How to Cook Mustard Greens: The Best, Easiest Method

updated Nov 25, 2020

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


Prep5 minutes

Cook11 minutes to 16 minutes

Jump to Recipe
Sautéed mustard greens in side dish with serving utensils on side.
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Tender sautéed greens are an easy go-to side everyone should know how to make. They pair with everything from roast chicken to takeout pizza, 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, they’re the easiest answer to “What should we have with it?”

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

Getting to Know 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. 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.

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

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.

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 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
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Here's an easy way to cook mustard greens.

How to Cook Mustard Greens

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

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 11 minutes to 16 minutes


Nutritional Info


  • 1 1/2 pounds

    mustard greens (about 2 bunches)

  • 3 cloves


  • 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



  1. Prep the mustard greens and garlic. 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. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes. 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 and cook. 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.