Cheesy Bierocks are fluffy yeast dough pockets that are filled with seasoned beef, onions, cabbage, and of course, lots of cheese! Wondering why we say they are "Runza-style?" Read on.
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One of the most iconic restaurants in Nebraska is a place called Runza. They are a fast food joint based out of Lincoln and are known for pocket sandwiches that they call Runzas. Now you can buy a variety of Runza flavors, but the original Runza is essentially a bierock, filled with seasoned meat, cabbage, and cheese.
What's the Difference Between Bierocks and Runzas?
The filling is virtually the same, but what makes a Runza different from a bierock is the shape. Runzas are rectangular! We developed our bierocks as a part of our Nebraska state dinner, so in honor of Runza, we shaped our bierocks rectangular too.
What Makes a Great Bierock?
With bierocks, it is all about the seasoning! All bierocks have ground beef, shredded cabbage, onions, and seasonings. In this bierocks recipe, we add cheese, because cheese makes everything better! And our seasoning is a blend of seasoned salt, garlic, pepper, and just a touch of cayenne. It isn't spicy, but it is really delicious!
Note that the cabbage, onion, and cheese are all shredded. The vegetables can be finely diced if you prefer, but if you have a food processor, it is easy to run them all through the shredder.
Making the Filling
Brown the Beef
- Cook the ground beef, onions, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat, until the beef is almost cooked through. This begins the seasoning process of the beef, and later on, we will add another layer of flavor.
- I used shredded onion because I already had my food processor out for the cabbage, and I am all about fewer dishes! But you can chop your onion if you prefer.
- If you are 85% lean ground beef, you may have excess fat that needs to be poured off. It is okay to have about 2 tablespoons of grease still in the pan.
Simmer with Cabbage and Seasonings
- If you look closely, you may see a tiny bit of pink still on the beef. This is the point where we add in the cabbage, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
- It will look like you have way too much cabbage. Don't worry! The cabbage cooks down and incorporates nicely into the filling.
- Stir the cabbage and seasonings into the beef, and then cover the pan with a lid. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- I stirred it a couple of times in that 30 minute period, but you really don't have to. It is fine to just sit and simmer.
- Once the 30 minutes is up, let the mixture cool some so that you can handle it without burning yourself, and without it making the dough a soggy mess. You can even prepare the filling ahead of time, and refrigerate your filling until you are ready to assemble.
How to Fill and Fold
Roll the Dough
- I use 2 loaves of Rhodes bread dough for this recipe, but you can use your preferred dough or even make your own!
- Take the thawed dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you are ready to assemble. It gets stretchier as it warms. If you find it difficult to work with, where it keeps shrinking up after you roll it out, let it sit longer at room temperature.
- Divide each loaf into 5 pieces. For those of you who like precision, and if you own a scale, make them 3.2 ounces each. For the rest of you, just take your best guess. It will be fine.
- Put a little bit of flour onto your rolling surface, and roll each piece of dough ¼-inch thick. You are going for a bit of a rectangle, but it doesn't have to be exact. Mine usually turn out a bit wonky.
- In the beginning, you may find it helpful to use a bowl to help you fill the bierocks. This helps get the pocket started by curving the bottom. Once you get the hang of it you can fill them directly on your cutting board.
- Place ⅓ cup of the filling into the center of the dough. Again, it doesn't have to be exact, but I use a ⅓ cup scoop. This is an easy tool for getting the filling from the pan to the dough, and the consistent measurement means that the bierocks should cook consistently, and you won't have a larger one still needing to cook while the rest are ready.
- Top with about 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. I use cheddar, but Monterey Jack or Colby would work well too.
- I promise this is easy! If you are using a good dough then it is stretchy and pulls right around the filling.
- Take one end and pull it up and over the filling, then bring the sides up and pinch together in a line down the middle of the pocket. Finish by bringing the other end up and pinching it with the rest of the dough.
- Double-check your dough to make sure it is pinched well so that all of the filling stays inside.
- It doesn't have to look pretty! You are going to bake them pinched side-down, so no one will see this part.
Baking the Bierocks
Place the bierocks into a baking dish and let them rise for 30 minutes. In this photo, they are pretty close together, but I recommend leaving an inch of space between them. This helps them to bake individually and prevents them from breaking open when serving.
After 20 minutes, brush them with butter, then continue baking until they are golden brown.
What Should I Serve With Bierocks
- At Runza, you can choose between crinkle -fries, onion rings, or a side salad.
- If you are going a more traditional route, they are great with German potato salad, peas and carrots, or Kroketten. Don't forget your German beer!
Frequently Asked Questions
They freeze beautifully! Just thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Reheat at 350F degrees for 10-12 minutes.
They are related, but are not the same. Bierocks are made with a yeast dough, where pierogies are made with an unlevened dough and are more like a dumpling.
Cheesy Bierocks (Runza-Style)
- 2 pounds frozen bread dough, thawed
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¾ cup shredded onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups shredded cabbage (about a ½ pound)
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅔ cup shredded cheese
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- If you have a food processor, shred your cabbage, onion, and cheese. If you prefer, the cabbage and onion can be finely diced.
- Place ground beef, garlic, and onion in a large skillet and cook over medium heat. Stir frequently and break up the beef into crumbles.
- When most of the beef is cooked (a small amount of pink is okay), drain excess beef grease if needed. A teaspoon or two of oil in the pan is okay. Add cabbage and seasonings to the pan and stir. Cover and reduce to low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Cool at least 15 minutes. The filling can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Divide bread dough into 10 equal balls (about 3 ounces each). On a floured surface, roll out each ball until it is ¼-inch thick. If it bounces back thicker, continue rolling until it stays the desired thickness.
- Place ⅓ cup of filling in the center of each piece of flattened dough. Top with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese.
- Pull the dough around the filling, pinching into a rectangle. Be sure the dough is pinched tightly.
- Place each filled rectangle pinched side down into two large baking dishes, with each rectangle spaced at least 2-inches apart.
- Let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Place the baking dishes in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Brush with melted butter and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. It should sound hollow when tapped.