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Here is Your Incredibly Delicious Runza Recipe

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Last Modified: November 15, 2023
Published: November 15, 2023

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A Well-Loved Nebraska Classic


So what the heck is a runza anyway? Well, it's a classic buttery-beef, savory cabbage-and-onion-filled sandwich. Beloved. In Nebraska, there's a fast-food chain that bears the name. There are 78 Runza restaurants, and only 4 are located outside the state. It's a great (and funny!) three-generation story! This sandwich was born here.

The very 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 get too steamed about it.

In 2016 alone, the chain sold some 2 million of them. 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 one despite the hundreds of other food options.

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. These sandwiches 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. They were even chosen to represent the state at Flavored Nation, an event serving iconic dishes from all fifty states.

According to Wikipedia, a runza can be any round, square, triangular, or half-moon shape. They are called different names in other regions: bierocks, kraut burgers, or kraut pirok. But, by any other name, it is still a runza!

Why You Will Love These Sandwiches

I hope I've made you curious! And you can make a pretty darn good one at home, in fact, a whole batch of them, and here's how.

It's true they are kind of a sandwich but they're more like a hand pie. They freeze exceptionally well so some clever bakers make a double batch and freeze them for those busy nights when all you have to do is pop them in the oven or the microwave to reheat, and they reheat beautifully!

At last, for all the Runza-less people in the rest of America, here's how you can make some at home.

Start With A Basic Yeast Dough

In your large stand mixer, make the dough from the recipe We've included. Option B: you can do this by hand and knead the dough. Feel virtuous, and build up your arm strength. Option C: Use frozen bread dough, thawed out.

Easy, semi-homemade and you still get all the amazing smells while they're cooking and baking. I have heard of some folks who use biscuit dough, but I have never tried it.

Make The Filling While The Dough Rises

browning ground beef

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet until it starts to lose its pinkness.

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 and continue to cook until the beef is a little browned and the cabbage and onions are soft and wilty. Set that aside to cool.

beef and cabbage

How To Make The Runzas

Divide the dough into 16 portions. Try to have each dough ball be the same size; it helps the runzas to bake more evenly. 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 warm nearby while I'm doing this. I've found the dough 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, rustic. Channel your inner Pioneer Woman.

filling the runza

Lay each one on its tummy, seam side down, on a greased baking pan to rise for about 20-30 minutes.

Bake them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned, and brush the tops with melted butter. We think a pan of fresh-baked runzas is a thing of beauty. Here in Nebraska, on cold winter nights, you will often see Facebook posts showing pictures of a proud batch. It's a thing with us.

Once you have tackled your first batch, you'll start thinking of ideas to make them your own. Add cheese on top of the filling before baking. Check. Add mushrooms, yep. Use Italian seasoning in the filling and dip in marinara sauce. Bellissimo! Get it? Another chance to color outside the lines and do your thing.

My husband eats his with mustard, tearing each one into little bites and smearing the yellow goodness on each mouthful.

What to serve with them? French fries or potato chips are standard but fried apples are great. Vegetable soup, tomato soup, or broccoli cheese soup would also pair well! And while you have the oven on, whip up some of these crazy easy cookies. Now go polish your halo, you amazing kitchen conqueror!

Find some time on a snowy weekend and make up a batch. These freeze and reheat well; see the recipe for details!

Yield: 16 runzas


inside of a runza

Classic Russian-German beef and cabbage-filled sandwiches. I think it's more like a hand pie than a sandwich. It is a delicious hand pie with a buttery beef and savory cabbage filling lovingly baked in a pocket of yeast dough—a Nebraska classic.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


Yeast Dough

  • 2 cups very warm water (about 110 degrees, a little warmer than a hot tub)
  • 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
  • 1 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


  1. This is easier when using a large stand mixer with a dough hook. Put warm water, yeast, sugar, salt, and butter in a bowl and add a cup of flour. Mix thoroughly using a whip beater attachment, scraping down the bowl's sides. 
  2. Hint: grab a clean dish towel and wrap it around the bowl. That is unless you really enjoy cleaning up flour. (I don't.) Add 2 cups of flour, one at a time, and beat well. You'll still want to keep your mixer draped for the next step.
  3. Switch to a dough hook and keep adding flour gradually until the dough hook pulls 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.
  4. Great bread dough should feel satiny and elastic.
  5. At this point, I remove the dough hook and gather the dough into a ball. I spray the bowl generously with Pam or similar, return the dough to the bowl (it is unnecessary to wash it first, ) smooth a little cooking oil or olive oil over the dough, cover it with a dish towel, and set it in a nice warm place. (In the summer, I've found my car makes a great proofing box!!)
  6. When the dough has doubled, divide 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.
  7. (Sometimes, I make eight runzas with half the dough and cinnamon rolls with the other half.) 

Making the Filling

  1. Brown the ground beef, and when it's losing its pink and starting to brown, add the butter, olive oil, onion, and cabbage and cook until the cabbage wilts.
  2. Add salt, pepper and garlic. You can set it aside to cool until the bread is ready and rolled out.
  3. Put about 1/2- 2/3 cup of filling on each dough oval and fold over, sealing the edges of the bread. You may water to wet the dough with your finger dipped in warm water to make it seal better.
  4. Lay runzas seam side down on the greased baking sheet with a little space between to allow for the bread to rise.
  5. Let them rise for about 20-30 minutes, then bake in a 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes until nicely browned.
  6. Brush with melted butter when they come out of the oven to give them a soft, beautiful color and tasty crust.
  7. These keep well in the fridge for a few days. Or, wrap individually in foil and freeze. They really freeze well, so make a bunch when you do. 
  8. REHEAT: Heat frozen wrapped runzas in 400* oven for 20-25 min. Remove foil for the last 5 min.


