What Is Pot Likker?

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Step into the heart of Southern culinary tradition, where simmering pots and mouthwatering aromas weave tales of rich history and cultural heritage. Nestled within Southern cuisine lies a hidden gem – a humble elixir known as pot likker. 

Cherished for generations, this liquid gold has played a captivating role in shaping the South’s flavors and stories. For all the non-Southern wondering what is pot likker? All the delicious answers are just a few scrolls away.

What Is Pot Likker?

What is pot likker, and why is it so important?

Pot likker, also known as “pot liquor” or “potlikker,” is a term used to describe the liquid left behind after cooking greens, such as Black folks’ soul food collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, or kale. 

Why is it called pot likker?

It’s a flavorful and nutritious broth that results from boiling greens with seasonings and often meat, such as baconham hocks, or smoked turkey. The term “likker” is a dialectical pronunciation of “liquor.”

What is the origin of pot likker?

The history of pot likker is closely tied to the African American experience and the origin of Southern soul food cuisine

Enslaved Africans were often given discarded and leftover vegetables, such as the stems of the leaves of greens. To make the most of these scraps, they would boil them for a long time, resulting in a flavorful liquid known as pot likker.

What are some of the benefits of making pot likker?

What are some of the benefits of making pot likker?

Enslaved owners would eat the greens and set aside the leftover pot likker broth to feed the enslaved, not knowing that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient rich.

For enslaved African Americans, pot likker became highly valued because it contained essential nutrients and flavors otherwise lacking in the enslaved population’s diet. It provided a source of sustenance and nourishment, especially for the sick and weak.

How can you make gravy with pot likker?

In addition to being consumed as broth, pot likker was often utilized as a cooking liquid for other dishes to infuse them with its rich, savory flavors. Pot likker could be used to make pot likker soup, flavor stews, or as a base for cooking beans, grains, or gravy.

Over time, pot likker has remained a beloved part of Southern cuisine and gained recognition outside its cultural origins. It is often served with biscuits or cornbread, which soak up the flavorful liquid. Some variations of pot likker incorporate additional ingredients like bacon, ham hocks, or hot sauce to enhance the taste.

Today, pot likker continues to be celebrated as a symbol of African American culinary heritage. It’s enjoyed by people from various backgrounds as a delicious and nourishing dish.

What is pot likker, and why is it so important?

Ingredients for Southern soul food pot likker collard greens

  • 2 pounds (3 bundles) of collard greens
  • 1 pre-cooked smoked turkey leg (optional)
  • 1 cup of yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups of tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups of chicken stock (use vegetable stock to make vegan and vegetarian-friendly)
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon of sriracha or hot sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning or Cajun or Creole seasoning 
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
What is the history of collard greens?

Instructions for Southern soul food pot likker collard greens

  1. Clean the collard greens and cut off the stems. 
  2. Then roughly chop the leaves in half through the midline and then into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Open the Instant Pot lid and add the wet ingredients (chicken stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and hot sauce to the stainless-steel inner pot.
  4. Add the onion, tomatoes, garlic, Old Bay or Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine the ingredients. 
  5. Add the clean collard greens and the cooked turkey leg. 
  6. Press down to sink the greens as much as possible into the liquid broth.
  7. Close the Instant Pot lid (ensure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
  8. When cooking is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 15 minutes.
  9. To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  10. Serve a Southern collard greens recipe right away, and enjoy!
What should you eat with pot likker?

What should you eat with pot likker?

To fully appreciate the rich and savory taste of pot likker, it’s best to pair it with complementary dishes that will provide a well-rounded meal. There are several Southern soul food classic options to choose from when it comes to what to eat with pot likker. Including favorite soul food dinner options like fried chicken, cornbread dressing, and sweet potato pie.

What to serve with pot likker collard greens

  • Cornbread – A classic pairing with pot likker is cornbread. The slightly sweet and crumbly texture of cornbread complements the savory broth, and it’s perfect for soaking and sopping up the flavorful liquid.
  • Biscuits – Fluffy and buttery biscuits are another popular choice with pot likker. They can be torn apart and dipped into the broth for a delightful combination of flavors.
  • Rice – Serving pot likker over a steamed white or brown rice bed is satisfying. The rice absorbs the broth and adds a hearty element to the dish.
  • Ham – To enhance the flavors of pot likker, you can serve it with slices of ham or smoked ham hocks. The saltiness and richness of the ham complement the broth and greens.
Black Folks Soul Food Collard Greens Recipe

What is pot likker FAQs

What are other names for pot likker?

Pot likker, also known as “pot liquor” or “potlikker,” is the primary name for the flavorful broth made from cooked greens. 

What is the meaning of pot likker?

Pot likker can also be spelled as “potlikker” or called “potlikker soup” when used as a base for soup. 

“Collard liquor” may also be used specifically for the broth made from cooking collard greens. 

These variations highlight different aspects of the dish. Still, all generally refer to the same meaning of the nutrient-rich liquid derived from simmering greens.

What is the origin of pot likker?

What is pot liquor used for?

Pot liquor, also known as pot likker, is a versatile cooking liquid that can be used in various ways to add flavor and depth to dishes. Here are some common pot liquor uses:

  • Soups and stews – The most significant use of pot likker is as a flavor base for soups and stews. Its rich, savory taste adds depth to the broth and enhances its overall flavor.
  • Gravy – Pot liquor can be used to make delicious gravy. It adds a distinct and earthy flavor that complements meats and vegetables. Simply thicken the pot liquor with flour or cornstarch, season it to taste, and serve it over your desired dish.
  • Cooking greens – Since pot likker is derived from cooking collards, you can also use leftover pot likker to cook fresh greens. You can use leftover pot likker instead of water or broth to braise or simmer the greens when preparing collard greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens.
  • Beans and legumes – Pot likker can also be used as a cooking liquid for beans and legumes, such as red beans, black-eyed peas, or lima beans. It imparts a delicious taste to the beans and enhances their overall flavor. Using pot liquor instead of plain water elevates the dish to an entirely different Southern soul food flavorful level!

