Tuna Casserole

My father and I have been reminiscing lately about my mom’s tuna casserole, the one she used to make in the 60s, with cream of mushroom soup, broccoli, lots of cheese, and a crushed potato chip topping. Mom has only the vaguest recollection of a tuna casserole (“I think it had broccoli in it.”) In fact, today she said she had no memory of it at all. Did she really make it? Or are dad and I remembering something instead from a school cafeteria?

In any case, I attempted to reproduce it for today’s lunch, in honor of the weekend and long forgotten family traditions. Entering our pantry for the first time in 20 years was a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (really must use this one, no other will do.) Also, I used Kettle potato chips – very good quality. The verdict? Yep, it’s definitely tuna casserole – filling, cheesy, crunchy topping, not too tuna-y. I haven’t had this in years, decades probably. The visiting picky eater kids (okay, not that picky, thank God) had three servings. This is a good sign.

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Tuna Casserole Recipe

  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli (about 1/2 lb)
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tuna, drained
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz)can Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup crushed potato chips

Method

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large (6 qt) pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Return to a boil. Add noodles. Cook uncovered on high heat on a rolling boil. Just before pasta is al dente, (firm but cooked through, earliest cooking time minus 2 minutes), add the chopped broccoli to the pasta and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

2 While the pasta is cooking, dry sauté the mushrooms in a frying pan on medium high heat (no need to add butter or oil, mushrooms will cook in their own juice). When mushrooms have given up their moisture (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and set aside.

3 After the pasta is done and is draining in a colander, heat a large oven-proof pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onions and cook them until translucent. Add the pasta and broccoli mixture back into the pot; stir in the mushrooms. Stir in the tuna, can of cream of mushroom soup, grated cheese, milk and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4 Spread crushed potato chips over the top of the mixture and cook for 20 minutes at 400°F in the oven, until the topping has browned.

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52 Comments

  1. mona

    wow, that looks fabulous. i love the crumbled chips on top! i’m going to have to add this to must try list ;)

  2. Jennifer

    WOW! You had to remind me how comforting a good old fashioned casserole can be. I just might have to make one this weekend!

  3. Karen

    MMMMM, so good, BUT, must have sweet peas in it, not brocolli, to match my childhood memories. It’s still a family favorite.

  4. Kim

    Hmm…I might have missed it, but when do you put in the grated cheese? I’m assuming you put it in with the milk, cream, and cream of mushroom soup, but I could be wrong. It still sounds delicious!

  5. Habanero

    I agree with Karen, must have sweet baby peas.
    Also I use the sea shell shaped noodles instead of the wide ones. Thanks for the memory.

  6. Fran

    My memory’s version also requires noodles and a handful or two of frozen peas. I love broccoli but not in this dish. I think this dish will be on my menu real soon.

  7. Elise

    Hi all, thanks for your comments! Yep I remember a pea version too. I was going to make it but mom and dad insisted on broccoli. The real trick with this recipe is the crumbled potato chips. I had completely forgotten about them being in tuna casserole when dad brought it up.

  8. Matthew

    Made this last night and — yes — it is delicious. I used the mushroom soup “with roasted garlic” which added a delicious dimension to it, as well as substituting sharp white cheddar for the last 1/2 cup of cheese (all I had). It was roundly praised. “Not too tuna-y” is correct. Being a guy I wish there were some more meat in there but alas I know not what it would do to the flavor of the dish. Oh well…anyhow, a delicious recipe, better than my mom’s old improvised version (sorry, Ma, love you). Bon apetite.

  9. RD

    When I was a kid my favorite Friday night dinner was Stoufers (frozen) tuna noodle casserole. I would eat it in front of the TV and watch The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was heaven!

    I made this last night for my family and they all liked even though my kids are somewhat casserole adverse. Like the other posters have mentioned, peas seem to be a better fit than brocolli for this dish. But since I had a little left-over brocolli on hand I used one cup of it and one cup frozen peas. I also skipped the cream and just used 1/3 cup + 1 T whole milk. May try it with half and half next time. Will definitely make it again.

  10. Anonymous

    My recipe is almost identical, but instead of milk I use a cup of plain yogurt and a couple dashes of red pepper flakes – sensational.

