Easy Bierocks: Beef and Cabbage Stuffed Rolls
What are Bierocks?
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, there were several foods that I didn’t realize at the time were fairly regional dishes. Bierocks are one of those items, or if you hail from the Cornhusker state just North of us, you may know them as Runzas. These tasty treats were popularized by the Volga German people (basically ethnic Germans living in the Volga river region of Russia). In the mid 1870’s, thousands of Russian-German Mennonites immigrated to the United States with a good portion of them settling in Kansas along the Sante Fe railroad. Bierocks were a food born out of convenience and necessity as they provided a filling hand held meal while the families tended to their farms.
In their simplest form, bierocks are yeast bread rolls, filled with seasoned beef, cabbage, and onion. In Kansas they are typically round, with Nebraska’s Runza version being more commonly rectangular. While the basic meat, cabbage, onion mixture is still by far the most common and popular version, over the years intrepid entrepreneurs have begun to add additional fillings such as cheese, sausage, and ham.
Bierocks are so incredibly easy to make, especially with this shortcut that skips the need to make the dough from scratch. Even though no German living outside the Midwest is likely to have ever heard of them, they make an excellent accompaniment to an Oktoberfest feast, along with some brats, sauerkraut, pretzels, and a stein (or 4) of beer.
Making the Easy Bierocks Recipe
Preparing the bierocks filling
The following recipe is for the traditional bierocks. We have also included a second filling option replacing the cabbage with red sauerkraut. For the filling all you need is 1 pound ground beef, 1 onion, 4 cups of shredded cabbage, and some salt and pepper.
After dicing the onion, saute it in a large skillet with about a tablespoon of oil, until soft.
Next add in the ground beef and cook along with the onion.
Continue cooking the beef and onion mixture until the beef is just cooked through. Don’t brown the meat, if possible.
Turn off the heat, then add in the cabbage or sauerkraut.
Stir the mixture well to combine and set aside to cool. You can prepare the filling a day or 2 ahead of time if desired
Preparing the Bierocks Dough
Over the years we have tried a number of different methods, and techniques for the dough. We have made our own from scratch and tried just about every type of frozen or store bought dough there is. This is by far our favorite method, using a frozen yeast dough, but so closely mimics dough made from scratch, that no will be able to tell the difference.
The secret is Rhodes yeast dinner rolls. These can typically be found in the freezer section. We find the dough to be very easy to work with, and the flavor is spot on to the bierocks I remember eating growing up in Kansas. These have also become our go to dinner roll for holidays and family dinners. You are likely only going to need half the bag for this recipe so heat up the rest to eat alongside some smoked turkey breast or bacon wrapped pork loin.
One of the keys to using the frozen Rhodes yeast rolls, is finding the right timing in thawing and rising. After a lot of trial and error, we have found it is best to let the dough thaw for about an hour and a half at room temperature. At this point the dough will be thawed enough to work with, but generally has not started rising too much yet.
After about one and a half hours, you should be ready to fill your bierocks. On a well floured surface, lightly flour the outside of each dough ball. One at a time, gently roll out the dough. You do not want to roll the dough too thin or it will tear. Roll to about 1/16 of an inch. Typically your rolled out dough will about the size of a small tortilla, if not a tad smaller.
Filling the Bierocks
As you roll out each ball, you will be filling it with the cooled or refrigerated filling. You can typically get about 4-6 tablespoons, a heaping 1/4 cup, of filling in each bierock. At first it will seem like it is too much filling, but the dough is very workable and will easily pull over the meat. If you choose to add cheese to the bierock, add it here, just before sealing.
Look at the pictures below to see the easiest technique for forming the bierocks. First roll up the sides of the dough and pinch them together. It will resemble a cannoli. Second, pull one end of the dough up and over the meat. You may need to hold the meat in the other side to keep it from squeezing out. Third, repeat the same step with the other end of the dough. Finally, pinch all of the dough together, to make sure it stays sealed.
Repeat the filling process with the other dough balls. As you go, flip the bierock over and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Next, let your bierocks rest for about another hour and a half, so the dough can rise just a bit. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees so it is ready to go at the end of the resting time.
Bake your Bierocks
Bake the bierocks in the 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. You want the dough to be lightly browned, just like a dinner roll. Start checking the color after about 20-25 minutes, just in case they are getting done quicker, as ovens can vary.
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Easy Bierocks: Beef and Cabbage Stuffed Rolls
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 4 cups Cabbage shredded
- 1 Small Onion diced
- 1 Tab Olive Oil
- 1/2 tea Black Pepper
- Salt to taste 1-2 teaspoons
- 1 package Frozen Rhodes Yeast Rolls will use about 18
- Flour for dusting surface
Making the filling
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Saute the onions in the oil until just soft.
- Add in the ground beef and cook until just cooked through. Drain the meat, if desired, then season with salt and pepper, turn off the heat and stir in the cabbage. * See notes.
- Let the mixture cool to room temp before filling the bierocks, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Preparing the dough
- Remove 18 dough balls and set on a baking tray and cover with Saran wrap. Let the dough thaw for 1.5 hours.
- On a well floured surface, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and roll gently to about 1/16 of an inch thick. The dough will be slightly smaller than a regular corn tortilla.
- Place a heaping 1/4 cup of the beef mixture into the center of the dough.
- Fold up two opposite edges of the dough and pinch together.
- Bring up one side of the dough and pinch together.
- Bring up the final side of the dough and pinch together to form a tight seal.
- Flip the bierock over and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Let the bierocks rest for 1.5 hours, to rise slightly.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the bierocks for about 25-30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Turn the pan 180 degrees halfway through.
- For a stronger flavor can substitute sauerkraut for the cabbage, but if you do this decrease the amount by half.