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Southern recipe for cooking turnip greens. Greens are slowly simmered with cider vinegar and ham until tender. It's down home cooking at it's finest.

You’ve gotta try this Southern turnip greens recipe. Slowly simmered with cider vinegar and ham until tender, it’s down home cooking at it’s finest.

Cooked turnip green with bits of ham in a white bowl on a table.

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After five years of marriage, I discover that my husband loves turnip greens.  Loves them so much that he ate the first batch I made before I even had time to photograph it.  I threatened The Husband within an inch of his life if he laid a finger on the second batch before they got their close-up.

How to Prepare Turnip Greens

Keep in mind, greens are just like spinach. You buy what looks like a truckload, but then after you cook them down you’re left with something that could fit into the palm of your hand. Three to four bunches may look like A LOT, but in the end it won’t be.

Most true Southern turnip green recipes call for some type of smoked pork product to add flavor. Ham hocks, salt pork or even bacon will work. I’ve even used the bone from my holiday ham. This traditional method starts with making a broth. Simmer the pork for one hour in a large covered stock pot with about a quart of water.

While your broth is simmering, start washing and cutting up your greens. Greens tend to be notoriously filthy, though the last several bunches I’ve picked up from my grocery store have been surprisingly clean. But you want to wash all that sand and dirt and grit off the leaves so it doesn’t end up in your pot. Nothing worse biting into a bit of grit while your eating.

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The stems of the leaves are very tough and bitter, so fold the leaves in half and remove the stems with a sharp knife. Discard the stems and roughly chop up the leaves. Once your pork is finished simmering, remove the meat from the pot and set aside to cool.

You want at least four cups of water in the pot, so if your water level is looking a little low, add more. Add the greens.

Because I’m in the South, I always have a jar of bacon grease in the fridge. I like to add a few tablespoons to the pot along with some apple cider vinegar. The acid in the vinegar helps to break up the leaves and it adds great flavor. I add a little sugar to the pot as well. It just enhances the flavor and will not make it taste sweet.

Cover the pot and simmer the greens for a minimum of two hours. If you want a more tender texture, I would suggest cooking them longer. They will only taste better!

Remove any meat from your ham hock or ham bone, or if you used bacon chop it up and add it back to the pot before serving. Season with salt and pepper to your preference.

I usually make a big batch of these greens on a Sunday afternoon and we eat them all week. My Southern boy (aka The Husband) has said this turnip greens recipes was some of the best he’s had. I like to serve this alongside some homemade cornbread to sop up the juice.

Update: Since this original post, I have made greens quite a few times and (thanks to some great tips from my readers) have modified the recipe along the way. The recipe below reflects those changes.

Cooked turnip green with bits of ham in a white bowl on a table.

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turnip greens

  • 1 smoked ham hock or ham bone
  • 3 large bunches of greens collard, turnip, mustard, washed
  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Fill a large stockpot with 1 quart of water.
  2. Add ham hock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. 

  3. In the meantime, remove the stems from the greens. Discard the stems and coarsely chop the leaves.

  4. Remove the ham hock from the pot and set aside to cool.

  5. Add the greens, bacon grease, cider vinegar and sugar to the pot.
  6. Cook, uncovered, for 2 hours for firmer greens, longer for more tender greens. My experience is, the longer they cook the better they taste.
  7. Remove any meat from the ham hock or bone. If using bacon, chop the bacon up. Add the meat back to the pot and stir.

  8. Season greens with salt and pepper.
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Amount Per Serving (2 cup) Calories 210 Calories from Fat 153 Total Carbohydrates 3g 1% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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