Knowing what spices to use when cooking collard greens can often be the difference between an average dish and a flavorful masterpiece.
But don’t worry—you don’t have to over-complicate things.
In this article, I’ll share my 17 favorite spices for collard greens that will help bring out the unique flavor of this powerful leafy green vegetable.
So get ready for some deliciousness and explore these must-have seasonings for your next pot of delectable collards!
1. Red Pepper Flakes
When I think of red pepper flakes, the first thing that comes to mind is a mix of slightly sharp and earthy flavors with a decent amount of spice.
Generic red pepper flakes don’t have too much flavor other than that – it’s more about the kick you get from the spicy component, instead!
Add more for an extra-spicy dish.
When using red pepper flakes for collard greens, start by adding ¼ teaspoon.
Taste it after cooking and adjust accordingly – if you want more spiciness add anywhere from ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon until it’s at your desired level of spiciness.
2. Cayenne Pepper
The primary flavor of cayenne is defined by a hot, fiery effect on the taste buds.
Despite the heat contained in these red peppers, cayenne has a fairly mild aroma.
You will notice a slight hint of bitterness and sweetness as it dissipates.
Given its high heat levels, cayenne is best used in small amounts while cooking to guarantee this concentrated spice doesn’t overtake a dish – so how much should you use?
A good rule of thumb when adding cayenne pepper is to start small and increase from there until you get your desired level of spice.
I’ve got to say, thyme is one of my favorite herbs!
In general, it has a sharp and almost minty flavor with hints of earthiness.
You’ll also taste floral notes as well and it’s just slightly sweet with a bit of pepper.
It goes really great into collard greens – I recommend adding about 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of raw collard greens.
If you prefer more subtle flavors, start off with about 1/4 teaspoon first before adding more to your taste.
4. Mustard Powder
I find that dry mustard powder, by itself, has no distinct flavor or taste.
It’s only when combined with water (ideally room-temperature tap water) that it releases the essential oil which gives it such a unique and characteristic spicy flavor.
I usually like to add about one teaspoon of dry mustard powder for every two cups of cooked greens.
This ratio ensures a nice kick to the dish without being too overpowering or overwhelming.
I find the taste of paprika to vary depending on which type you decide to use.
I enjoy mild, sweet paprika for dishes that don’t need much seasoning such as salads and potato wedges.
But when it comes to dishes such as collard greens, I prefer a hot variety – something with more kick!
In terms of how much you should add, it really all depends on your own preference.
Start by adding around two teaspoons for four servings of collards and adjust according to taste.
When I think of salt, the first thing that comes to mind is its refusal to take a backseat in any dish.
Salt enhances flavors and brings out the natural depth of any meal.
Salt can range from subtle to bold depending on how much you decide to add, making it essential for seasoning a variety of dishes.
As an example, when cooking collard greens, adding salt will help make them taste delicious by bringing out their earthy sweetness along with unlocking aromas you may not have tasted before.
As for how much salt to use — I usually go with 2 teaspoons per pound of collard leaves; adjust accordingly based on your preference or diet restrictions.
7. Onion Powder
When it comes to onion powder, you can definitely taste its flavor.
It provides the same flavor as fresh onions with a more concentrated flavor profile and nutrient content.
Onion powder is great to add to your collard greens because it provides an amazing aroma that really enhances the classic Southern dish.
As for how much onion powder to add, I recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons.
This should be enough to give your collard greens a nice subtle hint of oniony goodness without overpowering the dish.
Be sure not to use too much or else it might become too strong in flavor!
8. Garlic Powder
I’d describe the flavor of garlic powder as mild and sweet, yet still garlicky.
It’s very different than fresh-chopped garlic because the flavors are more subdued.
The garlic cloves used to make it are first dehydrated, so you don’t get the caramelly undertones that come from roasting or sautéing cloves in oil.
As for how much to add when cooking collard greens – my go-to is about ¼ teaspoon per 4 servings of greens.
But if you love garlic like I do, feel free to ramp up the amount depending on your preferences!
9. Black Pepper
Being a lover of spicy flavors, I can vouch for the taste of black pepper – it has an unmistakeably sharp, penetrating aroma and woody, piney flavor with a distinct hot and biting sensation when tasted.
It’s popularly used in numerous dishes all over the world due to its unique characteristics.
As far as adding black pepper to your collard greens goes, I would advise you to start by adding 1/4 teaspoon at first; this is enough for mild flavoring.
If you prefer less heat, go for 1/2 teaspoon instead.
You can always add more according to preference but remember that it can easily overpower ingredients so use sparingly and sample until desired taste is achieved!
Throughout my culinary journey, I have had the pleasure of experiencing different spices and ingredients. One of my absolute favorites is coriander.
