This foolproof recipe for simple sautéed greens takes less than 10 minutes from prep to table. A perfect side dish for your busy weeknights. This sautéed greens recipe uses any mix leafy greens you have on hand including kale, spinach, or swiss chard.
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And yes, I do love fancy leafy greens with roasted pine nuts or preserved lemons but I don’t always have time for that (or the ingredients on hand!). So, I stick with what works. easy sautéed greens! My favorite is a combination of kale and swiss chard. But sometimes I am just lopping off the top of my turnips and going to town.
It is a foolproof way to use up all the extra veggies. It pairs well with just about any other side dish. But I highly recommend it with my favorite lemon and feta roasted potatoes or my homemade gluten-free corn casserole.
📖Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is the only one you need for cooking fresh greens. This base recipe has everything you need to make the perfect cooked or wilted greens. This includes fat, acid, and of course, salt.
One of my biggest pet peeves when eating vegetables is under seasoning. Not too much, or too little, this basic recipe sets the backdrop for you to create your own.
This recipe is the base for my swiss chard and lemon recipe. But we have included a list of seasoning variations you will want to try.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
🧾Best Greens for Sauteing
Not familiar with all the options for sauteing greens? Lets review.
Spinach- Probably the easiest and simplest green to work with. You can use the pre-washed bagged spinach or use the large bulk spinach.
Spinach tends to be very sandy. Give it a pre-rinse and then remove the stems. After that soak the leaves in a big bowl swirling around the leaves. The dirt and sand will drop down, repeat until the spinach is clean. The spinach will take 2 to 3 minutes to cook, maybe less. Spinach should be slightly wilted.
Kale- Just like with spinach you can use the pre-washed baby kale or the larger kale. Lacinato is my favorite variety. To use these larger varieties remove the stems and chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Kale takes 4 to 5 minutes to cook.
Swiss Chard or Rainbow Chard- I like using baby chard greens. Destem and cut the leaves into 2-inch pieces. These greens are perfect after sauteing for about 5 minutes.
Arugula- These peppery greens are light and airy. Arugula is easy to overcook. I cook for one minute and then turn off the heat. The residual heat will cook the greens in 1-2 minutes.
Mustard Greens- This is a fun one if you can find them. Wash similarly to the spinach. Most people feel strongly about sauteed mustard greens but I love them. Cook them for 4 to 5 minutes and they will be delicious.
Collard Greens- While collard greens are typically associated with a slow cooking method you can use use the smaller leaves for sauteeing. Prep them just like the swiss chard. They take longer to cook, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Root Vegetable Greens- Don't waste these delicious greens! The tops of turnips, carrots, beets and even radishes are great additions. No waste! If you are unsure about working with root tops try doing a 50/50 mix with root greens and kale.
More Greens to Try - Be creative, try escarole, broccoli rabe, or even bok choy!
Additional Ingredient Notes
You will also need a neutral oil, like avocado, coconut, or olive oil, a small onion (white or yellow) or a shallot, fresh garlic, and salt.
The final ingredient is acid, specifically, I prefer apple cider vinegar but any style of vinegar or fresh lemon juice will work equally as well.
⏲️How to Make Sautéed Greens
The goal of this recipe is to give you a template to follow for your favorite greens. A quick sauté on the onion to soften gives a slight sweetness but keeps the texture needed to stand up to the greens.
Step 1- Prep the Greens
Start by thoroughly washing your greens. Many types of greens grow in sandy soil so proper washing is key. Destem any greens that can't be sauteed (like curly kale or collard greens).
Chop large greens into 1-inch pieces, small leafy greens like baby spinach and arugula can be left whole.
Step 2- Saute Aromatics
Heat your oil of choice in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add your diced onion and cook until soft. Stir often, the onion should be softened, not caramelized. This will take roughly 3 minutes.
Next, add your minced garlic cloves. Did you know that just thirty seconds on the garlic takes the bite out of fresh garlic?
Note: If you are cooking the stems, like with swiss chard or bok choy, you will add the stems with the onions to soften them.
Step 3- Wilt the Greens
Add the greens, turning the greens frequently to ensure they evenly wilt. Finally, a touch of acid in the form of apple cider vinegar removes any bitterness.
🥗What to Serve with Simple Sauteed Greens
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
If using a combination of greens be sure they cook for the same amount of time.
Regardless of the type of green you selected, our favorite seasoning variations are sure to please. Here are some ways to dress up your dark leafy greens.
Sesame- Drizzle your cooked greens with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Italian- Add ¼ cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes with the onions and top with a ¼ cup of toasted pinenuts. Top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
Greek- Mix in 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano and ⅓ cup each of sliced kalamata olives and feta crumbles.
Fall Harvest- Stir in ½ cup dried cranberries and ½ cup chopped walnuts.
While this is my favorite way to cook greens, the leftovers are not great. But it only takes a few minutes to make so no need to meal prep them for the week.
If you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
Reheat in the microwave or the in a saute pan. Reheating over the stove will make it easier to remove any excess water that accumulated in the container.
More Quick and Easy Side Dishes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
For quick cooking greens, a bit of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) at the end of cooking will take a bit of the bite out. Hardier greens can be slow-cooked to sweeten the taste.
It is not recommended to freeze raw or cooked greens. Freezing leafy greens requires a process of blanching and drying before freezing.
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📖 Printable Recipe Card
- De-stem greens (if needed) and tear into pieces.8 ounces curly kale
- Melt coconut oil in a high-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, 2-3 minutes until slightly soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.½ medium onion, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- Add greens, stir until wilted (1-2 minutes for lighter greens, 3-4 minutes for hardy greens).
- Turn up the slightly, add apple cider vinegar and allow to deglaze slightly.2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.kosher salt and black pepper
- Any unused stems can be saved and added to smoothies
- See the post for details on cooking other types of greens.
- Post contains seasoning variations or top with lemon zest and parmesan cheese.