  11. kirsten

    My boyfriend has been tortured by years of extremely bad tuna casserole, so he was horrified when I announced I was making it. I slightly modified the recipe by adding a little cheese, some garlic, and using corn chips instead of potato chips. He loves it! Has even made breakfast of it and emails me during the day to tell me of his pinings that just can’t wait until he gets home.

  12. johnr

    Something you can try (if you aren’t too health conscious… or are anti-health… in fact, thinking about this may cause some arteries to clog slightly)

    Instead of using potato chips, take 1 stick (1/2 cup) of melted butter and mix it with 1 sleeve of crushed Club crackers and bake until golden brown. This is just amazing as a topping for almost any casserole.

  13. Cheryl

    This recipe sounds fantastic, I’m going to make it for dinner tomorrow. I too wondered if the cheese is mixed in with the casserole or sprinkled on top? THX, Cheryl

  14. Dee

    I’m making this for my other half tomorrow night who, despite all of the lovely things I cook for us, wants “tuna noodle casserole” for dinner!

    I am going to sub out the broccoli for the peas, and since I have some panko on hand, I’m going to brown those in butter for the topping.

    And, as a salad, a nice wedge of iceberg with grape tomatoes, sliced red onion along with a good dollop of homemade bleu cheese dressing should complete a very retro Friday night dinner very nicely.

  15. Becca

    I was tempted to make this using my trendy organic Whole Foods ingredients but decided last minute to use the Campbell’s and standbys. Was I ever glad that I did! This tasted just like Ma’s and really satisfied my craving for comfort food. I baked it in a 13″X9″ instead of an oven proof pan. Also, I know the recipe says it serves six, but my roommate and I have leftovers for the entire week!

  16. Lisa

    My department at work is having a “childhood favorites” potluck lunch, and I immediately thought of tuna casserole. Searched on Google and ended up here. What a find! Not just for this recipe — which sounds almost exactly like my mom’s — but for so many others. I’ll be back often, I can tell. Thanks, Elise!

  17. Frank

    I did several things differently.

    I took the Garlic Cream of Mushroom Soup Idea. Then I said, why not through a little garlic into the Sautee as well? So I did, 1 Clove. I also went with 2 Green Onions (for more color) and 1 Small Yellow Onion. I used 1 8oz can of Peas (Drained).

    Because the Can size of the tuna wasn’t disclosed, I went with Three 6 oz cans of Solid White Tuna, Which seemed to work perfectly.

    For my topping, I went with Garlic & Herb Breadcrumbs.

    One thing though… Mine came out REALLY REALLY thick. I will try this recipe again for sure, but will make a call to an Aunt to find a way to make it more Creamy. (Note – it was already wicked thick before the breadcrumb topping)

    I’m wondering how carrots would taste with this….

  18. Solaera

    Yum. I love Tuna casserole. Here is a version of my Easy Peasy Tuna Casserole …

    1 box of Kraft Original Macaroni and Cheese
    1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
    1 can Campbell’s Cream of Celery or Cream of Chicken soup.
    1/2 soup can whole milk
    1 heaping Tbsp Best Foods Mayonnaise (optional)
    1/4 cup butter sliced
    1 12 oz can solid white tuna
    1/2 cup crushed garlic bagel chips
    1/2 cup parmesan cheese divided

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees

    Cook pasta in salted water to very al dente. In the last few minutes of pasta cooking time toss the frozen peas into the boiling water. Drain.

    Meanwhile in a medium sized oven proof bowl, add soup, milk, mayonnaise and the contents of cheese flavor package and stir until smooth. Add half of the parmesan cheese and the tuna and mix, breaking up any large chunks of tuna. Add pasta to bowl and without stirring add butter slices and allow hot pasta to melt the butter. When butter has melted, mix well. Top the casserole with the remaining parmesan cheese and then the crushed bagel chips

    Bake casserole until browned and bubbling 25 to 30 minutes.

