Vegetarian Journal 2005 Issue 1

Vegan Cooking Tips

Fast Greens

by Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

Cooking greens may seem daunting since they are so leafy and come in a big volume. Don’t be intimidated, though.

You’ll need to weigh your time, your budget, and your cooking equipment when selecting greens to buy. Here is the rundown:


Usually available in whole leaf or chopped, varieties usually include spinach, collard, mustard, and sometimes kale or mixed greens.

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How to prepare

Frozen spinach should be thawed before cooking. This makes it easier to handle, and it will cook more evenly. Place the amount of spinach you’ll need in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least three hours (or overnight).

Place the desired amount of frozen greens or thawed spinach in a microwave-safe bowl. Figure that about 3/4 cup (6 ounces) frozen greens or thawed spinach will make one serving. You don’t need to add any water. Microwave on HIGH for 1-1/2 minutes for each serving. Remove from microwave and drain, if desired. Season with ground black pepper, white pepper, onion or garlic powder, chopped onions or garlic, or red pepper flakes. Then, toss with a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of vinegar, or a splash of oil.

To cook on top of the stove, fill a pot with 1/4 cup water for each serving. Bring to a boil. Add thawed spinach or frozen greens and allow to cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until hot. If you are really in a hurry, cover the pot; just be certain not to let the greens overcook. Drain and season, as indicated for frozen greens.


Cleaned or bagged greens, such as spinach, kale, collards, mustards, or beet greens.

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How to prepare

Place the amount of greens that you’d like to cook in a colander. Figure about 1-1/2 cups of uncooked greens per serving. Run very briefly under cold water and shake to dry. If necessary, rip into small pieces. (Some cleaned greens come already shredded; baby spinach leaves are small enough without ripping.)

Heat a deep pot and spray with vegetable oil. No liquid is necessary. Keep heat on high. Quickly add greens, stirring and tossing. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the amount you’re cooking. Three or four servings of spinach should take only 2-3 minutes to prepare this way. Tougher greens, such as kale or collards, may take 3-4 minutes.

As soon as greens have just become tender, remove from heat, toss with spices, vinegar, or oil, and serve.

For steaming, follow the same procedures for frozen greens. You may have to fold fresh greens into the pot in batches, waiting for the first greens to wilt and make room.


Usually fresh from the farmer or from the market.

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How to clean

Put on your glasses! Before you prepare these greens, you must thoroughly clean them, as there may be sand, silt, pebbles, and other extraneous matter. Place a small amount of greens in a colander, run cold water over them, and carefully scrutinize each leaf to be sure there’s nothing there but the greens.

Some people like to fill a cleaned sink with cold water and put all the greens in the sink, carefully sifting through the leaves and cleaning them as they go. Just be careful not to let the greens soak for a long time, or they will become waterlogged and will taste soggy when cooked.

How to prepare

You’ll cook these greens in the same way as the cleaned greens. This may take some time. It’s worth it, though. Fresh greens have a wonderful flavor, color, and texture.


Greens can be quickly steamed or sautéed, tossed with spices, vinegar, lemon juice, and/or oil, and eaten! Serve them as a side dish, use them as a bed for baked tofu or barbecued vegetables, or add them to herbed brown rice. Toss cooked, shredded greens with pasta for a fast entrée, or stir into soups for extra taste and texture.

Excerpts from the 2005 Issue 1:
Hot, Hearty Soups for Cold Winter Days
Make a meal with a chowder, chili, or stew from Peggy Rynk.
2004 VRG Essay Contest Winners
Two young winners relate their experiences with vegetarianism.
Fast Food Update
Heather Gorn investigates vegetarian and vegan options at four quick service restaurant chains.
Nutrition Hotline
Does adding fish and fish oils to your diet contribute to heart health?
Note from the Coordinators
Veggie Bits
Notes from the VRG Scientific Department
Interviews that our dietitians granted, outreach, Congressional bill concerning soymilk in schools, and VRG testifies about the USDA food pyramid.
Vegan Cooking Tips
Fast Greens, by Chef Nancy Berkoff
Scientific Update
Book Reviews
Vegetarian Action
“Just Cook,” He Said
Skai Davis: An Enterprising Vegan Restauranteur, by Ben A. Shaberman

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.

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Last Updated
Feb. 14, 2005

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