Foodie Fridays - Southern Style Turnip Greens


First off before I say anything else, I cannot believe the response that my potato soup has received!  To date it has received over  3000 hits.  I am absolutely speechless.  Thank you to everyone!  Now, on to today's recipe. 

I know this is something that will shock a lot of people, but I only started eating turnip greens last fall.  Really, it's true.  For all my southern roots, for all my touting of good honest southern food, I was not a greens fan. 

Let me explain. 

I grew up next door to my dad's parents, right across the pasture.  My great grandmother mother lived with them as did my dad's sister.  My grandmother took me to the bus stop, picked me up in the afternoons, and I stayed with them until my mom or dad got home.  I also stayed there during the summers.  Both my grandmother and great grandmother were great cooks, but I was never able to get enthused about turnip or collard greens.  I think it was all in the preparation.   

There are two schools of thought when it comes to greens.  You either strip and chop the leaves or cook the leaf whole.  My grandmother fell into the wash and throw in the pot whole.  There was just something unappealing about someone reaching into a steaming bowl and lifting up what looked like long strands of cooked Johnson grass and asking, "Do you want some greeennss?"


My husband though loves greens, loves them.  (He also likes boiled okra but that's a discussion for another day - yuck.)  I had been asked several times over the past six years to please cook some greens.  My reply was I already cook enough stuff for you that I don't eat (boiled okra and fried chicken gizzards for example) I am not cooking turnip greens.  Last fall I finally gave in and started doing some recipe research and talking to people that cooked greens how he liked.  I finally came up with a recipe and decided to give it a try.  Turnip greens around here are extremely cheap, usually less than a dollar a bunch, so the most I would be out was the other ingredients which are pretty inexpensive too.  As cooking experiments go this would be pretty painless. 

And okay, I admit, they were good.  The hubby thought they were great, he was happy, I was happy, and now I have another cheap, quick supper option for us.  You can cook greens , corn bread, hominy (yet another food I cook that I won't eat), and some ham and he's good to go. 

Again, I'm sorry about the slap-dashyness of my personal recipes, but that's just how I cook.  I blame my great grandmother.  So let's gather up some ingredients and get cooking!   

turnip greens recipe hickory ridge studio

Southern Turnip Greens
Two big bunches of turnip greens.  Probably about 10 to 12 cups (don't worry they cook down)
1 quart box chicken stock (32 oz.)
2 cups of water
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
4 slices of thick cut bacon chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper - season to your preference
salt to taste

Ok, first things first, wash your turnip greens well and lay on paper towels or clean dishcloths.  I usually spread out several dishcloths on my counter so I have plenty of room to work. 

We want to strip the leaves off the stem.  What you want to do is pull the leaf off the stem and tear the leaf away from the vein that runs down the length of the leaf.  See the light thick line running down the leaf?  We don't want that.  It's woody and stemmy and like chewing on grass.   Kind of like when you get a Cesar salad and they don't cut the thick hard ribs off the romaine lettuce. 

Once you have all the leaves off the stems and torn away from the vein, either tear them by hand or chop into smaller bite size pieces. 

You need a big pot of some kind, I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, but you could use any dutch oven or large boiler.  Heat over medium high heat and fry your chopped bacon until crisp. 

 Once the bacon is cooked, add in your onion and saute until tender, then add your garlic and crushed red pepper and saute a few more minutes. 
Once your bacon, onion, and garlic are done pour in your chicken stock and water making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze it and lift up all the yummy goodness from the bottom of the pot.   Heat everything until it has begun to simmer and then put in your chopped turnip greens.  You may have to work in a few batches depending on the size of your pot but don't worry, the leaves will wilt down and everything will fit.  Last thing to do is add in your vinegar and salt to taste.  With the chicken stock and bacon you shouldn't need much. 
Bring up to a low simmer, cover, and let cook at least an hour.  The longer they cook the better they are.  I prefer to cook at least two hours on a low heat.  You want the leaves to get nice and tender and the stock you are braising them in to get rich and delicious. 
The leaves are going to change color from a bright green to a darker green once they get close to being done, like so....
And that's it!  Not very difficult, just a little labor intensive.  I'm so glad I finally started eating turnip greens as they are a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.  It is a leafy green after all.  My recipe above can be adjusted to be even healthier by leaving out the bacon, and using a low fat, low sodium (which is what I normally use) chicken stock.    I hope you enjoy it and if you cook it let me know what you think!



