A quick, easy, creamy, cheesy and economical tuna noodle casserole recipe. No canned soup or white sauce needed! Just mix, bake and enjoy.
Why you'll love this easy tuna noodle casserole
I think Tuna Noodle Casserole is such classic comfort food. It may be a bit retro, but it still satisfies! This recipe is my adaptation of an older Best of Bridge recipe. I've added and taken away a few things over the years :)
You'll love this quick and easy this classic tuna noodle casserole recipe is made from scratch, without the need for a can of soup or without having to cook a white sauce. Simply mix together and bake.
I love that this recipe is easily scaled up or down, so if you're cooking for one or two, you can half the base recipe (just click the "1/2X" button to adjust the ingredients) and make a small casserole using just one can of tuna. Alternately double or triple for feeding more or a crowd.
This homemade tuna casserole is also perfectly creamy and never dry, because nobody wants a dry tuna casserole. The creamy sauce comes from an easy combination of mayonnaise and sour cream and an unusual, but highly effective ingredient that keeps the casserole moist, as it bakes.
Noodles - I love to make this tuna casserole with egg noodles, but you can use any small pasta, such as macaroni or small shells, if you prefer.
Tuna - I like to use solid white Albacore Tuna for tuna casserole, but you can use whatever canned tuna you have or enjoy.
Mayonnaise and Sour Cream - these two make the creamy part of this casserole. I always use full-fat versions of both. I haven't tested this recipe with lower fat versions, so I don't know how they hold up. I actually like to use Miracle Whip™ here, as I like the tangier flavour, but use what you have or prefer.
Cheese - it's hard to beat cheddar cheese to top this casserole, in my opinion, but if you are looking for options, mozzarella would work (or you can use a mix of cheddar and mozzarella). Gruyere would also be nice and nutty. I think mixing a little Parmesan with the panko would be nice, as well.
Making Tuna Noodle Casserole: Step-by-Step
Start by boiling the noodles. Hopefully you have a scale, so you can weigh out the amount of dry noodles, if not, I've shown the amount here in a typical cereal-sized bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, add the tuna, green onion, celery and frozen peas to a large bowl. Use a fork to combine and break up the tuna into chunks (I like to leave the tuna as chunky as I can).
Next, stir together the sauce ingredients and add to the bowl with the tuna mixture.
When the pasta is ready, scoop out the pasta with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the tuna mixture. Finally, add the pasta cooking water to the bowl and stir it all together. (The pasta cooking water adds extra moisture to the casserole, without the need to add more creamy ingredients. As the casserole bakes, the pasta water will bake off, without robbing any of the moisture from the creamy sauce).
Transfer to a baking dish, top with cheddar cheese and panko and bake!
- Be sure to chop the celery VERY finely. As the casserole is only in the oven for a short time, if the celery is larger, it may not soften sufficiently.
- Be sure to generously season as you prepare this casserole, from salting the pasta boiling water, to seasoning the sauce and finishing with a bit more seasoning on top of the casserole before baking. This will bring out all the great flavours.
- Don't forget to grab the pasta cooking water if you plan to drain your pasta in the sink! If you forget, just use an equal amount of hot water
If you don't mind a little extra time and another dirty pan, you can toast the panko in a skillet with a little butter and olive oil until lightly golden, before adding to the casserole, for a super crunch topping.
Making Ahead, Storage and Freezing
To make ahead, you can assemble the casserole, cover and refrigerate, then bake later in the day.
Left-over tuna casserole will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen about 3 months, for best results.
To re-warm after freezing, pop frozen into a 350F oven, covered with foil until warmed though. Remove the foil for a few minutes at the end of warming. Re-warming from frozen will take 45-60 minutes or more, depending on the size of the casserole.
Quick and Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 6 ounces egg noodles, about 2 cups dry or small pasta
- 12 ounces canned tuna, solid or chunk, Albacore recommended, drained
- 1/2 cup celery, VERY finely chopped *see Note 1 below
- 1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped, green part only
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2/3 cup sour cream, full fat recommended
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, or miracle whip, full-fat recommended
- 2 teaspoon dry mustard
- Pinch dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, *see Note 2 below
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2-2/3 cup panko, or dried bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350F (regular setting/not fan-assisted)
- Start a large pot of water to boil and salt generously. When boiling, add the noodles and cook to al dente per the package instructions. **Do not drain pasta before removing some of the cooking water to use in the casserole later!
- Meanwhile, drain tuna and add to a large bowl. Add celery, green onion and frozen peas and use a fork to combine and break the tuna apart into large chunks, as needed.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, dry mustard, thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper. Add to the tuna mixture and mix to combine.
- When pasta is ready, ***be sure to remove the required amount of pasta cooking water from the pot and set aside. Remove pasta with a slotted spoon to the tuna mixture (or drain in the sink). Measure out the required amount of pasta cooking water and add to the bowl with the tuna mixture. Stir to combine well.
- Transfer mixture to a baking dish. Top with shredded cheese and sprinkle panko evenly over-top. Season top with a bit of additional salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and golden.
- Be sure to chop the celery super finely, as the casserole is only in the oven a short time and larger chunks of celery won't soften at all.
- Remove water from the pot used to cook the pasta at the end of cooking the pasta or just before draining. Adding pasta cooking water to the casserole adds extra moisture so the casserole won't dry during baking and helps create a lovely, creamy sauce.
- I haven't tested this recipe with lower fat mayonnaise or sour cream, so I'm not sure how they will work out with this recipe.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.