January 24th, 2011

Seitan & Sauerkraut Runzas

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Makes 8 runzas
Total Time: 2 hours || Active Time: 1 hour

People are surprised that I moved to Omaha Nebraska, but think of it as a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Malcolm X and Elliott Smith.

But more than Malcolm X and Elliott Smith, this town prides itself on two things: football and runzas. I’m more of a baseball girl myself, so if I’m going to take root in this state, it’s off to the kitchen for me.

Every culture has its meat-filled-dough-thing, be it empanadas, calzone, pork buns or pierogi. And of course every meat-filled-dough-thing has its own unique characteristics and nuance. And from region to region, or even family to family, there is always a way that it has to be. According to my boyfriend, a native Nebraskan, a runza has to be a doughy white bun, almost hoagie in shape. And it has to be stuffed with meat, onion and cabbage, and not much else.

Since this project was fairly impromptu, I didn’t have any cabbage laying around. I did have sauerkraut, though (what kind of savage doesn’t?) And although I was really determined to make the filling with lentils, the boyfriend poo-pooed that and insisted it had to be seitan. Well okay, his state, his filling. I used this seitan recipe, sans garlic. The seasoning was kept as simple as can be, salt and pepper pretty much did it! I also added just a touch of tomato paste for a slightly beefier taste and texture. And I was really liberal with the olive oil.

I veganized this recipe for the dough since it had leagues of reviews vouching for its authenticity. Instead of eggs, I used unsweetened soy yogurt (Whole Soy had conveniently sent me some to sample, so that worked out nicely!) and everything else was your standard sub. I changed the method up a bit, too, but you can read their method and see which works best for you. Basically, I didn’t heat everything up on the stovetop, I just melted the shortening in the microwave and used my standing mixer fitted with a flat beater for everything up to the kneading process. It worked out really well; relatively fast and not too messy, either.

The end result for these vegan runzas is a savory, toothsome filling, with a little bite and tang from the sauerkraut and lots of meaty flavor, all stuffed into a billowy, doughy bun that you will want to sink your teeth into again and again and again. And again. And just in time for the Super Bowl, too!

PS If you live in or visit Omaha, make sure to check out VeganOmaha.com.

For the dough:
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, at room temperature (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup water, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soy yogurt, at room temperature

For the filling:
Olive oil (at least 1/4 cup, divided)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb seitan, very finely chopped
3 cups sauerkraut
3/4 teaspoons salt
Lots of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Make the dough:

Place 1 3/4 cups flour in a standing mixer bowl, along with the sugar, yeast and salt.

Place the shortening in a cereal bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. If not totally melted, place back in the microwave for 30 more seconds. Stir until completely melted.

Pour the almond milk, water and yogurt into the mixer bowl. Add the shortening. Beat on low until incorporated, then beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Add remaining 2 3/4 cups flour in 3 or 4 batches, beating until smooth after each addition. When a stiff dough has formed, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until very smooth, about 10 minutes.

Place in a bowl greased with olive oil, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the filling:

Preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Saute onions in a few tablespoons olive oil with a pinch of salt, until nicely browned, about 7 minutes. Add the seitan and a bit more oil and saute until seitan is browned, about 7 more minutes. In the meantime, drain the sauerkraut, pressing it into a fine mesh strainer, until most of the moisture is drained.

Add sauerkraut, salt, pepper and tomato paste. Cook for about 5 more minutes, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Taste for salt and pepper.


Preheat oven to 350 F and have a greased baking sheet at the ready.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, stretch the dough into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Place a scant 1/2 cup of filling in the dough (as if you’re rolling a cigarette, but smoking is bad) leaving 1 1/2 inches of space on all sides. Fold the ends over first, and then fold the top and bottom, sort of like a burrito. But pinch the edges and smooth them out so that it’s more bun than burrito.

Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly golden and firm. Serve warm and cheer on your team!

