Our delicious homemade runzas feature freshly baked bread stuffed with a flavorful beef, onion and cabbage mixture! Make a batch now and freeze some for later — these little pocket sandwiches make for a comforting lunch on the go!
If you’ve ever spent time in Nebraska, you’re probably familiar with our beloved fast food chain Runza that sells, well… runzas! Also known as bierocks, runzas are yeasted dough pockets with savory fillings that were brought to the Midwest by German-Russian immigrants. At the Runza restaurant you’ll find original runzas filled with ground beef, onion and cabbage, as well as other variations with additions such as swiss cheese and mushrooms. And if you stop in don’t forget to order a side of the best crinkle fries around!
And no worries if you live nowhere near Nebraska — we’ve got you covered with our delicious homemade runza recipe! It’s the first dish Viktor ever cooked for me (having never been to Nebraska but having read about our Runza obsession) and has since become a staple in our home. And to get the recipe just right, we even compared notes with my brother-in-law who developed his own version to get the spices just right!
homemade runza dough
The yeasted dough comes together quickly, but here are a few tips and tricks if you’re having trouble working with it:
- Activate the yeast in warm milk. The milk should be warm (but not hot!) to activate the yeast — about 110 F (43 C) if you want to get technical. I generally just heat the milk in the microwave for a few seconds.
- Start with less flour. Unless you’re using a kitchen scale, I highly recommend starting with less flour to make sure your dough isn’t too dry. It’s easy to overmeasure flour when using cups so try starting with three cups and add the additional cup of flour as necessary. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky, but it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands so much that you have difficulty kneading it.
- Rising times may vary. The rising time for your dough can take from 45-90 minutes. You can start working with the dough as soon as it has about doubled in size.
beef and cabbage filling
And now onto the filling! It’s a combination of ground beef, diced onion, cabbage and spices. Although the runza seasoning used in the restaurants is a closely guarded secret, we’ve come up with a simple blend that we think is quite similar: salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and worcestershire sauce! While I’m not a huge fan of worcestershire sauce in general, I do think it really adds a great depth of flavor to the filling.
Here’s how to make the filling in three easy steps:
- Brown the hamburger with the diced onion until the meat is just about cooked through.
- Add the seasonings.
- Stir in the chopped cabbage, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
And that’s it! You’ll want to drain the mixture when it’s done cooking and make sure to let it come to at least room temperature before filling the runzas.
homemade runza: FAQs
We opt for active dry yeast here, but you can substitute instant yeast if you’d like. There’s no need to activate instant yeast, so you can just mix everything together! To make this substitution, I would recommend using a bit less instant yeast — about 1¾ teaspoons (5 g).
If you’re finding that the dough is springing back a bit when rolling out, I recommend first dividing the dough into 15 portions and then letting it sit for about 15 minutes, making sure it’s covered with a damp towel. The dough should be easier to work with after the short rest.
Yes — this is actually one of our favorite freezer recipes! I recommend baking the runzas before freezing. Just let them come to room temperature and then place in an airtight container or freezer bag. The runzas can be reheated in the microwave or wrapped in foil and baked at 350 F (180 C) for 25-30 minutes.
For more delicious dinner inspiration, make sure to check out these recipes:
- chicken sheet pan dinner with beets and carrots + herby yogurt sauce
- spicy salmon cakes + cilantro lime aioli
- lemon arugula pasta + parmesan crusted chicken
- chipotle jackfruit quesadillas
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