This healthy tuna noodle casserole is cheesy, creamy, and packed with juicy chunks of tuna! No canned soup, but easy peasy to whip up!
Hello, friends! Happy Tuesday!
I’m sooooooo excited to share this recipe with you guys. It’s so creamy, cheesy, and delicious I couldn’t be happier with how my take on your classic tuna casserole turned out. Plus, it makes a ton of generous servings so you can feed a crowd at once or meal prep for the week!
We eat a lot of tuna during the year, but especially during Lent (here are some more seafood recipes for Lent in case you are looking for them!.) I love to make healthy tuna quesadillas, healthy classic tuna melts, open-faced tuna melts on English muffins, plus fun tuna recipes like healthy tuna patties and tuna quinoa cakes. But, I was craving something a bit more reminiscent of my childhood.
My Grandma’s tuna casserole was the best, but I can only guess it was made the old-fashion way with white egg noodles and cream of mushroom soup. I wanted to upgrade this classic just a bit by making my “soup base” from scratch (don’t worry, it’s EASY, I promise), increasing the veggies, and upgrading the noodles to chickpea noodles (high fiber, high protein, real food.)
Even though I was making the creamy base from scratch, I was determined not to let this casserole be too watery or too dry. I wanted it to be thick, creamy, and packed with flavor in every single bite, which is exactly what I got! If you’ve never made tuna noodle casserole from scratch, I promise you that it’s super easy and worth the extra effort!
How to Make Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole
First, you need to cut and chop your veggies, then saute them up in some butter or oil. If you want to save yourself some time here, feel free to sub one 10-12 ounce bag of frozen mirepoix mix. Then you need to mix in some flour. You can use whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, or your favorite gluten-free 1 to 1 flour. Next, it’s time to add your liquid. I used vegetable broth and whole milk. I noticed a ton of recipes (especially those making the base from scratch) used chicken broth.
You can use that if it’s all you have on hand, but I opted for vegetable broth for two reasons. First, to make this recipe compliant with lent. Second, because the idea of combining chicken broth with tuna grossed me out, no idea why, probably a pregnancy thing.
Some of you may also wonder if you can sub out the whole milk, yes, you can! Almond milk is way less creamy and more watery than whole milk, so your mixture may take longer to thicken. Coconut milk would be a good 1 to 1 substitute, but would significantly change the flavor. You could also use another cup of veggie broth and skip the milk, but the mixture will be less creamy and like the almond milk, take longer to thicken.
At this point, the mixture will start to thicken slightly as your stir, and it starts simmering. Time to add in frozen peas! Now, if you are a diehard mushroom fan and can’t fathom tuna casserole without mushrooms, add 1 cup of peas and 1 cup of mushrooms INSTEAD of 2 cups of peas. PS Mushrooms, especially shitake mushrooms, are full of immune-boosting properties and so good for you!
In our house, nobody likes mushrooms, and Mr. Hungry has a strong food sensitivity to yeast, mold, and fungi, including mushrooms. So, needless to say, I don’t use them, but you totally can! Next, goes in your cheddar cheese, whisk until melted, and then add in tuna and cooked noodles.
As for tuna, we had a bunch of wild-caught albacore cans in our pantry from Costco, so that’s what I used. However, I typically buy wild-caught skipjack or chunk light because those have lower mercury content and are typically more sustainably fished. Wondering about pregnancy? Pregnant women can safely eat the previously mentioned varieties of tuna up to 3 times a week. Solid white albacore should probably be consumed more like 1-2 times a week.
My pan was pretty full at this point, but technically, if I had started in an oven-safe pan, I could have topped the dish with the remaining ingredients and baked it. I’m pretty sure it would have bubbled over, though, so if you do this in something like a huge cast-iron pan, make sure to place the pan on top of a cookie sheet in the oven so you don’t have to scrub the bottom of your oven. Or transfer to a classic 9 x 13 casserole dish, as I did!
That’s it! It will be done when it’s bubbly, and the panko has turned a wonderful crunchy golden brown. Mine took about 20 minutes at 425 F degrees.
Mr. Hungry took this to work to eat yesterday and kept texting me telling me how delicious it was (#win)! My MIL tried it and said it was delicious! And of course, I wouldn’t post it unless I thought it was bomb diggity. (Well, sometimes I do post recipes that Mr. Hungry thinks are delicious, and I don’t like that much, but I say so when I do. haha) The point being, it’s been tested, and it’s got the seal of approval, we all LOVED it! Maybe not from my two-year-old, who has now learned that the word yuck can be applied to the dinner table, but from everyone else it was a win!
Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 8 celery stalks diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour or gluten free 1 to 1 flour
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 8 ounces chickpea pasta
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 2 cans (5-7 ounces) tuna skipjack or chunk light, drained
- 12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar divided 8 ounces and 4 ounces
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs GF if needed
- 2-3 tbsp fried onions
- Boil a pot of water and cook noodles al-dente.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a large pan on medium-high and add onion, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper, cooking for 5-7 minutes until veggies are tender.
- Sprinkle on the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Then, slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk, then bring to a simmer.
- Add in frozen peas and let the mixture thicken. Once it thickens, add in 1 cup cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Add in tuna and cooked noodles.
- Pour into a casserole dish and top with remaining cheddar cheese, panko bread crumbs, and fried onions. Spray over the top with cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the dish is bubbly and golden brown on top.