How To Make Authentic Runzas
Runzas? You might be wondering, “what the heck is a runza, anyway?” If you don’t know, you probably are not from Nebraska. Still, I will share our delicious secret with you! A runza is a classic buttery-beef, savory cabbage-and-onion-filled sandwich, which is more like a hand pie, lovingly baked in a pocket of yeasty dough. They are pretty amazing!
Happy News A Runza By Any Other Name Is Still A Runza
According to Wikipedia, a runza can be any shape, round, square, triangular, or half-moons. They are called different names in other regions; bierocks, kraut burgers, or kraut pirok. But a runza by any other name is still a runza!
Runzas are a cherished part of the regional cuisine of Nebraska. Some pundits say they are as “Nebraskan as Cornhusker (University of Nebraska) football.” Across the country, Nebraska fans are known for their unwavering loyalty to the program through thick and thin. Runzas are equally beloved.
The Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C., and the Nebraska Society of New York serve runzas at their Taste Of Nebraska events. Runzas were even chosen to represent the state at Flavored Nation, an event serving iconic dishes from all fifty states.
In Nebraska, there’s a fast-food chain that bears the name. It’s a great (and funny!) three-generation story! Runzas were born here. There are 78 Runza restaurants, and only 4 are located outside the state.
In 2016 alone, the chain sold some 2 million of the classic sandwiches. So many fanatics hankered for the savory delight that now it’s possible to get them shipped, frozen, right to your door!
About 90,000 fans attend each University of Nebraska home football game. On every game day, about 10,000 of the cherished sandwiches are sold. That means about one in every nine people there will choose a Runza despite the fact there are hundreds of other food options.
The name RUNZA is trademarked, but church cookbooks all over the state have recipes for a homemade version. And the Everett family, who founded the restaurant, doesn’t seem to get too steamed about it, so I’ll share my recipe with you!
Rejoice All You Runza-less Folks Out There I’ll Show You How To Make Them
I hope I’ve aroused your curiosity! You make a pretty darn good Runza at home, in fact, a whole batch of them! Here’s how you do it! Like do-re-mi in music, it all starts with the dough!
In your large stand mixer, make the dough. Option B: Do everything by hand and knead the dough. Feel virtuous; build up your arm strength. Option C: Use frozen bread dough, thawed out. Easy, semi-homemade, and you still get all the fantastic smells while they’re cooking and baking.
I have the best hint for making bread dough in a stand mixer; drape the mixer head and bowl with a clean dishtowel as you add the flour. It saves a lot of mess. I mention that again in the recipe.
Second best hint; keep a wide, clean paintbrush to sweep runaway flour off the mixer and counter into the trash or sink. I do that before I start the soap and water cleanup. This way, there’s less of a pasty mess, and it takes less time. I admit it; I’m a little lazy.
Runzas Are Absolutely The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Cabbage
While the dough rises, make the filling. Begin by browning the ground beef in a large skillet just until it starts to lose its pinkness. Break it up into a fairly fine crumble.
Next, chop a medium head of cabbage and a medium onion. You should end up with about 6 cups of cabbage, but it doesn’t have to be exact. Add the cabbage, onions, butter, and seasonings to the beef. Continue to cook until the meat browns a little and the cabbage and onions are soft and wilted. Set aside to cool.
Here’s How To Put Together Your Very Own Yummy Homemade Runzas
Divide the dough into 16 portions. Roll each dough ball into a slipper-shaped oval. Put about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of meat mixture on the dough and fold it up, sealing the edges well.
I keep a cup of warm water nearby while I’m doing this. I’ve found the dough sticks together and seals better if I dip my finger in the water and run it along the edge of the dough.
Don’t aim for perfection (unless you are hosting foreign dignitaries.) Think handmade, think rustic; channel your inner Pioneer Woman. We want them to look homemade because they are!
Next, lay them on a greased cookie sheet, tummy side down. They need to rest for a while.
Let them rise about 20-30 minutes. Then bake them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Now, brush the tops with melted butter. Don’t they look fabulous?
You’ve Got This You Just Made Some Runzas
Once you have tackled your first batch of runzas, you’ll start thinking of ideas to make them your own. Tuck cheese on top of the filling before baking? Check. Add mushrooms, yep. Use Italian seasoning in the meat mixture and dip them in marinara sauce? Bellissimo! Get it? Here’s another chance to color outside the lines and do your thing.
My husband eats his with mustard. He tears each runza into tiny bites. Then he smears the yellow goodness on each mouthful. What to serve with a runza? French fries or potato chips are standard, but fried apples would be great. Vegetable soup, tomato soup, or broccoli cheese soup would also pair well!
By the way, runzas freeze and reheat well, see recipe for details!
