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Six Ways to Cook and Serve Mustard Greens

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Mustard greens have a peppery-bitter flavor—like mustard. They have long been a favorite American soul food and are used often in Indian cookery.

Short cooking is the best way to preserve the flavor and texture of mustard greens. Overcooking will cause greens to become soft and mushy.

Match mustard greens with bacon, cheddar cheese, corn, cornbread, curry, garlic, ham, hot sauce, lemon, onion, salt pork, and smoked turkey.

Mustard greens

Mustard greens can be eaten raw or cooked–steamed, sautéed, or simmered. Prepare mustard greens like you would spinach, but expect a stronger flavor.

The strongest tasting of the so-called bitter greens—mustard has a sharp, biting peppery taste that can sting like a strong radish. Even cooked mustard greens will have a “bite”. 

Both the leaves and stalks of mustard greens can be eaten. But both will become tough and more pungent tasting as the weather warms. The best mustard leaves for eating raw or for cooking are harvested young and tender.

Mustard greens are in peak season from mid-winter through mid-spring. 

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Types of mustard greens

  • There are Western and oriental or Asian mustard greens.
  • Western mustards include curly-leaf or common mustard which has frilled oval leaves and mustard spinach which has large smooth dark green leaves that resemble spinach.
  • Asian mustards include mizuna, a Japanese green with bright green fernlike leaves, mibuna with narrow, strap-like leaves, and komatsuna with spinach-shaped leaves.

How to choose mustard greens

  • Select fresh mustard greens that are plump and crisp and have a rich green color.
  • Avoid greens that are yellow, thick or fibrous, pitted or flabby.
  • The best mustard greens are harvested young and tender.

How to store mustard greens

  • Mustard greens can be kept in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Store them unwashed until you are ready to use them.
  • Mustard greens can be frozen like spinach.

How to prep mustard greens

  • Wash greens just before using. Rinse the greens in a large bowl of lukewarm water in order to dislodge sand and dirt. Then cut off and discard the stems. You can remove the stems by folding the leaves in half and ripping out the stems.
  • Don’t dry the greens before cooking. The residual water will help them wilt as they cook.
  • Allow about ½ pound per person. Greens will cook down to ¼ to ⅛ their original volume.

Mustard greens serving suggestions

  • Consider mustard greens an add-on to a green salad or mesclun.
  • Use young, tender mustard leaves alone in a salad or mixed with other greens.
  • Mustard greens dress well with a little olive oil and vinegar.
  • Serve mustard greens alone or mixed with other greens or root vegetables.
  • Top with potlikker, vinegar or vinaigrette dressing, onion, hard-boiled egg, stewed tomatoes, blanched almonds, toasted bread crumbs, bacon or ham, or combinations of these.
Mustard greens steamed
Mustard greens steamed

Mustard greens cooking suggestions

  • Cooked combine mustard greens with mashed potatoes or puréed legumes.
  • You can cook mustard greens in just the water that clings to them after washing. Mustard greens are mostly water so they will shrink when they are cooked. Two large bunches will serve as a side dish for four people.
  • Avoid cooking mustard greens in aluminum or iron pots as they will turn black on contact with these metals.

Mustard greens and bacon

For a tasty match of mustard greens and bacon that you can serve next to mashed potatoes:

  1. Cook 4 slices of diced bacon until brown.
  2. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings; stir in 4 cups of chopped mustard greens and 2 tablespoons of beef broth.
  3. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  4. If you like, stir in 2 tablespoons of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and heat until melted.

Serves 4

How to simmer mustard greens

  1. Cook mustard greens in a saucepan or a skillet with just the water that clings to the leaves after washing.
  2. Add a sprinkling of salt and place the pan over low heat.
  3. Cover the pan so that the greens steam in their own liquid.
  4. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent the greens from sticking to the bottom. Mustard greens will cook in 4 to 6 minutes wilting down to about an eighth of its volume.
  5. Drain and press out the remaining liquid.
  6. Chop and serve with lots of butter.

How to steam mustard greens

  1. Wash the greens and arrange them so that all the stems are going in the same direction.
  2. Place a steam basket in a pot with an inch or two of water; the basket should not touch the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and set the greens in the basket.
  4. Steam the greens for 2 to 4 minutes.
  5. Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

How to butter-steam mustard greens

Place mustard greens in a saucepan or a skillet with just the water that clings to the leaves after rinsing, over low heat. Cover and steam until wilted shaking occasionally to prevent the greens from sticking to the bottom (4 to 6 minutes). Drain and press out the remaining liquid. Steaming may not allow mustard greens to release as much of their bitter taste that boiling does.

Use leaves whole or coarsely chopped. Butter-steam lightly packed leaves, using 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine. Cook and stir for 30 seconds, then cover and cook until leaves are wilted (2 to 3 more minutes for 5 cups of greens).

Mustard greens puree
Mustard greens purée

How to purée mustard greens

  1. Simmer the mustard greens as directed above.
  2. Drain or dry the greens as much as possible.
  3. Purée the greens in a food processor or chop them by hand, add 4 to 6 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, and a dash of nutmeg, then blend well.

How to boil mustard greens

Boil mustard greens covered in water that clings to leaves after rinsing. Quick boil until wilted (2 to 4 minutes for 1½ pounds of greens). Drain. Shorten the cooking time if the greens start to become too soft or mushy.

How to microwave mustard greens

Arrange the greens in a microwave-proof baking dish Cover and microwave on high (100%) for 5 to 7 minutes for 1 pound, stirring after 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 2 minutes.

Mustard greens flavor partners

  • Mustard green have a flavor affinity for aged grating cheese, bacon, corn, cornbread, curry, garlic, ham, hot sauce, lemon, onion, salt pork, smoked turkey, and vinegar.
  • Season mustard greens with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, basil, dill, mace, nutmeg, allspice, mustard, parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme.

Mustard greens nutrition

  • Mustard greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, thiamine, and riboflavin.
  • One cup (140 grams) of cooked mustard greens contains 21 calories.

The botanical name of curled mustard greens is Brassica juncea.

The botanical name of komatsuma is Brassica campestris.

Mustard articles at Harvest to Table:

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Mustard Greens

Six Ways to Cook and Serve Mustard Greens

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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