mustard greens with bacon and cornbread on a plate
Sides

Southern Style Mustard Greens with Crispy Bacon

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If you are looking for Southern style mustard greens that are bright and tangy, a tad sweet, and perfectly tender, this is your recipe! Oh the salty bacon, the vinegar, and that brown sugar. These greens are packed full of flavor and as Southern as can be (and I’m a Carolina girl, so I should know 😉). Cook them low and slow, and they will taste better than the greens at your favorite local BBQ joint. I mean, they are really that good. Be sure to pair this recipe with my most delicious Southern Honey Cornbread. These are simple recipes with big Southern flavor. Welcome to the South my friends. I hope you’ll stay a while. We’re awfully friendly.

What are Mustard Greens?

According to On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, mustard greens are related to the cabbage family, but are much more delicate in texture. They are pungent like mustard seeds, but become more mild after cooking. For this recipe, look for “Southern mustard greens” or “giant curled mustard greens”.

large bunch of mustard greens
Large Bunch of Greens

Are Mustard Greens Bitter?

Yes, mustard greens impart a bitter flavor when eaten raw, but even brief cooking will tame the bitterness. Braising them over a long period of time, like you will in this recipe, removes the bitterness entirely. 

How to Prepare Mustard Greens

This is an easy recipe, but it does take some prep time. The hardest part is finding enough bowls in your kitchen to hold the greens while you are prepping. Follow the steps below for truly perfect greens.

two large bowls of mustard greens
Greens in Bowls

Wash Your Greens Thoroughly – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP

Wash your greens thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly)! This is arguably the most important step. Mustard greens and collard greens are infamous for being full of “grit” or sand. The last thing you want when you sit down to enjoy your beautiful side of greens is to be chewing on sand and dirt. Don’t cut any corners here. This step can make or break your whole dish!

How to Wash Your Greens

Grab the largest bowl you have and set it in your sink. Tear the greens into bite sized pieces (leaving the stems behind), and toss them into your bowl. You will need to do this in batches. Fill your bowl with cold water, and rinse thoroughly by swishing the greens around in the water with your hands.

Pour the water out of the bowl and repeat. You may need to rinse up to 3 times per batch to remove all the “grit”. You want to pay attention to the water as you pour it out of the bowl and continue to rinse until there are no tiny bits of sand remaining.

mustard greens being washed in a large bowl
Greens Being Washed in the Sink

After washing, spin them dry in a salad spinner. This step can also help remove any remaining grit. If you do not have a salad spinner, you can dry them with a clean dish towel.

mustard greens in a salad spinner
Greens in a Salad Spinner

Cook The Bacon, Then Remove it From the Pot

crispy cooked bacon on a white paper towel
Crispy Bacon Bits

Cook The Onions and Garlic

diced onions cooking in a pot
Onions and Garlic Cooking

Deglaze with Cider Vinegar & Add the Greens, Cooking Liquid and Seasonings

Depending on the size of your pot, you may only be able to add half of the greens at first. Add half of the greens and your chicken broth. Once that cooks down a bit, add the remaining greens and all of your seasonings.

mustard greens in a pot with brown sugar and seasonings on top
Seasoned Greens

Cover the Pot and Simmer on Low Heat for 45 Minutes Tossing Occasionally with Tongs.

mustard greens cooking in a pot

And that’s it folks! Southern food at its finest. Please leave me a rating and a comment if you decide to make the recipe. I would love to hear how it goes! Read on to learn a little more about our traditions here in the South.

