Runza Casserole (Ground Beef and Cabbage Casserole)

Easy weeknight Runza Casserole has all the flavors you love in a runza sandwich, made in half the time! This ground beef and cabbage casserole is topped with cheese and surrounded by fluffy crescent rolls, for a dinner the whole family will enjoy.

This post is sponsored by the Ohio Beef Council. As always, all opinions are my own.

What are Runzas?

Slice of runza casserole on a white plate.

If you didn’t grow up in the Midwest, there’s a good possibility you’ve never heard of Runzas, or their other nicknames, Bierocks and Krautburgers. These pocket sandwiches are made with a puffy, yeasted dough wrapped around a simple filling of hamburger, cabbage, and cheese.

It’s likely they came to the Midwest with Volga German immigrants, who settled in Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas in the early 20th century. Runza sandwiches continue to be extremely popular in Nebraska and Kansas, and they’ve even trickled out to other parts of the Midwest.

I stumbled on a recipe for Runza Sandwiches in Midwest Made by Shauna Sever, a cookbook filled with all the rich, buttery and nostalgic baked goods I was raised on.

While the sandwich is wonderful, it’s not the kind of thing I want to prepare on a weeknight. So, we converted it into a quick and easy runza casserole that can feed a crowd (or just give you plenty of leftovers for tomorrow!). After all, what’s more Midwestern than a casserole?

Slice of runza casserole with side salad on a white plate.

Here’s Why You’ll Love Runza Casserole

  • Easy to prep– If you can open a can of crescent rolls and saute beef and onions, you can make this dish! It only takes about 20 minutes to prep.
  • Simple, satisfying flavors- This dish reminds me so much of other down home casserole favorites I love, like Tater Tot Casserole and Johnny Marzetti. The flavors are simple, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious!
  • Full of veggies– This casserole is chocked full of cabbage, a vegetable that my kids wouldn’t touch in any other form. It’s amazing what a little bread and cheese can do!

Key Ingredients

  • Ground beef- Any kind of ground beef works well in this recipe, but we usually use lean 90/10 beef in casserole recipes.
  • Cabbage– Traditional runza sandwiches are made with shredded or chopped cabbage. I like to use a coleslaw mix (which also has carrots) to save time and add a little color. You could also use a slaw blend that includes kale, brussels, or other greens along with the cabbage.
  • Onions– A yellow onion adds a hint of mellow sweetness to the blend.
  • Worcestershire sauce brings out the richness of the beef and adds a little tang.
  • Salt and pepper- This is the only seasoning for the filing, so you’ll want to taste the beef mixture and salt until the beef sings!
  • Cheddar cheese– Choose a sharp cheddar and shred it off the block for the best melt.
  • Crescent rolls- While runza sandwiches are made with a fluffy, yeasted bread, I chose to use crescent rolls for a quick and easy shortcut.
Ground beef, onions, coleslaw mix, crescent rolls, shredded cheese, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic in small bowls.

How to Make Runza Casserole

  1. Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Set aside.
  2. Saute the onions. In a large skillet or heavy bottomed pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic and saute for about one minute.
  3. Add beef and cabbage. Add the ground beef and cabbage to the pan and saute until cabbage is wilted and no pink remains, another 8-10 minutes. Drain off any excess grease.
  4. Season well. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Line the pan with crescents. Unroll one package of crescent rolls, but don’t split them apart. Press the rolls on the bottom of the prepared pan. It’s okay if there are some gaps.
  6. Add beef and cheese. Spread the beef mixture on top of the crescent rolls. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Top with more crescents. Unroll the second package of crescent rolls and lay them on top of the cheese. Brush with the melted butter.
  8. Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crescents are puffed and golden brown. Brush with melted butter and serve.

Storage and Make Ahead Instructions

Leftover ground beef and cabbage casserole can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat leftovers in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or in the microwave in 20 second increments.

Unfortunately, this casserole does best prepped and baked right away. Opened canned crescents don’t rise as well if left overnight.

That said, you can make the beef filling up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate it. When ready to bake, open and roll out the crescents and add the beef filling as usual.

Puffed and browned crescent rolls on top of a cheesy ground beef and cabbage filling.

Can you freeze runza casserole?

You can freeze this casserole AFTER it’s baked. Allow to cool, cover and wrap it well in saran wrap and freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight then reheat in the oven at 350 degrees.

How do you brown ground beef?

While browning ground beef may seem simple, too often it can be greasy, mushy, or just flavorless. A few simple tips will ensure you get nicely browned, flavorful beef every time.

  • Start by heating a small amount of oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. A large skillet gives the beef plenty of room to brown, rather than steam.
  • Pull the beef straight from the fridge and put it directly in the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break it into smaller chunks.
  • Let the beef cook undisturbed for several minutes before stirring. Once the bottom is browned, stir, and cook the other sides until browned.
  • Lean beef (90/10 or higher) will likely not need to be drained, while fattier beef should be drained after cooking.

Use this method to cook ground beef for your favorite tacos or ground beef nachos, stir fries like Thai Basil Beef, or soups like Creamy Beef Enchilada Soup. You can get even more in depth tips on how to brown ground beef here.

Fork taking a bite of runza casserole on a white plate.

More Midwestern Ground Beef Casseroles to Try

Visit www.OhioBeef.org, and follow the Ohio Beef Council on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for beef nutrition facts, cooking tips, recipes and to meet Ohio’s beef farming families. Use #OhioBeef to share photos of the delicious beef dishes you’re incorporating into your healthy meal plan.

Slice of runza casserole on a white plate.

Runza Casserole

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This ground beef and cabbage casserole is topped with cheese and flaky crescent rolls to mimic the delicious flavors of the famous runza sandwich!

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
  • 4 cups cabbage slaw mix
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Set aside.
  2. Saute the onions. In a large skillet or heavy bottomed pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic and saute for about one minute.
  3. Add beef and cabbage. Add the ground beef and cabbage to the pan. Break up the beef with a spoon and spread it evenly over the pan. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes, or until browned. Stir and continue to saute until cabbage is wilted and no pink remains, another 6-9 minutes. If there is excess grease, drain it off the pan.
  4. Season well. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Line the pan with crescents. Unroll one package of crescent rolls, but don’t split them apart. Press the rolls on the bottom of the prepared pan. It’s okay if there are some gaps.
  6. Add beef and cheese. Spread the beef mixture on top of the crescent rolls. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Top with more crescents. Unroll the second package of crescent rolls and lay them on top of the cheese. Brush with the melted butter.
  8. Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crescents are puffed and golden brown. Brush with the melted butter and serve.

Notes

The filling for runza casserole can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge. I don't recommend prepping the casserole with the crescent rolls in advance. In my testing, the crescents did not rise properly when prepped and refrigerated overnight.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 644Total Fat: 47gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 713mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 35g

Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.

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