Tuna Casserole (In ONE Pan!)

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This easy Tuna Casserole is completely assembled and prepared in one pan — throw uncooked pasta, tuna, and veggies into a baking dish with a handful of other ingredients and watch in amazement as it bakes to creamy perfection!

We love canned tuna casserole recipes — try our one-skillet Creamy Tuna Pasta or this cheesy Tuna Pasta next!

Overhead image of Tuna Casserole

This Is The EASIEST Tuna Casserole

Remember when we threw uncooked rice and a bunch of dried herbs into a baking dish and ended up with perfectly fluffy and ridiculously tasty Herb Rice? Or perhaps when we threw uncooked pasta, uncooked chicken, and a jar of marinara into a baking dish and ended up with ultra-tender and saucy Chicken Parmesan Pasta?

Well, today we’re returning with the same concept to make the absolute easiest tuna-noodle casserole recipe. It’s almost like magic how this dish comes together, but it truly works and it’s absolutely delicious. No — we aren’t creating a dish where you’re okay with sacrificing flavor for ease. This is a dish that is first and foremost downright delicious and then conveniently simple.

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Love canned tuna? Us too! Browse through some of the favorite recipes we’ve shared: easy and cheesy Tuna Melts, creamy Tuna Macaroni Salad, or our best-ever Tuna Salad.

Process shots-- images of the pasta, flour, seasonings, garlic, chicken stock, milk, and butter being added and it all being mixed together

How To Make Tuna Casserole

  • Generously grease a 9×13-inch pan. We recommend ceramic or glass, but we have tested this recipe in metal, and it works as well.
  • Dump mostly everything in. Right into the dish, we add uncooked pasta, flour (to thicken), seasonings, butter, chicken stock/broth, and milk.
  • Cover and bake!
  • Add everything else in. Remove the foil and give everything a good stir. Add in the frozen veggies, cheese, and tuna. Optional: Top with a crispy panko topping.
  • Bake again! Bake everything once more and, if you’re feeling ambitious in the meantime, whip up a quick side dish like this Garden Salad or Caesar Salad to enjoy along with this Tuna Casserole.

What Pasta To Use

To ensure everything is cooked through evenly and within the time suggested in the instructions, we recommend rotini pasta. This is a great pasta to soak up all the surrounding flavors and hold the sauce in nicely. With other pasta shapes, the flour has the tendency to get stuck inside, forming clumps rather than helping to thicken the sauce.

While I love a good tuna casserole with egg noodles, unfortunately, those specific noodles don’t work for this recipe.

Process shots of Tuna Casserole-- images of the foil being removed, peas, carrots, cheese, and tuna being added

Tuna Casserole FAQs

1What type of tuna should I use in this recipe?

Tuna comes in several varieties: dark, light, white, and albacore. The lighter the tuna, the milder the fish. If you’re not a fan of strongly flavored fish, go with albacore.

Tuna also comes packed in water, oil, and olive oil. I highly recommend the olive oil tuna. The oil gives a rich texture and smoother overall appearance. It does add calories, but olive oil is considered a healthy fat that our body needs.

You can also choose tuna that is flaked or chunk. Chunk gives you large, firm pieces, and flaked can almost disappear into the sauce. While I love the large, firm chunks, if your family isn’t a big fan of tuna, go with the flaked type.

2What is Tuna Casserole?

Tuna Casserole is typically made with pasta, canned tuna, and some kind of veggies (usually peas and/or corn). Often the casserole is topped with something crunchy — like potato chips, corn flakes, breadcrumbs, panko, etc.

3Why is my Tuna Casserole dry?

A few possible culprits:

  • Using a baking dish that is too large for the amount of ingredients
  • Not enough liquid in the recipe
  • Over-baking (so the liquid bakes right out)

4Where did Tuna Casserole originate?

This casserole is typically associated with the midwest. Tuna Casserole is said to be created by the Campbell’s Soup Company in the 1940s. It’s also been suggested that the 1950s tuna casserole originates from a Pacific Northwest “Sunset Magazine”

5How do you keep Tuna Casserole from drying out?

  • Don’t forget to cover the pan with foil for the first bake.
  • Don’t bake for longer than the indicated time or the sauce will likely bake out and continue to be absorbed by the pasta.

6Do you eat Tuna Casserole warm or cold?

This specific recipe is intended to be eaten warm right out of the oven! That said, cold leftovers are not too bad if you’re into that kind of thing!

7How do you add moisture to a casserole?

If the casserole does end up dry, you could drizzle some cream or melted butter on top. Or, to complement the tuna, a squeeze of lemon could be nice and add a touch more moisture.