  19. Trudi Goodman

    I love this recipe. I’ve adapted it a bit.
    I used a sauteed red onion, peas and carrots(to me it ain’t tuna casserole without it) and instead of potato chips on top, I used herbed bread crumbs and a bit of butter.
    Next time I’m gonna try it your way with the sauteed mushrooms and the broccoli.
    Shalom and Best Regards,
    Gitl

  20. Sanobey

    I just made this and it was divine, well as divine as tuna can be, but I just loved it. I had been looking for a a tuna casserole that was a little less boring and I’m glad I found it here. I will be looking for more recipes. you rock, and thanks.

  21. Lisa

    Yummy! I love your website. So easy and simple, glad to have found you!
    I remember my mother making this tuna casserole as a child and loving it. She made it with peas or whatever frozen veges she had on hand and we loved it no matter what. Sometimes she made it days ahead and FREEZE it. Sometimes she even chopped celery peices in for the vegetable, and it still tastes great. She usually put the broccoli in it when adding chicken peices, instead of the tuna. This makes an delicious “chicken/broccoli” casserole. Thanks!

  22. mike folk

    Gee, thanks fo the memory. This dish is almost identical to teh one mom made every Thursday night at our home in Lusaka, Zambia which is in central Africa. Amazing how ones childhood memories of food can be the same no matter what the geographical location! This meal was served as a child in the mid sixties .

    It is mid winter here in my new ( for 20 yeras now) home of Sydney Australia, and we are making it for a slap up dinner with close friends tonight. Should be fun.

  23. Danabee

    Another winner, Elise! I’ve been resisting my husband’s requests for tuna casserole as I don’t like it. I finally caved (I love the guy, what can I say?) and made your recipe. He loved it, my picky 10-year-old loved it and I, the tuna casserole hater, had two helpings. And what a great way to eat cooked broccoli. I can barely stand cooked broccoli since developing an aversion with my first pregnancy over 10 years ago. It was actually TASTY this way. Thanks!

  24. lisa

    I found this yesterday and made it last night. I made a few adjustments to use what I had on hand. The pasta I used was rigatoni. I also added 1/2 a habanero pepper to the onions and some garlic. I also subsituted rye bread crumbs for the potato chip topping. Fantastic. This recipe is a keeper.

  25. Sonia Davis

    What a delicious recipe. Rather than adding milk and a spoon of cream, I added sour cream. I didn’t actually measure the quantity, but I’d say it was close to 1/2 a cup. Anyway, it turned out great. Next time I’m going to add some garlic to the onions. I think that’ll be a nice addition as well. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Yummmm!

  26. Deb N

    In my childhood, it had peas, yes, instead of brocolli, and crushed Fritos in place of potato chips. Yum. Also, the tuna has to be white, not that brown stuff. Does anyone think there’s a way to duplicate this without having to use processed foods (such as the Campbell’s soup) or is that just a dumb question?

    Hi Deb, you can probably sauté some sliced mushrooms in butter and also make a bechamel white sauce, and use those in place of the canned soup. I’ve never tried it though. ~Elise

  27. Laila Björk Hjaltadóttir

    hi thanks for this good recipe :) I have heard about tunacasserole thousends of times in films but never tried it before (we live in Danmark and I come from Iceland) it was a great hit in my family and I will most sertant make it again..
    Best regards Laila

  28. Christine B

    I made this last night (to my husbands utter delight, I’ve never seem him so excited about a casserole!) First, it tastes very good. Some things I learned:
    1) This thing is HUGE. Use a big dutch oven. It barely fit in my le creuset.
    2) Peas are a nice addition.
    3) Do not use low fat cheese. I was trying to be good, but it needs the sharp and oily full fat cheddar to get a full mouth feel. You’ll eat less of it with all the fat.
    4) If you are making this for only two of you, the chips do not stay crunchy on the whole thing after it sits for 30 minutes. I love the idea of this being almost a one dish meal, but if you want to mess up a bunch of dishes, it would work to put portions into ramekins (leaving off the chips), freeze them, and then when you’re ready for a treat, pull them out and add chips before you bake them.
    Comfort food at it’s best.

  29. Amy

    This is a great casserole! My 3 year old even declared, “This is delicious. I tasted it and it is delicious.” And that is saying a lot since he didn’t enjoy the tuna macaroni salad.

