Collard Greens Fry (Varai)

In tamil we call this kind of recipe “Varai”.  Normally varai is made from different kind of leafy vegetables.  For example Kale, Collard greens, cabbage, Leek (which is not a leafy vegetable).  Also in Jaffna people make varai from vegetables such as carrot, beets, Banana flower, okra etc  Check out different fry recipe page for the recipes.  Other leafy vegetables used in Sri Lanka for varai are “Ponnangkaani”, drumstick leaves (Murungai illai), “Chandi illai”


  • 1 bunch fresh collard green (yields 8 oz chopped collard greens)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 dried red chilies broken into 2 pieces


  • Wash collard greens thoroughly and remove the stems
  • Finely chop the leaves
  • Add chopped collard greens, water, salt, and chili powder to a saucepan and cover and cook for about 5 minutes in medium flame
  • Remove cover and lower the flame and cook until all the water is evaporated stirring continuously to prevent burning
  • Add coconut and mix well and cook for another minute or two
  • Set aside
  • Add oil to a skillet and when it’s hot, add onion and garlic and fry until golden
  • Add red chilies and fry for another minute
  • Transfer the cooked collard greens to the skillet and mix well
  • Serve warm with rice

Frozen collard greens can be replaced to fresh ones.  But when using frozen ones, reduce the amount of water used for cooking.

3 thoughts on “Collard Greens Fry (Varai)

  1. thank you I love all your recepies..but was wishing you would post a shri lankan dish..I must search your site for more pictures of products and produce available at my local tamil grocery store..your site really helps me to know how to use what is available!!
    also thank you for the snow pictures…from last week!!

  2. I love this dish, but I think bitter greens are an acquired taste and I want to serve this to a Mexican American friend. Can you recommend greens which work well with this dish but aren’t too bitter? Would the greens of leeks be too tough?

    1. Greens of leek has a pleasant flavor (I like them). Also they are quite quick cooking. I think your choice is good. Since leek greens have a mild onion or similar flavor, they will definitely go with this. you can also try Bok-Choy

      I hope you are not planning to mix the different greens into one.

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