85 comments to Seitan & Sauerkraut Runzas

  • Julia

    Never had Runzas (they’re a little uncommon in Germany), but it sounds great. Do you have any suggestions on what to substitute for the soy yogurt in case I cannot find it (which is kinda likely)?

  • Sünne

    Sounds interesting and runza is such a fun word to say! I guess I should try these seeing as I’m from Germany where you’d think everyone was eating sauerkraut every day (shame on me for having eaten it only once or twice so far ;)).

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lasertron, Isa Chandra, Ross Nelson, Rahul Gupta, Hulign and others. Hulign said: Hey @rossnelson RT @IsaChandra New recipe! Hold onto your hats Nebraska, it's Vegan Runzas http://t.co/fXZdclp […]

  • Elise

    Being a Cornhusker I have spent many long hours trying to perfect my vegan runza recipe…I think you just did all the work for me. Thanks, Isa ! Might I also suggest preparing it as a casserole for the lazy moments when you don’t feel rolling.

  • Have you heard of/tried making bierocks? They sound very similar to runzas and are popular around the same area–I’m a Kansas native now living in New York, so it sounds like we’ve switched places 🙂

    Outta curiosity, when did you make the move?

  • Hello again–just googled “bierock recipe,” and apparently bierocks and runzas are the same thing. Oops!

  • D

    also from the oma-hood. made the NE potluck classic runza casserole last night, substituted more cabbage and some delish mushrooms for the meat. turned out pretty good.

  • Those look so good! You really nailed that dough. It looks perfect. I grew up in Iowa, so I’ve seen my share of Runzas!


  • So, inquiring minds want to know: did your boyfriend enjoy and approve of his vegan runzas?

    I lived in Wisconsin for a while and enjoyed veganizing some Oktoberfest staples. There’s just so much uncharted territory for veganization in the Midwest.

  • I’ve never even heard of a runza before, but I’d hit that (in my value system, anything encased in dough is a-okay)!

  • Sunshine

    I’ve made “cabunza’s” before. Mostly the same thing. I use shredded cabbage, carrot, and tvp ( plus minimal seasonings) for the filling. I also like mine with mustard. Yummy!

  • Isa, please – I usually can modify for altitude your cookies and such – but breads are super scary. Can you offer any advice for 7000′? Thansk!

    • IsaChandra

      I’m sorry! I’ve never been in a high altitude baking situation so all I know is what I’ve read, which I’m sure is no different from what you’ve read.

  • I’m in the Kansas City area and I’ve never heard of a runza before. My mom would make something similar, but she’d stuff it with pizza or bbq filling and we called them homemade hot pockets. Never thought to put sauerkraut in one before. Sounds amazing.

  • I’m from Omaha, and you’re right about their popularity… though, they seem to be largely a winter thing. I have fond memories of the 7am temp special they do there in January (or they did, at least, years ago)… You buy a drink and fries and get a runza at the price the temp was at, 7am same day. Cold as it gets there, they were usually free, or under $.25 at least.

    Anyway! I’ve veganized these before too! I used a ground “meat” substitute, found that sausage style is better than hamburger style, onions, and cabbage. They’re really good dipped with bbq sauce or loads of ketchup. Original ones require lots of ketchup. I prefer my vegan version with bbq sauce, though.

    http://www.food.com/recipe/vegan-runzas-385226 = my tossed together version. And for bread-is-scary Laura, I’m high altitude (6000’+ now) and the bread comes together just fine both here and back in corn-land. I think the trick up here is mostly to wait. Sometimes the bread takes longer to rise up here than it did down at sea level. Patience. Or extra yeast. Either works. Just be sure you’re letting the bread rise in a warm enough area. Preheat oven to 175* for 2 minutes and put in there if you must.

  • oh cool! veganizing regional stuff is the best. it’s like, “take that omaha!”

