This Easy Southern Mustard Greens Recipe is the best side dish for your soul food holidays and Sunday dinners. This dish is made with smoked turkey and loaded with flavor.
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I learned how to cook “black folks” greens at a very young age, so I have been cooking them all of my life. We commonly eat these for soul food holidays or traditional Sunday dinners.
Mustard greens are actually my mom’s favorite. I grew up eating a lot more mustard greens than collards.
In general, greens are bitter. The best way to remove that bitterness is to cook them with a few flavorful ingredients.
What Are Mustard Greens
Mustard greens come from a variety of plants that are known as brassica juncea. They come in different colors, but are usually dark green. The mustard plant has several uses for food, including green leaves, seeds, and mustard oil.
How Do They Taste?
Mustard greens are bitter and peppery. They are kind of spicy, like a spicy mustard. They are a lot more bitter when eaten raw. They are lighter greens and aren’t heavy.
How Are They Different From Collard Greens?
They come from different plants and collards are a member of the cabbage family. Mustard greens are a much lighter green. They are thinner and will shrink down a lot more. They are also more tender because they are thin. Mustards have a peppery flavor. The seeds from mustard greens are used to make mustard.
Collards are more bitter. They have solid, broad leaves with tough stems.
Does Cooking Greens Take Away the Nutrients
I see this discussed often and it’s actually a debate, usually from outsiders of the community.
Greens are a leafy green vegetable packed with nutrients and they are labeled as a superfood. They are rich in Vitamin K, fiber, iron and antioxidants. According to The Huffington Post, greens can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
All of these nutrients will mostly stay intact no matter how the greens are cooked. Boiling the greens can break down the nutrients, but then the nutrients are passed to the broth and liquid in the pot of greens. Which is a great reason to enjoy that broth or use it in gravies!
You can read more about How to Cook Healthier Greens here.
Cooking greens in fatty meats, however, will add additional sodium, calories, and fat to the dish. This is where greens have gotten a bad reputation (again, usually from outsiders). Growing up ham hocks, salt pork, etc were used to cook greens. Now there are much healthier options, like turkey.
How to Wash Greens
Over the years, I have often stopped washing greens and would purchase the prepackaged pre-washed bagged Glory greens from the grocery store. Sometimes they are harder to find, especially for mustard greens, and they often have a lot more of the stems from the greens than the actual thick leaves.
You can buy these if you wish. It will cut down on your washing process and save a lot of time!
If you are buying from the normal produce area, greens are sold in bundles. Look for bundles with really thick, leafy greens. If you wait and shop at the last minute this may be difficult to find and you get stuck with smaller bundles. You may just have to buy more.
Greens have thick stems and veins on the back of the leaves. These areas capture dirt and sand. You will need to clean them thoroughly.
- Start with picking your greens and removing the stem. Fold the leaf in half (lengthwise) and rip off the stem.
- Fill a large bowl or your sink with water.
- I like to use this produce vegetable cleaner to spritz the greens. You can also use vinegar. Or you can just use water it’s your choice.
- From there load them into your bowl or sink.
- Use your hands and swish them around. Rub your hands over the actual leaves to scrub away any dirt.
- Drain the water and refill. Repeat this process until your water runs clear and you see no dirt in the water.
Seasoning and Flavor
You can really keep it simple with the seasoning. I like to use fresh onions and garlic, but you can use powders if you wish.
I use a smoked turkey leg. You can also use smoked turkey wings. I find these in the standard meat section of my grocery store. You may have to ask your local butcher if they carry them.
You can also use ham hocks, bacon, or salt pork if you wish.
How to Cook Southern Mustard Greens
- Saute onions and garlic in a large pot. I like to use a Dutch oven.
- Deglaze the pot with broth. Add the greens in stages so that they wilt down and fit in the pot.
- Sprinkle Creole Seasoning throughout and add the smoked turkey leg.
- Bring the greens to a boil and then lower the heat to medium.
How Long to Cook
I like to let these cook for two hours. If you are really strapped for time you can use my Instant Pot Collard Greens recipe method.
The majority of the cook time is dedicated to softening up the turkey leg so it can provide the immense flavor the dish needs. You can also cook your turkey leg in broth for 45 minutes to an hour while you clean and prep your greens.
Once washed, you can prep the remaining ingredients and toss in the turkey leg and cook the greens for an hour or until tender.
I like to cook everything together all at once, just my personal preference.
How to Make them Vegetarian
Can You Make Them Ahead/How Long Will They Last in the Fridge
For holiday cooking you typically make these a day in advance. The greens will last in the fridge covered for 3-4 days.
I freeze greens pretty much every time I make them. I use these freezer molds from Amazon and they work perfectly. You can freeze greens in 1 cup portions, which is great for when you want to pull a portion out for dinner.
You can freeze greens for up to 6 months. I throw them in the slow cooker for an hour or two to reheat.
Pair With These Southern Side Dishes
Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes
Southern Soul Food Baked Mac and Cheese
Southern Homemade Cornbread
Instant Pot Green Beans
Instant Pot Cabbage
Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas
Okra and Tomatoes
Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce
Popular Main Dishes
Get a full listing of Soul Food Thanksgiving Recipes here.
Easy Southern Mustard Greens Recipe
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 3 pounds fresh mustard greens This is usually 3-4 bundles. Weigh for accuracy. Weight includes the stems.
- 1 smoked turkey leg or wing
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth You can also use water.
- 1/2 tablespoon Creole Seasoning Adjust to taste.
- Fill a large bowl or your sink with water. Use your hands and scrub the veins of the leaves to remove any dirty or sand. Wash the greens thoroughly until the water runs clear.
- Heat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic. I like to use a Dutch oven because you can saute the vegetables and cook the greens all in one pot.
- Saute the onions until they are translucent and fragrant.
- Deglaze the pan by adding half of the chicken broth.
- Begin to layer in the greens and add them in batches. Greens will need to wilt down a lot in order to fit in the pot. Add in the greens and then stir and allow them to cook down.
- Add in the Creole Seasoning and turkey. Bring the pot to a boil.
- Place the lid on the pot and adjust the heat to medium. Allow the greens to cook for 2 hours until the greens are soft and the turkey is tender.
- Open the pot and remove the turkey leg. Shred the meat from the leg using forks and return it to the pot.
- It’s also common to serve mustard greens with crushed red pepper or vinegar. Feel free to add these if you wish.
- You can substitute smoked turkey for ham hocks, bacon, salt pork, or whatever you wish.
- My turkey leg weighed about 2 pounds.
- If doubling the recipe or making more for a crowd you can double, triple the ingredients. If doubling, you can likely still use one turkey leg. For anything larger, you may consider using an additional smaller smoked turkey wing.
- The majority of the cooking time is dedicated to softening up the turkey leg so is can provide the immense flavor the dish needs. You can also cook your turkey leg in broth for 45 minutes to an hour while you clean and prep your greens. Once washed, you can prep the remaining ingredients and toss in the turkey leg and cook the greens for an hour or until tender.