Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

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Nothing says comfort food quite like tuna noodle casserole. But is the popular dish really as bad for you as its reputation suggests?

Learn about how the right ingredients in this tuna casserole recipe are used to create this healthier popular dish.

A spoon filled with Tuna Noodle Casserole lifts some of the dish out of a white bowl.

Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole

This American classic dish is traditionally made with canned cream of mushroom soup. But if you focus on healthy eating, you know how bad canned soups can be. So I don’t use that in the recipe below, and it’s every bit as good.

Traditionally, this dish is also made with egg noodles. But I try to be gluten-free as much as possible these days, so I used chickpea pasta instead.

You can use a chunk light tuna or any tuna you like. I just recommend avoiding oil-packed tuna for a healthier version.

In the classic version, most folks will crush ritz crackers and sprinkle them over the top. Some folks also use potato chips, but that’s not going to happen here. (Though it could if you don’t mind it)

A spoonful of Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Why Is My Tuna Noodle Casserole Dry?

There are a few reasons your casserole could be dry. Here’s what they are and how to fix them.

  1. You aren’t using enough sauce. It’s easy to cut back on the sauce, thinking it will make things healthier. But your casserole won’t hold up in the oven without drying out if you don’t use enough sauce.
  2. You are baking it for too long. This is the most likely culprit. The different components of this recipe are already fully cooked when the casserole goes in the oven. So baking it for too long will dry it out.
  3. In some cases, it may be necessary to cover the casserole dish with a loose piece of aluminum foil.

What To Serve With Tuna Noodle Casserole?

This casserole is a complete meal on its own. But if you want to round out the meal a bit more, you can serve this with a green side salad and some garlic bread.

Optional Additions

If you want to add more to this, try adding one or more of these:

  • Green beans
  • Extra parmesan cheese
  • Chopped red onion

Recipe Tip

  • If you use frozen peas and carrots, using them frozen will give you an al dente texture after baking it in the oven. If you prefer a softer texture, you’ll need to either thaw the veggies first or cook them a bit before adding them to the casserole.
A spoon showing a scoop of Tuna Noodle Casserole on it.

What Is Tuna Noodle Casserole Made Of?

The Casserole:

Rotini pasta – Cooked to package directions. I used gluten-free chickpea pasta, but use whatever you prefer.

Canned, water-packed tuna – Drained and flaked.

Frozen carrots and peas – You can buy individual packages or a mixed bag.

Grated mild cheddar cheese – Or you can use sharp cheddar if you prefer.

The Sauce:

Butter – I used salted butter.

Oat flour – You can use regular whole-grain flour if you prefer that. I just used oat flour to keep this gluten-free.

Arrowroot powder – Or cornstarch.

Milk – You can use dairy or non-dairy milk for this. I used oat milk.

Chicken broth – Or vegetable broth.

Grated sharp cheddar

Sliced mushrooms

Dijon mustard

Garlic granules – Or garlic powder.

Onion granules – Or onion powder.

Dried thyme – If you don’t like thyme, you can use dried dill instead.

Salt and black pepper – To taste.

For the topping:

The toppings are optional. I did not use any of these. I simply topped mine with grated cheese.

Breadcrumbs – Whole wheat Panko bread crumbs or homemade.

Grated Parmesan cheese

Melted butter

Fresh chopped parsley – For garnish (optional)

How To Make Tuna Noodle Casserole

Pasta

Adding salt to pasta water.

Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package direction. While that cooks, move on to the next steps.

Sauce

Melting butter in a pot.
Melted butter in a pot.

Melt the butter in a medium pot.

Adding flour to melted butter in a pot.
Adding milk to melted butter in a pot.

Whisk in the flour and milk.

Adding chicken broth to butter in a pot.
Adding arrowroot powder to melted butter in a pot.

Then add the broth and the arrowroot powder. Whisk well for a few minutes until you see a thickening in the sauce.

Adding spices to sauce in a pot.
Adding mustard to sauce in a pot.
Adding cheese to white sauce in a pot.

Whisk in the spices, mustard, and cheese.