  • Mike

    OK now you have to recreate BIG FRED’s pizza!! I was born n raised in Omaha but moved away 20 years ago… I can still taste the Runza’s from back in the 80s. Glad you have resettled and are now putting O on the map! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Jules

    @Julia from Germany: You’ll find different kinds of Soy Yoghurt in many grocery stores in Germany: Alpro, Provamel etc. They come with or without flavor. Check Rewe, Kaufland or Edeka, they should carry Alpro Soy Yoghurt. 🙂

  • julia

    @jules. Thank you 🙂 I’m quite new in the business of veganizing. Do you have a suggestion for shortening as well? Would normal Margarine do?

  • Jules

    What is usually used as a substitute for vegan shortening is “Palmin soft”. Most margarines (even the vegan ones) taste too “buttery” and shortening doesn’t really have much flavor on its own. If you’re not sure about what to substitute for what you can always use google: there are LOTS of German vegans out there who love US American recipes. 😉 Just like I love The Post Punk Kitchen. 😀

  • @Jules: I got “vegan cupcakes” few days ago and wanted to try few recipes, but same problem here, I’m from Germany(and new in vegan foods), and didn’t know where to get shortening. I bought “palmin soft” yesterday and wanted to try it together with “alsan”( I love it, great for baking). How about using only pure alsan, do you think it will be too heavy?(for the cupcake topping)Thank you!
    @Julia: in my supermarket(kaufland) there are 2 different soya joghurt kinds, both are really tasty(alprosoya/other),they have also “alsan” margarine and soy cream, fine tofu(natural/smoked, organic) and few nice vegan spreads for bread(try zwiebelschmalz!). DM Markt/Rossman have also some interesting ingredients: spreads,TVP, sukanat(sugar) and much more. 🙂

    This recipe is very similar to Japanese curry bread, it is bread filled with curry ad the fried in oil or backed. Love the idea to use sauerkraut.

  • IsaChandra

    Thanks for helping with the ingredient advice everyone!

  • Catalina

    Veganizing Midwestern classics is fun and always entertaining to explain to locals. My co-workers are always in awe of the Iowa/Norwegian things I manage to make. Runzas sound delicious and might be worth going into the scary world of yeast and bread.

  • SonOfSeitan

    I am going to make these

  • I buy yeast by the jar rather than packet. Do you know how many teaspoons this is?

  • Sweetie Bean

    I went to college in Omaha and lived in Bellevue for another 5 years – LOVED RUNZAS! I always had mine with cheese – trying to decide what to use to sub – Daiya? Thanks and welcome to the Midwest!

  • Julia

    Ok, last question: How do you pronounce Runza? 🙂

  • Pronounced Run-zuh (run away! and duh with a z) 🙂

  • Shell

    AWESOME! I grew up in Nebraska and moved away. I really miss Runzas! (They also have the best onion rings in the world.) I’m definitely going to try this.

  • I’m so happy right now, I’d been dreaming of Runza’s for a few days and then I saw this! I live in North O(north Omaha) with my fiancée and he’s basically a Runza addict(their fries were the first food we shared, dopey but yummy!) As Sweetie Bean said, Welcome to the Midwest, and I hope to see you around!

  • Tracy

    I was born in Omaha, grew up in Nebraska, and moved to Northern California 3 years ago. I stumbled upon your blog by way of the “Clean” program. I was vegan for a few years, even in Nebraska, but have since fallen waaaayyy down the slope. What a surprise to come back to this blog and find Runzas! I make a version now that could be easily translated into whole foods -why haven’t I tried this yet? Not sure the BF will like it, but I definitely will! Thanks so much for your vegan spin on our comfort foods!

  • Your book, veganomican, got me hooked on seitan. I love it, love it, love it.

  • Sam

    I just made these and they are so good!!! seriously, perfect. Thanks!

