If you have never heard of a Runza, chances are you haven't made it to Nebraska yet! These savory bread pockets are most frequently filled with ground beef and cabbage and are a delicious handheld meal that is so popular with Nebraskans that they are the unofficial state food and have an entire fast-food chain of Runza restaurants dedicated to them!

Homemade runzas on a plate with one of them cut in half to show the filling inside.
Table of Contents
  1. What are runzas?
  2. What You'll Need
  3. How to Make Homemade Runzas
  4. Recipe FAQ's
  5. Runza Variations
  6. What to Serve With Runzas
  7. Storage Instructions
  8. More Ground Beef Dinner Recipes
  9. Homemade Nebraska Runzas Recipe (aka Bierocks) Recipe

Welcome to Nebraska Week on House of Nash Eats! We're celebrating the Cornhusker State as part of my American Eats series with this homemade runza recipe that reminds me of the runzas I ate while living in Nebraska.

Nebraska's homemade runzas are often served hot at fast food restaurants, diners, and events like county fairs or to Nebraska fans at football games at Cornhusker Stadium at the University of Nebraska. They are often served with ketchup or mustard and are a staple of Nebraskan cuisine. It's not high class fare, but this Nebraska comfort food always hits the spot and my family loves them.

What are runzas?

Runzas are a type of bread pocket filled with various ingredients (but most often ground beef, onions, and cabbage), typically found in the midwestern United States, particularly in Nebraska or Kansas where they are sometimes called bierocks.

The bread pocket of a runza is made from yeast dough and is similar in texture to a hamburger bun but a bit thinner. The filling typically consists of ground beef, onions, and cabbage, but can also include cheese, mushrooms, or other vegetables.

The runza originated from Germans who had immigrated to Russia and Ukraine in the 1700's before resettling in the United States in the Midwest in the 1800's.

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Green cabbage
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Salted butter
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
Ingredients for making homemade runzas.

How to Make Homemade Runzas

  1. Proof yeast. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes or until yeast becomes frothy. If the yeast doesn't foam, you need to discard and start again with fresh yeast.
  2. Mix ingredients. Once the yeast is frothy, add the melted butter, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
  3. Knead. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, kneading until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Start with just 4 cups of flour total and only add the additional cup of flour if needed so the dough is soft and satiny and can be handled without sticking to your fingers very much.
  4. Let rise. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly greased bowl and cover the bread dough loosely with plastic wrap or a clean cloth. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size.
Risen Runza dough in a large glass mixing bowl.
  1. Make filling. Add the ground beef and onions, then cook until browned, breaking up the meat and crumbling it periodically. Add shredded cabbage, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and tender.
  2. Cool filling. Set aside to cool before assembling the runzas. If you add the filling while it is still hot it's likely that the thin bread dough will tear while you are trying to assemble the runzas.
  1. Roll out dough. Divide the homemade dough into 12 evenly sized balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to create rectangles roughly 6"x8" and ¼-inch thick (no need to be exact).
  2. Fill. Spoon about ½ cup to ⅔ cup of the meat mixture onto each rectangle. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal. Place the runzas seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space them a few inches apart so they have room to rise.\
  1. Rise. Preheat oven to 375°F. Let the runzas rise for about 20 to 30 minutes while the oven preheats until slightly puffy.
  2. Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the runzas are golden brown. Brush the tops of the runzas with additional melted butter while still hot for a soft crust and tasty exterior.
  3. Serve. Serve hot with ketchup, mustard, or any condiment of your choice or just enjoy them plain!

Recipe FAQ's

Are runzas and bierocks the same thing?

Yes, runzas and bierocks are essentially the same thing. Both are a type of bread pocket filled with a savory mixture of ground beef, onions, and cabbage (and sometimes other ingredients). The term "bierock" is often used in parts of Kansas and the Dakotas, while "runza" is more commonly used in Nebraska.

Who are Germans-from-Russia?

The Germans from Russia were a group of ethnic Germans who migrated from Germany to Russia in the 18th century at the invitation of Catherine the Great. They settled in the Volga River region and Black Sea region of Russia, where they lived for over a century. In the late 19th century, many Germans from Russia began to migrate to the United States, including to the state of Nebraska where they could get land and the opportunity to farm. They formed tight-knit communities in rural parts of the state with a shared German heritage, language, and culture.

Today, the descendants of Germans from Russia continue to be an important part of Nebraska's cultural heritage. Many of them still live in rural areas and maintain their traditions, including folk music, dance, and food. There are also organizations dedicated to preserving and celebrating their heritage, such as the Germans from Russia Heritage Society and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.

Can I use a premade dough?

Yes, you could use thawed Rhodes rolls dough instead of the homemade dough.

