Shredded collard greens with baked sweet potato, pinto beans and spicy buttermilk dressing

The first time I tasted collard greens was many years ago, during a fleeting but luxurious visit to a destination spa in Negril, Jamaica. It was served very much Jamaican home style, stewed in spices and coconut milk. I ate it with every meal for three days. I remember being charmed by the robust nature of the leaves – stewed yet retaining such body and a hardy texture.

Upon departing the Caribbean, it turns out that it would be almost ten years until I found collard greens again. In Australia, they are not commonplace. I have personally never found them at Sydney grocers. But before we go further, let’s make one thing quite clear – collard greens are not spinach, nor kale. They are indeed part of the Brassica family, so they possess many of the cruciferous attributes of genetically similar kale and cabbage, but they are definitely a species unto themselves. Luckily for me, collard greens are a common green here in the US, found in almost every grocer.

Collard greens, with their deep green, thick leaves, stand up to lengthy cooking times, while still retaining their flavour and texture. Hence, they are a staple of Southern cooking, where they are often braised for long periods with ham hock or salty meats. For me, while I love wilted collard greens, I love them raw. For this salad, I’m celebrating the Southern roots of collard greens’ by teaming them with sweet roast potato, pinto beans and a spicy buttermilk dressing.

Cooks note: As collard greens are hard to find in many parts of the world, please feel free to substitute them with another cruciferous green. I would suggest kale or cavolo nero (Tuscan cabbage) as good options. If you can’t find pinto beans, replace with borlotti or red kidney beans.

Shredded collard greens with baked sweet potato, pinto beans and spicy buttermilk dressing

The earthy raw collard greens combine harmoniously with the roasted sweet potato, while the spicy buttermilk dressing gives this salad a real Southern twist. I like the combination of normal paprika with smoked paprika for that extra hit of spice, but use whichever one you have on hand.

| Serves 4 -6 |

  • 1 bunch collard greens or kale, washed and stems removed
  • 3 medium sweet potato (700g), cut into 1cm cubes
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans pinto or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • Sea salt and pepper

Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt


Preheat the oven to 200˚C (392˚F).

Place the sweet potato on a large baking tray, coat in some olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper and roast in hot oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

Wash the collard greens leaves (or kale) well. Dry well. Using a sharp knife, slice the leaves very finely. Place the leaves in a large bowl, drizzle in some olive oil, and a pinch of salt and massage the oil into the leaves for about a minute. This will start to soften the leaves.

To make the buttermilk dressing, combine the buttermilk and sour cream, and stir in the minced garlic, paprika, a squeeze of lime and olive oil. Season with salt, to taste.

Combine the massaged leaves with the sweet potato, beans, coriander, and seeds. Season well with sea salt and black pepper. To serve, spoon over the buttermilk dressing, lime wedges on the side. 

SALADHetty McKinnon