You can use frozen bread dough that you have defrosted.

If you liked this recipe, you are my people! And if you like this recipe, please share it on your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! It would sure tickle me, and I would be ever so grateful!

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Love, GB (Betty Streff)

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40 comments on “Here is Your Incredibly Delicious Runza Recipe”

  1. Not knowing what a Runza was, it
    s difficult to understand how to fold them. Is it one fold across and one lengthwise or like an evelope,..or what? I need step by step photos.

    1. The restaurant chain Runza was certainly born in Nebraska and is now a third generation business. I write about that in the post. As with many things, there are countless stories about who really "invented" them. I think the roots are German-Russian but wherever they originated they are mighty fine eating wouldn't you agree?? 😊

      1. Did not know the name. I enjoyed something similar in 2011 when I visited Seattle, WA near the Waterfront (Pike's area maybe?), Purchased them from a European Bakery that had a variety of breads with savory stuffing. I tried to replicate by using canned biscuits. Tanks for sharing this recipe.

      2. Did not know the name. I enjoyed something similar in 2011 when I visited Seattle, WA near the Waterfront (Pike’s area maybe?), Purchased them from a European Bakery that had a variety of breads with savory stuffing. I tried to replicate by using canned biscuits. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

        1. I wish you the best of luck making runzas because they are simply yummy!! I have heard of people using canned biscuit dough to make them, and you can also use frozen bread dough after it's been defrosted. Happy runzaing!!!

      1. It's kind of a Nebraska thing. We're different and we like it! Tourism slogan: "Nebraska, It's Not For Everyone" Honest!! Tee Hee but Runzas are for everyone!!!

    1. Oh Dorlis! I have so much to learn about all the various dietary needs like Keto and gluten free. I don't know the answer to your question but I do see so many food bloggers who work in those niches. I suggest you Google recipes that would work to make Runzas you can enjoy.

  2. […] Runza Recipe — A Well-Loved Nebraska Classic --- advertisements --- […]

    1. Hi! How'd you find me and how can I work with you some more? I have lots of down-to-earth recipes for families dished out with some homespun humor and wisdom.

  3. I gasped when I read you can get them frozen. Yay! Born & raised in Nebraska & always, always stop in when back in Nebraska.

  4. […] Runzas. A Well-Loved Nebraska Classic […]

    1. My husband is German to the core!! It doesn't matter of we call them kraut kogas, Bierocks or Runzas, they are great, right?? 🙂 Love hearing from you!!

  5. I've been making these for 30 plus years and I use well drained sauerkraut instead of cabbage...thus we call them Kraut Runzas 🙂

    1. Some others have said they do that! I'll have to try that next time! Thank you!I have sourdough ready to bake, I wonder how that would taste!

  6. I do not like cooked cabbage (yes I know but it's true). Having a recipe like this allows me to enjoy the goodness of a Runza (ish) sandwich made the way I like it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. That's awesome Robin! Cabbage of course is also a nutritional powerhouse so it's good to add to our diet! Have a great summer and happy runzaing.

    1. With 1 lb of hamburger and a small to medium head of cabbage and onion to taste (I never use a whole onion), I use about 2 1/2 frozen loaves. Makes about 20 with between a 1/3 - 1/2 cup of filler. I don’t make mine square. I do roll out in a square and then grab opposite corners and pinch and twist to seal. I rub Crisco shortening on the frozen loaves before thawing. Otherwise the bread is “crusty” and hard to work with.

  7. I have made these for years. I made mine with sour kraut. My German Grandmother left me the recipe. she called them Beirocks. Pretty much the same thing and the same method.

  8. I made these for the first time today. My only question is, where have these been all my life? When I started making them, hubby said "why don't we use the pasta machine for this?" GENIUS! It made it so easy!

    1. Awesome! Now tell me, you mean you used the pasta machine to make the dough? I want to hear about it! I use my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer!

  9. I worked at the original Runza "Hut" as it was called in Omaha in the 1970s. Runzas are like mother's milk in my family. Today is "Temperature Tuesday" at Runza which means a Runza is the price of today's 6am temp (25 degrees) when you buy a fry and drink.
    My 29 year old son sent me a recipe from 1968 for Runzas the other day asking me to make them. Today I texted him "they are 25 cents and you want me to make them?". My dough is rising now and the filling is chilling in the fridge. I love to cook for my kids.
    We like them best with a slice of American cheese inside when they come out of the oven, just like we made them at Runza Hut back in the 70s. Just slice open one side, slide the cheese in and let it sit a minute or two to melt. YUM.

    1. Oh Ann, what a fun note to get from you!! I live in Kearney and we have two Runzas here, both run by the Higgins family. Their son Cal played on the Runza Legion baseball with my grandson Nick. I would have responded earlier but I worked all day then scurried off to watch a district basketball game at Kearney Catholic. Our granddaughters danced with the "Lucky Stars" at halftime!

      I met the grandson of the lady who started Runza after World War II at a conference and I love the family story.

      Between you and I, though, nothing beats homemade runzas- crisp, buttery, and right out of your oven! I'll be sure to try your cheese suggestion!

      I LOVE cooking for our kids and grandkids too!!

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