Stirring mushrooms into white sauce in a pot.
Adding ground pepper to white sauce for Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Finally, stir in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Once that is done, set the sauce to the side.

Preheat

An oven display showing an oven temperature of 375 F.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Filling

Frozen peas and carrots in a large mixing bowl.
Cooked pasta added to tuna, veggies and cheese in a large mixing bowl.
Tuna added to frozen veggies in a mixing bowl.
Mixing casserole filling in a large mixing bowl.
Grated cheese added to tuna and veggies in a mixing bowl.
Spreading casserole filling over the bottom of a casserole dish.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Then spread the filling over the bottom of a baking dish. Mine was 9×13, but you could get away with a dish that is a bit smaller if you don’t have one that size.

Pouring white sauce over the casserole filling in a casserole dish.
Sauce with mushrooms spread evenly over the tuna noodle casserole filling in a white casserole dish.

Pour the sauce over the top and smooth it evenly over the entire surface with a spatula.

Grated cheese sprinkled over the top of the tuna noodle casserole.
The just-baked Tuna Noodle Casserole cooling on a countertop.

Add your topping(s) of choice and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until everything is properly warmed through.

A spoon lifts a spoonful of Tuna Nood Casserole out of a full, white bowl.

Let it cool for a bit before serving. The more you let it cool, the easier it will be to cut and serve.

How Long Is Tuna Noodle Casserole Good For?

Wrap leftovers well with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for up to three days. You can also use an airtight container to store portioned sizes for future meals.

Can Tuna Noodle Casserole Be Frozen?

This recipe is not recommended for freezing.

Reheating Tuna Noodle Casserole

You can microwave this or put it in a preheated oven at 325 F. for about 15 minutes or until it’s warmed through. You may want to put a little extra cheese over the top or cover it closely with foil to keep the top layer from drying out. (or do both!)

More Healthy Casserole Recipes

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A spoon filled with Tuna Noodle Casserole lifts some of the dish out of a white bowl.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Comfort food at it's finest, this casserole is one the whole family will love.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 403kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Casserole dish
  • 1 Large mixing bowl
  • 1 Medium pot
  • 1 Whisk
  • 1 rubber spatula

Ingredients

Filling Ingredients

  • 8 oz. dry rotini pasta (cooked to package directions)
  • 20 oz. water-packed, canned tuna (4 cans – drained and flaked)
  • 1 lb. package frozen carrots and peas
  • 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

Creamy Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup oat flour
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth – no sugar or dextrose added)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 12 oz. package sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (whole-wheat Panko if store bought)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • fresh, chopped parsley (optional for garnish)

Instructions

Pasta

  • Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package direction. While that cooks, move on to the next steps.
    Adding salt to pasta water.

Sauce Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a medium pot.
    Melted butter in a pot.
  • Whisk in the flour and milk.
    Adding flour to melted butter in a pot.
  • Then, add the broth and the arrowroot powder. Whisk well for a few minutes until you see a thickening in the sauce.
    Adding chicken broth to butter in a pot.
  • Whisk in the spices, mustard, and cheese.
    Adding cheese to white sauce in a pot.
  • Finally, stir in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Once that is done, set the sauce to the side.
    Stirring mushrooms into white sauce in a pot.

Preheat

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F.
    An oven display showing an oven temperature of 375 F.

Filling Instructions

  • Combine all the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Then, spread the filling over the bottom of a casserole dish. Mine was 9×13, but you could get away with a dish that is a bit smaller if you don't have one that size.
    Spreading casserole filling over the bottom of a casserole dish.
  • Pour the sauce over the top and smooth it evenly over the entire surface with a spatula.
    Sauce with mushrooms spread evenly over casserole filling in a white casserole dish.
  • Add your topping(s) of choice and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until everything is properly warmed through.
    Grated cheese sprinkled over the top of the casserole.
  • Let it cool for a bit before serving. The more you let it cool, the easier it will be to cut and serve.
    A serving of Tuna Noodle Casserole in a white bowl.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 626mg | Potassium: 409mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 4147IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 324mg | Iron: 4mg

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