Tuna Noodle Casserole


Skip the canned soup and make a fresher version of this retro favorite.

Southern Living Tuna Noodle Casserole in a casserole dish ready to serve

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

Tuna noodle casserole is a longtime dinner favorite. Some say the recipe was first developed by the Campbell's Soup Company, with the company's cream of mushroom soup as one of the main ingredients. If you’re not a fan of mushrooms, or if you prefer to use fresher ingredients, this tuna noodle casserole, which doesn’t use canned soup, is for you.

A Tuna Casserole Recipe Without the Canned Soup

Instead of using the traditional canned cream of mushroom soup, the sauce in this recipe is based on a bechamel sauce, a traditional creamy sauce that’s made of milk thickened with a roux, which is a cooked mixture of butter and flour.

Don’t get intimidated by the fancy French terms, though. This method is similar to that used in a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe

tuna noodle casserole ingredients in bowls overhead

Emily Laurae

How To Make Tuna Noodle Casserole

The full recipe is below, but here's a brief recap:

  • Make the creamy sauce: This recipe starts by sautéing diced onion in butter, then sprinkling the flour over the onion-butter mixture. The milk is whisked in gradually and simmered until thickened.
  • Add casserole ingredients: Then the cheese, tuna, peas, and seasonings are mixed into the creamy sauce. The mixture is spooned into a casserole dish.
  • Bake casserole: The whole dish is baked until bubbly.
  • Add crunchy topping: A sprinkling of seasoned cracker crumbs tops it all off and adds a crunchy counterpart. 
cooked egg noodles on top of tuna noodle casserole mixture

Emily Laurae

What Kind of Tuna Should You Use in Tuna Casserole?

This recipe calls for canned tuna. Chunk light tuna, which is often made from a variety of species of tuna, is a good choice for tuna noodle casserole. The tuna is already in small pieces, and it has a slightly stronger flavor than white or Albacore tuna, which will stand up to the other ingredients. As a bonus, it’s one of the cheapest varieties of packaged tuna you can buy!

What To Serve With Tuna Noodle Casserole

Because this recipe is rich and creamy, it calls for something fresh to accompany it. We like serving tuna noodle casserole with a fresh salad of crisp romaine or mixed greens, tossed with a vinaigrette. To make things simple, pick up a bagged salad kit that you can throw together while the casserole is in the oven.

Is tuna casserole served hot or cold?

Tuna casserole is typically served hot, so that the cheese in the sauce will be melted and creamy. 

How To Store and Reheat Leftover Tuna Noodle Casserole

This recipe serves six people, so if you have a smaller group at your dinner table, you're likely to have leftovers.

Store the tuna noodle casserole right in the baking dish, covered tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, or transfer the leftovers to a lidded food storage container. Tuna noodle casserole can keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

To reheat, transfer the casserole to a microwave-safe dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a domed lid (an inverted bowl works great!) and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through.


  • Cooking spray

  • 8 oz. wide egg noodles

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced

  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

  • 2 (5 oz. each) cans chunk light tuna, drained

  • 1 cup frozen peas

  • 16 butter crackers, such as Ritz (about half a sleeve)

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder


  1. Prepare pan:

    Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish, set aside.

  2. Cook pasta:

    Cook the egg noodles to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

    cooked egg noodles in a colander

    Emily Laurae

  3. Make sauce:

    Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. When it foams, add the onion and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.

    cooking onions in saucepan

    Emily Laurae

    Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has a nutty smell. Slowly whisk the milk in, a little at a time, to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat.

    making sauce in a saucepan with whisk

    Emily Laurae

  4. Assemble and bake casserole:

    Stir the Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into the milk mixture. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the tuna and frozen peas, then add the cooked noodles, stirring to make sure the noodles are completely coated with the sauce.

    tuna noodle casserole in saucepan ready to be baked

    Emily Laurae

    Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.

    tuna noodle casserole in a dish unbaked

    Emily Laurae

  5. Make topping:

    While the casserole is cooking, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave. In a medium bowl, crush the crackers with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and the garlic powder to the crushed crackers. Drizzle the mixture with the melted butter and toss to coat.

    crushed cracker topping for casserole

    Emily Laurae

  6. Finish casserole:

    Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle with the cracker mixture, then bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until the topping is browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    Southern Living Tuna Noodle Casserole with a serving scooped out on a plate beside

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

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