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Horizontal image of a pink bowl of slow cooker collard greens in front of a bottle of red hot sauce.
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Slow Cooker Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey

Begin early in the day. These greens are simple to make and are full of flavor. 
Course Side Dish
Cuisine North American, Soul Food
Keyword collard greens, slow cooker, smoked meat
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12 servings (8 as a main course)
Calories 333kcal

Equipment

  • 8-quart (or larger) slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds (approx. 12 bunches or 2 3/4 kilograms) collard greens or 5 pounds (2 1/4 kilograms) bagged greens
  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (500 milliliters) chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large (3 cups or 275 grams) white onion peeled and chopped
  • 6 cloves (1/3 cup or 45 grams) garlic peeled and sliced
  • 3 pounds (approx. 1 1/2 kilograms) smoked turkey wings or drumsticks

Instructions

Prep and Wash the Greens

  • Tear the collard leaves away from the stem. Once the leaves and stem are parted, stack the leaves on top of each other in piles of five.
    Cut the leaves in half down its length, then roll the stacks of halves up cigar-style. Use a sharp knife to cut the "collard cigars" into 1-inch thick sections. 
    If you are using bagged greens, sort through each bag and discard pieces of stems that are larger in girth than 1/8-inch.
  • Dump the cut greens into a very clean sink (or greens bucket).
    Cover them with 4-5 inches of cold water and agitate the water to shake the dirt from the leaves. Gently massage the leaves to loosen the dirt and begin tenderizing the greens.
    Allow the greens to sit in the water for 5 minutes.
  • Lift the leaves from the water without disturbing the dirt at the bottom of your basin.
    Empty the sink or bucket and rinse it out to remove the dirt.
    Put the greens back in and repeat the washing process two more times.
    Once the greens are thoroughly cleansed, set them aside. It's okay if they still have water on them.

Layer the Components for Cooking

  • In a small mixing bowl, use a spoon or your fingers to combine the sugar, seasoned salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Once the mixture is combined set it aside.
    In a separate bowl, stir together the chicken stock and apple cider vinegar.
  • Begin layering the components into the slow cooker by adding half of the greens to the slow cooker, followed by half of the spice blend.
    Sprinkle half of the chopped onions and garlic over the greens, then pour half of the chicken stock-vinegar mix over them. 
    Top the first layer of ingredients with half the quantity of wings.
  • After you nestle the wings onto this first layer of the greens, push everything down with your hands to make room in the slow cooker.
    Repeat the layering process with the remaining ingredients. 

Cook the Greens

  • The lid of the slow cooker might not sit snugly on the slow cooker for the first hour of cooking. You can make a seal by wrapping it with foil, or just push down on the lid firmly and cook the greens for an hour.
    After an hour, the greens will wilt down enough to put the lid on and seal it completely.
  • Set your slow cooker temperature to high and cook the greens for 8 hours, stirring every hour from top to bottom to ensure all of the greens cook evenly.
    This may be messy for the first 2 hours as the slow cooker will be very full.
  • After 8 hours, the greens will be swimming in pot likker and will be tender to the bite. A tender green doesn't offer resistance when you bite into it.
  • Once the greens are fully cooked, remove the turkey wings from the pot and allow the meat to cool slightly.
    Once the wings are cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the bones and stir the meat back into the greens.
  • Serve with the pot likker as a side dish or as a main course with cornbread.

Notes

Swaps and Substitutions

  • Replace the collard greens with turnip greens, mustard greens or a combination of the three. No recipe changes are needed if you use turnip greens or the 3-greens blend.
  • To use mustard greens in place of the collards, reduce the amount of black pepper in this recipe to 3/4 teaspoons.
  • If you like spicy greens, add an additional teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Replace the apple cider vinegar with red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice. Avoid bold vinegar flavors or balsamic, though. 
  • Use turkey stock or veggie stock as a substitute for chicken stock.
  • Replace the smoked turkey wings with smoked turkey drumsticks, necks or tails.
  • Smoked ham hocks or neck bones can be used in place of the smoked turkey wings.
  • For vegan or vegetarian Slow Cooker Collard Greens, omit the smoked meat and add 2 tablespoons of tamari (a gluten-free, vegan soy sauce) and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Tips and Tricks

  • When shopping for your greens:
    • Look for dark green leaves with minimal yellowing and insect bites. 
    • Select bunches with flexible, but unwilted, leaves that come away from the stem fairly easily. When broken, the stem should snap and not bend or feel rubbery.
    • Plan for 1 1/2 bunches of greens per person, or 5-6 pounds. 
  • You can make the spice blend ahead and store it in a glass jar in the pantry for up to 6 months. 
  • If you have a large turkey roaster/slow cooker, you can just dump everything into it and skip the layering step.
  • If your slow cooker is just too full, fit as many of the greens as you can, but make sure all of the other ingredients are in the slow cooker. Start the cooking, then, after an hour of cooking, the greens wilt down enough for you to add the remaining ingredients and for you to put the lid on and seal it completely.
  • If your greens are still tough after cooking for 8 hours, simmer them for another hour on high.
  • If you prefer collard greens with some chew to them, you can reduce the cooking time in the slow cooker to just 6 hours on high (or 1 hour on the stovetop). 
  • To maintain the integrity of greens, don't cook them on high heat for more than 12 hours. After the greens are tender to your liking, reduce the temperature to warm and leave them heating (up to 3 hours) until you're ready to serve them. 

Stovetop Collard Greens

  1. Add the chicken stock to a 20-quart stockpot with a lid. Next, add all of the turkey wings, onions, and garlic to the pot.
  2. Bring the liquid in the pot up to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer the turkey wings for 30 minutes to infuse the chicken stock with their flavor.
  3. Stir the greens, spice blend, and vinegar into the pot. Allow the liquid to come to a gentle boil, then reduce the temperature to medium-low.
  4. Cover the pot and simmer the greens, occasionally stirring, for 2 hours or until tender. 

Storage Instructions

  1. Allow the greens to cool, then transfer them to a food storage container.
  2. Greens store well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  3. Warm leftover greens in a pot on the stove over medium heat or in the slow cooker on low until steaming (about 10 minutes).
  4. Stir the greens occasionally to ensure they heat evenly. You can also reheat them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. 

Freezer Instructions

  1. Transfer the cooled greens to a freezer storage bag and freeze them lying flat. Once they're frozen solid, stand the flat bag up in the freezer. 
  2. Thaw frozen greens overnight in the fridge.
  3. They only need to be warmed through since they're fully cooked. Just heat them on low in the slow cooker or in a stock pot over medium heat on the stove. Give them a stir during their warming period to make they are warmed through.

Nutrition

Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1116mg | Potassium: 812mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 11447IU | Vitamin C: 80mg | Calcium: 547mg | Iron: 3mg