    Yes, it is HUGE and I used my big Emile Henry stewpot. It would be an easy casserole to split into more than one dish and give some away, especially if you wanted to take a meal to a new mom or someone who needed help.

    I did think that I would prefer the peas, but my son voted for broccoli and it was wonderful.

  30. Jenny

    Oooh, I can’t wait to try your recipe! My four year old loves broccoli, potato chips, and tuna. I hope the picky little stinker can’t find an excuse not to like it. Here’s my families recipe for Tuna-Noodle Casserole. It’s very cheesy (but the mouse in me would probably add a bit more cheese than this calls for). My dad got burned out on this dish in his later years so my siblings and I would enjoy this fave whenever he was out of town on business. It’s one of my favorite all-time comfort foods:

    1 can cream of celery soup
    2 C grated Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese
    1/2 soup can milk

    Combine all ingredients in sauce pan over medium -low heat. once
    melted, set aside over low heat.

    1-2 cans water packed light meat tuna drained (depending on how
    “tuna-ish” you want it)
    2 heaping tablespoons of Mayonnaise
    2 stalks celery finely chopped
    1/2 medium yellow onion finely chopped

    Mix above ingredients in casserole dish with a fork. If not moist
    enough, add a little more mayo. Season with salt and pepper.

    1 regular size bag wide egg noodles cooked to package directions (Don’t
    overcook!). Drain

    Add noodles and soup/cheese mixture to casserole and mix thoroughly.
    Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until top is browned and crispy on the
    edges.

  31. annalisa

    This is one of my new favorites, I make it every couple weeks, tonight I’m gonna splurg and use the potato chips. I use frozen peas because I love them and its the only way the family will eat them! I also add tapatio hot sauce, just a few dashes for a kick. I use yogurt instead of the cream, or sometimes sour cream. Either works well. MMM I can’t wait to make/eat this!

  32. Kerry

    Terrific! I too have the same quest to re-create my mother’s long forgotten recipe which is simpler yet very similar to this one. Still, very tasty and the chips are a MUST! Your post will certainly help me re-live this childhood favorite, thanks!

  33. Judith Cameron

    As a long time reader and appreciator,(is that a word?) of your wonderful recipes, but a first time commenter, I must tell you that this recipe of yours for tuna casserole was a HUGE hit with my family. My own mother’s recipe was good but quite bland compared with yours, so thanks for all your fabulous recipes, for this one, and for being my 1st place to look for something special.

  34. Ali 8

    I made it today and it turned out good. Like everyone else, I did substitute according to what I had on hand. I used the corkscrew noodles instead of flat. I stole a couple ideas from Rachael Ray. I used part sharp cheese and part Parmecino/Regiano (spelling?) I created a white sauce with the butter, garlic, onions, and flour, and the mushroom soup and milk. I added most the cheese to the white sauce and put the rest on top and browned it under the broiler til golden brown. I didn’t have any potato chips but bread crumb work fine too. I used the brocolli but I have had it with the peas also…..be sure to use frozen peas…the canned ones are too mushy.

  35. Virginia

    I made this tonight and it was very tasty!

    I went exactly by the reciepe and it looked just like the picture. My family wouldn’t let me throw any leftovers away. LOL

    Thanks for the reciepe I will put this one on my favorite list.

  36. Dorothy

    Is this not in the casserole section because it’s not that great and all the other casseroles are amazing?

    Don’t get me wrong; it was okay. I just can’t help but wish I had a tuna sandwich with sides of broccoli and mac and cheese.

  37. Jeni

    Hi Elise! Made this the other night when fall chill kicked in and we needed a casserole. Everyone (including the 2 year old) loved it! We subbed peas for the broc (it’s all we had in the house) and a little less cheese (since we ran out). Wonderful, easy, great leftovers!

  38. Lisa

    Looks great. I think the potato chips are a must.

    My husband and I were just talking about tuna casserole the other day, and I was joking about it or something and he said, wistfully, “I always liked tuna casserole.” Which made me privately vow to make it soon. Clearly you’re psychic.

