Monday, June 25, 2012

Homemade Runza Recipe with Pictures

Today I'm providing another public service announcement for Runza-loving Nebraskans who don't happen to live in Nebraska anymore and can't just drive through the Runza drive-thru on a whim.  (My previous public service announcement on how to re-heat frozen Runzas is here.)

Last week, I started thinking about Runzas and how good they are.  And I realized I didn't have any frozen Runzas in my freezer with which to satisfy my craving.  So, I posted a plea on Facebook, asking my Nebraska friends if any of them had an authentic-tasting Runza recipe they could send me.  Within just a few minutes, a lady from my hometown church sent me a recipe and it was vouched-for by another friend who had used her recipe, so I figured I'd better give it a try.

So, this past weekend, I made Runzas from scratch!  It took about 4 hours of total chopping/cooking time (which would definitely be shortened by buying shredded cabbage!) ...but it was totally worth it.  Please keep reading to follow along with my quest to reproduce the incredible Runza.


1 pkg active yeast
7 c flour, divided
1/2 c sugar
1 T salt
3 T butter

Mix together:
1 pkg yeast
2 c warm water (120*F - 130*F)
1/2 c sugar
1 T salt
2 c flour
Add 3 T melted butter and 5 c flour. Knead and let rise 2 hours or until doubled. Push down and let rise 5 minutes.  Divide into 15 balls.  Roll thin.

2 lbs hamburger, browned
2 c finely chopped onions
5 c chopped/shredded cabbage (1 head)
2 T water
Add water to browned hamburger and put onions and cabbage on top of hamburger.  Steam 15 minutes and drain.
1.5 t Worcestershire sauce
1.5 t oregano (or less)
1.5 t black pepper
1 T seasoned salt

Put 2 generous spoonsful of meat on each rolled dough.  Roll up. Let rise a short time (5-10 minutes). Bake at 375*F for 20 minutes. Can be frozen before or after baking depending on your preference.

Seasoned salt:
2 T salt
1 t sugar
1 t paprika
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t celery salt

The ingredients:
The ingredients
When I went to buy the ingredients for the Runzas, I couldn't find any shredded cabbage, and not having ever cooked with cabbage, I wasn't sure if I would need one head or two heads to get 5 cups of chopped cabbage.  Turns out only one was necessary.  (Will be looking up cabbage recipes to figure out what to do with that other head this week!)

Also, yes, that onion is the same size as the head of cabbage.  I think the tag at the grocery store said they were "Colossal Onions".  I just had to take another picture for scale.

"Colossal" Onion
I figured the chopping of the cabbage would take quite a bit of time, so I started with that.  I cut it up, and cut out the core.

Cut up cabbage
And then chaos ensued.

Cabbage carnage
My original plan was to use the shredding blade on my food processor to get the cabbage pieces small enough, but with my cheap food processor, I ended up with big chunks of cabbage in with the shredded cabbage.  So then I tried just chopping it by hand, but that was going to take forever.  So then I ended up using the chopping blade to get it semi-small.  And I took those pieces and chopped them to the right size by hand.  It took a long time.  Next time, I'll drive to a different store and buy some pre-shredded cabbage!

The onion chopping went much more smoothly.  I got out my mini-chopper to make sure that the onion pieces were finely chopped and I ended up only using half of the colossal onion to make 2 cups of chopped onion.

Then it was time to make the dough.  I've never made dough by adding yeast to a mixture of water, sugar, salt, and flour, but I followed the directions exactly and then added the remaining flour and butter and let the stand mixer do the dirty work.

I love my stand mixer!

Dough, ready to rise
And then I took a break for about an hour and fifteen minutes before I started on the filling.  :)

The filling was pretty easy to cook up.  I browned the ground beef and readied the chopped cabbage and onions.

Cabbage/onions ready to go in
And since it said that the cabbage and onions were supposed to steam for 15 minutes, I figured that meant they were just supposed to sit on top of the ground beef.  So I plopped the whole bowl of cabbage/onion on top and put the cover on.

Prepare to be steamed
Sure enough, after (a little over) 15 minutes, the cabbage looked nicely cooked.

I'm steamed!
Time to add the spices.  The recipe called for "Seasoned Salt", which I assumed probably means Lawry's Seasoned Salt, but I didn't want the MSG from the Lawry's, so I hunted up a recipe for seasoned salt and mixed it up beforehand. (recipe included above)  My homemade blend is in the little jar in the middle.

Spice magic
All stirred up.  Looks promising!

Finished filling
By this point, the dough had been rising for 2 hours, so I got it out of the cold oven where it had been rising and punched it down before I remembered to take a picture.