 

Process shots-- images of cheese and panko being added as a topping and then baking again

Tuna Pasta Tips

  • Seasonings go a long way! There is no onion in this dish (We’re emphasizing quick prep!) so you’ll want to make sure to add the suggested seasonings and then adjust to personal preference. A few seasonings go a long way and add lots of flavor. That said, if you aren’t a fan of dried thyme, replace it with equal amounts of Italian seasoning.
  • Use canned tuna packed in olive oil for the best flavor. My personal favorite is Genova’s® albacore tuna. Tuna packed in olive oil is richer and has a fresher flavor. Albacore is the lightest of the tuna meats, so it doesn’t have a fishy flavor.
  • Make a Tuna Casserole with chips. Replace the panko topping with 1 cup of coarsely crushed potato chips
  • Make a Tuna Casserole without peas. Use 12 ounces of whatever small frozen veggie you like best! Replace the frozen peas with all frozen corn or frozen diced carrots.
  • Add freshly grated cheese. To avoid clumping, I like to freshly grate the cheese (packaged grated cheese has a cellulose coating that keeps it from melting as smoothly). I also highly recommend sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar for maximum flavor. Yes, this recipe is supposed to be simple, but freshly grated cheese makes a world of difference in a cheesy Tuna Casserole! Speed up the grating by using a food processor with a grating attachment.

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If you don’t feel this recipe has enough flavor, you may just be missing salt and/or pepper; don’t forget to add more as needed! Keep in mind that the pasta hasn’t been cooked in salted water, so it does need a good amount of seasoning. Fresh herbs, like Italian parsley, can also add a lot to this Classic Tuna Casserole.

Up-close overhead image of Tuna Casserole fresh out of the oven

STORAGE

Can You Freeze Tuna Casserole?

Leftover Tuna Casserole keeps well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Note that it does thicken and become less creamy as it sits (pasta continues to absorb surrounding liquid). Here is a great resource for how to reheat the casserole in the oven or microwave without drying it out.

Because of all of the dairy (cheese and milk) in this casserole, it isn’t a great candidate for freezing and thawing. The milk solids will separate as it thaws, resulting in a grainy texture with some separation. Additionally, the pasta bloats and becomes mushy.

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Tuna Casserole

5 from 3 votes
This easy Tuna Casserole is completely assembled and prepared in one pan -- throw uncooked pasta, tuna, and veggies into a baking dish with a handful of other ingredients and watch in amazement as it bakes to creamy perfection!
Print Recipe

Tuna Casserole

5 from 3 votes
This easy Tuna Casserole is completely assembled and prepared in one pan -- throw uncooked pasta, tuna, and veggies into a baking dish with a handful of other ingredients and watch in amazement as it bakes to creamy perfection!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Tuna Casserole
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 514kcal
Cost $7.12

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (4-5 oz. each) tuna, well drained
  • 2-1/2 cups (8 oz.) rotini pasta Note 1
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or Italian seasoning)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock/broth Note 2
  • 2 cups milk Note 3
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen peas and carrots (or frozen corn -- Note 4)
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, separated
  • Optional topping: 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons butter Note 5

Instructions

  • PREP: Start by measuring out the milk and setting it aside for now. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. Drain tuna and set aside.
  • COMBINE: Add the following ingredients in this order to the pan: uncooked pasta, sprinkle flour evenly on top, add seasonings (thyme, mustard, onion, and garlic powder), and salt/pepper to taste (I add 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper), minced garlic, chicken broth/stock, milk, and butter (cut into 2 pieces). Stir well. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  • BAKE AGAIN: Remove foil and stir ingredients together really well. Add in frozen peas and carrots. Stir through. Add in 1 cup Cheddar cheese and stir through again. Place tuna on top of ingredients in one even layer. Gently press into the mixture (no need to stir in it). Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar on top. If adding optional panko topping (Note 5), add it now in one even layer. Return pan to the oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until pasta is tender and the top is golden brown (don't over-bake or the sauce will dry out). Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Enjoy immediately!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Rotini: This recipe works best with this specific pasta -- it's the best at soaking everything up and bakes through perfectly in the specified time. Other pasta shapes may hide the flour so the dish won't properly thicken. If using other pasta shapes, whisk the flour with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth/stock first before adding to the casserole dish. Ensure whatever pasta is being used has a similar boil time to rotini (9-11 minutes).
Note 2: Chicken stock/broth: The better the stock, the more flavor this dish will have. We love and use Swanson's chicken stock. If using chicken broth, you may need a bit more seasoning.
Note 3: Whole milk: Remove from the fridge, measure, and set aside before starting to cook. Room-temperature milk will heat quicker! This is intended to be a creamy recipe, and the lower-fat milk choices won't achieve the right texture. That said, you can use 1% or 2% (for a less creamy dish). Unfortunately, skim milk or a dairy milk alternative doesn't work the same in this recipe.
Note 4: Frozen veggies: Use 12 ounces of whatever frozen veggie you like best -- all peas, peas and carrots, all corn, or peas and corn.
Note 5: Optional topping: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in panko and salt to taste, I add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon. Stir constantly until lightly browned then sprinkle over the casserole. (Don't want to use stovetop/pan? Just melt butter in the microwave and mix panko through with heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt.)

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 514kcal | Carbohydrates: 49.4g | Protein: 32.1g | Fat: 21.1g | Cholesterol: 76.3mg | Sodium: 535.3mg | Fiber: 2.5g | Sugar: 9.5g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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