Cabbage: Cabbage Burgers – Runzas & Bierocks

Cabbage Burger _ Runza - Bierock_Fork Fingers Chopsticks.com

This recipe pays homage to my Nebraska roots . . . When you think about the state, what first comes to mind? For most it’s corn, Big Red football and Omaha Steaks®. Now, after you read this post, you’ll be adding cabbage burgers to the list.

They are individual-sized, savory yeast bread stuffed with peppered beef, cabbage and onions; baked golden brown. Simple ingredients and spices that make for a comforting, satisfying meal. For those not in on these little treasures, think calzone, empanada or pierogi rather than a typical burger. In Nebraska, they are also called cabbage buns or runzas; in Kansas, bierocks.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, cabbage burgers were introduced to the mid-west by German Russians (Volga Germans) who immigrated to the U.S. and settled primarily along the plains of Nebraska and Kansas. Since then, they have been notable, regional fare. Runza®, a Nebraska fast-food franchise, serves them up in a variety of flavors.

Growing up, my Mexican family ate plenty. I suspect it’s because the pillowy treats provide a good way to stretch a pound of ground beef. When my mom baked a batch, they were heavier on the cabbage than beef. I still like ‘em like that. No surprise, I’m a big fan of cabbage – raw and cooked. This recipe comes from the bread maker in my family, my sister Monica.

All you Huskers, I expect a shout out on this one. Leave a comment about how you eat your cabbage burgers.

Tidbits on Cabbage:

  1. Cabbage belongs to the Cruciferae family of vegetables along with kale, broccoli, collards and brussels sprouts. There are an estimated 100 different varieties of cabbage grown in the world. The most common types in the U.S., however, are the green, red, savoy and Chinese varieties – bok choy and napa.
  2. Cabbage is estimated to have been cultivated more than 4,000 years and domesticated for over 2,500 years. It is believed to have originated from wild loose-leaf cabbage brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Since it is a cool weather crop and stores well during winter, it soon became a major crop in Europe – particularly in Germany, Poland and Russia.
  3. Cabbage has several health benefits:  phytonutrients in cabbage and other crucifers help the body detoxify; cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as good source fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Since phytonutrients react with carbon steel and turn cabbage leaves black, use a stainless steel knife to cut.

Cabbage Burgers- Filling-Baked_Fork Fingers Chopsticks

These freeze well after they have cooled. However, my husband and I easily ate an entire batch in two days. Consider making double the amount – freeze and reheat for a comforting snack.

Cabbage Burgers – Runzas or Bieroks

Makes 8 (Serves 4); Preheat oven 375º

Bread dough – recipe below (substitute with 2 loaves frozen white bread dough thawed overnight)

1 pound ground beef (80% lean)

1 small onion

1/2 medium green cabbage, chopped small or shred

1/2 teaspoon pepper, preferably fresh ground

1/2 teaspoon salt

Swiss or cheddar cheese, optional

Method

  1. Have bread dough prepared/thawed. In a large skillet with deep sides, brown hamburger. Remove excess grease by draining in a colander. Reserve 2 tablespoons grease. Leave browned beef in colander. Add reserved grease back to the skillet; add onions and chopped cabbage. Stir until cabbage wilts. Return ground beef back to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce to simmer 10 minutes.
  2. After bread dough has risen/thawed: divide dough into 8 pieces total; roll each piece out into 6” rounds on lightly floured surface (they do not have to be perfectly shaped). Add a scant 1/2 cup meat/cabbage mixture to the center of each. (You may have extra filling left.) Add a slice of cheese on top of the cabbage mixture (optional).
  3. Fold the sides of the bread over the center so they overlap slightly; then fold the top and bottom making a rectangle between 4 to 5 inches long. Be certain to pinch the edges to seal.
  4. Carefully place seam side down on greased baking sheet with low edges. Cover with a dish towel; let stand for at least 20 minutes in a warm location allowing bread to rise. Bake in 375 º pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown – top and underneath.
  5. Serve hot.

Bread Dough

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

2 cups flour

3/4 cup milk (scalded and returned to room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon dried herbs, optional

Scald milk over the stove or in the microwave; let cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, add sugar, warm water and gently stir in yeast. Let stand 5 minutes, do not stir. The mixture should bubble. Blend in milk, salt, butter and flour. Mix well. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead several minutes until smooth and elastic. (If the dough is tacky, add more flour by the tablespoonful and incorporate.  It may need 2 – 4 tablespoons of flour. The final dough should be supple and smooth without being overworked.) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover bowl with damp cloth; let rise 30 minutes in warm location.

Variations

Meat:  ground turkey, pepperoni, sausage, chicken, turkey, etc.

Vegetables:  make a vegetarian version adding shredded carrot, small dices of zucchini, potatoes, peas, etc. Watch the water content on certain veggies, you don’t want a soggy runza.

