Sautéed Mustard Greens

updated Apr 5, 2024
Sautéed Mustard Greens Recipe

This quick and easy method results in garlicky, perfectly sautéed greens every time.

Serves4

Prep5 minutes

Cook11 minutes to 16 minutes

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Sautéed mustard greens on countertop.
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Tender sautéed greens are an easy go-to vegetable side everyone should know how to make. They pair with everything from quick pastas to weeknight chicken dinners, and come together in minutes.

These mustard greens are smothered in lots of garlic, kicked up with a pinch of red pepper flakes, and brightened with balsamic. When you have the main dish squared away, mustard greens are the easiest answer to “What should we have with it?”

What Are Mustard Greens?

While mustard greens might not be as trendy as kale or as omnipresent as spinach, they’re well worth getting to know. They’re the leafy green of the mustard plant and are related to collards, cabbage, and, in fact, kale, and are common in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, African, and Southern U.S. cooking.

What Do Mustard Greens Taste Like?

What makes mustard greens unique is their flavor. They’re peppery, pungent, and a little bitter — quite similar to mustard, which makes sense since the seeds used to make mustard come from the same plant!

Can I Eat Raw Mustard Greens?

While mustard greens can be enjoyed raw, heat greatly mellows their pungency, which is why sautéing them is such a great choice.

How to Buy Mustard Greens

Mustard greens come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes, but the bunches you’re most likely to find are bright green in color with ruffled, frilly leaves. When shopping for mustard greens, note that the smaller, more tender leaves of spring will generally be milder in flavor than the mature leaves of summer and fall. Look for crisp leaves and bright color, avoiding any bunches that are yellowed, wilted, or have brown spots or holes.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

4 Secrets to the Best Sautéed Mustard Greens

The key to taming the inherent bite of mustard greens is actually quite simple: Use a combination of heat, fat, salt, and acid. When these elements work in tandem, they mellow the greens and result in something truly tasty.

  • Heat: Heat mellows the greens’ pungent flavor.
  • Fat: Coating the leaves in fat softens their bite: olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and ghee are all great options. Or if you’re the thrifty type who saves bacon fat, I don’t need to tell you it’s also a delicious choice.
  • Salt: Speaking of bacon, it’s a classic ingredient in many Southern mustard green recipes because it lends both fat and salt. Other salty ingredients like soy sauce, pancetta, capers, and anchovies can be cooked with the mustard greens to balance their bitterness. Of course, you can also just season with a big pinch of kosher salt.
  • Acid: Acid plays off the warm pungent greens, fat, and salt to put everything in harmony. After the greens have wilted and become tender, you’ll pull the pan off the heat and add a splash of acid. This could be your favorite type of vinegar, such as balsamic, sherry, red or white wine, or apple cider, or a squeeze of citrus juice like lemon, lime, or orange. Here, I call for balsamic vinegar because it’s a pantry favorite and it’s got a round, approachable flavor.
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What to Serve with Sautéed Mustard Greens

Other Delicious Ways to Use Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are delicious sautéed, braised, or added to pastas, soups, and stews. Here are some of our favorite ways to cook them.

Storage Tips

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Sautéed Mustard Greens Recipe

This quick and easy method results in garlicky, perfectly sautéed greens every time.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 11 minutes to 16 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    mustard greens (about 2 bunches)

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    balsamic vinegar

Instructions

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  1. Trim the thick bottom stems from 1 1/2 pounds mustard greens and discard. Coarsely chop the greens with their thin stems attached (about 12 cups). Rinse in a colander but do not dry. Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide, high-sided sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if desired. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown).

  3. Add the mustard greens a few handfuls at a time, stirring after each addition so that they start to wilt, until all of the greens are added. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mustard greens are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.