When most people think of salad greens, collard greens are probably the last thing that come to mind – let alone raw collard greens. If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking the same thing too. Collards are a soul food staple and in classic recipes, they’re generally cooked for long periods of time, which, unfortunately, strips away a lot of valuable nutrients. Not to mention all the added salt owing to smoked meats and other traditional sodium-dense flavor-enhancers.
Believe it or not, fresh is one of the best ways to enjoy the unique flavor of collard greens. While the notion of eating them raw might seem a bit odd, it’s actually quite doable. It’s all in the preparation – and it isn’t a difficult process. Here we’ve put together a simple method for preparing raw collard greens for salads with some hands-on visuals to guide you along the way. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be building your bowl with raw collards all the time.
THE BALANCING ACT
A first-cousin to kale, collard greens are chock-full of health-promoting dietary fiber, disease-fighting antioxidants and powerful micronutrients, notably vitamin K. Vitamin K is an often overlooked yet very important fat-soluble vitamin that greatly supports heart and bone health. While cooked collards do offer good nutrition, we tend to absorb a lot of the nutrients better when they’re raw.
If you generally enjoy your collard greens cooked into submission, you might still be on the fence. We totally understand. At face value, raw collards don’t look (or even smell) appetizing. Their leaves are large and tough with a slightly smoky flavor that can be off-putting. But we won’t steer you wrong! Again, it’s all in the preparation. After a good chop and a rubdown (or “massage”), collards are way more palatable.
Massaging them with oil and a bit of salt and acid in the form of either lemon juice or vinegar is most ideal. Our recipe calls for massaging the collards with That Salad Lady’s sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing, as it contains all the oil, salt and vinegar you’ll need. This massage will give them a softer texture and milder, less smoky flavor, making them more pleasing to the palate.
The dressing also locks in plenty of flavor, especially when used to marinate the greens as we suggest. Besides the flavor-enhancing effects of the dressing, the extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) it contains will help your body better absorb all the yummy nutrients in the collards (study up in our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn more). The end result is a fresh bowl of not-too-bitter flavored collards with delicate texture and rich savory flavor that’ll bring practically any salad to life.
Now, that we’ve told you a little bit about preparing raw collards for salad making, let’s talk about how to do it.
Choosing Your Collard Greens
As you’ll be eating your collard greens in raw form, you want to choose the freshest batch you can find. Good collards are deep green in color with firm, crisp texture. The leaves should appear upright and stiff, not flimsy or floppy. You’ll want to avoid using greens with brown, spotted or wilted leaves. While a few spots or some wilting here and there doesn’t necessarily make collards inedible when they’re cooked, you’ll likely taste the difference when they’re raw.
You can use pre-cut, pre-packaged collards too, but they often have a lot of unwanted stems, which can affect the texture and flavor of your finished product so choose them wisely.
What You Need to Season Collard Greens
It doesn’t take much to season raw collard greens for salads. Again, all you’ll need is quality oil, a good acid like vinegar or lemon juice and a little kosher salt (sea salt works too).
For this recipe we keep it really simple and really tasty as you’ll prepare and use That Salad Lady’s sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing to marinate the greens (see details below). Richly flavored with white balsamic vinegar, EVOO, a touch of honey or maple syrup, minced garlic and wholesome herbs, it delivers the perfect balance of sweet, sour and savory. After adding the dressing, you’ll just sprinkle on a little salt for added flavor.
You don’t have to use this dressing. Any vinegar or lemon-based dressing will do the trick – even a good quality bottled version. We do, however, suggest using a dressing that contains EVOO as it infuses great flavor and delivers added nutrition to the mix. Olive oil itself is very high in monounsaturated fats, which help the body better absorb many of the vitamins and antioxidants housed in the collards.
We recommend mixing the dressing first (if using) since you’ll be using it to massage and marinate the collard greens. That Salad Lady’s sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing is included as part of the recipe (see recipe card).
To make the dressing, all you’ll need to do is add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. That’s it!
If you don’t have a blender or a food processor, simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a twist off lid or even a bowl and just shake or whisk until everything’s well-mixed. Again, if you choose not to make it, any vinegar or lemon-based dressing with EVOO will do the trick.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Due to their large leaves and texture, you’ll have to de-stem the collards and then chop them into small, bite-sized pieces. You can either de-stem the leaves by hand or use a sharp knife (ideally a chef’s knife).
You’ll need a knife to chop up the leaves too. As we mentioned before, you can use pre-packaged collards to cut down on prep time, but, depending on the size of the leaves, you may still need to chop them up a bit more.
After the collards are all chopped up, give them a nice, thorough rinse in warm water, massaging them well as you rinse them. Drain the rinsed collards in a colander or use a salad spinner if you have one.
MASSAGE THE COLLARDS
Once you’ve drained all the excess water, transfer the collards to a large bowl (ideally one with a lid), coat them with at least half the dressing you’ve prepared and a little sprinkle of sea salt, and then toss and massage them by hand. You can wear disposable food prep gloves if you wish, but using your hands is much more efficient. Plus, the combination of the salt and the natural warmth of your hands really help draws out the moisture in the leaves.
A 3-5-minute massage will suffice. Massaging collards this way softens the leaves and reduces their volume in much the same way that cooking them would. As you carry out the massage, you’ll feel the leaves start to break down, soften and shrink in size almost immediately. Once they’ve reached your desired texture simply stop. When your collards are fluffy yet still somewhat firm, feathery but not too flimsy, they’re perfectly massaged.
MARINATE THE COLLARDS
After the massage, it’s time to start the marinating process. Simply cover the bowl with a lid or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and place it your fridge. We recommend marinating the collards for an hour or two, but you can certainly do this overnight – in fact, we encourage it.
The Versatility of Marinated Collard Greens
Marinated collard greens not only make the perfect base for salad bowl recipes, but they also make a great “no-cook” side dish. Try them in That Salad Lady’s “Collard Green Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette,” which is packed with a colorful blend of veggies and creamy goat cheese for satisfying texture, rich flavor and even more nutrition. In an airtight container, freshly massaged and marinated collards will keep in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
SHOW US YOUR WORK
That Salad Lady wants to see all your great work. If you enjoy your marinated collard greens, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.