Homemade Runzas

by Brittney

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!

runza cut in half showing beef and cabbage mixture

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:

  1. Brown the hamburger with the diced onion until the meat is just about cooked through.
  2. Add the seasonings.
  3. 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.

baked runzas on a plate

homemade runza: FAQs

Can I use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast for the runza dough?

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).

What should I do if I’m having difficulty rolling out the dough?

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.

Can I freeze homemade runzas?

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.

plate of runzas

For more delicious dinner inspiration, make sure to check out these recipes:

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runza cut in half showing beef and cabbage mixture

homemade runzas

  • Author: Brittney
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 15


runza dough

  • milk (divided) 1 c (240 ml)
  • sugar 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • active dry yeast 2 ¼ tsp (7 g)
  • all purpose flour 3.5-4 c (450-500 g)
  • (spooned and leveled*)
  • salt 1.5 tsp
  • eggs (lightly beaten) 2 large
  • melted butter 6 tbsp (85 g)

beef and cabbage filling

  • ground beef 1.5 lbs (680 g)
  • onion, finely diced 1 small
  • cabbage, shredded 5 c (350 g)
  • salt 2 tsp
  • garlic powder 1 tsp
  • paprika ½ tsp
  • worcestershire sauce 2 tsp
  • pepper to taste
  • cheddar (optional) 15 slices

baking + assembly

  • egg 1 large
  • water 1 tbsp
  • butter (optional) 2 tbsp


runza dough

  1. Heat ½ cup of milk until just warm. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle in the active dry yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
  2. Mix together the flour, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Add the foamy yeast mixture to the flour and pour in the remaining ½ cup milk, eggs and melted butter. Mix the dough until it begins to form and then turn out onto your working surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm space for about one hour or until it doubles in size.

beef and cabbage filling

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the ground beef and diced onion until the meat is no longer pink (6-8 minutes).
  2. Add the salt, garlic powder, paprika, worcestershire sauce and pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Mix in the shredded cabbage, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  4. Thoroughly drain any excess liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

baking + assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down several times with your hands. Divide the dough into 15 portions. Make sure to keep the dough covered when not using so it doesn’t dry out.
  3. Roll out each portion into an oval approximately ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick.
  4. If using cheese, place a slice in the center of the dough. Top with several heaping spoonfuls of the meat mixture. Fold the dough over the filling and tuck in the edges, pinching to seal.
  5. Place the runzas seam side down on the prepared pan.
  6. Lightly beat one egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the runzas with the egg wash.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Brush the runzas with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven (optional).


Spooned and leveled: Scooping a measuring cup into a flour container can result in much more flour than intended, which can affect the success of your dough. To get a more accurate measurement, use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into the measuring cup until it’s completely full. Then run the back of a knife over the cup to gently scrape off any excess.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: american

Keywords: homemade runzas, runza recipe, bierocks recipe

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