Nebraskan Runzas are a cornhusker state staple. A sweet dough wrapped around a simple ground beef, cabbage, and onion mixture – hometown comfort food at its finest!
I’m so curious to know how many of you have ever had a runza! Or bierock, for the Kansas folk. I remember when Kev and I first started dating and I would tell him about all the classic Nebraska foods that were so normal to me: Runzas, Valentino’s Pizza, and red hot dogs to name a few. I had no idea that the rest of the world was clueless to these things.
Now, the first two are chain restaurants which makes sense why he wouldn’t have heard of them, but the red hot dog thing – I thought that was totally normal! For those of you who have lived in Nebraska, you know what I’m talking about. The blazing red colored hot dogs that stain your bun and leave your tongue with a reddish hue. Totally normal, right? It’s still taken me awhile to get used to the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t know, and if they do, doesn’t want to have anything to do with those delicious, food coloring infused, red hot dogs.
Growing up, my mom would make homemade runzas maybe once a month. I’d sometimes help her roll out the dough, but never had anything to do with the ground beef and cabbage filling. If I was lucky, she’d make me a runza without the filling… so, a sweet bun. Ground beef was eew, cabbage was eew, and the two together were doubly terrifying for me! Fast forward 20 years and I’m a runza lady now! I guess there’s probably an element of comfort and familiarity in the meal, but I also just love the taste now as well.
To make these, you start with a sweet, soft yeast dough and a mixture of cooked down ground beef, chopped onion, cabbage, garlic powder, and a lot of salt and pepper. You can get the dough rising, make the filling mixture in the meantime, then be ready for assembly about an hour later. I do admit, it’s a bit of a process, but I was able to get everything done in under 90 minutes.
When your dough has about doubled in size, you’ll pinch off a small portion, maybe the size of a clementine, then roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. I used my 1 inch cookie scoop (heaping) to spoon a portion of filling into the middle of the dough, and then folded up the sides, pinching the edges together in the middle, to make a little package of sorts. You’ll repeat with the remaining dough and filling, then place all the runzas seam side down on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
That’s it! They’ll bake for 10 minutes, at which point the heavenly smells will start radiating from your oven. Right when you pull them out, use a hard stick of butter to rub over the tops of the buns, and they’re ready to eat!
You did it! You made runzas! The people of Nebraska will now welcome you with open arms.
- ¾ cup warm water
- ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 2 packages or 4½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 2 cups flour
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 small green cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- In a large bowl, whisk together water, condensed milk, yeast, and sugar. Let set until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add oil, 1½ cups flour, salt, and egg, and beat well until no lumps remain.
- Stir in 2 cups flour, set dough aside, cover with kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- To prepare filling, cook ground beef and onion in large skillet until beef is no longer pink and is in small crumbles.
- Add cabbage, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pinch off a piece of dough, about the size of a small clementine or kiwi, and use a rolling pin to roll out into a circle on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be about ⅛ inch thick.
- Spoon a heaping tablespoon or 2 of meat into the center of the dough, and fold all sides in, pinching together at the top to create a seal.
- Repeat with remaining dough and filling, then place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Let sit for 30 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
- Rub a stick of butter over the tops of the runzas, then serve!
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