The leaves, which are also called cilantro or Chinese parsley, taste refreshing, tart, and citrusy.
Coriander seeds are actually the plant’s dried fruit, which can be used whole or ground.
Toasted coriander seeds bring out their particular flavor which is earthy, tart, and sweet with a floral aroma that releases when toasting them over a pan flame or oven roasted for around 10 minutes.
I love adding coriander to various dishes, especially collard greens!
I usually add around 2 teaspoons of freshly chopped leaves per cup of cooked collard greens – this will give your dish such an invigorating and fresh flavor.
Coriander also goes great with vegetables, soups, stews, marinades, curries, and even in hummus and salads.
I would say that ginger has a unique flavor that is difficult to describe – it often carries a certain spice and warmth in its taste.
It’s peppy and hot, but at the same time can be quite sweet.
Most recipes will ask for using fresh ginger because it has more of an intense flavor compared to dried ginger, which is also described as slightly lemony with some sweetness.
Younger-looking ginger is great when you’re looking for something milder, as they are very juicy and have subtle notes of sweet or citrusy flavors in order to give dishes some depth without being overpowering.
In terms of adding it to collard greens specifically, I’d suggest using around one tablespoon worth of freshly-grated ginger to give the dish a nice kick.
The ginger will add a bit of heat and complexity to the taste and texture of the collards.
12. Lemon Juice
When I think of lemon juice, my first thought is sour.
The reason behind its sour taste is the 5% to 6% citric acid that the juice contains.
In terms of how much to add to your collard greens, I would suggest adding a tablespoon or two.
A little goes a long way and you don’t want it to overpower the flavor of your dish!
Lemon also helps bring out all of the other flavors in your collard greens, so it’s definitely worth having as part of the recipe!
When I think of cinnamon, the first thing that comes to mind is the sweet and woody flavors with a slight citrus note.
It can also sometimes be likened to cloves – the strong and spicy taste makes it quite unmistakable.
Textures vary slightly between ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, but there’s no real difference in flavor here.
It’s more about how you use each one which differs depending on your dish or recipe.
For collard greens specifically, I would suggest adding around 1/4 teaspoon (or 0.5g) of ground cinnamon as this should balance out the flavors while still keeping them present throughout the dish.
Too much may overpower all other ingredients so moderation is key!
Unlike many other herbs, the flavor of tarragon is quite distinct and can often be compared to licorice, anise, and fennel.
It has a bittersweet pungent taste which adds warmth – almost like you added pepper and mustard combined!
When it comes to cooking with this herb in particular, one must be careful not to add too much as it can become overbearing.
Therefore, when adding it to collard greens I would start with a teaspoon or two.
You could always add more if you feel the flavor isn’t intense enough but beware of overpowering your dish!
Basil is one of my favorite herbs to cook with!
Its flavor is a great balance between sweet and savory, with hints of peppery black pepper, minty anise, and even nuttiness.
This makes it a great addition to any dish since it adds sweetness to the end flavor.
When adding basil to collard greens specifically, I suggest putting in about half a teaspoon for every two cups of greens you make.
That way you can enjoy the unique taste of basil without overpowering everything else that’s already in your dish!
I love working with parsley. Having that clean, peppery taste with a hint of earthiness makes it versatile enough for whatever dish I’m cooking.
But the best part is definitely running through each leaf and feeling its natural flavor come alive in my hands.
It’s this aromatic oil which provides an unmistakable and fragrant smell to any dish you choose to add it to.
When adding parsley to collard greens, or any recipe for that matter, always feel free to experiment until you find your favorite ratio!
Depending on your taste levels and desired flavors – anywhere from one teaspoon as garnish all the way up to around two tablespoons per serving will work great!
Keep in mind though; more might be overpowering so start small and then adjust as you go.
Parsley also pairs well with many other ingredients, from carrots to potatoes and even lemons!
It makes a great addition to salads, soups, and stews.
You can even mix it with a bit of olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper for a quick and easy sauce.
17. Brown Sugar
When it comes to brown sugar, you’ll get a deep caramel or toffee-like flavor due to the added molasses.
It’s much sweeter than your standard white granulated sugar and requires less overall quantity to produce the same sweet taste.
When making collard greens I’d suggest adding 1/4 cup of light brown sugar per recipe – adjust accordingly based on your preference for sweetness.
The addition of this unique flavor will give your dish a whole new depth and warmth that makes any vegetable side dish just a bit more special!
17 Spices for Collard Greens You Must Try
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Cayenne Pepper
- Mustard Powder
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Black Pepper
- Lemon Juice
- Brown Sugar
- Pick your favorite spices from this collection to add to your collard greens.
- Prepare the rest of your delicious meal.
- Serve in no time!