A New Year in The South

Many of you know that I love a good tradition, so every year on New Year’s Day we make the same meal at our house -mustard greens with bacon, black eyed peas, and my southern honey cornbread. Ok, ok, if I’m being honest, normally our traditional meal happens on the 2nd or 3rd of January because I rarely have my s*** together. For the sake of the post, we will pretend like I am a responsible adult who prioritizes the prosperity of my family. 😀

You see, each component of this traditional meal symbolizes a different measure of good fortune. If you want to learn more, check out this fun article from the Spruce Eats on a traditional Southern New Year’s Day dinner. But Wait! Before you go, promise not to ditch me for their greens recipe. I think mine is better! 🙂 

Although you will find collard greens on a lot of tables on New Year’s Day, we switch things up just a bit at our house. My husband has a strong preference for mustard greens, so this recipe is our go to for the first of the year. That being said, collard greens can be prepared in the exact same way, so pick your preference!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make mustard greens in advance?

Mustard greens are much tastier hot and fresh the day they are prepared. That being said, you can make them a day or two ahead of serving as long as you keep them refrigerated in an airtight container. You will want to re-heat the greens in a pan with a little bit of oil (choose a flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed). I recommend adding a bit more cider vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice when re-heating to awaken all those flavors.

Can cooked mustard greens be frozen?

Yes! They can be stored for up to 12 months. Diys.com has a helpful article about freezing collard greens. These tips can be applied to mustard greens as well. They recommend freezing greens in small plastic bags and ensuring there is no extra liquid or moisture in the bag that may crystalize during the process.

Are mustard greens good for you?

Like most greens, there are many health benefits of consuming mustard greens. I like this article from greatist.com on mustard green nutrition.

Do I have to remove the stems?

No, not for this recipe. Since you are cooking the greens down over a long period of time, you do not have to remove the stems, but you will want to cut them into small pieces. I personally prefer to remove the stems. The stems are tough, but the leaves themselves are fairly tender. If you were to eat them raw or cook for a short period of time, you should remove the stems.

Can I substitute collard greens in this recipe?

Yes, absolutely. Go for it!

One Last Bit of Fun

A family member of mine told me this week about a greens sandwich that is wedged between two slices of fried cornbread, and I am dying to give that a try! Has anyone else ever heard of this? Apparently this is common over in Eastern, North Carolina. I’d love to hear about any other interesting New Year’s traditions or exciting foods in the comments.

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mustard greens with bacon and cornbread

Southern Style Mustard Greens


  • Author: Katelyn
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Description

Tangy, slightly sweet, and seriously delicious Southern style mustard greens braised with cider vinegar and topped with crispy bacon. The perfect Southern side dish, and better than your favorite BBQ joint!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds of mustard greens (approximately 2 large bunches), washed thoroughly*
  • 5 strips of bacon, cut into 1 & 1/2 to 2-inch squares
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon Texas Pete hot sauce 
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 

Instructions

  1. Remove the greens from the stems and tear into bite-sized pieces. 
  2. Wash greens thoroughly in a large bowl or in your salad spinner.*
  3. Add the bacon to a large pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to render the fat. 
  4. When the bacon is crispy, transfer it with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. 
  5. Add the diced onion to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook onions for 5 to 7 minutes until soft and translucent. Be sure to stir occasionally.
  6. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it becomes aromatic. 
  7. Deglaze by adding the cider vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a heat-resistant rubber spatula to release all that flavor from cooking the bacon. 
  8. Keep the heat at medium low and add half of your greens (or as much as you can fit in your pot) and chicken stock. Cook them down until you can add the rest of the greens to the pot. 
  9. Add hot sauce, brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and toss everything together with a pair of tongs.
  10. Cover the pot and cook the greens over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, tossing occasionally. The greens should be soft and tender, but not mushy. 
  11. Transfer greens using a slotted spoon to a serving platter, top with your crispy bacon, and be transported right to the Great American South!

Notes

*Mustard greens can be extremely gritty if they aren’t washed properly. You will need to wash the greens in batches and rinse several times to remove all the dirt and sand. 

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Category: Sides
  • Method: Braised
  • Cuisine: Southern

Keywords: mustard greens, greens, southern sides

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2 Comments

  1. Absolutely delicious! Love the sweetness!

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