The Runza: A Nebraska Fast Food Staple

Welcome to the unofficial state food of Nebraska-the Runza. They are fluffy bread pockets filled with savory ground beef and crunchy cabbage for the perfect handheld meal.

In the heart of Nebraska, a culinary delight awaits those seeking a satisfying and hearty meal—enter the Runza. This fast-food gem has deep roots in the state, offering a unique taste of Nebraska’s culinary heritage. Let’s dive into the details of this beloved dish, its origins, and the perfect accompaniments.

Want to try other uniquely American sandwiches from across the United States? Check out the viral Vermonter, Florida’s Cuban Sandwich, or West Virginia’s iconic Pepperoni Rolls.

Is Runza only in Nebraska?

While it has its origins in Nebraska, its popularity has spread beyond state borders. Today, you can find Runza restaurants and variations of the dish in neighboring Midwestern states. The unique blend of flavors and the comforting nature of the Runza have earned it a place in the hearts and palates of those outside Nebraska.

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In Kansas, runzas are called bierocks. Made by immigrants to settled in the Midwest in the 1800s, bierocks are similar to a pirozhk. The name bierock potentially came from the way people pronounced pirozhk then.

Is Runza a German food?

Yes, it has German roots that trace back to the European immigrants who settled in Nebraska in the 1800s. This delicious creation is a manifestation of the culinary influence from Eastern European immigrants to the Midwest.

Is Runza a German word?

Indeed, the term “Runza” has German origins. It is derived from the German word “Rundstück,” which refers to a round piece of bread. Over time, this concept evolved in the Midwest, particularly in Nebraska, giving rise to the beloved Runza we know today.

What country are Runzas from?

While the concept of a filled bread pocket has Russian and German origins, the Runza, as we know it, is uniquely American, particularly associated with Nebraska. It reflects the fusion of culinary traditions brought by immigrants to the United States, creating a distinct dish that captures the essence of Midwestern comfort food.

Sarah “Sally” Everett trademarked the word Runza after opening a food stand in Lincoln, Nebraska in the 40s. The franchise now has 85 locations, most in Nebraska.

Is Runza a Midwest thing?

Absolutely, it is quintessentially a Midwest thing. While it originated in Nebraska, its popularity has spread across the Midwest region, becoming a cherished part of the local food culture.

In Kansas, runzas are known as bierocks. They are essentially the same thing, but some say bierocks are round and runzas are rectangular.

What do you serve with a Runza?

A Runza is a satisfying and complete meal on its own, but it is also great with various sides. Traditional accompaniments include coleslaw, fries, or a simple side salad. Some enjoy pairing it with a cup of soup or a refreshing beverage.

The handheld stands as a testament to Nebraska’s culinary heritage, combining German and Russian influences with American innovation. Whether you’re in the heart of Nebraska or exploring the Midwest, don’t miss the opportunity to try this delectable fast-food staple that has become a cherished part of the region’s  landscape.


Author: Maddy & JD – Them Bites
Welcome to the unofficial state food of Nebraska-the Runza. They are fluffy bread pockets filled with savory ground beef and crunchy cabbage for the perfect handheld meal.
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Prep Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Lunch, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12 runzas
Calories 274 kcal


For the Dough

  • cups warm water
  • tbsp dry active yeast
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 – 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp oil


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 4 cups chopped green cabbage about ½ a head
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 egg beaten

Recipe Instructions

For the Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, gently combine water, yeast and sugar. Set aside for 5 – 10 minutes until yeast has become frothy. (If it doesn't foam, you'll need to start over again with new yeast).
  • Add melted butter, salt, and about 2 cups of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until incorporated. Add remaining 2 cups of flour and mix until you can dump it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and smooth (about 5 minutes). If the dough is still sticky, add a little bit more flour until smooth.
  • Oil the inside of a clean large mixing bowl and add the dough. Cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise for about an hour until it has doubled in size.


  • While the dough is rising, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil.
  • Add the ground beef and onions, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Season with half of the salt and pepper. Once the meat is browned, drain excess fat.
  • Add the cabbage, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is slightly wilted and cooked. (You want it soft but still a little crunchy). Set aside to cool before assembling.


  • Cut dough ball in even halves. Put one half back in the bowl covered while you work with the other.
  • Cut piece in even halves again. Then cut into 3 even balls. (You can eyeball it, they don't have to be exact). Take a piece and roll into a smooth ball. On a lightly floured surface roll dough to create a ¼ inch thick, 6" x 8" rectangle.
  • Spoon roughly ½ – ⅔ cup filling into the middle of the rectangle. Fold opposite sides of the dough over and pinch edges to seal. Repeat with remaining open sides, then pinch all together. Place seam side down on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. (Place them a few inches apart for them to rise again). Repeat the last two steps until you have 12 runzas.
  • Preheat oven to 375 ℉. Let runzas rise for 20 – 30 minutes until slightly puffy.
  • In a small ramekin, add your beaten egg with a splash of water and mix. Brush the tops of the runzas with the egg. (This will help them brown).
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.


Calories: 274kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 12gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 904mgPotassium: 165mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 22IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 3mg
Keyword runza
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