Nebraska Runzas, by Way of Washington 24.000

Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

Apr 29, 2016

Mention the runza to anyone outside Nebraska, and they’re likely to suggest you cover your mouth the next time you sneeze in public. But to Nebraskans, the runza is a staple of the Midwestern diet, a variation of the bierock stuffed pastry original to ethnic Germans who had settled in the Volga River valley in Russia.

The standard runza filling is basically a hash of ground beef, onions, cabbage and seasonings, although there are many variations, including ones with sauerkraut and/or shredded cheese. Midwesterners of a certain generation -- mostly, home cooks who came of age in the mid-20th century -- often relied on frozen, premade dough from the grocery store. This recipe calls for homemade dough, which is not as sweet or bready as the dough preferred by many Midwesterners, and it sneaks some garlic into the filling for a little non-Germanic punch.

You’ll need a thermometer for monitoring the dough’s liquid mixture and a scale for easy portioning of the dough.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The runzas can be baked and frozen. To reheat, wrap them in aluminum foil and bake in a 325-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 24 servings

  • For the dough
  • 1/4 ounce (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water, plus 1/2 cup room-temperature water
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 1/2 cups flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Oil, for greasing the proofing bowl
  • For the filling
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef (80-20)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large white onion, cut into small dice (2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 cups chopped green cabbage (from 1/2 large head)


For the dough: Combine the yeast and the 1/2 cup of warm water in small bowl, stirring until the yeast has dissolved.

Combine the 1/2 cup of room-temperature water, the milk and shortening in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until the shortening has liquefied but the temperature of the mixture is no greater than 130 degrees.

(If during that time the yeast mixture hasn’t bubbled at all, your yeast might be dead. So dump it out, buy a new packet and start over.)

Combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, all the sugar and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough-hook attachment; beat on low speed until incorporated.

Add the yeasty liquid, the warm milk mixture and the eggs to the mixer bowl; beat on medium-low speed until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl and beaters; then, on medium-low speed, gradually add 2 3/4 cups of flour, beating to form a wet dough.

Generously flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there; knead for 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to form a dough that’s smooth and elastic and a still a bit tacky.

Lightly grease a proofing bowl with oil, then place the dough in it. Cover with a towel and let rise in a draft-free spot for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough has about doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Drop the ground beef by pinches into a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Season with the salt and pepper; cook until no trace of pink remains, breaking up the meat to a crumbly consistency as it cooks.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground beef to a bowl, then drain off and discard most of the fat and juices in the pan; leave a small amount for cooking the vegetables.

Stir in the onion; cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until translucent, then stir in the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant, then return the ground beef to the pan and add the cabbage. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to incorporate, until the cabbage has softened. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Re-flour the work surface if needed.

Uncover and punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 24 equal portions (it's good to use a kitchen scale for this). Working with a few at a time on the floured work surface, roll out each portion of dough to a 5-inch square.

Scoop about 1/3 cup of the filling onto the center of each dough square. Fold the dough over to form triangle-shaped turnovers, pressing to tightly seal the edges. Transfer them to the baking sheets, spacing the runzas at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes (one sheet at time, middle rack) or until golden brown. Repeat to use all the dough and filling.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from recipes by Kay Billingsley and

Tested by Tim Carman.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at