Increasing numbers of people approaching and living with end-stage renal disease and failure of the supply of transplantable kidneys to keep pace has created an urgent need for alternative sources of new organs. One possibility is tissue engineering of new organs from stem cells. Adult kidneys are arguably too large and anatomically complex for direct construction, but engineering immature kidneys, transplanting them, and allowing them to mature within the host may be more feasible. In this review, we describe a technique that begins with a suspension of renogenic stem cells and promotes these cells' self-organization into organ rudiments very similar to foetal kidneys, with a collecting duct tree, nephrons, corticomedullary zonation and extended loops of Henle. The engineered rudiments vascularize when transplanted to appropriate vessel-rich sites in bird eggs or adult animals, and show preliminary evidence for physiological function. We hope that this approach might one day be the basis of a clinically useful technique for renal replacement therapy.