Smoky, Spicy & Scrumptious Vegan Collards

Not your grandma's collards, that's for sure!

Seriously my favorite food. 🤤

Not as in all collard greens, but these collard greens, made this way. My absolute favorite of dishes. I just told my husband this morning, “these collards are now my absolute favorite food.” You know, in case the question ever comes up on a game show. Just sayin’.

I really didn’t know how much I loved these beautiful greens until about 5 years ago. I was a struggling vegetarian and I started working each Saturday at Worden Farm’s veggie stand at our local farmer’s market (still do today!). I was introduced to some of the most beautiful, organic collards I had ever seen.

I had really only heard of the southern kind of collards. You know, boiled with lard and ham hocks or some other meaty fatty product, so, I found a few recipes online for vegetarian collards, noticed some of the common ingredients, went to the kitchen and made those bad boys MINE!

Over the past few years, I make this dish so often I don’t even measure anything. And, when I don’t have a go-to ingredient, I simply adjust the best I can to this recipe. For instance, I didn’t have fire roasted tomatoes one day and I totes was not going to the store. I just used regular diced tomatoes and added the liquid smoke. From then on, I discovered the liquid smoke was a great addition to my “normal” recipe.

Remember, adjust don’t quit!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. I get that collard greens are like the epitome of green food and can be a bit strong, especially for a vegan-curious eater more used to greens like say…iceberg lettuce. 🤷‍♂️ But give them a try and let me know.

I’d love to hear YOUR intimate stories about collards in the comments below!

Enjoy! 🍎🥦🥕

Smoky, Spicy & Scrumptious Vegan Collards

Jennifer Markell
I used to think collard greens were a southern thing (as in the southern US) and then I learned that this superfood is popular in Africa and the Middle East, too. 
Substituting the flavor that a ham hock would bring, I use a combination of liquid smoke, fire roasted tomatoes, and smoked sea salt. The heat comes from a ton of crushed red pepper. If you can't handle the heat, then take it out of the recipe. 
Yes, it seems like these take a while to cook, but, to get the most tender, delicious bite possible, these things take time.
 Great as a side dish to pasta or proteins, or add them as a side to your favorite breakfast sandwich. Oh, and don't be scared if you find yourself sitting down to a big bowl of just these's been known to happen a time or two. 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Anytime, Side Dish
Servings 6


  • 3 bunches* organic collard green leaves - chopped if you get frozen, buy the big bag!
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth you may use more or less depending on the size of the collards and how much they cook down
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic - finely diced adjust to your liking...we LOVE garlic
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes I use a little more than this because we love heat. Add more if you can handle it!
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes - diced or crushed** 14.5 oz - I love Muir Glen brand
  • 1 can regular diced tomatoes - low sodium** 14.5 oz
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil or EVOO, or veg broth if NOSS
  • 1 tsp Maldon Smoked Sea Salt***
  • cracked pepper to taste


  • Gather all of your ingredients and create your set up (mise en place).
     Heat a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add the oil and the onions. Stir the onions, add a pinch of salt and saute until translucent. About 5 min. 
  • Stir in the garlic and the red pepper flakes and saute for another couple minutes. Once fragrant, add just a touch of veg broth to de-glaze the pan.
  • Start adding the chopped collards by the handful. Once a  handful starts to cook down, add another handful. Continue stirring. About 1/2 way through adding your pile of collards, add a little bit of veg broth to keep it cooking down. Also, a pinch of salt to build flavor. (This process takes a good 10-15 minutes).
  • Once all collards are added and cooking down, add the diced tomatoes and stir those bad boys in real good. Stir in the vinegar and liquid smoke. Add some more veggie broth so it's simmering in the broth. Add the cracked black pepper.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover slightly. Stir every 10 - 15 minutes and add more broth if needed. Taste the collards for flavor and texture after they have been simmering for about 45 minutes.
  • Add more heat or smoke if desired. Collards should be tender with a little bite.
     Lastly...enjoy as a side or all by themselves all week long!


*Make sure they are chopped down pretty well and I know this is a lot of collards but, it cooks down quite a bit. I say, the more the merrier.
**I like to use a little of roasted and regular. If you don't have both, use one or the other, or dice up a bunch of fresh ones. Trust your improvisation skills and adapt!
***Whatever...use what salt you have...just not much, it's only for flavor enhancement!
Keyword collard greens, smoky, spicy, Vegan, Vegetable

Here’s a shot of my normal breakfast, with my Smoky & Spicy & Scrumptious Vegan Collards.

This is how we do it!

Note: Nutrition Facts on all recipes are an approximation only, using the Very Well Fit recipe nutrition calculator.


Blog posts come straight to your inbox
Terms and Conditions checkbox is required.

I promise to never spam you or sell your email.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

You Might Like These Too...



  1. AG on at

    5 stars
    Thanks Jennifer, this Smokey collard green dish sounds and looks delicious. I am going to try your ingredients with my favorite greens (kale) and see how that turns out. I cater Sabbath lunch twice per month for my church so I am constantly looking for tasty meatless dishes to put an Island spin on it. Keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Jennifer on at

      07/06/2023 Update – I love this using kale. So delicious!
      Mmmm, I have not tried this with kale but I bet it will be great! I have used cabbage leaves before, mixed with the collards and that was delish! Thanks for subscribing and for your comment! 😊

  2. Julia Carroll on at

    So, so delicious! We tried these yesterday for the first time for our Juneteenth menu. We will definitely be doing these again and again. Thanks Jenn!!!

    • Jennifer Markell on at

      That makes me so happy! I do the same with kale, so, if your looking to shake thing up a little, try kale too! *Smiling ear-to-ear! 🌈💚

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating

Meet Jennifer

web use

I'm Chef Jennifer! A trained and certified personal vegan chef, offering delicious and nutritious animal-free food through personalized, weekly meal-prep services. I also love advocating for the plant-based lifestyle. Changing lives, saving animals and veganizing the planet with REAL food, one plate at a time.🍎🥦🥕

Learn about me, why I started VIR and why I believe food is medicine...for real!


Blog posts come straight to your inbox
Terms and Conditions checkbox is required.

I promise to never spam you or sell your email.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.