Varieties:  add jalapenos and cumin for Southwestern version; oregano and sun-dried tomato for Italian; feta, parsley and allspice for Middle-Eastern; curry for Indian, etc.

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29 Responses to Cabbage: Cabbage Burgers – Runzas & Bierocks

  1. Michele says:

    Hi Sis,
    I am making cabbage buns today, probably for reasons you describe, warmth, thoughts of mom and of course, they’re so yummy.
    Mom makes her bread when she is here in CT and walked me through the steps but I just can’t or (too scared) to make the bread. Mom makes it look so easy.
    I really like your articles, makes me homesick!

  2. Lori Freese says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this article,I am going to try it. I have a feeling it will be great.
    Lori

  3. Lori: So glad to hear you will make some cabbage burgers. I could use one about now. The smell of fresh baked bread is so glorious. FYI, I like to eat mine plain, my sister likes hers with a bit of fresh salsa. Come back and let me know how they turn out.

  4. Adrian says:

    Hello
    im also from nebraska, moved to georgia. i SOOO miss the buns. im gonna try this recipie. iv never made them before so cross your fingers lol. thanks for this article i really miss home!

    Andrea (FFC): Georgia is a good distance from Nebraska. But perhaps when you make and eat your cabbage burgers you’ll feel a bit closer to your Nebraska roots. Enjoy!

  5. Vicki says:

    How funny that this would be the first site I find while searching for a cabbage burger recipe. I’m a native Nebraskan (now in TN) and my mom made these a lot. I got her recipes when she passed away, but misplaced them during a move.

    We were recently visiting family in Nebraska and made a stop at Runza in Sidney. I don’t think the manager appreciated me ordering 10 Runazs during the busy lunch hour:)
    I’ve made these many times and this recipe is identical to that of my moms. Thanks!

    Andrea (FFC): Sounds like cabbage burgers also make you nostalgic. I’m glad I could help with a recipe and hope that you locate your mom’s collection. Cheers.

  6. Sarah says:

    I’m a Texan who married a Runza-lovin’ Cornhusker. I learned to make these early in our marriage since we don’t get back to NE too often. I dip mine in spicy brown mustard before each bite to add a little more flavor. I’ve also been using Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix for the bread but will try Monica’s bread recipe next time!

  7. Jen says:

    It was such a treat to show this article to my husband’s 93 year old German Russian grandma. She makes them basically the same, but saves some time with boxed hot roll mix. Thank you.

  8. kwils says:

    I too am a Nebraska native, in FL now. I grew up with cabbage burgers that my mom made, and even the lunch ladies in the school cafeteria made them from scratch!

    I like mine dipped in just a little Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, those from Nebraska and surrounding areas will know what that is! But you can’t get it in Florida from what I’ve seen!

    Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  9. Renee says:

    Runza will sell them to you already baked, but FROZEN for your ride home. I buy 10 at a time. I thaw in fridge and reheat in microwave. Can ask for frozen, unbaked ones also.

  10. Llepke says:

    I’m looking for a recipe for diabetic low-carb bread dough so I can eat these. Anybody have suggestions?

  11. Mary Olbricht says:

    How very interesting your article is. My 2nd husband & I live near Bayard, NE. I had no idea that cabbage burgers were such a localized food.

    My Grandmother taught me how to make cabbage burgers.

    My first husband liked them, but had not had them before.

    My 2nd husband–also a German, also had never had them before.

    My first husband was very fond of butterballs—balls made of toasted bread crumbs, butter, eggs, & a bit of all spice, cooked in a chicken & noodle soup.

    My second husband had never had butterballs before–neither had my family, & neither my family, or my 2nd husband cared for the butterballs.

    It is so interesting how people of the same race, can have such very different tastes, & recipes.

    Incidentally, the concensus from my “family” is that:

    Runzas purchased from the restaurant, are not very good.

    Cabbage burgers made from frozen bread dough are “OK’- but nothing special.

    Cabbage burgers made from Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix are acceptable, but they do not freeze well, & are not anything special.

    In my family’s opinion—the best cabbage burgers are the ones that are made with home-made bread dough.

    These freeze very well, & can be taken from freezer–wrapped in a paper towel, & micro-waved to a hot delicious meal very quickly.

    Cabbage burgers are very tasty, & much healthier, & we think tastier than a regular burger. Happy Eating!

  12. Valerie says:

    LOVE cabbage burgers. My dads family is from Scottsbluff, and every time we visited my Grandma made sure to make them for us. My Dad and Aunt both have made them as well, but they never come close to Grandmas. MY Dad uses frozen bread dough, but I want to make them as close to Grandmas as I can. Thanks for the bread recipe!