  • SBSulkosky

    I am not much of a commenter but I must say that this recipe is fantastic! I used egg replacer for two eggs instead of the soy yogurt and the dough turned out great (I will be using that recipe for rolls for the next holiday season). As for the filling, my husband doesn’t really like sauerkraut but I gave it a try anyway and even he was raving about it. And the best thing is that I froze the leftovers and they tasted even better after defrosted/reheated! As a vet student I have very little time to cook, so I can make a big batch of these, freeze them, and be set for lunch for two weeks. I also plan on trying other fillings (first on my list being vegan sloppy joes!)

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe! Four thumbs up from this household.

  • Laura, I live just over the Sangres from you at 9000 ft. My understanding from expert bakers is that baked goods that are leavened with baking soda and baking powder are the problem; at altitude a sea level recipe will expand too fast and too high, before it’s baked, and then fall. Breads leavened with yeast shouldn’t require modification.

  • JennDoll

    i am originally from lincoln, Nebraska and i miss Runza dearly…. Whenever i visit home i must have one. however i have been migrating to the vegetarian side of life and i am so excited to try this recipe, i have made the original before and am glad you posted this. I do know that i will be eating the fries when i go back tho! … too good, too good! enjoy the midwest!

  • Becky

    Isa thanks so much for the great receipt. I am new to the vegan life style (week 5) and I can use all of the inspiration I can get. I grew up in Nebraska so I have had a few Runza’s in my day. If you ever get to Lincoln go the the Isles in Havelock they have the best pizza’s I have ever had!

  • Emily

    I moved to Arizona from Omaha a mere 6 months ago, and seeing this recipe has made me so very nostalgic. I must makes these Runzas this week, as it’s the coldest Arizona has been all year!

    Thank you for not only taking the time to create a recipe, but also for spreading the word about Runza to nonmidwesterners!

  • Jessica

    Hello fellow Sangre de Cristo dwellers– I am in Santa Fe now, but spent a year in Taos a while back. Cathy is correct that chemical leaveners can be particularly vexing when baking at high altitude. However, yeast presents its own problems. If you make this recipe as written (I haven’t), your dough will probably rise very quickly, then collapse. You might not mind in a recipe like this, where the bread is a supporting player. I often make pizza dough and pita bread with sea-level recipes. If you want to duplicate the sea-level results for this recipe, you should consider A) watching your dough like a hawk; it will likely rise more quickly than the recipe says it will; and/or B) reducing the amount of yeast.
    BTW, Isa’s cupcake recipes usually work at 7000 feet. I suppose that cupcakes don’t suffer from the same “structural integrity” issues that plague full-size cakes at altitude. For more in-depth discussion of how to adapt recipes to various altitudes, I highly recommend Susan Purdy’s (non-vegan) book, Pie in the Sky. Laura, I bet the Taos Library has it. If you can’t find it there, I bought my copy at Moby Dickens. Good luck!

  • misssakura

    We made these a few days ago and they came out perfectly. It was a long weekend so we packed some for Laneway festival, for overtime work, snacking on the porch. I dislike sauerkraut so I just used regular cabbage and added some pickles in, cus I like pickles, but anyway the recipe is pretty much foolproof.

  • Kassie

    Thank you sooo much! From Lincoln, NE and i’ve been waiting to do something like this! So excited to try!

  • EmilyH

    I live in Omaha too! I still haven’t tried veganizing Runzas, though my mom makes a pretty good “fatire” as we call them, which is a Lebanese “meat-filled-dough-thing” as you put it. 🙂

    Ask your boyfriend about Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches and see if he has something to say about those, which I’d hope he would! It’s another weird midwest/Omaha thing and on the menu at classic places here like Petrow’s or the 11worth Cafe. I just tried veganizing one for the first time yesterday with grilled portabello mushrooms for the hot roast beef, and vegan gravy and mashed potatoes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xemily/5489137098/

    Turned out pretty good!

  • wow! These look amazing. I have been looking for manapua-esque pork dumplings and absolutely love that these have no meat in them. Thanks for sharing!

