A Take on Runza Casserole

by Ann on July 25, 2009

Photo by Roland A Manarin

Photo by Roland A Manarin

The Nebraska classic, if you’ve been here (or surrounding states), then you should know what a Runza is, and then you’ve most likely experienced peer pressure to have one!  Unless you’re a vegetarian or have celiac disease, then I sure hope you’ve tried one.  Speaking of…I’m a little embarrassed that I was trying to talk a guy I know with celiac disease AND he’s also a vegetarian to try a Swiss Cheese Mushroom Runza.  Momentary lapse of memory I guess.  Just wasn’t thinking or being sensitive at the moment.  I literally forgot and felt pretty stupid about it!  Although…sometimes, foods are just so good or such a part of your history growing up that it’s amazing that others close to you haven’t experienced it! 

What is a Runza?  It’s basically a hamburger, cabbage and onion casserole encased in some great homemade bread-either plain, with cheese or swiss cheese and mushrooms.  It’s sort of a man’s man kind of yummy hot encased beef sandwich or alternatively the hangover cure.  If Zane Lamprey came to town I’d take him to Runza the next day!  Runzas are the only food I missed from home the first few times I traveled far away.  I sort of grew out of my Runza cravings after college, but every so often I have to have one.  My personal favorite is Swiss Cheese Mushroom…NO KETCHUP!  My husband used to eat the cheese ones with ketchup which drove me nuts because it tastes like meatloaf when you add ketchup (not a meatloaf fan unless it’s fancy…sorry).  Anyway, I got a Runza bake recipe from some friends that love this particular recipe….but then I changed it.  I’ll give you both recipes, so you’re aware.  And if you want some actual Runza copycat recipes, you can just google it and plenty show up.  I felt like doing a slightly healthier and difficult version of a casserole but with puff pastry.  I’m trying to get over my recent puff pastry obsession since it’s not so healthy, but it continues…


  • 2 lbs turkey meat (or hamburger or bison/buffalo)
  • 1/2 can organic cream of mushroom soup (I specify organic here because the contents in the regular cans need some nutriontal help, if you do not care, use a whole can of regular soup.  To be honest, the organic version just doesn’t taste as good.)
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 medium cabbage, finely chopped, hard core removed
  • 1 pint white or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 frozen puff pastry package
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped (I like to use sweet yellow or Vidalia)
  • 6 slices swiss cheese, roughly 6oz
  • butter for cooking cabbage, a few tablespoons more or less
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more or less to taste


  • Remove puff pastry from freezer and set out to thaw according to package instructions
  • Cook cabbage and onion on stove top in large pan with butter over medium-high heat, roughly 15 minutes or until cabbage starts to wilt and become see-through.  Add garlic and continue cooking until cabbage is completely soft and cooked through
  • Add cream of mushroom soup, set cabbage mixture aside in a separate bowl
  • In the same pan over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms and beef broth until mushrooms are tender, salt to taste, set aside in a separate bowl
  • Pre-heat oven to 375, grease 13x9x2″ pan
  • In the same stove top pan over medium-high heat, cook turkey until done, add salt
  • On a floured surface, roll out one sheet of puff pastry until it covers the bottom of the 13x9x2″ pan, lay it on the bottom of the pan
  • Spread hamburger evenly on top of puff pastry sheet
  • Layer with cabbage mixture
  • Then add mushrooms
  • Layer evenly with cheese
  • Roll out the other pastry and set on top
  • With a knife, make a few slits in the pastry to allow air to escape
  • Bake roughly 25 minutes or until brown.  All ovens are different and puff pastry is testy, so make sure to check top of pastry while cooking because it may burn

This is a yummy, fancy version of a Runza.  However, it still isn’t too fancy and neither are Runzas!  The ingredients to my friends’ recipe are: 1 lb hamburger, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 medium cabbage, cumin, 1 crescent roll package, 1 onion, American cheese slices.  These ingredients are not authentic style Runzas either, but damn good according to known Runza lovers.

