What Is Pot Likker?

Some say it's the best part of making beans and greens.

slow-cooked greens

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners; Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

The history of pot likker dates back to enslaved cooks trying to make the most of the food they had. Frugal Southern cooks continued in that path, keeping the rich and flavorful liquid created by cooking a pot of greens or beans. The concentrated liquid left behind after boiling greens or beans maintains roots deep in Southern culture and cooking traditions. 

Just like with a protein stock, pot likker layers flavors and can be used as a base for everything from soups to gravies to dressings. Or you can simply eat it alone, dipping corn pone or cornbread into the flavorful liquid. 

How To Make Pot Likker

Pot likker is a simple by-product of cooking greens or beans. Start with greens (usually collards), then flavor as you normally would, and simmer until tender. Strain as much of the liquid, or likkor, off the beans and greens. Use as planned on their own.

Recipes for making greens: 

What Other Greens Besides Collards Can Be Used to Make Pot Likker?

Collard greens are the greens used most often to create pot likker, but cooks can also make use of other produce like turnip greens, mustard greens, or radish greens.

Venturing into more unique green options, like fennel, chicory, or radicchio, can create a new flavor base for the dish and leftover liquid. The key is to remember how the greens taste: If they are bitter, earthy, or salty, balancing out that flavor with sweet or salty ham can further enhance or soften the greens' flavor.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Making Pot Likker?

The biggest benefit of making pot likker is the obvious one: a flavorful base for soups, gravies, and stews. That’s not the only benefit, however. Pot likker maintains much of the nutrients of the greens including iron and vitamins A, C, and K.

Another benefit in creating your own pot likker is maintaining time-honored traditions of making the most of ingredients. One pot of greens can net a side dish and cups of flavorful pot likker, leaving nothing wasted. 


Stretch the greens even further by making Pickled Collard Green Stems with leftover collard stems.

Can You Use Beans to Make Pot Likker? 

Choosing the right beans to make pot likker is important. While you can strain off the liquid from any type of beans, white or lighter colored beans, like canneloni or navy beans, will create a cleaner-looking pot liquor, which can work better in some recipes.

black-eyed peas and greens

Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

What Can You Add to Collard Greens to Make Pot Likker More Flavorful?

Try adding spices like smoked paprika or garlic to enhance the greens or beans flavors. The most traditional seasoning is salt fat pork, but sweet ham can also be used; keep in mind how salty you want the liquid to be. If adding salt and pepper or other salty spices, a less salty protein might be a better choice. 

What Are Other Names for Pot Likker?

Pot likker is most common, but it also goes by pot liquor, potlikker, or collard liquor. Whatever you call it, the base is the same: It’s the flavorful liquid left behind after boiling or long simmering greens or beans.

How Should You Store Pot Likker? 

After you remove the pot likker from your greens and beans, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternately, consider pouring it into ice cube trays, and store those in the freezer for up to 3 months. Then, the frozen liquid can be pulled out of the freezer cube by cube as an easy soup, dressing, or gravy base. 

Is There Any Alcohol in Pot Likker or Pot Liquor?

Although there is "liquor" in the name, there is no alcohol in pot liquor. Pot liquor is made for cooking, not drinking!

How Can You Make Gravy With Pot Likker? 

Pot likker makes a great substitute in gravy recipes—simply sub out the same number of cups of stock for pot likker. Serve as a usual gravy with mashed potatoes or over turkey or ham. Try this Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe with pot likker subbing in for turkey broth at the holidays or on a weekday. 

What Should You Eat With Pot Likker? 

You don’t have to turn pot likker into its own recipe. You can eat it warm out of the pan. The most traditional way of consuming pot likker is with corn pone or corn bread for dipping or crumbled into the liquid.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles