Southern Turnip Greens With Ham Shanks Recipe

Turnip greens and ham shanks

The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 80 mins
Total: 105 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
166 Calories
7g Fat
9g Carbs
19g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 166
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 50mg 17%
Sodium 1167mg 51%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 19g
Vitamin C 23mg 115%
Calcium 121mg 9%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 498mg 11%
*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.)

Turnips greens are a tasty and nutritious green leaf that are exactly what you think they are. The tops of the turnips, which often end up in the trash can, are edible and very flavorful, too. This recipe makes the best out of these leaves, making them succulent and tender when cooked alongside smoked ham shanks in a flavorful cooking liquid made out of chicken broth, onions, garlic, and sugar. This recipe is very easy to make and requires just some attention to the clock, as you need to simmer, boil, cover, and uncover the pot a few times. Ready in 1 hour and 45 minutes, this is a great dish for a family-style meal as the shanks and greens combine into a pretty main dish that you can serve with other classic Southern dishes such as creamy mashed potatoes, cornbread, and perhaps some fried green tomatoes. No matter how you choose to serve this dish, don't miss out on trying these peppery greens.

Green turnips tops aren't as spicy as mustard greens, but they do pack a flavorful punch. The key to these leaves is to wash them thoroughly because they do carry a lot of dirt and grit. Rinse them well under running water several times and soak them for a few minutes in cold water to allow any additional dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Wash again and pat dry with a paper towel. If you have more tops than you need, wrap them in paper towels and keep them in the fridge for a few days.

Tasty ham shanks are often confused with ham hocks. Though both are delicious, shanks are meatier because they come from the area below the shoulder of the animal while the hocks are from the area closer to the foot, and thus bonier. Most shanks are sold fully cooked, but check the label to be sure that is the case. For this recipe, you need fully cooked shanks, but in a pinch, you can replace them with leftover ham of any kind. As they provide a lot of flavor and salt, season the dish only before serving to avoid overly salty greens.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 2 to 3 smoked ham shanks, or 1/2 to 1 pound leftover ham of any kind

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 pound turnip greens, well washed and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 dash cayenne pepper

  • Salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or kettle over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until they're softened and translucent.

  3. Add the ham shanks and cook for about 6 minutes, turning the shanks a few times.

  4. Add the garlic and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

  5. Remove the ham shanks with a slotted spoon. Reserve on the side.

  6. Add the turnip greens in the liquid, a few handfuls at a time, until all are in the pot. The simmering liquid will wilt them as you add them to the pot.

  7. Add the sugar and peppers and keep simmering.

  8. Remove the bones from the ham shanks and dice or shred the meat returning it to the pot.

  9. Mix well and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

  10. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes longer, or until the greens are very tender. The broth will cook down a bit, so it might be salty enough. Taste test and add to the dish salt if needed. Serve right away.

  11. Enjoy!