  39. Caren Peloso

    I just found out that I’m on a very low budget until the end of the month and I’m considering making this tonight almost everything is on hand. What do you think of using french-style frozen green beans instead of the broccoli? (I’m not a big fan of peas).

    Don’t know, haven’t tried it with green beans. If you do, please let us know in the comments how it turns out. ~Elise

  40. George

    I made this for my wife and 3 kids the other day. My wife’s comment was the ultimate compliment: “this is better than Mom’s”. I should add that this is relatively easy to fix for a novice. I combined it with your Asparagus recipe as well, another tasty easy recipe. Thank you!

  41. Brenda Drew

    Elise, love your site! Just wanted to let you know that I altered your cream of mushroom soup recipe for use in casseroles and it is fabulous! No more Campbell’s in my house! I just omitted the chicken stock and added a bouillon cube directly into the cream. I also didn’t water down the cornstarch and put that directly into the cream as well. Allow it to thicken and instant mushroom soup base for casseroles!

  42. Erinn

    Elise – Is this something that I can make ahead of time to take over to another family? Obviously I’d leave the chips until it’s cooked but can it be made up until that point, and then refrigerated a day?

    Thanks!

    Yes. ~Elise

  43. Yvonne Charlene Smith

    I just today asked my neighbor today, if she remembered what was in Tuna Casserole. She didn’t remember the noodles, but did mention the potato chips, which I didn’t remember.
    What’s the deal? Is this such an old recipe. It couldn’t have been that long ago…
    Then I read the comments and one mentioned the 60’s. I guess that is were I remember it from. I know that this dish was always at Pot Luck get-to-gathers.
    Glad I looked it up. I enjoyed the comments. And now all I have to get are the noodles.

  44. Kurt

    Hi Elise,

    First time commenter, long time user. Thanks for all the great recipes! This one is definitely a go-to for a cheap delicious dinner, and even better leftovers. I’ve made it almost a dozen times, and it’s in the oven right now. One nice touch I’ve found is to use the Lemon Pepper Pappardelle noodles from Trader Joe’s.

    Thanks again!

    Kurt

  45. Elizabeth

    I’ve been using and loving this recipe for about a year now, and love it. I modified it slightly: doubled the tuna, the broccoli and mushrooms, and it’s all good. Thanks for posting.

  46. Katy

    I’m a latecomer to this recipe :-) but it looks delicious! Reminds me of my mom’s tuna casserole, but with more depth. Hers was basically: in a casserole dish, put a layer of cooked white rice, a layer of peas (canned or frozen), a layer of tuna, then a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup poured over top. Microwave or bake until hot. Not healthy, but definitely easy and cheap comfort food!

  47. Alena

    I made this last night with the following changes:
    Amy’s Organic Semi-Condensed Mushroom Soup (instead of Campbells)
    Panko, parmesan, and dots of butter (instead of potato chips)
    1/2 tsp cayenne, mixed in
    1/4 tsp paprika, mixed in

    It was so delicious and just the right thing for a comforting old-school meal. Thanks for the recipe – will definitely be making again!

  48. Wendy S

    Made this tonight. Everyone loved it! A new standard for my repertoire. Substituted frozen peas for the broccoli for old times’ sake. Like the method for tossing the veggies in with the noodles for the last few minutes.

    I plan to use this method for disguising leftover chicken, too.

    Thanks!

  49. Angie

    Dad never liked peas so Mom always put corn in ours – another great substitute if you have it on hand. I was happy to see my kids enjoy as much as I did as a kid.

  50. Anne

    So my mom’s recipe for this was, in a casserole dish, a layer of potato chips, a layer of tuna, a layer of (possibly thinned) cream of mushroom soup. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. No noodles, no veggies, nothing but those three things. VERY tuna-y, very potato chippy, very out-of-this-worldy!

  51. Rachel

    Anyone tried it with organic diced tomatoes?

  52. Shel

    Found this while looking for the version that uses white rice instead of noodles which how my mom made this in the 70’s. Have been craving it lately. I seem to recall using Ruffles potato chips and sauteing them in butter. Like it with peas and love the idea of using the cream of mushroom with garlic soup. Reminds me of the good old days as an army brat. Just made SOS this past weekend…other blast from the past.

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