  1. There is definitely an art to cooking greens, or they taste bitter. I just eat them when someone else cooks them!

  2. I'm pretty happy with this recipe. The hubby who is a greens afficianado says these are pretty good. But I know what you mean, I've had some pretty bad greens over the years. One bad batch will definitely put you off of them.

  3. Lana, you make it hard! I've been cooking turnips, mustard and collards all my adult life and I'm 68; so I've cooked a few "greens!

    If you have tender leaves, you don't need to remove the stems, they will cook tender also. I mix mustard & turnips together...half and half...trying to make equal amounts.
    1. After making sure there are no bugs, worms, dirt, etc on them, just grab up a hand full of greens [excepting collards...they are different...need other instruction on them] and just twist into two or three handfuls each time until you get them all twisted into smaller pieces.
    2. When you have them all twisted into smaller pieces, give them three good washings [sprinkle about 1/4 cup baking soda on top of the first wash], 'jiggle' them up and down to dissolve the soda and let them sit a few minutes...this helps in bringing the trash and stuff to the top and off the greens.
    3. While waiting the few minutes, pour enough of your choice cooking oil [I use Peanut oil] in your heavy gauge steel pot to cover the bottom real good.
    4. Throw in a couple of pork chops that you have already seasoned with tenderizer, black pepper and garlic powder. Braise until golden brown then remove and place on a plate with a paper towel [will put back on top of the greens after they start boiling].
    5. While the chops are cooking, finish washing the greens and drain, whichever is your preference...I put mine in a big pan and let them sit until I'm ready to throw them in the pot.
    6. After removing the pork chops from the pot to drain, you should make sure you still have enough oil...approximately 1/2 want it good and HOT...I turn my knob to about two notches below "High".
    7. Throw in as many of the greens as the pot will hold in the HOT oil and start stirring them; they will "wilt" pretty fast. As the wilting make more room in the pot, throw in more greens and repeat the stirring procedure until you have all your greens in the pot...the wilting will also cause their juices in the pot; put your lid on the pot so they will cook faster...MAKING SURE TO WATCH CLOSELY so as not to burn.
    8. When just before all of the juices [liquid] has dried out of your pot, pour HOT water in the pot...enough to cover the greens real good + about 1/2" above the top of the greens and add salt (estimate to your liking) the chops on top and the lid back on the pot.
    9. Stir periodically, watching and making sure the liquid doesn't boil dry in the pot.
    10. Add more water as needed until the greens are cooked you said...approximately an hour + [however long it takes]

    For Collard Greens: Roll as many leaves as you can comfortably hold in one hand, real tight. With a real sharp knife, shred as thinly as you possibly can before this until you have all of them cut up. Doing this changes the texture and the taste from what it is when the leaves are in larger pieces. Proceed with the same steps as listed for the turnips & mustards...except, I don't want chops in my collards...I just use oil or bacon grease to stir fry them the same way, then instead of adding hot water, I add the broth [& the hocks] off of the boiled, smoked ham hocks I have prepared in advance.

    NOTE: My great-grandmother taught my grandmother [who married at age 14], who taught my Moma, to cook all fresh vegetables this same way [except they did not always have chops or other this was during 'the depression' was scarce.] My Moma said if you started out boiling your vegetables, you boiled out all the good vitamins and stuff. And, they taste better because you have sealed in their flavors!

    Hope you try them this way and hope you really like them...Enjoy!

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  5. That was delicious,,most of the time i dont eat greens but my mom wanted them and it been a while since i had any because no one could cook them like my grandmother, ,,this was the closest I have found to hers

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed them! Thank you for letting me know.

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