How I use my #InstantPot to make southern greens in half the time!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

I don't want the kind of problems that a bowl of collard greens and chunk of skillet cornbread can't fix. Greens are always on time. Unfortunately, I don't always have time to tend to the most important part of the process, which is getting that pot liquor off to a proper start. In my original recipe for southern greens, smoked pork or turkey is braised with the onions, spices, herbs and other ingredients for a couple hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Then the greens are added and everything gets happy in the pot together.

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A pressure cooker uses pressurized steam to cook foods in a short amount of time, and that's all the InstantPot really is. It has some built in timers and preset modes for certain types of food, but at the end of the day it's a pressure cooker, and it's the answer to cutting braising times in half - if not more. My favorite thing to use my InstantPot to cook is beans, and it does them so well they don't even need to be soaked the night before. When I was doing meal prep for clients during the week, I brought my InstantPot to work to make short ribs and oxtail in an hour (seriously!) Another way I use my InstantPot is to make small batches of beef or chicken stock when I don't have time or space in the oven. Pretty much any recipe you'd make using a Dutch oven pot can be converted for a pressure cooker. There's a little bit of finessing required to develop the same depth of flavors in the sauce, but all in all you can get some really good results considering the benefits of freeing your day up.

But back to these greens. Since the first half of the recipe is the same process as making stock, I realized I could just do that step in my InstantPot. All of the good flavor from the smoked meat and aromatics gets infused into the liquid, just as if you'd simmered it on the stovetop for a couple hours. Then you just strain the liquid, reserving the cooked meat, and combine it all in a pot with chopped greens to simmer until tender. Once you have the stock done, you can even freeze a quart for the future, which takes up less space in the freezer than cooked greens. As with any pot of greens, the leftovers get better and better over a few days. Grab the modified recipe below!

A Faster Way to Southern Greens with the InstantPot

2 lbs smoked bone-in pork or turkey (such as ham hocks, neckbones, turkey wings or turkey necks)
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced in half
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups water or chicken stock; more if needed
Several sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, more as needed
5 lbs collard greens, destemmed and chopped (or 4 lbs if pre-chopped)
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
2 tbsp butter
Salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, for serving

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (give or take)
Yield: Serves 8
Special Equipment: InstantPot or other electric pressure cooker, large pot

*Note: You can make as little as one pound of greens at a time using this method, if you plan to freeze the rest of the stock for another batch. I won't even judge if you dumped a bag of shredded greens in, but you could certainly work with fresh greens just like the original recipe. A mix of collards, kale, mustard greens or turnip greens also works.

To get started, place the smoked meat, peeled onion halves, garlic, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes into the InstantPot. Add enough water or stock to cover; at least six cups, but if you have room you can add more. (Like I mentioned above, you might as well make enough to freeze some for later.) Throw in the thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns, then pour in two tablespoons of vinegar. Close the lid of the InstantPot. When closed properly, you'll hear it clamp and lock in place.

Select the option for Meat/Stew or manually set your pressure cooker for 35 minutes on high pressure. The pot will take several minutes to heat up and build pressure before the timer starts to count down, at which point you'll know it's working. After the 35 minutes are up, the timer will go off, but there will be too much pressure to open the lid. I use the "natural release" method and let the steam release on its own gradually. This takes another 15 to 20 minutes, and gives the stock even more time to build flavor. If you were really in a rush, you could push the vent open to manually release the pressure. Just be careful if you do that with a pot full of liquid, as the steam is very hot and tends to splatter.

Here's what I had after 35 minutes of pressure cooking and about 20 minutes to naturally release the steam:

I carefully ladled the stock through a mesh strainer and discarded the onions, herbs, bay leaves, and peppercorns. If you happen to find the garlic just mash it into the stock. Once I was down to the big chunks of meat, I transferred them to a pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. For this particular batch, I used 4 cups of stock for 2 pounds of greens and froze the rest of my stock (and some of the meat) for a future batch of greens. Remember that the greens will give off liquid on their own, so you can always wait to see what you end up with and add more stock if really necessary.

Pour the strained stock into a large pot and bring it up to a boil. Before you get to this step, you can always saute some fresh onions in the pot if you like that for texture, but I found that my broth was rich enough on its own in flavor. Once the stock is bubbling, add chopped greens by the handful and let them cook down until you can fill up the pot. (By the way, I don't recommend actually cooking your greens in the InstantPot using a pressure cooker setting, as they can end up with a mushy overcooked texture. But if you were making a small batch, you could certainly use the "Saute" function to heat your stock, then simmer the greens, leaving the pot lid open. It would be just like cooking them on a stove top in this case.)

While the greens are simmering, you can pull off the bits of tender meat that should be falling off the bones. Discard the bones, fat, and tough bits of skin. Shred or chop up the meat and add it to the greens as they finish cooking. If you're freezing any stock, you should add some of the meat to your containers. To this day, my favorite kind of meat to use for greens is ham hocks. It's just so unctuous and flavorful... hard to resist!

Season the cooked greens to taste with salt and pepper, and add the maple syrup if using. You may also want to wake things up with an extra splash or two of vinegar and hot sauce for heat. Let the greens cook for twenty minutes or so, until they're adequately tender and have absorbed all that good flavor. To finish, stir in the butter.

The nice thing about this method is that you can enjoy the greens while they still have more of a bite left, which is how I like them. It was a fresher flavor, almost like a really good soup. The second day, or after additional simmering, the greens take on a softer texture and more of that dark murky coloring. The pot liquor gets better and better.

So there you have it! Authentic greens in half the time. I enjoyed a bowl of reheated greens today for Sunday dinner, with cornbread of course. These days I've been using gluten-free flour, but my skillet cornbread recipe cooks up just the same!

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  2. Girrrrllll, I love my Instant pot!!!!!!!!! Love this recipe!!

  3. Hello there, Angela, I love your post for these great collard greens.You're a very entertaining and detailed

  4. This cut down my cooking time tremendously. Thank you!

  5. I’ve been making your original southern greens for several years. I always get a lot of compliments. I’m short on time. So, I’m trying this instant pot method. I know it will be great. Your recipes never disappoint.