I’m always on the lookout for new and creative bread substitutes, especially when they involve more vegetables. That’s why I adore collard wraps.

I generally hate lettuce wraps. They’re messy, terrible at holding fillings, and every time I find myself eating one, I wonder why I didn’t make a salad instead. I was therefore delighted to find that collard wraps do NOT have the same problems. They pass the handheld food test quite well and don’t feel like a salad in disguise. Yes.

I can’t take credit for the idea, as I first discovered it at the wonderful restaurant Zeal in downtown Boulder. Zeal can make any of their sandwiches as collard wraps, completely eliminating the need for bread as far as I’m concerned. Burger, pork bahn mi, fish sandwich–you name it, you can get it wrapped in a pretty green leaf.

Much of Zeal’s menu is derived from the Conscious Cleanse, a Boulder-based program that emphasizes whole foods and LOTS of veggies. This is where the collard wrap idea comes from. I can’t say I’ve done the cleanse (nor does it fit what’s right for me personally), but I applaud the program for its creative recipes anyway. And the collard wrap is arguably their simplest and best idea.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Wash your collard leaves and cut 2-3 inches of stem out of each leaf. The stem will be too fibrous and chewy if you leave it in.

2. Place 3 leaves in boiling water and cook for 20-30 seconds.

3. Remove leaves from water and place on a paper towel to dry.

And here are some filling ideas:

  • Turkey lunchmeat with mayo and tomatoes
  • Taco meat with salsa, cilantro and onions
  • Tuna salad
  • Shredded carrots, guacamole and sprouts
  • Scrambled eggs and bacon, smothered in green chile

I filled my most recent batch of wraps with chicken salad. I honestly didn’t feel like I needed anything else for lunch.