Dough after rising
Honestly, though, it didn't really deflate at all so this is pretty much what it looked like after it had risen.  I had to go back and look at the "before picture" to make sure it had risen at all because I was expecting much more volume.

At some point during the rising of the dough, I figured out that I don't own a rolling pin, so I had to get creative...

Rolling pin, a.k.a. Pellegrino bottle
The recipe says to divide the dough into 15 balls and roll them thin.  Ok, this is the only part of the recipe I didn't follow exactly, I mean, 15 balls?!  Are you kidding me?  How do you possibly divide a huge mound of dough into 15 equal-sized balls?  Instead, I took the dough, divided it in half (or as close as possible), then divided that half into half (or as close as possible), and then tried to make 4 similarly-sized balls out of that.  This then made 16 dough balls of what turned out to be varying sizes, so maybe I should have just gone with 15 anyway...

Now for the hard part: filling the Runzas.  I was fairly worried about how this was going to turn out.  My favorite Runza is the Cheese Runza, so I put some American cheese in each one, too.

Filling the Runzas

Filled and pinched shut
And placed onto a non-stick baking sheet
The husband took some action shots while I was whining about how long this was taking and how I figured they probably wouldn't even taste right and I had done all this work for nothing.

Come on, stick together, you stupid dough!

How many more do I have to do?!
Finally, I finished them all and figured out a way to get them to all fit on the baking sheet!  Into the oven they went and I anxiously waited to see what would come out.

Pretty maids all in a row
They looked pretty good when I took them out...

Well, they look like Runzas, but how do they taste?
I was so worried, taking that first bite.  Could it be possible to have actually recreated the taste?...

YES! I was stunned.  They tasted just as good - dare I say, even better?! - as an authentic Runza.  I ended up eating one and a half of these marvelous creations and spent the rest of the evening flying high about my accomplishment.

And now we have some Runzas in the freezer, just waiting to satisfy those cravings for The Good Life.  :)


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, I was sitting here in my home in Florida craving Runza's and on a whim I thought I would google and see if I could find anything! I even checked the Lincoln Journal Star to see if any recipes in archive and no luck! I was born and raised in Lincoln and yes between Runza's and Valentino's I dont know which one to go to first when I go home! I look forward to trying this recipe tomorrow!
Go Big Red!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I am trying this recipe today! I have a tip on the cabbage--it's pretty easy if you cut the head into 4 long quarters and then just grate them with a grater. Thanks!

L.D.Meyer said...

If you don't want the work and mess of shredding cabbage you can substitute sauerkraut instead, just toss in a can while you're browning the hamburger...I use ground turkey myself along with whatever spices and seasonings you choose. Not bad!

Anonymous said...

add 1/2 tsp of carroway seed per pound of burger at the same time you add the rest of the spices.

Anonymous said...

I loved following your recipe! Love a little "realness" and humor :)

Anonymous said...

Dough recipe looks pretty basic so I would just use frozen bread dough.

Anonymous said...

I live in Lincoln Ne and I used to work at the Public school lunch room, and we made these but had to call them Nebraska buns due to Runza a franchise, but we used sourkraut and butter instead of the cabbage and I like it even better. I only live a few blocks from a Runza but would rather eat my own home made.

Anonymous said...

I died laughing about the whining. I did the Eact same thing last time I made runzas. Now I will try your recipe. Thanks !!

Christine said...

It isn't quite the Runza recipe, but this is the best one I've seen. So happy this one doesn't use "cream of" soup in it! I used to work at Runza, and I'm pretty sure the recipe confidentiality clause threatened loss of life if one leaked the recipe. :)

Anonymous said...

To get the runza's to be a beautiful brown, brush the tops with egg whites before putting in the oven.

Cara Lee said...

I have been making Runzas since 1966...a friend on the Marine base in Jacksonville NC gave it to me! It is the best! I make a no cook chili sauce that my friends and family love on the Runza...but they are wonderful alone, the sweet dough is the best for homemade dinner or cinnamon rolls!

Freeze them for quick lunches, great for carry in so economical!!! Please don't use frozen bread dough...just NOT a RUNZA!!!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! It's been 40 years since I had a Runza. And boy o man is this so damn near whata 12 year remembers. I just cooked the stuffing and about to roll the dough. Wish me luck. But again, thank you for the effort in posting my childhood sweet memory.

Anonymous said...

Close! But I don't know why people try to add butter or sugar to the's all about the temp of the water, then yeast and flour. put it in a plastic bad after kneading and let rise for about 30-45 mins and you will have dough to die for! I used to work at a Runza. When it comes to the special spices, those are held under lock and key. Personally, I think it's all about the dough :D