    R.I.P. Grandma

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  14. Rhonda Todd says:

    I moved to Scottsbluff, NE, in the summer of 1991 and lived there for over 12 years. This was where I was first introduced to cabbage burgers or Runza’s as the locals called them. I had never eaten anything like it in my life! I grew up in Southern Arkansas where cabbage cooked with lots of pepper was a staple at most meals but combined with the burger and roll dough, it was to die for! This has been an interesting site and all the comments makes me homesick for NE as I have been away now for almost 8 years. I have introduced this food to my family in Indiana and one of my nieces tells me that this is now a favorite food of hers. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  15. Jill S. says:

    Yea! So excited to see some Husker Runza love on here. I was just looking for the dough recipe but glad to stumble upon this blog. I grew up in Imperial and my husband in Scottsbluff. These were a staple in both of our families. My MIL adds chili powder to hers and my family puts shredded cheese is ours. Both yummy!! I can remember having an all day Runza baking days in the winter and freezing tons of them for later yummies We are Colorado transplants now but we still bleed red and still crave runzas!! I’m making these tonight!!! Thanks for posting this!

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  17. Cookie says:

    I remember the first time I had a cabbage burger-which is way better than a bierock or runza-I was in a wheat field working on a harvest crew on my uncle’s farm near Bushnell, NE. I fix these a lot for my own family. I honor the aunt who used to make these yummy treats by serving them every Memorial Day. My family likes to use Hickory BBQ sauce for dipping. Great food and great memories!

  18. Lilian Keller says:

    I too live in the Ne. panhandle, moved here some 36 years ago when I married my first husband who was from this area. Having grown up in Las Vegas, Nv. I had never eaten any of the German foods that his family prepared. But almost immediately became a big fan of the Cabbage Burger. They did not add cheese to theirs, but that’s the way I love them, I put the cheese slice on the dough first then top with the filling so that when I put the seam side down the cheese is on top and melts down through the filling. Yum!! Makes me want to go make some right now. Thanks for your post, really enjoyed reading others comments.

  19. Jackie says:

    Great recipe. I’ve had cabbage burgers occasionally in Loveland and Greeley CO. I love them and wanted to make them. I was surprised how easily the dough came together. And it cooked up perfect – thin, yet just enough to hold the burger mixture together. It was also easy to fill, fold and seal. I would definitely double the batch next time. Thanks for the recipe and making it small enough to just give it a try.

  20. Erin says:

    I’m from Scottsbluff, now living in Spain and I am so happy to find a recipe for cabbage burgers. My grandma doesn’t have one written down but I’m a measuring type of girl. Thanks for acknowledging the many names and methods for making them–there are as many variations and tweaks as there are families who love them! Looking forward to making them soon for good dose of comfort food.

  21. Susan S. says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It’s a great spin on the one I have from my mother in Scottsbluff NE. I so remember those lunch days when you could smell the burgers cooking wafting through the hallways! (It’s really too bad school lunches have so far strayed from that local regional influence)
    .
    Your sisters dough recipe is superior and I made my best batch ever over the weekend!

    Thank you and keep on cookin’

    Bon appetite!

  22. Terri W says:

    i had my first Bierock about 15 yrs. ago as my hubby and I were driving from northern Indiana to California. We stopped in Kansas to get gas and a cup of coffee……they had a special called Bierocks……..we tried one and wow…….i’ve been addicted ever since, I had no recipe but could see the beef, cabbage and onions………..alos plenty of black pepper. So when we returned home and I faked it…….it worked!
    I make them often to this day and introduce many friends to this wonderful treat.
    I read all the comments and was so pleased to remember my first taste. Thank You

  23. Todd says:

    From Grand Island, living in Wyoming. My wife ran accross a Cabbage burger casserole. You but the bread on the bottom.

  24. Leigh says:

    Yay!!! I just made these (although, I cheated and used frozen dough). My husband, who grew up eating these in Scottsbluff, NE loved them!

  25. jessica says:

    Omg we are from Nebraska and no know here in Colorado need heard of them but I do make them my kids don’t like cabbage but put it in a burger and they tear them up,my mother used cream of mushroom o. Them thanks for sharing I’m making them for Sunday dinner GO HUSKERS

  26. Mary Jo says:

    I make these every New Years Eve. We also put chopped celery in them. We dip them in 1 can of mushroom soup mixed with 1 can of milk and 1 to 1 1/2 c grated cheddar cheese.Heat till nice and bubbly. They are really yummy.

  27. Kate K says:

    I’ve tried MANY different ‘runza’ recipes, and this one is my favorite. The dough turns out perfectly every time, and the filling recipe is simple and easy to adapt. I just made a batch with ground elk — a gift from a bow hunter friend. HIGHLY recommended, if you can get your hands on this delicious meat!

  28. Fred says:

    Lived in Scottsbluff for 14 years and also a UNL graduate. Always missed them. Now living in Brazil and plan on giving this a try since I figured out what cabbage is in Portuguese! LOL

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