Southern-Style Turnip Greens

Southern style turnip greens with salt pork on a white plate

The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 95 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
386 Calories
37g Fat
10g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 386
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g 47%
Saturated Fat 13g 67%
Cholesterol 39mg 13%
Sodium 1335mg 58%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 51mg 254%
Calcium 258mg 20%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 437mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Turnip greens have long been a favorite vegetable in the South, where cooks save the leaves of the turnip roots and prepare them similarly to collard greens and mustard greens, often with ham or pork. This version contains salt pork, but you can use another kind of pork cut—bacon, streaky bacon (pork belly), ham hocks, hog jowl, smoked pork chops, or similar meat. Even though turnip greens are not as bitter as collards, many people like to add a small amount of sugar to their turnip greens, but that is entirely optional.

Cleaning the greens is an essential step when you are using fresh greens. Even if packaged greens state "cleaned," you should rinse them again to be sure, as sandy greens are very unpleasant.

To serve any Southern greens, make sure you offer plenty of hot, freshly baked cornbread or cornbread muffins. Hot pepper sauce (hot pepper vinegar) is a wonderful accompaniment or serve the greens with plain apple cider vinegar.


Watch Now: How to Make Southern Turnip Greens

"If you're looking for a true Southern dish, this is it. I couldn’t find turnip greens, so I used collard greens. Once you get through cleaning and removing the stems, you are golden. You can essentially use one large Dutch oven for rendering the salt pork, sautéing the onions, and adding the remaining ingredients. Very tasty!" —Victoria Heydt

Southern-Style Turnip Greens in a pot
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 pounds turnip greens

  • 1 pound salt pork (or similar fatty pork)

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, optional

  • 1 dash crushed red pepper, or more to taste, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Southern-style turnip greens gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  2. Wash the greens thoroughly in the sink or a large bowl; drain and wash again. Repeat the cleaning until you can't feel any grit on the greens or the bottom of the sink or container.

    Collard greens washed next to a bowl of water

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  3. Cut off and discard tough stems and discolored leaves from greens. For large leaves with big tough stems, fold the leaf in half and cut or tear the stem out. Stack several leaves and slice them crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces.

    Collard stems cut off and leaves chopped on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  4. Scrape the salt off of the salt pork or rinse it under cold running water to remove the excess salt. The salt pork has a tough skin that needs to be removed. Carefully run a sharp knife between the tough skin and the softer fat. Discard the tough skin and dice the fat. 

    Salt scraped off the diced pork

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  5. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, cook the salt pork until it is crisp and browned. Add the chopped onion and cook for 2 minutes longer.

    Salt pork cooked in onions until crispy

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  6. To the salt pork and onion, add the water, cleaned turnip greens, black pepper, salt, and the optional sugar and crushed red pepper flakes, if using. You may need to add the greens in batches until they wilt down a bit, similar to how spinach wilts down.

    Water and turnip greens added to pot with salt pork and onions

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  7. Bring the greens to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer the greens for 40 to 50 minutes, or until they are tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

    Collard greens simmering in a stock pot with a clear glass lid

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  8. When the greens are ready, transfer them to a serving bowl.

    Collard greens on a white plate with salt pork

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  9. Enjoy.

    Southern-style turnip greens with salt pork on a white plate

    The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond 

How to Clean Turnip Greens

Put the trimmed greens in a clean sink and cover them with cold water. Shake them and swish them around, drain them, and then repeat a few more times until you no longer feel grit in the bottom of the sink.

How to Make Pepper Sauce

To make pepper sauce (pepper vinegar sauce), begin by sterilizing a canning jar. Pack the jar with cleaned small hot peppers. Pour boiling white vinegar over the peppers, covering them completely, leaving a little headspace in the jar. Cover and refrigerate the pepper sauce for a few weeks before using.

Recipe Variations

  • Add 1 or 2 minced cloves of garlic to the greens along with the chopped onion.
  • Use thick slices of bacon in place of the salt pork.