Indulge in the ultimate comfort food experience with this timeless old-fashioned tuna casserole recipe that skips the canned soup for a homemade, flavor-packed delight. This classic dish delivers a mouthwatering blend of creamy textures and cheesy goodness that will leave your taste buds in awe.
In this post, I'll list the ingredients you'll need, provide a detailed, foolproof cooking process, and offer invaluable tips to ensure your tuna casserole turns out as the creamiest, cheesiest delight you've ever savored.
This easy, from-scratch old-fashioned tuna casserole is not only a satisfying and delicious complete meal but also makes for a delightful side dish to complement any main course.
Also, check out this easy canned tuna pasta recipe.
Old-Fashioned Tuna Casserole Made Without Canned Soup
Many casserole recipes call for canned soups (such as cream of celery, cream of chicken, or cream of mushroom soup) to create a rich and creamy dish.
Canned soup is a pantry staple and so convenient, but also packed with sodium.
My version of cheesy tuna noodles casserole doesn't contain canned soup. Instead of using canned soup, I made my own white sauce, also known as béchamel.
Béchamel is so versatile. It is so easy to make and at a fraction of the cost of canned goods. You can use this smooth white sauce in just about any recipe that requires canned soup as one of the main ingredients. And since it's not made with canned soup, you can control the amount of salt you put in this recipe.
To make this easy tuna casserole, you will need the following ingredients:
- Canned tuna in water. Canned tuna provides the protein base for the casserole. It's typically packed in water and adds a savory seafood flavor to the dish.
- Egg noodles. Egg noodles are the pasta component of the casserole. They are soft, wide, and ribbony, providing a comforting texture.
- Celery. Celery adds a crunchy texture and a subtle, earthy flavor to the casserole. It contributes to the overall balance of the dish.
- Yellow onion. Yellow onion, when sautéed, imparts a sweet and savory depth of flavor to the casserole. It's often used as a base in many savory dishes.
- Butter. Butter is used for sautéing the onions and celery, adding richness and a slightly nutty taste to the dish.
- All-purpose flour. Flour is used to create a roux, which serves as the thickening agent for the casserole sauce. It helps achieve the desired creamy consistency.
- Garlic powder. Garlic powder adds a gentle garlic flavor without the pungency of fresh garlic. It complements the overall taste of the casserole.
- Chicken broth. Chicken broth is the liquid base of the casserole sauce. It contributes savory depth and flavor to the dish.
- Whole milk. Whole milk adds creaminess to the sauce and provides a rich, dairy flavor. It helps make the casserole creamy without being too heavy.
- Frozen peas. Frozen peas add color, a burst of freshness, and a slightly sweet flavor to the casserole. They also contribute to the overall texture.
- Cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese is used for its sharp and tangy flavor, which elevates the cheesy aspect of the casserole. It also forms a delicious, golden-brown crust on top when baked.
- Panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are used as a crispy topping for the casserole. They create a delightful contrast in texture when baked, adding a crunchy layer.
- Kosher salt. Kosher salt is used for seasoning. It enhances the overall flavors of the casserole.
- Black pepper. Black pepper provides a subtle heat and a bit of zing to the dish. It complements the other flavors and adds depth to the seasoning.
How to Make Tuna Casserole from Scratch
Step 1. Cook the Noodles until Al Dente
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a teaspoon of salt, then noodles. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook noodles for about 1 minute less than the direction for al dente (cooked through but still firm).
Step 2. Make the Béchamel sauce
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery, cook until soft and translucent for about 3-4 minutes.
Add flour, cook, keep stirring for about 2 minutes or until it smells toasted.
Whisk in the broth, milk, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Cook, whisking frequently until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.
Adjust seasoning with additional salt or a small amount of bouillon if needed.
Step 3. Combine All Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, add pasta, tuna, cheese, frozen peas, and béchamel sauce. Stir to combine then transfer to a 2 to 2½ qt baking dish.
Mix panko breadcrumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle on top of casserole.
Do not use a 9" x 13" or larger baking dish to avoid dry casserole.
Step 4. Bake
Bake in the oven at 425°F until bubbly and the cheese is melted for about 18 minutes.
Let the casserole cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Make-Ahead Tuna Casserole
You can assemble and refrigerate this casserole a day in advance. Don't forget to let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking it in the oven.
How to Store Leftover Tuna Casserole
First, let the casserole cool at room temperature but no longer than 2 hours. After it is completely cool, store it in an airtight container and transfer it to the refrigerator.
Properly stored, this casserole can last up to 3-5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
How to Reheat Frozen Tuna Casserole
I highly recommend defrosting the casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until completely thawed before reheating.
Here's how to reheat the casserole in the oven:
- Loosely cover the casserole with foil.
- Bake the casserole in the oven at 350°F for about 20-30 minutes or until the casserole reaches 165° F for food safety.
Check Out More Casserole Recipes:
- Corn Souffle
- Green Bean Casserole
- Summer Squash Casserole
- Fresh Broccoli Casserole
- Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole
I hope you'll enjoy this recipe and share it with friends! If you try it and don’t mind, please leave me a comment and/or give this recipe a rating. Be sure to subscribe to receive weekly recipes and follow me on Pinterest.
Old-Fashioned Tuna Casserole
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, (melted)
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt into boiling water. Cook noodles for 1 minute less than the direction for al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft.
- Add flour, cook, keep stirring for 2 minutes or until it smells toasted.
- Whisk in the broth, milk, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Cook, whisking frequently until thickened (as thick as condensed soup), about 5 minutes.Adjust seasoning with additional salt or a small amount of chicken bouillon if needed.
- In a large mixing bowl, add pasta, tuna, cheese, frozen peas, and béchamel sauce. Stir to combine then transfer to a 2 to 2½ qt baking dish.
- Mix panko breadcrumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle on top of casserole.
- Bake until bubbly and the cheese is melted for about 18 minutes.