Runza Variations

While traditional runzas are filled with ground beef, onions, and cabbage, there are many variations to the filling that can be used to make unique and delicious runzas. Here are some ideas:

  • Cheeseburger Runza: Add 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese to the beef mixture before filling the dough pockets.
  • Reuben Runza: Use corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese for a delicious take on the classic reuben sandwich.
  • Breakfast Runza: Fill the dough with scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, and cheddar cheese for a savory breakfast treat.
  • Veggie Runza: Use a mixture of sautéed vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, and spinach as a filling for a vegetarian option.
  • Pizza Runza: Fill the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings like pepperoni or sausage. This basically tastes like a hot pocket!
  • Buffalo Chicken Runza: Use shredded cooked chicken tossed in buffalo sauce, with blue cheese crumbles and diced celery.
  • BBQ Pork Runza: Use pulled pork mixed with BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, and coleslaw.

What to Serve With Runzas

If you're wondering what to serve with runzas, here are a few suggestions:

  • Onion Rings: These are my favorite side for enjoying with a runza!
  • Potato Salad: A classic side dish that pairs well with many types of sandwiches, potato salad can be a great option to serve with runzas. The creaminess and tanginess of the potato salad will complement the savory flavor of the runzas nicely.
  • Coleslaw: Another classic side dish that works well with sandwiches, coleslaw is a great option to serve with runzas. The crunchiness and tanginess of the coleslaw will add some texture and balance to the meal.
  • Chips or Fries: For a more casual option, you can serve runzas with potato chips or french fries. This can be a great option for a game day or casual gathering.
  • Soup: If you want to make the meal more substantial, you can serve runzas with a soup. A hearty vegetable or tomato soup can be a great option to complement the flavors of the runzas.
  • Salad: If you're looking for a lighter option, you can serve runzas with a side salad. A simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing can be a great option to balance out the richness of the runzas.

Storage Instructions

Leftover runzas will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes or so until hot.

These also freeze well either before or after baking. If freezing before, immediately freeze the runzas after shaping them, before they have a chance to rise. Transfer the frozen, unbaked runzas to a large airtight ziploc bag for longer term storage. You can bake straight from frozen by adding an extra 10 minutes or so to the bake time or let them thaw completely on the counter and rise for about 2 hours before baking. To reheat frozen, baked runzas, place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes or so until hot.

A plate of homemade runzas with beef and cabbage filling.

More Ground Beef Dinner Recipes

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Homemade Nebraska Runzas Recipe (aka Bierocks)

5 from 4 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rising Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
If you have never heard of a Runza, chances are you haven't made it to Nebraska yet! These savory bread pockets are most frequently filled with ground beef and cabbage and are a delicious handheld meal that is so popular with Nebraskans that they are the unofficial state food and have an entire fast-food chain of Runza restaurants dedicated to them!

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110°F)
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter, melted + extra for brushing the tops of the runzas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (564g to 705g)

Filling

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chopped green cabbage (about ½ medium head)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes or until yeast becomes frothy. If the yeast doesn't foam, you need to discard and start again with fresh yeast.
  • Once the yeast is frothy, add the melted butter, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
  • Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, kneading until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Start with just 4 cups of flour total and only add the additional 5th cup of flour if needed so the dough is soft and satiny and can be handled without sticking to your fingers very much.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and let rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

Filling

  • While the dough is rising, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add the ground beef and onions, then cook until browned, breaking up the meat and crumbling it periodically. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add chopped cabbage, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and tender. Set aside to cool before assembling the runzas.

Assembly

  • Divide the dough into 12 evenly sized balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to create rectangles roughly 6"x8" and ¼-inch thick (no need to be exact).
  • Spoon about ½ cup to ⅔ cup of the beef and cabbage mixture onto each rectangle. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal. Place the runzas seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space them a few inches apart so they have room to rise.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Let the runzas rise for about 20 to 30 minutes while the oven preheats until slightly puffy.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the runzas are golden brown. Brush with additional melted butter while still hot for a soft crust and tasty exterior.
  • Serve hot with ketchup, mustard, or any condiment of your choice or just enjoy them plain!

Notes

  • Storage: Leftover runzas will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes or so until hot.
  • Freezing: These freeze well either before or after baking. If freezing before, immediately freeze the runzas after shaping them, before they have a chance to rise. Transfer the frozen, unbaked runzas to a large airtight ziploc bag for longer term storage. You can bake straight from frozen by adding an extra 10 minutes or so to the bake time or let them thaw completely on the counter and rise for about 2 hours before baking. To reheat frozen, baked runzas, place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes or so until hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 657mg | Potassium: 262mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 141IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 3mg
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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    It reminds me of my Czech Grandmother recipe of Kobelezki (misp) Sausage Kolachies, minus the cabbage. I enjoy rustic Eastern European food.

    1. Yes! Kolaches are delicious! There are some amazing Eastern European foods! So savory. I love seeing how these recipes have influenced different areas of the US. It's all so good!