As I’ve gotten older my palate has become more adventurous, preferring flavors that surprise and excite me. But I grew up in the Midwest in the ’80s when creamy casseroles were a dinnertime staple, so I still have a soft spot for classic dishes like this Tuna Noodle Casserole. It might not be as flashy as many of my other creations, but this Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe is filling, creamy, and totally comforting! I did update the classic a bit to fit my current cooking style by making this tuna noodle casserole 100% from scratch, with no canned condensed soup.
What is Tuna Noodle Casserole?
This classic casserole dish starts with a creamy mushroom sauce combined with delicate egg noodles, peas, and tuna, then it’s topped with a buttery breadcrumb, cracker, or potato chip topping. The classic version of tuna noodle casserole uses canned condensed cream of mushroom soup for the sauce, but in the recipe below I’ve whipped up a homemade creamy mushroom sauce instead. It does take a little more time, but it’s totally worth it, IMHO!
Ingredients for Tuna Noodle Casserole
Here’s what you’ll need to make this cheesy, creamy, cozy, and comforting tuna noodle casserole recipe:
- Vegetables: This cozy casserole features onion, mushrooms, and peas for tons of color, texture, and flavor.
- Butter: Butter is the base for the thick cream sauce and makes the breadcrumb topping deliciously golden brown and crispy.
- Flour: Flour combines with the butter to create a roux that thickens the creamy sauce.
- Milk and Broth: We use a combination of both milk and broth to create the creamy sauce so that it’s both rich and flavorful.
- Cream Cheese: Cream cheese thickens the creamy sauce and gives it tons of flavor, similar to the canned condensed soups that your grandma used.
- Wide Egg Noodles: The delicate texture of egg noodles and their wide shape balance perfectly with the chunks of tuna throughout.
- Tuna: I went with chunk light tuna packed in water for this recipe to keep it light and budget-friendly. If you have room in your budget, solid white albacore tuna will give you even better flakey chunks of tuna in the casserole.
- Breadcrumbs: A simple buttery breadcrumb topping creates just the right amount of texture on top of the casserole as it bakes. Some people like to use crushed Ritz crackers or even potato chips in place of the breadcrumbs.
- Parmesan: A little Parmesan mixed in with the breadcrumb topping gives the breadcrumbs just the right amount of flavor.
Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole
One of the most popular variations of this classic casserole is to add cheddar cheese. So if you like your tuna noodle casserole extra cheesy, feel free to stir in a cup of shredded cheddar when combining the sauce, pasta, and tuna. It will get nice and melty as the casserole bakes! Parmesan is another great option.
What to Serve with Tuna Noodle Casserole
This casserole can be a bit on the heavy side, especially if you prefer to make the cheesy version, so I like to pair it with a light and simple side salad. The delicate flavor and texture of the salad perfectly balance the creamy tuna casserole and it helps you get a little more green on that plate. Plus, it only takes five minutes to make! A simple Three Bean Salad might also be nice.
How to Store Leftovers
Tuna noodle casserole can be stored in the refrigerator for about four days, although it will get drier the longer it is in the refrigerator. You can also freeze tuna noodle casserole for longer storage. Once it’s fully chilled in the refrigerator, simply transfer to the freezer where it will keep for about three months. I suggest dividing the casserole into single servings before freezing so you can reheat one portion at a time. To reheat, let the frozen tuna noodle casserole thaw in the refrigerator over night, then microwave until hot.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 1 yellow onion, diced ($0.32)
- 4 Tbsp butter, divided ($0.44)
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced ($1.69)
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided ($0.04)
- 1/4 tsp pepper ($0.02)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
- 2 cups whole milk ($0.40)
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth ($0.13)
- 4 oz. cream cheese ($0.75)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas ($0.25)
- 8 oz. wide egg noodles ($0.70)
- 2 Tbsp breadcrumbs ($0.08)
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan ($0.22)
- 12 oz. chunk light tuna, drained ($1.79)
- Finely dice the onion and add it to a skillet with 1 Tbsp butter. Sauté the onion over medium heat until softened.
- While the onion is cooking, slice the mushrooms. Add them to the skillet with the onion and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Continue sautéing over medium heat until the mushrooms have softened. Remove the mushrooms and onions from the skillet and set aside.
- Add the flour and an additional 2 Tbsp butter to the skillet. Cook and whisk over medium heat as the butter melts. Continue whisking as the butter and flour bubbles and foams for about one minute.
- Add the milk, broth, and cream cheese to the skillet. Whisk to combine with the butter and flour mixture. Continue cooking over medium, whisking until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce begins to simmer, at which point it will thicken.
- Add the frozen peas and the cooked mushrooms and onions back to the sauce. Stir to combine, then season with more salt and pepper (about ½ tsp salt and another pinch of pepper). Set the sauce aside.
- Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the noodles. Once boiling, add the egg noodles and boil for about 7 minutes, or just until tender. Drain the noodles in a colander.
- While the noodles are boiling, prepare the breadcrumb topping. Melt 1 Tbsp butter, then stir in the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
- Combine the creamy mushroom sauce, cooked and drained noodles, and drained tuna.
- Transfer the casserole mixture to a 3 quart casserole dish, then top with the breadcrumb topping.
- Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes or until heated through and golden brown on top. Serve hot and enjoy!
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
How to Make Tuna Noodle Casserole – Step by Step Photos
Start by finely dicing one yellow onion. Add it to a skillet with one tablespoon of butter and sauté over medium until the onions are soft.
While the onions are sautéing, slice 8oz. of mushrooms. Add the mushrooms, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to the skillet with the onions and continue to sauté until they are tender. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to a clean bowl.
Add two more tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour to the skillet. Continue to cook over medium, whisking the butter and flour together as the butter melts. Continue to cook and whisk for about one minute after the butter and flour mixture begins to bubble and foam. The butter and flour mixture helps thicken the sauce.
Add 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of vegetable broth, and 4oz. cream cheese (cut into chunks) to the skillet. Continue to cook and whisk these ingredients together over medium heat until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce begins to simmer.
Add the cooked onions and mushrooms and ½ cup frozen peas to the creamy sauce. Stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper (I added another ½ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper). Set the sauce aside.
Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add 8oz. wide egg noodles. Boil for about 7 minutes, or just until tender. Drain the noodles in a colander.
While the pasta is boiling, mix together the Parmesan breadcrumb topping. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a small bowl, then stir in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan.
Finally, combine the creamy mushrooms sauce, cooked and drained egg noodles, and one 12oz. can of tuna (drained). If you wanted to add cheddar, this is the point where I’d stir it into the mix.
Transfer the casserole mixture to a 3-quart casserole dish and top with the Parmesan breadcrumb topping.
Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes in the preheated 350ºF oven, or until heated through and golden brown on top.
Serve hot and enjoy the creamy goodness!