This simple sautéed greens recipe uses beet greens and Swiss chard with flavorful cloves of garlic and bright lemon zest to create an easy and nutritious side dish to almost any meal.
My garden is currently exploding with all the leafy greens.
After worm-ageddon last summer on pretty much any vegetable that wasn’t a leafy green, I decided to basically only grow lettuce, greens and some root vegetables this year.
So far, no pests have made their debut which is great.
However, almost everything I planted is now at its peak at the same time and needing to be harvested asap!
Aka- we’re eating A LOT of sautéed greens.
I mean, I guess there could be worse and definitely less healthier problems to have so I’m not really complaining.
This sautéed greens recipe is one that can hardly be considered a real recipe but more so a method.
You can choose any greens you happen to have on hand, not just beet greens and Swiss chard and this simple sauté method will work.
It’s a wonderful way to take a large volume of greens (they cook down significantly) and turn it into a quick, easy and nutritious side dish with lots of flavor.
BASIC INGREDIENTS FOR SAUTÉED GREENS
- 1 bunch Swiss chard with stems
- 1 bunch beet greens with stems
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- lemon zest
WHAT KIND OF GREENS CAN BE USED?
This “recipe” works with so many leafy greens so don’t feel limited to the beet greens and Swiss chard shown here.
Other options include kale, (especially Tuscan or lacinato kale although it’s best to remove the stems from kale and just cook the greens), spinach, radish greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, collard greens, kohlrabi greens or even broccoli rabe.
Although I tend to like broccoli rabe best as a sautéed side dish with sweet cherries and pine nuts and collards cooked with rice.
If you happen to have escarole and don’t plan on making escarole and beans, that’s another leafy green (which is in the chicory family) that can be used here as well. My favorite side dish featuring escarole, however, is hands down this Utica greens recipe. With prosciutto and pickled cherry peppers, it’s unbeatable in flavor.
Swiss chard and dandelion greens grow like weeds in my garden so they’re often my leafy greens of choice when making this simple sauté.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST SAUTÉED GREENS
Using such simple ingredients as these, the magic is in the method with this recipe.
First, separate the greens from the stems but don’t discard the stems! They’re packed with nutrition and will be used as well.
Wash and dry both the greens and stems using either a salad spinner (a kitchen gadget I can’t imagine living without in the summer!) or kitchen towel.
Add the olive oil to a large pot or sauté pan with high sides and place over medium heat.
Once hot, add the sliced or chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
Add the chopped stems to the pot with the garlic and sauté until slightly softened.
Next, add the chopped greens and cover with a lid.
Cook until wilted, about five minutes, then season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for a hint of spice.
Toss until well combined then remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and serve immediately.
HOW TO MAKE LEAFY GREENS TASTE BETTER
Often, leafy greens get a bad rep for tasting bitter. And surely some do, especially when eaten raw.
Looking at you, dandelion greens!
That’s why this sautéed greens recipe uses both garlic and lemon zest to mask any unwelcome bitterness and trick your tastebuds into enjoying some nutritious greenery.
Letting the garlic cloves cook for a couple minutes in the olive oil before adding the stems and greens infuses the olive oil with a delicious garlicky flavor that then coats all the greens once they’re in the pot.
The red pepper flakes (if using) add a touch of heat that then gets balanced with the brightness and fresh pop of flavor from the lemon zest at the end.
Once seasoned appropriately with salt and pepper, any untoward taste you might’ve associated with leafy greens in the past becomes a distant memory.
CAN YOU SAUTÉ GREENS WITHOUT OIL?
For an oil free version of sautéed greens, you can substitute broth.
Vegetable broth or chicken broth can both be used in place of oil.
Sauté the garlic with the broth the same way you would with the oil and follow the recipe directions from there.
Water can also be used as a last resort but broth will provide more flavor to the finished sautéed greens.
ARE SAUTÉED GREENS HEALTHY?
Sautéed greens are full of nutrients!
While each green will vary slightly, leafy greens are rockstars in the nutrition world.
We’ve all heard the saying “eat your greens!” and it’s more than an old wives tale, it’s true for good reason!
Most greens are packed with vitamins such as C, A and K, contain healthy doses of fiber and usually provide calcium, magnesium and potassium as well.
And of course, they’re extremely low in calories.
These greens also contain an abundance of carotenoids which are antioxidants that protect cells and can play a role in cancer prevention.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH COOKED LEAFY GREENS
These simply sautéed leafy greens make such an easy and delicious side dish to almost any meal.
You can eat them alongside a protein and carbohydrate for a more “traditional” type of meal.
Usually, buddha bowls consist of a healthy grain, protein, vegetable and fat. The premise is to eat a variety of things in a bowl for a balanced meal. Usually, they are vegetarian in nature.
Sautéed greens like these beet greens and Swiss chard are the perfect addition to that type of meal!
And don’t forget about the root vegetables that grow beneath some of these leafy greens!
If you’re using turnip greens in this recipe, try this roasted turnip recipe to go alongside the greens.
And, roasted radishes with rosemary are an easy way to use up radishes from radish greens.
OTHER WAYS TO USE COOKED LEAFY GREENS:
- fold into a pasta dish (just like my creamy pumpkin pasta with kale!)
- top a homemade pizza with the greens (drain any excess liquid first)
- top or stuff chicken or pork and add some cheese (try incorporating into this stuffed chicken marsala recipe)
I hope you enjoy this simple and versatile side dish.
It’s the perfect way to embrace summer greens or the bounty from a CSA share or farmer’s market in a healthy and delicious way!
Sautéed Beet Greens and Swiss Chard
- 1 bunch beet greens
- 1 bunch Swiss chard
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic thinly sliced
- pinch red pepper flakes optional
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- zest of 1 lemon
- Cut off stems of both beet greens and Swiss chard then chop. Roughly chop the leafy greens. Use a salad spinner to wash and thoroughly dry both stems and greens separately.
- Add olive oil to a large sauté pan with high sides or a pot over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add chopped stems and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the greens to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cover until wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Stir to combine, add a pinch of red pepper flakes if using and cook 1 more minute.
- Turn off the heat, add the lemon zest and transfer to serving plate or bowl.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.