Hey! Before you turn off the oven, whip up a batch of these crazy easy bar cookies. They are amazing! I now pronounce you honorary Huskers! Welcome to the good life!
Easy Homemade Runzas
Classic Russian-German buttery beef, onion, and savory cabbage-filled sandwich baked in a yeasty pocket of dough. It resembles a hand pie.
- Dough, the Runza Wrapper
- 2 cups very warm water about 110 degrees, about the temperature of bathwater
- 5 tsp yeast or two packets
- 2 Tbsp butter softened
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 cups flour approximately
- 2-3 Tbsp butter melted, to brush on finished runza
- Runza Filling
- 6 cups chopped cabbage about one medium head
- 2 pounds ground beef
- One medium onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp garlic powder or more if you like
- 2 tsp favorite seasoned salt
- 2 tsp pepper
Making The Dough
It is by far easier to make the dough with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Put warm water, yeast, sugar, salt, and butter in the mixer bowl and add a cup of flour. Using the whip attachment, mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- Hint: grab a clean dish towel and wrap it around the bowl. That is unless you enjoy cleaning up flour. (I don't.)
- Add 2 cups of flour, one at a time, and beat well. Keep the mixer draped for the next step.
- Switch to a dough hook and keep adding flour gradually until the hook starts pulling the dough away from the sides of the bowl.
- Stop the mixer and feel the dough. If it's still sticky, add a tablespoon or so of flour at a time and resume kneading with the dough hook.
- Stop adding flour when it's soft but handles without sticking to your fingers. Great bread dough should feel satiny and elastic.
- Remove the dough hook and gather the dough into a ball.
- Spray the bowl generously with non-stick spray and return the dough to the bowl. It's not necessary to wash it before you do.
- Smooth a little cooking oil or olive oil over the dough, cover the bowl with a dishtowel and set it in a nice warm place to rise for about an hour. (In the summer, I've found my car makes a great proofing box!!)
- When the dough has doubled in size, divide it into 16 pieces and roll out into a thin oval about 6" by 8". Heavens, this is no time for exactitude. Think rustic and handmade. I like my runzas a little on the small side with thin, crisp dough wrappers. You may like yours chubby.
Making the Filling
- Brown the ground beef until it begins to lose its pink.
- Next, add the butter, olive oil, onion, and cabbage and cook until the cabbage and onion wilts and the ground beef gets a little brown. Finally, break up the meat into pretty fine crumbles.
- Add salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Set it aside to cool until the bread is ready and rolled out.
- Put about 1/2- 2/3 cup of filling on each dough oval and fold over, sealing edges of the bread dough.
- You may water to wet the dough with your finger dipped in warm water for a better seal.
- Place each runza seam side down on a baking sheet. Leave a bit of space between each one to allow the bread to rise.
- Let them rise about 20-30 minutes.
- Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Brush with melted butter when they come out of the oven to give them a soft, beautiful color and tasty crust.
- These keep well in the fridge for a few days. Or, wrap individually in foil and freeze. They freeze well, so make a bunch when you do.
- REHEAT: Heat frozen wrapped runzas in 400* oven for 20-25 min. Remove foil last 5 min.
Have you ever eaten a runza or a bierock? Have you ever even heard of them? So many of us here in the plains states grew up on them! Many folks who move away from this get homesick for a runza!
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this recipe looks good, have you ever tried putting shredded cheese inside prior to baking?
I haven’t done it, but I know others do. Make sure you don’t overload them and seal them up so the filling stays inside! Sounds yummy! Let me know how they turn out!!
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I have been making these for years. My husband’s Gramma taught me, but she called the Kraut Kugas. We have even made a desert one by filling with apple pie filling, so good too.
By the way I live on BC Canada
Thanks for a great story! I will try the dessert version!
I love these. My sister used to make these all the time. These are much better than the commercial ones. Thanks for making your recipe available.
Ack! Frances, I am so sorry I missed your comment. They are so good, so hearty, and so economical! They also freeze great and reheat beautifully!!
I make these with sauerkraut instead of the cabbage. I love to dip them in thousand island dressing. Most of my family lives in Lincoln, so I’ve had the real thing. I think the homemade is so much better. I customize them for my kids, with what they like.
I’m going to try that next time!! Yes, I agree homemade are WAY better!!
Give credit where credit is due! This is an old European recipe, hence the name ‘kraut burger, etc.’ . May have been adapted by persons in Nebraska but was not formulated by or in that state. The recipe is known and made world wide.
Yes, immigrants brought their recipes with them to the United States. Among them were the Russian Germans who brought them with them to Nebraska. The wonderful sandwiches have many names. You are 100% correct. https://volga.domains.unf.edu/biographies/brening-alex-sally-brening-everett