  • laura

    Wow! these are so good! I made them to pack to eat after our training ride tomorrow and have already managed to eat two of them. Yikes!

  • Catherine

    Holy cow. So good. I had a little trouble with the dough – I had to add a lot of extra flour and it was still too moist, and it didn’t really rise, but they rose fine during baking and were SUPER delicious. Yummmmm. Awesome as always, Isa – thanks!

  • Came out so perfect but I should have gone with my gut feeling when making the dough. I had to make it twice because the first attempt came out really hard and wouldn’t rise. So I redid..adding the yeast first with the warm almond milk/water and a pinch of salt. Allowed that to sit for 10 minutes. Added the shortening and yogurt. And gradually added the flour, mixing on low speed with the dough hook on my kitchenaid. I don’t understand how dough is suppose to rise if you don’t dissolve it in warm water first. Maybe I did something wrong but doing it my way also turned out okay.
    The filling on this was delicious…could eat it by itself. Thank you Isa!

  • ^ sorry i meant pinch of sugar

  • Chris Peña

    I can’t get enough of the runza! Check out this video
    to see why

  • I’m so happy to see my favorite cookbook author name-drop my favorite musician.

  • Jen Shepard

    I have been following your blog but previous to this I’d missed that you live in Omaha. I’m from Omaha and most of family still lives there. I live in Maine now. Glad to see Vegans growing strong in NE!

  • Kira

    I first discovered runzas in Lawrence, Kansas, where at least in the late 80s there was a fast food restaurant called just that, Runza. Then I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska and learned that people there ate runzas (when they weren’t eating hamburgers with butter on the bun). This looks like a yummy recipe but I’ll probably have to sub in something other than seitan for the meat as I don’t digest it well.

  • Taylor

    What can I use for a substitute for non hydr. shortening ?? I don’t have a WF store near where i live…. what else could i use?

    • IsaChandra

      I’ve used olive oil and it was great. I used a bit less though, more like 1/3 cup. It tastes more Italian and the dough is a little more flaky.

  • Cindy

    oooo the olive oil sub makes me think I will have to try making Italian Runzas (which I miss more the regular ones)…

  • amy

    we’re making these as i type this. we’ve been wanting to make vegan runzas for so long, being Nebraska natives! Welcome to Omaha!! We’re excitedly awaiting your new restaurant here. =) yay for vegans in the midwest!

  • taylor

    I made these the other day and they came out really well. I used Brazilian palm oil instead of non hyd. shortening. The dough was very sweet and a little yellow looking but very tasty !! also i can’t find plain soy yogurt in italy. the only kinds i found at the super market were the fruity flavors t : /

  • These are really good! I had a lot of fun learning some new techniques today while working on this. 🙂

  • […] food. It was delicious, as usual. At his request, I tried my hand at Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan Runza recipe. I’ll do a separate post about making them, but all you really need to know is that they […]

  • […] a meatless Runza for our most recent pot luck, I really wanted to give it a go. I’d seen a recipe for vegan Runzas on the Post Punk Kitchen and decided to use it. Technically, my version of the […]

  • Jennifer

    I live in Omaha and never dreamed someone could make a Vegan Runza!!! I am going to make these this weekend. Isa, I had no idea you were in Omaha, but welcome. My family worships your peanut butter chocolate pillows 🙂

  • Melanie

    Literally needed to cry of happiness. This is the ultimate in comfort food for Nebraska natives, such as myself. Thank you so much for this recipe!!! I wish I’d found this last year, I lived in Bellevue for a few months and seriously started to think I might have been the only vegan in the Omaha metro 🙂 LOVE THIS!!

  • […] to support being stuffed with beef, cabbage and onion. I pulled the dough recipe straight from a vegan Runza recipe found on the Post Punk Kitchen site of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who in addition to being a vegan […]

  • i just moved to phoenix from omaha and i miss runzas so much! my grandma made them from scratch, which were obviously way more amazing than the restaurants. and yours look amazing as well!!

