The runza sandwich is a type of bierock pastry that is often filled with meat and sauerkraut. Bierock pastries originated in Eastern Europe and are thought to have been created in Russia in the early 1900s. They were then quickly adopted by people in Germany. The word 'bierock' comes from the Russian word pirozki, which is used for any bread or bun stuffed with a savory filling. The German bierock was brought to the United States and Canada in the late 19th century by the Volga Germans, an ethnic group that lived along the river Volga. The runza sandwich may also be considered a precursor to other popular pocket sandwiches.
The shape of a runza sandwich depends on where it is made, and it can take many different forms. For instance, in Kansas it may look like a bun, but in Nebraska the preferred shape may be rectangular. The malleable dough used to make the pocket sandwich can be any yeast dough recipe, or a pre-made one that can be purchased at local store.
To make the filling, a cook needs only some meat, onion, sauerkraut, and spices. Typically, an onion is chopped and sautéed until translucent. Once the onion is ready, sauerkraut is added to the pan and cooked until tender. Ground beef is usually browned in a different pan, and is then added to onion mixture along with whatever spices are being used. The dough is rolled out into a sheet, cut into the desired shape, and wrapped around some of the filling. The runza sandwich is then baked in the oven until golden brown.
There are many different recipe variations for the runza sandwich filling. Some cooks use pork instead of beef, while others may use a mixture of the two. Cabbage, or even coleslaw, is sometimes used instead of sauerkraut.
Recipes may also use eggs to bind the filling, because one that does not use egg will generally have a looser consistency. The addition of an egg or two can help the filling hold together when it is being eaten. Cheese is also sometimes used to add more flavor, as well as help bind the filling and make it easier to eat while on the go.
In the United States, the first runza sandwich shop opened in Nebraska after World War II. The sandwich was a handy food to serve to workers for lunch because it is fast and convenient. The shop was so successful that it started opening franchise restaurants in the 1970s. The dish has been slowly spreading, and gaining in popularity, in the United States since then.