Make greens the star of the sideboard.
Southern-Style Collard Greens
Credit: Jim Franco; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Simon Andrews

Sure, the turkey is the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but it's the side dishes that are the true unsung heroes of the feast. The variety of classic offerings—from sweet potato casserole and cranberries to dressing and macaroni and cheese—are worthy of their own plateful. And what's a Southern-style spread without collards? Greens are a versatile, tried-and-true veggie that are also easy to cook—put them in a stew, add them to a casserole, or serve them on their own. Editor-at-Large Virginia Willis reminds us that healthy and delicious collards are staples of Southern cooking. Another bonus of collard greens: They can be prepped ahead of time, giving a busy host one less worry on Thanksgiving Day.

While many collard greens recipes call for ham hocks, try adding bacon to your stockpot this year. Much like ham, the fat from the bacon gives the greens a smoky, rich flavor. It also provides extra salt and gives the greens a tender texture. Guests will return for seconds (and thirds) for these delicious, flavorful greens.

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Choose thick-cut bacon (like our 2017 Southern Living Food Awards winner Applewood Smoked Butcher Thick Cut Bacon by Oscar Mayer), and chop the strips into cubes. Cook them in a cast-iron skillet or large saucepan, just until the fat renders. Discard the bacon grease for another use, and add the bacon chunks to the pot of collard greens. Preparing the greens in a slow cooker frees up space on the stove-top, and the additional time it takes to cook them will allow the flavors to mix even more. When they're done, serve them plain, or dress them up with a delicious topping like homemade chowchow.

Serving a feast for your family this year? See our best-ever cooking tips for preparing an unforgettable Thanksgiving meal.