What other greens besides collards can be used to make pot likker?

Pot likker is organically made by boiling greens: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and even kale.

What can you add to collard greens to make pot likker more flavorful?

What can you add to collard greens to make pot likker more flavorful?

You can add several ingredients to potlikker made from boiled greens to make it more flavorful. Adding the following are Southern soul food favorites that enhance the taste:

Smoked meat – Adding smoked meat such as ham hocks, smoked turkey legs, or bacon can infuse the pot likker with a rich and smoky flavor. The meat slowly cooks with the greens, releasing its savory essence into the broth.

Onions and garlic – Sautéing onions and garlic before adding the collard greens can provide a flavorful base for the pot likker. They add aromatic and savory notes that complement the greens.

Seasonings and spices – Enhance the flavor with seasonings and spices like salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, or even a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat. Adjust the amounts to suit your taste preferences.

Vinegar or lemon juice – A splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice can brighten the pot likker’s flavors and impart a zesty zing. The acidity helps balance the richness of the broth and adds a tangy element.

Stock or broth – If desired, incorporate vegetable, beef, or chicken stock/broth into the pot likker. It can intensify the overall flavor and provide an additional layer of depth.

What are other names for pot likker?

What are some of the benefits of making pot likker?

Making pot likker offers several benefits, both culinary and nutritional. Here are some advantages:

  • Flavorful base – Pot likker provides a rich and flavorful base for soups, gravies, and stews. Its savory taste enhances the overall flavor profile of dishes, adding depth and complexity.
  • Nutrient-Rich – Pot likker retains many of the nutrients found in the greens, such as iron, vitamins A, C, and K. By consuming pot likker, you can benefit from the nutritional value of the greens.
  • Utilizing ingredients – Making pot likker is a great way to maximize ingredients and minimize waste. A single pot of greens can provide a side dish and cups of tasty pot likker.
  • Honoring traditions – Making potlikker preserves time-honored soul food culinary traditions, especially in Southern cooking. It honors the African American heritage and resourcefulness of those who passed down the tradition of making the most out of ingredients.
Can you use beans to make pot likker?

Can you use beans to make pot likker?

Yes, beans can be used to make a variation of pot likker. While the traditional pot likker is made from cooking greens, you can create a bean-based pot likker by simmering beans in a flavorful liquid. 

The process involves cooking dried beans, such as red beans, black-eyed peas, cannelloni, or navy beans, in a seasoned broth until they become tender and release their flavors into the liquid. 

This results in a rich and savory bean broth that can be enjoyed as a soup or used as a base for other dishes. The bean pot likker offers a thicker and different taste profile but still creates a flavorful and nourishing liquid from cooking ingredients.

A great recipe for potlikker made from collard greens and beans is Southern soul food Hoppin’ John.

Soul Food Collard Greens

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The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
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Southern Soul Food Pot Likker
What Is Pot Likker?

Southern Soul Food Pot Likker Collard Greens

What is pot likker, and why is it so important?
Pot likker, also known as "pot liquor" or "potlikker," is a term used to describe the liquid left behind after cooking greens. A flavorful and nutrient-rich broth, pot likker is continually celebrated as a symbol of African-American culinary heritage.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Pressure Release Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern Food, Vegan Soul Food
Servings: 8
Calories: 240kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot electric pressure cooker
  • or a large stockpot with a lid

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds collard greens 3 bundles
  • 1 turkey leg pre-cooked/smoked (this ingredient is optional)
  • 1 cup yellow onion diced
  • 2 cups tomatoes diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock use vegetable stock to make vegan and vegetarian-friendly
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or sriracha sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

Instructions for a Southern collard greens recipe in the Instant Pot

  • Clean the collard greens and cut off the stems.
    Clean the collard greens and cut off the stems.
  • Then roughly chop the leaves in half through the midline and then into bite-sized pieces.
    Chop the leaves in half through the midline and then into bite-sized pieces.
  • Open the Instant Pot lid and add the wet ingredients (chicken stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and hot sauce to the stainless-steel inner pot.
  • Next, add the onion, tomatoes, garlic, Old Bay or Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and stir to combine the ingredients.
  • Finally, add the collard greens, followed by the cooked turkey leg.
    Finally, add the collard greens, followed by the cooked turkey leg.
  • Press down to sink the greens as much as you can into the liquid broth.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
    Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 15 minutes.
  • To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  • Serve Black folks’ soul food collard greens right away and enjoy!
    Serve Black folks’ soul food collard greens right away and enjoy!

Instructions for Southern collard greens on the stovetop

  • Add the smoked turkey leg, onion, red pepper flakes, sautéed vegetables, and chicken stock to a large stockpot over medium heat. 
  • Cover the pot with the lid and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Then, add the collard greens, tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, hot sauce, garlic, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper. 
  • Stir to combine the ingredients. (The collards will wilt down as they cook.)
  • Cover the pot with the lid and simmer for 2 hours.
  • Serve this Southern collard greens recipe right away and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Southern Soul Food Pot Likker Recipe Card

Nutrition

Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 1238mg | Potassium: 786mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 6095IU | Vitamin C: 49mg | Calcium: 302mg | Iron: 3mg
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