A Recipe For Cheater Runzas

Rejoice with me! I found my old binder of favorite recipes.

It’s easy to misplace things when you move frequently. During our first move from the Twin Cities to Fargo, I packed away my old binder of recipes I collected from cookbooks, cooking classes, friends, and family. I have been looking for these recipes and old photos for three years. Finally, I found them at the bottom of a box underneath a stack of boxes in our garage.

I pulled out a series of handwritten recipe cards my cousin sent me when I graduated from college. She has two daughters and made little notes about how these were some of their favorites. Her recipe for runzas, little bread pockets filled with meat and cabbage, caught my eye. I’ve seen Runza Restaurant featured on television but have never encountered runzas in person. They seem to be more popular in other parts of the Midwest like Kansas and Nebraska. Jake and I love meat pies of all varieties, so I made them this weekend.

I call this a cheater recipe because it includes canned crescent rolls. You could also make a homemade yeast dough. Frankly, I was in the mood for whatever was easiest, but I have extra meat filling so I’ll try stuffing it into Amy Thielen’s Nebraskan Runzas dough recipe next.

These pockets are easy to prepare and so delicious that we might not have many left before Monday. I haven’t seen Cousin Chris or her daughters for years, but I love feeling connected to family members (both living and deceased) as I cook their favorite recipes.


Easy Runzas
This double batch creates extra filling when using three cans of regular-sized crescent rolls. Depending on what dough you use, you may have more or less extra filling. Try making more runzas, freezing the filling for later, or serving with rice or quinoa. I found this canned crescent dough tended to burst at the seams when baking. To prevent this, cool the meat mixture before filling the dough and don’t overfill. You may have some casualties but they’ll still taste good!

3 cans of crescent rolls
Olive oil
1 lb of lean ground beef (or other meat)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cups green cabbage, finely chopped (or shredded)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste (about a teaspoon)
Soy sauce, a splash
Small drizzle of honey
Softened Butter, enough to lightly brush the runs
Egg, whisked for egg wash


  1. Brown ground beef in a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. If there’s a lot of excess liquid, drain.
  2. Add the onion and cabbage and cook it’s softer but still crisp. Season with more salt and pepper.
  3. Add the garlic and cook briefly until it’s fragrant but not brown.
  4. Season with Worcestershire and soy sauces, to taste.
  5. Add a small drizzle of honey for balance.
  6. Allow meat mixture to cool, otherwise it will make the dough sticky and cause it to tear. For faster cooling, spread on a sheet pan and put in the freezer.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 375℉.
  8. Unroll one pack of crescent rolls a time to keep the dough as chilled as possible. Arrange two triangles together so they form a square or rectangle. They will probably come out of the can perforated in a square. .
  9. Roll once or twice, gently, with a rolling pin to stretch out the dough. Wipe a thin layer of egg wash on the seam. Slightly overlap the triangles and roll gently with a rolling pin to stick them together and form your rectangle.
  10. Stretch rectangle gently with your fingers to make it a little bit bigger.
  11. Place meat mixture near one end of the dough rectangle. Using your finger, brush the edges of one side with egg wash. Lift the back end of the dough over and pinch the whole pocket shut.
  12. Put the dough pocket on a greased sheet pan. Lightly brush with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


  1. sdpfeiffy

    Runza restaurants are terrible. I should know; I spent my elementary school years in south central Nebraska where lovely older ladies made our school lunch FROM SCRATCH. Yes, this was the 70s!

    I should write out a recipe for my cheater runzas! Pocket is always made of thawed frozen bread dough. Filling is ground beef, cabbage, onion, and some fennel or caraway, salt, and pepper. My husband loves cheese to be tucked in as well. One of my kids did not enjoy runzas, but did love cheese stuffed into bread dough 🙂

    Personally, I love all handheld pocket sandwiches. Or meat and pastry pies. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge about runzas! I was curious about the restaurants. I see them featured on TV all of the time. I would love to try your recipe. I’d think the bread dough would hold the filling in better, too. I also like the idea of adding cheese to the inside.

  2. sdpfeiffy

    I’ve used this recipe for both dough and filling (although if I’m honest, I mostly just eyeball and season to taste. Ground beef, cabbage, s&p, with some fennel) My husband does prefer this dough, but he’ll never complain about runzas (except for that terrible restaurant.) Ha!

