This easy turnip greens recipe is a delicious side dish that’s simple to prepare.
This classic turnip greens recipe has them simmering with bacon, onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, cider vinegar, chicken broth, and a touch of sugar. All those tasty flavors soak up into the greens as they cook for about 15 minutes. Look for turnip greens sold in bags already chopped, or attached to turnips. There are more details about this recipe below, or you can jump down to the recipe by clicking here.
What are Turnip Greens?
While beet greens are probably my favorite kind of greens, there are plenty more kinds to enjoy!
Turnip greens are indeed the leafy greens from the top of turnips. While they can be a bit too tough to eat raw, they are great to prepare Southern-style like you might find in collard greens recipes. These greens also work well in stir-fries and soups, try them in place of kale or collard greens. Turnip greens have a sort of peppery flavor but aren’t as intense as mustard greens.
Where Do I Find Fresh Turnip Greens?
Your grocery store may carry bunches of turnips with the greens still attached like you would find at a farmer’s market. If you can find that, it’s a great option because then you can use the fresh turnips for another recipe, like this sheet pan meal with root vegetables.
More likely, you’ll find bags of chopped turnip greens near the other bagged greens and salad mixes. That’s what I had available and what I used in my recipe.
How to Wash and Trim Greens
If you have a bunch of fresh greens, you’ll want to rinse them thoroughly to get any dirt or grit out. You may also want to trim away some of the stems and definitely give the greens a rough chop. When thick, the stems can be a bit tough but this turnip greens recipe cooks them down enough that it’s not a concern.
The bags of turnip greens are already chopped, but it’s a good idea to still give them a rinse before cooking. I sometimes pick out any big stem pieces I see, but as I mentioned, the stems will end up tender enough to enjoy.
Can You Use Frozen Turnip Greens?
If fresh turnip greens aren’t available in your area, frozen turnip greens can be used instead. To prevent too much liquid from being added to the pan from the ice crystals that form inside the greens, it’s best to thaw them first. The greens can be thawed in the microwave, overnight in the refrigerator, or by placing the frozen greens in a colander and letting cool water run over them for a few minutes until pliable.
Once thawed, gently squeeze the majority of the water out of the greens, either by hand or by placing the greens in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeezing the towel. A salad spinner can also be used.
Once the greens are thawed and drained, they can be added to the recipe when called for.
Should I Add Bacon Or Ham?
Greens cooked Southern-style are often simmered or braised for long periods of time with a ham hock for an added smoky flavor. More tender greens, like mustard, turnip, and even chard, don’t need to cook for as long as collards. A shorter cook time means that the ham hock flavor might not have time to infuse into the greens. So instead, I’ve substituted bacon.
Much of the flavor in this recipe is infused before the greens are simmered by rendering the fat out of the bacon and then sautéing the ingredients in the bacon fat, including the turnip greens. The turnip greens contain a lot of water, so not much extra is needed to simmer these until tender. Using less liquid results in a more flavorful finished dish. Less liquid also means the nutritional value of the greens isn’t leached into large amounts of wasted liquid.
Which Pot Or Pan To Use
Most greens are cooked in stock pots or Dutch ovens, and if you’re making enough greens for a crowd by doubling or tripling this recipe, those larger pots will work well. However, for just four servings, which is what this recipe calls for, a large 12-inch or 14-inch skillet is perfect. I prefer to use nonstick, simply because if I need to walk away for a few seconds, the bacon won’t burn or stick to the pan as it’s rendering.
How to Cook Turnip Greens
To make this turnip greens recipe, first add the bacon to a cool pan. Place the pan on the stove and then turn the heat to medium-low. As the bacon slowly warms in the pan, use a spoon or tongs to separate the pieces so they’re not overlapping. Then, leave this alone for a few minutes to allow the heat to melt the bacon fat, stirring every once in a while. It will take about 10 minutes for the fat to render and the bacon to become lightly crisp. This is where the nonstick skillet comes in handy. You won’t have to stand over the pan and watch it for 10 minutes, unlike with a stainless steel pan.
Once the bacon is lightly crisp but still meaty, transfer half of the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Set this aside until the greens are ready to serve.
Add the onion, salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes to the hot oil and stir to distribute everything evenly. The onions will quickly begin to turn translucent and then caramelize.
When you see the first hint of browning on the onions, which should happen in a few minutes, add the garlic to the pan, quickly followed by half of the turnip greens. Turn the greens over a few times in the pan to coat them in the hot oil. As they wilt down, add the second half of the greens and turn them until they also begin to wilt.
Add the apple cider vinegar and chicken stock to the pan, then cover the pan and simmer the greens for five minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer the greens for another 10 to 15 minutes for fork-tender turnip green stems. If you like your stems more on the tender-crisp side, you’ll only need to simmer them for 5 minutes instead of 10-15.
Transfer the turnip greens to a serving dish and sprinkle with the crispy bacon pieces you set aside. You can also drizzle any remaining liquid in the pan onto the turnip greens to keep them moist at the table.
Serving Turnip Greens
Turnip greens can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. They will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, up to three days. They’ll still be edible for up to 5 days, but after about three days they can begin to turn brown from the acid in the vinegar.
Try serving them alongside pork chops or roast chicken, and of course, plenty of cornbread for a fantastic Southern meal.
If you love these, try my simple Swiss chard recipe for another fantastic side dish!Print
This Southern turnip greens recipe is a delicious side dish that’s simple to prepare.
Listen to learn how to make this recipe, along with some great tips from Christine:
- 1 (12 oz.) pkg. uncooked bacon strips, diced
- 1 small onion, peeled, diced
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
- 1 (16 oz.) bag chopped raw turnip greens, rinsed and dried
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- In a large non-stick skillet add bacon. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until bacon fat renders and bacon is almost crisp but still meaty, about 10 minutes. Remove half of the bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate or container.
- Add onion, salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in garlic. Add half of the turnip greens to the pan, turning them in the hot oil until slightly wilted. Add remaining turnip greens, turning them until just wilted.
- Add vinegar and chicken stock. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.
- Remove cover and simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until turnip stems are fork tender.*
- Transfer turnip greens to a serving dish. Top with remaining crispy bacon. Serve warm.
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*For crisper stems, simmer them for only 5 minutes at this stage of the recipe.