Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turkey & Cabbage Buns with Cheese (Runzas)

Do you have leftover cabbage?  We enjoy cabbage, but don’t eat a whole lot of it – other than at St. Patrick’s Day.  Thus, we have a half-head of cabbage to use up & I’m guessing some of you do too. 

These turkey and cabbage buns with cheese are delicious.  The recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated and are often called Runzas or Bierocks.  They are a savory dough filled with meat, cheese and cabbage.  A pasty comes in similar form, but it often has potato inside.  These runzas can be traced to Russian and German heritage, but are most popular in the central US – Nebraska & Kansas especially. 

In scanning the original recipe, there were a number of changes I decided to make.  First, I used ground turkey rather than beef.  Next, I omitted the butter used to cook the meat – no reason to add anything when the turkey will create its own grease.  Third, I reduced the oil and omitted the added sugar to the dough.  Then, I spiced up the filling a bit – using more than just cabbage and ground turkey.  We LOVED the results. 

Turkey and Cabbage Buns with Cheese (Runzas) – Adapted from Cook’s Country


  • 3/4 C warm water (at least 110 degrees)
  • 1/2 C sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
  • 4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 4 C chopped cabbage
  • 1 large onion, chopped (or 2 T minced onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. cheddar cheese, sliced (or shredded)


Begin by mixing together the 4 tsp. yeast, 1 tsp. salt and a total of 3 C of flour into the bowl of your mixer.  If you don’t have a mixer, place these ingredients in a large bowl.  I used 1 1/2 C white whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour – but feel free to use any combination of whole wheat flours and/or all purpose.  Mix these ingredients together. 

In a large measuring cup, combine the 3/4 C warm water with the 2 T olive oil, and 1/2 C sweetened condensed milk.  Add in the egg and then mix until well combined. 

With your mixer on low, slowly add the liquids to the dry ingredients.  Allow the dough to knead for 6 minutes or so, until the dough is well combined.

If making the dough by hand, knead the dough in the bowl until the dough holds together.  Then, flip onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

Shape the dough into a ball and then place it in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover and allow the dough to rise until double in size – about 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  To do so, brown the ground turkey with garlic and onion, cooking until the meat is no longer pink.  Drain any excess grease. 

Then, add in the cabbage.  Saute the cabbage with the meat, adding in 2-4 T water, if needed. 

Next, add in the 2 T tomato paste along with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10ish minutes on a low temperature, stirring often.  You’ll want to keep the cabbage slightly crispy.

Reduce heat to low and cover until ready to use the filling.   

Slice up your cheese – or shred it.  You’ll want 8 sandwich-sized slices.  If you wish, use American cheese instead of cheddar.  We loved the cheddar though! 

When the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into 8 sections.  Roll each section out into a circle, about 7-inches across.  Think an 8-inch tortilla size, minus 1 inch!  Don’t worry if they are not perfectly round either.  Mine certainly were not. 

Place the dough into a bowl with a deep bottom.  Layer the cheese on the bottom and then add 3/4 – 1 C of filling. 

We used our large Pampered Chef serving spoon filled to the brim for each roll. 

Seal up the tops.  Then, invert the bowl and your roll will pop out. 

Place the rolls on a lightly greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat.  Be sure and place the sealed end down.  Repeat with the remaining 7 dough balls. 

Bake the runzas at 350 for 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown. 

If desired, melt 1/2 T butter and brush the tops of the runzas with melted better after removing them from the oven. 

Serve warm.

These were super filling.  We ended up freezing some of the leftovers for the two of us to enjoy later.  We cooled them down and placed them in a freezer-safe bag.  I’d say they will keep for about 3 weeks – longer if wrapped in foil first. 

So, how do you like to use up cabbage?  We still have 1/4 of our head of cabbage left, and I’d love your ideas of how to use it! 


  1. I REALLY dislike cabbage, but this looks like such a fun and new dinner idea. Do you think it would work better with some other kind of green, like spinach?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have always wanted to learn how to make some kind of stuffed buns. This is a great recipe to try.

  3. My hubby's family comes from NE. I heard about Runza all the time from his family, how delicious they are, etc. It wasn't until I went to NE and had one that I realized just how right they were :) Thanks for the reminder about runza, I'll have to make some of these again soon!! As far as the left over cabbage goes, shred it up and add it to a stir fry :)

  4. I've actually never tried cabbage before - can you believe it?!? But these look wonderful enough for me to buy a head and give it a whirl!

  5. Oh my! This is going into my Friday Favorite Finds for this week!!

  6. Yay for Runzas! We are from Nebraska, and I absolutely miss these. Just made a copy-cat version here a couple weeks ago. Glad you liked them!

  7. If I use packets of yeast, do you know how that compares to 4 teaspoons? These look yummy. I've never heard of Runzas but think I'll give them a try.

    1. 1 pkg of yeast = 2 1/4 tsp. yeast. So, use 1/2 tsp. short of two packages of yeast!


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