    When I’m trying to do this on a weeknight, I’ll just pull a loaf of frozen bread dough (usually Rhodes) out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge all day. Just cut the loaf into 8-12 pieces (depending on the size you want) roll/stretch, and fill. And my runzas are a little more like bierocks, in that the shapes are a little more like a flattened ball (dumpling-like) rather than like a hot pocket/hand pie shape.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thanks so much for the recipe suggestions! I can’t wait to try them again.

  3. Amy

    OMG… I am SO making this for supper sometime this week. 🙂

    • Jeni Flaa

      They are SO delicious and addicting for not having tons of ingredients. Maybe there is a way to make them gluten free? Can you get gluten-free pizza dough? That could work.

  4. Katy Flint

    I’m adding this to my list of new recipes to try! I don’t think I’ll tell T..I’ll just make them! Hopefully he won’t care about the cabbage! 😉

    • Jeni

      I’m trying to think what you could substitute and am not sure. Maybe if you add cheese it will disguise it:)

  5. Bonnie from Iowa

    I don’t think Runza restaurants are terrible at all! We go to one every time we visit my son in Nebraska. They are just like any other fast food place. They have always been clean with good food and ice cream cones to boot. I like the runzas and grilled chicken sandwiches and also the “frings” which is an order of fries and onion rings together. Jeni, I have been following you for a while and live just south of Mason City IA so I follow the North Iowa bloggers. Nice to hear from you again!

    • Jeni

      I really want to go to one! They sound delicious. And who wouldn’t love the onion ring-fry option. Hardly anyone does that. Thanks for following! Trying to plan a trip back soon.

  6. Josh

    I’ve never heard of a runza before, sounds delicious though!

    • Jeni

      Delicious meat pies!

  7. Beth

    I love to turn it it into a Runza casserole sometimes. It’s quick and delicious! I used to use the tube of individual crescent rolls for the top and bottom crust.

    Then they came out with Full Sheets of crescent dough, each tube was enough for a layer. So 2 tubes was perfect for the top & bottom crust of a 13×9 pan. Makes it so quick and easy and no trying to stretch those triangles out!

    If you can find this product in your stores you might check it out just something different to try. :O) I love homemade Runza’s but making the Runza casserole is handy when you want it quick! :O) My Mother made us wonderful homemade Runza’s while we were growing up. The church ladies sold runza’s at the bazaar and they were just as tasty in the school lunchroom because they were homemade there too..

    We’ve had Runza Drive Inn here for years and they taste great as well. Just different than what you make at home. I say if you haven’t given them a try yet, next time you get a change stop by and see what you think .

    Thanks to all for the variations and for the main recipe shared above! :O)

    • Beth

      I forgot to mention on occasion I use sauerkraut in mine, it gives it a nice taste. I’ve also used cabbage numerous times which is wonderful as well. :O)

      All this reading up on runza recipes has me making a list to pick up things at the store to make them tonight! Yum, thanks to you all, we’re having runza’s for dinner!

    • Jeni

      Thanks for your tips and recipe. Runza casserole sounds delicious. I wish we had more up here!

  8. Roger Nelsen

    I grew up on a farm in Nebraska, and went to school at UNL in the early 80s. For some reason, never really visited a Runza Hut, as I believe they were called then.
    I lived in North Carolina since 86, raised a family here, and then 4 years ago, when traveling back in Nebraska, took my sons to a Runza Restaurant. Ever since then, we all really, really like the Runzas from the restaurants. I’m sure homemade ones are good too. In the last 2 weeks I traveled back to the midwest with one of my sons. Our first stop was Kansas City. We ate at 3 of the top BBQ places in KC. We then traveled up to Nebraska for the last week. Our favorite place to eat from the whole trip, the 4 times we visited a Runza Restaurant!

  9. Jessie

    Love this cheat! I didn’t realize I didn’t have all the ingredients for the dough until it was too late so this hack saved my dinner! Tasted great!

  10. Sherry Marco

    I am a native Nebraskan…didn’t leave until I was 40 and I want to tell you Runza restaurants are GREAT. I bring 2 dozen half baked back to Texas with me everytime I get back. (The manager of the Runza Hut in my home town always hooks me up) Fact is, there’s nothing like the real deal. I’ve made about every cheater recipe known to man, and they’ll do in a pinch. But, you won’t be sorry if you get the chance to have one from one of the traditional Nebraska Runza Huts.

  11. Dawn Merkel

    My mother used to make these from scratch (like she made everything when we were little) but she called them Krout Koogans – so now that I am living in Nebraska saw this restaurant a few times and looked it up. I am definitely gonna make these, I know I will love them.

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