Easy Tuna Casserole

published Apr 15, 2024
Tuna Casserole Recipe

Between the tender noodles, super creamy sauce, and flaky tuna, this is sure to be an instant hit.

Serves6 to 8

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of tuna casserole in a white casserole dish, with a scoop taken out of the bottom left corner.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Kelli Foster

I didn’t grow up eating tuna casserole. In fact, the first time I tried it was as leftovers at a friend’s house in high school, and I was instantly smitten. 

My mom wasn’t interested in making it, but I sure was, so I learned how. Over the past 20 years, I’ve tried a lot of different recipes for tuna casserole (including our Mediterranean tuna casserole and tuna orzo casserole), but this version right here is my absolute favorite of them all. It’s packed with bright vegetables and tender egg noodles, has a generous amount of rich, creamy sauce, and features the most irresistible crispy panko breadcrumb topping. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • The super-creamy sauce is incredible — it has a deep, savory flavor without being too rich. I add in Dijon mustard to boost the flavor even more, making you want to chase down every last bite.  
  • Because breadcrumbs won’t pick up much color from baking alone, I call for toasting them first, which yields a finished topping that’s a gorgeous golden-brown. 
  • My version uses a generous mix of mostly fresh vegetables to ensure they have a crisp-tender bite. You won’t find any mushy vegetables here!

Key Ingredients in Tuna Casserole

  • Egg noodles. Dried extra-wide egg noodles are a classic choice, and make up the bulk of this casserole. 
  • Canned tuna. You’ll need two cans of tuna for this recipe. Oil-packed is preferred and gives the casserole a richer flavor, but if you already have water-packed tuna in the pantry, go ahead and use it — it’ll work just fine. 
  • Unsalted butter. This is the optimal fat for sautéing the vegetables and making the roux that will work as the start of the creamy sauce.
  • All-purpose flour. Stirred into the melted butter to create a roux, flour works as the thickening agent for the sauce.
  • Low-sodium chicken broth. To prevent it from being too rich and keep it balanced, the creamy sauce is equal parts broth and milk. I recommend using chicken broth, but if all you have is vegetable broth, it also works.
  • Milk. Whole milk makes for a richer sauce, although 2% milk also works well. 
  • Panko breadcrumbs. This gives the casserole a super-crispy, golden-brown topping. The crunch is a nice contrast to the creamy sauce and soft noodles.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Kelli Foster

How to Make Tuna Casserole

  1. Toast the breadcrumb topping. To minimize dirty dishes, you’ll start by toasting the panko breadcrumbs in the Dutch oven until golden-brown. You’ll use the same pot to cook the noodles (just wipe it clean — no need to wash).
  2. Cook the egg noodles. Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, prep the vegetables.
  3. Make the sauce. Using the same Dutch oven, sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until softened. Sprinkle the softened vegetables with flour and cook for about a minute. Pour in a mix of chicken broth and milk, bring to a boil, and simmer until the sauce is thickened.
  4. Stir together the noodle mixture. Add the tuna, chopped parsley, peas, and noodles to the sauce and stir to combine. 
  5. Assemble and bake the casserole. Transfer the noodle mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with toasted panko breadcrumbs over the top, and bake until bubbling around the edges and heated through. 

Helpful Swaps

  • Try other noodles. Egg noodles are a popular choice for this classic recipe, but other pasta shapes also work. If you don’t have egg noodles, elbow macaroni or medium shells also work well here.
  • Go beyond breadcrumbs. Ready to branch out beyond a simple Parmesan breadcrumb topping? Try using about 3/4 cup crushed potato chips, crushed Ritz crackers, or Cheez-Its.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

  • Leftover tuna casserole will keep well for a couple of days. Be sure to store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Tuna casserole can also be assembled without the breadcrumbs (store those in an airtight container at room temp) up to a day in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge overnight. Let the casserole sit at room temperature while the oven heats. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for an additional five minutes. 

What to Serve with Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole Recipe

Between the tender noodles, super creamy sauce, and flaky tuna, this is sure to be an instant hit.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3/4 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 12 ounces

    dried wide egg noodles (about 9 cups)

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 2

    medium carrots

  • 1 medium stalk

    celery

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 2 (5- to 6-ounce) cans

    tuna, preferably oil-packed

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated)

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 cup

    frozen peas (do not thaw)

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375℉.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool completely. Wipe out the pot (no need to wash).

  3. Fill the Dutch oven or large pot with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 12 ounces dried wide egg noodles and cook 3 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente. Drain. Rinse out the Dutch oven (no need to wash).

  4. Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Dice 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups). Peel and dice 2 medium carrots (about 1 cup). Dice 1 medium celery stalk (about 1/3 cup).

  5. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Pick the leaves from 1 small bunch fresh parsley and finely chop until you have 1/2 cup. Drain and flake 2 (5 to 6-ounce) cans tuna. Finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese on the smallest holes of the box grater (about 1/2 cup firmly packed), or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated. Add the cheese to the panko and stir to combine.

  6. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat in the reserved Dutch oven or pot. Add the onion mixture, remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute.

  7. Add 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 2 cups whole milk or 2% milk, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Stir to combine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any stuck bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.

  8. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the parsley, tuna, and 1 cup frozen peas, and stir to combine. Add the noodles and stir to combine. Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the panko mixture over the top in an even layer.

  9. Bake until bubbling around the edges, heated through, and the panko topping is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled without the breadcrumbs and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead. Let sit at room temperature while the oven heats. Uncover and sprinkle on the panko breadcrumbs right before baking. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.