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Melvin’s Legendary Collard Greens Recipe

The Bessinger family of Holly Hill is arguably the most important family in the history of SC BBQ, and that is a long and storied history.

Originating in Orangeburg County in the late 1930s, when patriarch Joe Bessinger opened his Holly Hill Café, the Bessingers became the first family of SCBBQ.

Big Joe Bessinger
Big Joe Bessinger

From Joe, his boys learned to cook whole hogs over wood embers and learned to make what may well have been the world’s first mustard-based BBQ sauce.

Over time, the boys split out to establish a number of SCBBQ’s favorite restaurants, including Melvin’s, (Mt Pleasant and James Island locations), Maurice’s, 13 Piggie Park locations at the time of this writing, Bessinger’s, Robert’s, Joe Bessinger’s, and others.

While the BBQ and the sauce are SCBBQ classics (and the onion rings deserve a mention here as well), I can’t remember the last time I ate BBQ and didn’t have a serving of collards on the side if they were available.

Melvin's BBQ Plate with Collard Greens
Melvin’s BBQ Plate with Collard Greens

Some are salty, some are sweet, but when done right, they all are delicious…..and Melvin’s does them right!

By reader request, The Sun Sentinel reached out to Melvin’s and was granted the privilege of publishing the following recipe for Melvin’s Legendary Collard Greens:

Melvin's Legendary Collard Greens Recipe

Melvin’s Legendary Collard Greens Recipe

Get all the recipes we’ve published on this site and more collected together in over 150 pages of recipes, stories, and history in our cookbook, SCBBQ Recipes: Going Whole Hog.

Melvin’s Legendary Collard Greens

Melvin's Legendary Collard Greens Recipe

Melvin’s Legendary BBQ Collard Greens Recipe

Yield: 2 gallons
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Melvin's Barbecue in Mount Pleasant and James Island are famous for their legendary BBQ: pulled pork, ribs, and more -- as well as their golden mustard sauce. In fact, Melvin's father, Joe Bessinger, may well be the person who invented mustard-based BBQ sauce in the 1930s in Holly Hill, SC. But their sides are just as noteworthy. Melvin's collard greens, for instance, are exceptional. Smoky with a slight sweetness, these collards will please even the pickiest of eaters.


  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • ½ cup Knorr’s chicken base
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 6 bunches fresh collards


  1. Using a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine water, ham hocks, onion, chicken base, brown sugar, and pepper and boil for 30 minutes.
  2. “Peel collards” by separating the leaf from the thick center stalk, discard stalks. Coarsely chop leafy collards.
  3. Add collards to seasoned water. Boil until collards are tender, about 60-90 minutes, adding water as needed to keep collards submerged.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 32 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 43Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 29mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g

Want More Authentic SC BBQ Recipes?

Check out our SC BBQ Cookbook. Complete with over 150 pages of recipes from generations-old family cookbooks and today's top pitmasters.

Check out these other authentic SCBBQ sides recipes we’ve published on destination-bbq:

Lone Star BBQ’s Tomato Pie Recipe

Swig & Swine’s Pork Rinds with Tabasco Honey and Blue Cheese recipe

And we’ve published the following sides recipes in the SCBBQ Recipes: Going Whole Hog cookbook  (read more about that here):


  • Rodney Scott’s Collard Greens Recipe
  • Rodney Scott’s Banana Puddin’ Family Recipe
  • Melvin’s Legendary Collard Greens Recipe
  • Fried Corn, Shuler’s BBQ-Style
  • Swig and Swine’s Pork Rinds with Tabasco, Honey, & Blue Cheese Recipe
  • Swig & Swine’s Pimento Cheese Recipe
  • Swig & Swine’s Quick And Easy Creamy Coleslaw Recipe
  • Swig and Swine’s Beans with Brisket Recipe
  • Home Team BBQ’s Mac and Cheese Recipe
  • Home Team BBQ’s Collards Recipe
  • Jimmy Hagood’s Cast-Iron Skillet Corn Bread With Cane Syrup Recipe
  • Jimmy Hagood’s Lowcountry Brunswick Stew Recipe
  • John Lewis’s Hatch Green Chile Corn Pudding Recipe
  • Lewis Barbecue-Style Cole Slaw Recipe
  • John Lewis’s Buttermilk Potato Salad Recipe
  • John Lewis’s Hatch Chile-Cheese Biscuits Recipe
  • Price’s Bar-B-Que’s Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
  • Price’s Bar-B-Que’s Broccoli Cornbread Muffins Recipe
  • Joe Dabney’s Palmetto-Style Hush Puppies
  • Bessinger’s Copycat Onion Ring Recipe

James Roller

Monday 16th of April 2018

Thanks, Jen! Hope you were able to try them and had a great visit with your family.


Wednesday 15th of November 2017

What a great gift - right in time for the holidays when I will be spending a lot of time with my collards loving family. I should have this down by now, but excited to have this well-loved version to try. Thanks for sharing!

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