, add one chunk of hickory wood—or your favorite smoking wood—and close the lid. Mix the greens and the stock every 15 minutes for 90 minutes, allowing the smoke to incorporate into the greens.

lightly crisped collard greens and bacon smoking on a grill

Step 7: Remove the greens from the grill and top them with optional red pepper flakes—highly recommended—and salt to taste. I like to serve these with chive blossom vinegar or apple cider vinegar and some jalapeño cheddar cornbread.  

smoked collard greens with bacon tossed with red pepper flakes to serve

smoked collard greens with bacon ready to serve

Smoked Collard Greens With Bacon

4.92 from 23 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 large shallot sliced thin
  • 3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 small chipotle chili pepper canned in adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • chive blossom vinegar to taste (or apple cider vinegar)
  • kosher salt to taste

Instructions

  • Light your grill or smoker and set up for two zone cooking, establishing cooking temperature at 275°F. 
  • While your grill is preheating, cook the bacon in a cast iron pan over medium heat till it just starts to render. 
  • Add shallots and reduce heat to low; do not crisp the bacon. Cook for five minutes, then add chicken stock, mustard powder, butter, chipotle chili pepper, and adobo sauce. Whisk together and remove from heat.
  • Cut the tough stems from the collards and discard; wash leaves thoroughly. Roll several collard leaves tightly together and chiffonade, (which is French for slice into thin strips).
  • Add the collard greens to the stock and mix together to ensure coverage of all the greens.
  • Place the collards on the grill, add one chunk of hickory wood—or your favorite smoking wood—and close the lid. Mix the greens and the stock every 15 minutes for 90 minutes, allowing the smoke to incorporate into the greens.
  • Remove the greens from the grill and top them with optional red pepper flakes—highly recommended—and salt to taste. I like to serve these with chive blossom vinegar or apple cider vinegar and some jalapeño cheddar cornbread.  

Notes

If you’ve ever spent any time in the South, you’ve eaten (or at least heard of) collard greens. These green leaves of goodness are a staple throughout the southern states and are traditionally braised for more than an hour in a large pot with ham hocks. They make the perfect side dish for any BBQ staple and are sure to be a hit at your next cookout or family gathering.

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