Today I’m sharing my slow cooker vegan collard greens recipe that’s quickly become one of the most popular recipes here on the blog. These healthy meatless collard greens are gluten free, dairy free (no butter), and suitable both for vegan and vegetarian diets.
This time of the year in the United States, we are reminded from every direction about the Southern tradition of eating collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring in good luck and financial stability with us into the rest of the year.
Since I’m a Russian who’s only lived in the US for the past seven years, I still find new American traditions all the time.
The flavor of classic Southern collard greens is especially dear to me because it reminds me of something that I used to eat in the kindergarten long, long time ago when the Soviet Union still existed.
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My taste memory is very strong – I might not remember what exactly that kindergarten dish was (clearly it was some type of greens), but when I first tasted American collard greens a few years ago, the flavors brought me right back to my childhood.
Collard greens are closely related to cabbage and kale and are loaded with nutrition: they contain lots of vitamins A, C, K, as well as nutrients like calcium, iron, folates, etc.
Soluble and insoluble fiber in collards helps clear out our arteries from LDL (bad) cholesterol and our intestines from all kinds of gunk.
In addition to all this goodness, collard greens are rich in cancer-fighting phytonutrients that inhibit the growth and spreading of cancer cells.
Not long ago I got a hold of a huge bunch of collard greens from a local vegetable store, so I decided to experiment with cooking them in a slow cooker.
How to Prep and Cook Vegan Slow Cooker Collard Greens
Prepping the large and thick collard leaves may seem like a labor-consuming feat, but in fact it doesn’t have to be.
The tricky part is to wash off the lingering bits of dirt and sand. I found that the best way to achieve this is to give the leaves a quick cold water bath in a clean kitchen sink.
I also added 2 Tbsp of white vinegar to the water for a better clean, and gave the leaves a good stir with my hands (rubber gloves optional).
Once the leaves were clean, I took them out and shook the water off (the leaves don’t have to be completely dry at this step).
I then stacked a few leaves on a cutting board, lining their central stems together, and cut the stems out. This step is optional but highly recommended to get a uniform texture in the cooked collard greens.
The classic recipe for Southern collard greens calls for cooking them with bacon, a ham hock, or some other smoked animal part. This adds lots of unhealthy fats to a dish that can otherwise be very healthy.
Naturally I decided to reinvent the recipe to make it healthier and vegan-friendly.
To make sure my collards still came out with a classic smoky flavor, I added a tiny bit of liquid smoke at the end (this is my go-to liquid smoke brand of choice).
Alternatively, you can sprinkle your collards with good smoked paprika (here’s a delicious Spanish smoked paprika brand), or use the liquid smoke and paprika together if you’re a big fan of smoky flavors!
Not a fan of collard greens because of their slightly bitter taste? A little tip: collards lose their bitterness and become sweeter after the first frost of the winter – the same goes for most greens in the cabbage family.
Still not a fan? Use other types of greens for this recipe – cabbage, kale, turnip greens (more bitter than collards though) all work for the Southern New Year’s good luck tradition!
What Can I Serve with Vegan Slow Cooker Collard Greens?
These vegan collard greens make a delicious side dish for baked BBQ tofu, homemade BBQ seitan or BBQ chickpeas. If you’re putting together the whole Southern style New Year’s Day feast, try them with my easy Instant Pot black eyed peas!
It also pairs well with other vegan side dishes like my easy vegan mashed potatoes, chipotle coleslaw, roasted butternut squash, or smoky roasted Brussels sprouts for a delicious fall-inspired comfort food feast.
UPDATE July 2015: This recipe has been approved by Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts.org to be a part of his healthy plant-based recipe directory!
If you’ve tried this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out! Give it a star rating below, pin it to Pinterest, tag @vegan_runner_eats on Instagram, or leave a comment.
- 10 cups chopped collard greens (about one large bunch)
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar - to clean the collard leaves only!
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
- 1 cup water/vegetable broth, plus more if needed
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika - mild or hot, to taste
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1/4 Tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- Low sodium soy sauce, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 6-quart slow cooker - I use classic Crock Pot slow cooker
Cleaning and chopping the collards:
- Fill up a clean sink halfway with cool water. Add 2 Tbsp of white vinegar. Put the whole collard leaves into the water, stir them for a couple minutes with your hands or a big spoon - this removes any of the sand or dirt that may have stuck to the leaves.
- Once the leaves are clean, take them out and remove the thick central stem: stack a few leaves on top of each other with stems aligned, then cut it out with a sharp knife.
- After the stems are removed, chop all of the leaves into 1-inch squares or strips. Collards will wilt quite a bit during cooking, so there's no need to cut them smaller.
Setting up the crock pot:
- Spray the bowl of your slow cooker lightly with cooking spray, add all of the ingredients except the finishing ones, lightly mix and cover with a lid.
- Set the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours. Ideally, you might need to stir the greens once or twice during this time, but if you can't, they will cook just fine without stirring.
- About 10 minutes before the end, add the finishing ingredients, adjusting the flavors to taste.
This recipe contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you make a purchase through affiliate links on my blog, I receive a very small commission that helps me run this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 174mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 14gSugar: 2gProtein: 10g
Please note that the provided nutritional information data is approximate.
Trying to make being vegan easier both for yourself and your family? Check out my favorite vegan finds on Amazon, from useful cookbooks and vegan pantry staples to kitchen tools, products for vegan kids, etc.!
Question of the Day: Do you follow the Southern tradition of eating collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day? Are there any other food traditions in the area where you live?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments! And happy New Year to you and your family!
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