This tuna noodle casserole is the best… it’s my mom and grandma’s recipe! A creamy, cheesy sauce coats egg noodles, dotted with green peas and flake tuna, topped with melty cheesy and buttery breadcrumbs. This classic recipe is rich and creamy, made from scratch but so quick and easy to throw together. No canned soups here! A true budget meal but indulgent at the same time.
🐟 What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Growing up, we ate my mom’s tuna noodle casserole recipe all the time, and it’s still one of my favorites. Mom’s been making it for over 40 years, and her mom made it for her when she was a kid. As Catholics, they had it every Friday (It was that or fish sticks, ha!).
- Even now, whenever I need a quick and cheap comfort food meal from the pantry and freezer, this one comes to mind. I admit, it’s not totally the casserole from my childhood. I upgraded it to be super creamy and saucy, with some veggies.
- This recipe doesn’t use any canned soups like most tuna noodle casserole recipes. No cream of mushroom – just real roux, milk, and cheese!
👩🏼🍳 Chef’s Tips
- Instead of using prepackaged shredded cheese, I recommend buying a block of fresh cheddar and shredding it yourself. Prepackaged shredded and grated cheeses typically contain starches and other fillers to prevent clumping, but they can make the cheese grainy and keep it from melting like it should.
- To be sure the dairy products don’t seize, separate, or curdle, bring them to room temperature before starting your tuna noodle casserole. Also, remove the saucepan from direct heat before incorporating any dairy ingredients, to prevent heating them too quickly.
- Since the noodles get cooked twice (once on the stove, again in the oven) you want to make sure they’re just barely cooked when you take them off the stovetop. This will keep them from overcooking in the oven.
🍴 Recipe Variations
- For a gluten-free tuna noodle casserole, substitute the egg noodles with an equal weight of gluten-free noodles. Replace the all-purpose flour with the same amount of gluten-free flour, too.
- You can use gluten-free breadcrumbs if you can find them, but if not, it’s super easy to make some out of gluten-free bread. Or just leave them out! They are totally optional.
- If you don’t have peas or just don’t like them, you can leave them out. You can also sub basically any other veggie you like in their place. Chopped broccoli? Asparagus? Spinach? Corn? All great options.
🥘 More Delicious Dinner Recipes
- Dreamy Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- Baked Feta Pasta
- Easy, Crispy Chicken Patties
- Olive Garden Capellini Primavera
- Garlic Bread Casserole
- Instant Pot Chicken Carnitas
- Hibachi Steak with Fried Rice and Vegetables
- Crockpot Chicken and Rice
- Poppy Seed Chicken
- Jerk Salmon with Mango Salsa
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
- Whole30 Casserole with Chicken, Broccoli, Rice, and Mushrooms (Paleo, GF)
- Healthy Authentic Seafood Gumbo (Gluten Free, Whole30, Paleo, Low Carb)
- Cranberry Rosemary One Pan Chicken (Paleo, Whole30 Option)
- Cheesy Ham and Potato Casserole
For the Noodles
- 8 cups water
- ½-1 tablespoon salt
- 8 ounces uncooked egg noodles see Notes
For the Cream Sauce
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour see Notes
- 2 ½ cups whole milk at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper more or less to taste
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley optional
- 1 cup shredded fresh cheddar cheese at room temperature
For the Casserole
- 1 5-ounce can chunk light tuna in water drained, flaked; see Notes
- ¾ cup frozen green peas
- ½ cup shredded fresh cheddar cheese at room temperature
For the Breadcrumb Topping
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs plain or Italian seasoned; see Notes
- 1 large pinch salt more or less to taste
Serving Suggestions (All Optional)
- chopped fresh parsley
- Large pot
- Large wooden spoon
- 8×12 casserole dish 2 ½ quarts
- medium heavy-bottomed saucepan
- Small microwave-safe bowl
- Spoon or small silicone spatula
For the Noodles
- Add 8 cups water to large pot and place pot on stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring water to boil, then add ½-1 tablespoon salt. Stir to incorporate.
- When salted water begins to boil, add 8 ounces uncooked egg noodles and stir to incorporate. Boil noodles for shortest amount of time indicated on noodle packaging.
- Once noodles have boiled for desired length of time, immediately pour noodles and water into colander. Drain noodles very well, then transfer noodles to casserole dish. Set dish aside.
- Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit while preparing cream sauce.
For the Cream Sauce
- Add 5 tablespoons unsalted butter to medium saucepan and place pan on stovetop over low heat. Heat saucepan until butter is almost completely melted, stirring butter occasionally.
- Once butter is just melted, add 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour to saucepan. Vigorously whisk butter and flour together until fully incorporated into smooth mixture.
- Cook flour mixture over low heat approximately 1 minute, stirring constantly, until mixture turns golden and begins to bubble.
- Remove saucepan from heat. Slowly add 2 ½ cups whole milk in small increments, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition.
- When all milk has been added, return saucepan to heat and increase heat to medium. Simmer mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture has thickened and begins to bubble.
- Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon dried parsley (optional) to thickened sauce mixture, whisking gently to incorporate spices.
- Remove saucepan from heat. Add 1 cup shredded fresh cheddar cheese in small increments, whisking constantly, until all cheese has been incorporated and melted.
For the Casserole
- Immediately pour prepared cheese sauce over egg noodles in baking dish, then add 1 5-ounce can chunk light tuna in water (drained) and ¾ cup frozen green peas.
- Gently stir ingredients together until well blended and fully covered in cheese sauce. Once incorporated, spread mixture out evenly to cover entire bottom of casserole dish, making sure to reach all sides of dish.
- Place casserole dish in preheated oven. Bake casserole 15 minutes while preparing breadcrumb topping.
For the Breadcrumb Topping
- Place 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave butter in 15-second increments, stirring well between each burst, until butter is melted but not bubbling or boiling. Carefully remove bowl from microwave.
- Add 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1 large pinch salt to bowl with melted butter. Stir ingredients together until well blended, with all breadcrumbs completely buttered.
- After casserole has baked 15 minutes, remove casserole dish from oven. Sprinkle ½ cup shredded fresh cheddar cheese across top of dish, covering entire casserole evenly, then sprinkle prepared breadcrumbs evenly over layer of shredded cheese.
- Return baking dish to oven. Bake casserole 5 minutes more or until cheese layer is melted and bubbly, then carefully remove dish from oven and set aside. Let casserole rest 3 to 5 minutes.
- Garnish casserole with chopped fresh parsley if desired and serve warm with preferred sides.
- Tuna: A 5-ounce can of tuna only contains about 3 to 3 ½ ounces of actual tuna once the liquid is drained. You’re welcome to use 2 cans instead of just 1 to make sure there’s plenty of protein.
- Cheddar Cheese: Instead of using prepackaged shredded cheese, I recommend buying a block of fresh cheddar and shredding it yourself. Prepackaged shredded and grated cheeses typically contain starches and other fillers to prevent clumping, but they can make the cheese grainy and keep it from melting like it should.
- Dairy Products: To ensure your dairy products don’t seize, separate, or curdle, bring them to room temperature before starting this recipe. Remove the saucepan from direct heat before incorporating any dairy ingredients, to prevent heating them too quickly.
- Make it Gluten Free: Substitute egg noodles with the same amount of gluten-free noodles. Use gluten-free all-purpose flour instead of regular flour. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs, make some out of gluten free bread, or omit the breadcrumb topping entirely.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.