A special thanks to my brother Tony (Roland), who took the picture above.  And congratulations!  For trying to quit smoking.  I hope this attempt will be your last and that Takako’s husband has stinky breath only from garlic, onion or morning.  I’m proud of you!

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rebecca subbiah July 26, 2009 at 6:07 am

this looks great cool to learn about other foods from different states, need to tell me sis in law about it Rebecca

2 Jessica July 26, 2009 at 7:09 am

Is it bad that I still haven’t had a runza yet? it just doesn’t sound that good! LOL!

3 Ann July 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

Peer pressure!

4 Andrea July 26, 2009 at 8:10 am

My parents are both from Nebraska and I grew up eating runzas. I always liked to put mustard on mine, is that totally strange? This casserole looks good, I think I’ll have to try it.

5 s. stockwell July 26, 2009 at 10:11 am

We never heard of Runza here in Montecito?? sounds like we have been missing something wonderful…we are putting on our “to do list” thanks, s

6 Roland July 26, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Thanks for the encouragement Ann. I love Runza’s! While these are not quite the same thing they almost deserve a new category. I ate the ones in the picture and a few more to boot. They are possibly my favorite food that appears on this site. By the way, wanna make me a pan? :)

7 Jen Olson July 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Yum! I can’t wait to make this, Cory and I love and miss Runza…and this version sounds wonderful. You are right Swiss Cheese Mushroom Runza is the only way to go. I will have to make this for the first NE football game this year. Can’t wait!

8 Denise Muller July 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Haha! Was that person a Mr. John Henry Muller? I know a lot of people love the Runzas, but I always think it sounds gross (could be ’cause I’m vegetarian). I do love that you made your own. It’s probably a LOT healthier without all the preservatives.

9 Ann July 26, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Denise- The one and only:) I felt pretty stupid about it, but sometimes I get a tad bit excited about food and forget who I’m talking to. Oops! Why not try making the Runza filling with a meat alternative and a gluten-free bread? You’ll get a glimpse:) It could be a fun experiment anyway!
Jen - it would be fun to see a room full of people that have never had a Runza try one! Or, if it’s my version…a take on it anyway:)
Tony- oink, all gone! I’ll make a pan for your birthday!
SS- it’s a great addition to any foodie to do list, definitely
Andrea-never tried mine with mustard but now I’m going to have to!

10 stephchows July 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

Man by looks alone I’d try it… but the description is something I don’t think I’d ever order LOL. 😀 Great job recreating it!

11 lisaiscooking July 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

I come from the land of casseroles (Illinois), but this is a new one for me. My Mom, however, used to make a casserole with ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, frozen tater tots and cheese on top. Thanks for the reminder! I had forgotten about it.

12 jennk/cinnamonquill July 29, 2009 at 8:51 am

Totally never had this, but it actually sounds pretty good to me!

13 Sophie July 29, 2009 at 10:55 am

Oh I would loove loove to try this! The day I come across gf puff pastry, I will shed many tears of joy! I think I’d be a fan of swiss cheese mushroom, I love all of those ingredients — especially together :).

14 Ann July 29, 2009 at 11:02 am

I know! That would be so nice, it seems to exist in Europe or somewhere but made with hydrogenated fats so no good anyway. But, you could still make a similar casserole just with gf bread instead!

15 Jen Olson September 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I made this tonight, YUM! The only thing I changed was to use phyllo dough in place of puff pastry…Cory and James both liked it. Thanks so much Ann:-)

16 Christine C. February 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Made this tonight for Troy….he LOVED it!! This recipie is a winner! I appreciate your food art/photography even more now too- my casserole did not look as pretty as yours.

17 lola June 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Ok, so we have never even heard of a runza casserole, and so have no frame of reference, but we both agreed: this is Delicious!!!!!! I substituted crescent rolls for the dough, but otherwise stayed true to the recipe. Mmmmm, tasty!!! Thanks for the recipe!

18 Vanessa January 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I grew up in Palmer Alaska with a vegetarian “Runza” my mom made. We would have it along with mashed potatoes and gravy. It is my favorite food of all times! Yummmeee!

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