  • Kristen

    I’m so glad I found this website. I’m new to vegan eating and I’ve never made seitan (much less heard of it…) or yeast bread. I made them today, it was an all day adventure! They’re about five minutes from being done and I already know they’re going to be DELICIOUS.

  • Jason B

    Hey, I’m from BC (Canada) just made this. and ate most of it all at once. (my wife helped)
    This is how i’m a kinda chubby vegetation. sooo good! thanks so much for a tasty treat. I’ve been trying different things to dip it in as well.
    ok back to the food. thanks again!

  • Bonnie

    Oh my word!!! Just made these and am so excited! They taste so amazing! Than you Isa for this recipe, you are the best.

  • Paul

    I used to work for Runza back in the day. The dough ingredients are a lot simpler than what you posted, and it’s vegan. It’s been a while but I remember it being flour, yeast, salt, vegetable shortening and warm water.

  • K

    Sorry if this is blasphemous, but I made these with Polish sausages (Simple Italian Sausages recipe w/ Penzey’s Krakow Nights Seasoning), and a batch of whole wheat pizza crust. They are so tasty! And great for the manfriend to take to work. I tried them with mustard, ketchup, mustard and ketchup, and bbq sauce, but I liked them best plain (though bbq was a close 2nd). Whereas I tried making non-vegan runzas several years ago and thought they were quite bland and required a lot of ketchup and mustard. For another touch of blasphemy, I like these a lot better than the pasties I’m geographically required to love!

  • What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace,
    when i read this article i thought i could also make comment due to this brilliant paragraph.

  • Dia

    I normally don’t leave comments but this was such a huge success I had to leave a comment. First off, I only got one packaged of seitan strips so I decided to half the recipe. I added the yogurt, almond milk and water while they were still a bit cold so I let my dough sit for almost two hours, inside my dryer since it was the warmest place I could find in my apartment. These are so yummy! I was able to make 7 even though I halfed the recipe. They were 8 x6 but the dough was thinner. I am deff making this again and add it to the holiday menu. I loved the taste of the bread too. I could probably even make the dough by itself and bake it as dinner rolls. Thanks for such an awesome recipe! loved it!

  • As a german foodblogger I can say: You dit an amazing job with sauerkraut!!! 🙂

  • Cj

    Can’t imagine why lentils would be more suitable than Seitan here. The boyfriend was right.

  • Toni

    Heeey girl, I am soo pleased to see this recipe here!! But. From one native Nebraskan to a transplant… for authenticity, be sure to add a healthy pinch of oregano and more black pepper than you would normally deem suitable for human consumption. And get those onions BROWN. I am very much looking forward to sweater weather (in NE read: football/runza weather) when I can make these!

  • Agnes Smith

    Oh, my gosh…these are so good. My daughter and her husband are Nebraskans, so I made these from your new holiday cookbook for them. My son-in-law ate three of them! I made my own seitan for the first time from your Isa Does It cookbook and it all turned out well. Will definitely be making them again. The bread dough was so supple and easy to work with. Thanks for a great recipe.

  • Jill

    I don’t think this recipe is in any of the Isa cookbooks and I just came across it. My stupid supermarket doesn’t carry plain soy yogurt, only vanilla so wish me luck!!

  • Kristie

    This recipe now appears in The Superfun Times Cookbook. I just made it for the first time–and by some magic, successfully made it gluten-free! I used an even mix of a rice flour blend (containing xantham gum) and an “all-purpose” with garbanzo and fava bean flours, but just one type should work. The result was slightly sweet, fluffy, doughy dream-bread! Instead of seitan, I sauteed the onion with thinly sliced cremini mushrooms and smashed in some cooked green lentils and tiny chunks of carrot, following the rest of the filling recipe from there. An instant favorite–this recipe and the new book!

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