Spicy collard greens are served with lemon and brown rice. An easy complete side dish that pairs well with any protein!

Sometimes I feel like a misplaced southerner.

Granted, my potty mouth kind of gives away the fact that I’m most definitely not within 5 minutes of meeting me (sometimes a sentence is just screaming for a curse word, you know?).

But besides that, there are so many awesome things about the south I can totally get on board with.

Spicy collard greens with rice on a plate with a serving spoon.
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Sun and warmth first of all.

Ya’lling people instead of addressing them as “yous” which New Yorkers seem to be fond of (let it be known I DO NOT use that expression).


Awesome accents. I’m really good at this too. Put me in a room with a bunch of southerners and I bet you wouldn’t be able to guess who the NY’er is in the room.

Chick-fil-A. My heart will forever be with their waffle fries.

How you can say “bless her heart” and then proceed to talk total shit about the person but it’s ok because you blessed them first.

Oh, and, collard greens!

Ingredients in bowls to make spicy collard greens recipe.

For 28 years of my life I was ignorant to the amazingness of collards.

I think I had them once before in Charleston, the same day I tried fried green tomatoes at some hole in the wall country restaurant (the best kind).

Of course they were the ugly yellow green, cooked all day kind, with a ham hock and lots of vinegar which I just assumed was the only way to make them.

And to be quite honest, that version of cooked collard greens just doesn’t do it for me.

I have no idea what made me buy them one day in the grocery store last year but I figured I’d give them a shot my way (aka – not taking all day to cook and not coated in grease).

The trick to that is just removing the tough core and thinly slicing the leaves.

Smaller surface area, less time to cook.

If you want to punch me for getting all mathematical about collard greens, it’s fine. I probably would too.

Southerners definitely have the right idea with the whole vinegar thing though, that I’ll give them. The acidity is such a great pairing with the greens.

This spicy collard greens recipe uses lemon as the acid, hot sauce and red pepper flakes for the heat and a handful of spices you’d probably not traditionally think of pairing with collard greens.

Just trust me, they work.

The other neat thing about this collard green recipe in particular is that it’s a complete side dish.

What do I mean by that? Well, it combines both your greens and your starch by tossing in some cooked brown rice at the end.

No need to make another side dish for dinner, everything’s rolled into one in this recipe!

Cooked spicy collards with onions, spices and bacon in a cast iron skillet.

Spicy Collard Greens Ingredients

  • collard greens – washed, core removed and thinly sliced
  • bacon (optional – see recipe below for meatless alternative)
  • yellow onion
  • spices – cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper
  • hot sauce
  • coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • cooked brown rice
Southern spicy collard greens recipe tossed with rice in a skillet with a serving spoon.

How to Make Spicy Southern Greens

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. If using bacon in the recipe, add it to the pan once hot and cook until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain then add the onions to the remaining bacon grease in the skillet.

If choosing to omit the bacon, simply add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet to sauté the onions.

Cook the onions down until softened and starting to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes.

Next, add the spices, hot sauce and sugar to the skillet. Toss to combine with the onions and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Add the sliced collard greens and a splash of water. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted.

Remove the lid and continue cooking until the water has mostly evaporated stirring the greens occasionally throughout the process.

Turn off the heat and squeeze the fresh lemon juice into the skillet. Add the cooked rice and toss everything to combine.

Crumble the slice of cooked bacon and sprinkle on top as a garnish before serving.

Collard greens side dish with rice, onions, bacon and spices.

How to get the bitterness out of collard greens

Bitter greens can get a bad rap for being, well, bitter. Go figure. The trick to collard greens in particular is a longer cooking time and a hint of sweetness.

In this recipe, the greens are cooked both with and without a lid to essentially stew them down and the tablespoon of sugar in the recipe adds the perfect hint of sweetness needed to offset their bitterness.

Are seasoned collard greens healthy?

Collards are a wonderfully nutritious and healthy green just like Swiss chard, dandelion greens and kohlrabi greens.

So long as the sugar and oil they’re cooked with are kept to a minimum, as they are in this recipe, they can absolutely be a healthy addition to your diet.

How long will collard greens last in the refrigerator?

Before cooking collard greens, you can keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

If you find the leaves are turning, parts are slimy or wilting just pinch those off.

Can I freeze collard greens?

Yes, but they need to be blanched before freezing.

So after you cook them (only cook for a couple of minutes), transfer them to an ice bath for about 3 minutes. Strain off the water and place them in a freezer bag.

If you choose not to blanch the greens, they need to be flash-frozen before actually storing them in a bag.

Sweet and spicy collard greens side dish recipe on a white plate.

What should I serve collard greens with?

While spicy greens go great with any meal, if you are in the mood for pork, I recommend these Pretzel crusted pork chops or skillet pork chops.

For seafood, you should try this seared salmon, and if you have an air fryer these cornish hens are delicious!

Whatever you do, don’t forget the cornbread!

Want to try collard greens another way? Use them instead of spinach to make chicken saag, a classic Indian dish!


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4.97 from 32 votes

Spicy Collard Greens and Rice

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Spicy collard greens with rice.
These easy spicy collard greens make a great complete side dish with cooked brown rice tossed in.


  • 1 slice bacon, *optional – see note for meatless recipe
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar, or brown sugar
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, washed, core removed and thinly sliced
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice


  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain then add sliced onions to the skillet with the leftover bacon grease to cook. (see note for meatless option)
  • Sauté the onions for about 5-7 minutes until softened and starting to caramelize. Add the spices, hot sauce and sugar and stir to combine all the ingredients.
  • Add the collard greens to the skillet with a splash of water, stir to combine then cover the skillet and cook for 5 minutes until the collards have wilted.
  • Remove the cover from the skillet and cook off any remaining water stirring the greens occasionally as they cook.
  • Once water has cooked off almost completely, turn off the heat and squeeze the lemon juice into the skillet.
  • Add the cooked rice and toss everything together to combine.
  • Crumble the slice of cooked bacon and sprinkle on top as a garnish before serving.


*If choosing not to use bacon, use 1 tablespoon olive oil instead of bacon grease to cook onions.


Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 141kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 4gFat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 169mgFiber: 3gSugar: 12g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American


Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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