This tuna noodle casserole recipe has a deliciously creamy and cheesy sauce, egg noodles, flaked tuna, and an irresistible crunchy topping. It's so worth making it from scratch!
Why you'll love this tuna casserole
Ok, so shortcuts are easy, but I'll take the amazing homemade taste of this tuna noodle casserole made without canned soup every time! It's still easy. A couple more steps totally pays off with big flavor. Trust me. It's a bit of extra love that everyone will appreciate.
This simple casserole is also a family-friendly dish that's excellent for picky eaters. The sauce is ridiculously good with plenty of cheese, and I can't get enough of the buttery Ritz cracker topping. It's budget friendly. It has pantry staples. It's delicious. It's a classic. What are you waiting for!?
What goes into it
- Egg noodles - they're my favorite since they hold their shape well
- Olive oil, onion, celery, and garlic - our classic aromatic base
- Cream cheese - my go-to is a block of Philly as a base for the simple creamy white sauce
- Heavy cream - makes it especially luxurious
- Broth - chicken broth adds another flavor dimension
- Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce - the secret ingredients to take this casserole over the top! Don't skip them. You don't taste them individually; they just make a wonderful savory combo.
- Cheddar and parmesan - this duo takes the cheese factor over the top!
- Peas - we're simply using frozen peas here
- Tuna - you can use either water-packed or oil-packed tuna. Just be sure to drain it before adding it in.
- Butter and Ritz crackers - to make the addictive crunchy top layer! You can use potato chips if you prefer.
Can I make tuna noodle casserole ahead of time?
- Yes! Prepare it up to the step where you add the crunchy topping. Refrigerate the day before cooking, and then add the topping when it's time to bake it.
- You can also freeze it for up to 2 months, tightly covered. Defrost overnight in the fridge when you're ready, add the topping, and increase the cooking time, making sure it's warmed through.
How to make tuna noodle casserole
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Boil the egg noodles until they're almost done (slightly undercooked is good), then drain and transfer them to a 9x13 casserole dish. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and celery and garlic in a skillet until softened.
Transfer the celery mixture to the casserole dish. In the same skillet, add in the Dijon, Worcestershire, cream, broth, salt & pepper, and melt the cream cheese. After that, whisk in the cheddar and parmesan until it's a smooth sauce.
Stir in the peas and tuna until combined. Pour the sauce into the casserole dish, toss, and spread in an even layer.
Top with the crushed Ritz crackers and butter mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Enjoy!
- I don't recommend subbing the cream for something thinner like milk. If you do, it might impact sauce texture, taste, and won't be nearly as rich.
- Take the cream cheese out of the fridge an hour or more ahead of time to let it soften up, or microwave it until soft so it melts into the sauce better.
- As always, grating your own cheeses will yield the best results (how well they will melt as well as taste). This Microplane is my favorite grater.
- This is indeed a tuna casserole, but swapping the tuna for cooked chicken would also work!
What to serve with this recipe
- Tuna casserole is best complemented by a simple side salad with a bold dressing. Try my homemade Caesar dressing, this chipotle ranch dressing, or creamy balsamic dressing.
- Some great vegetable side dishes would be these Maple Roasted Carrots or my Easy Roasted Green Beans.
- You can't go wrong with dinner rolls or a slice of crusty bread.
Leftovers and storage
- They'll keep in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
- Simply reheat over a low heat on the stove in a saucepan.
- You could try freezing leftovers, but pasta can lose firmness and absorb sauce after it's been cooked and thawed, so I wouldn't recommend it.
Questions about this tuna casserole? Did you grow up with it? Talk to me in the comments below!
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 3 cups uncooked egg noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 sticks celery chopped small
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 8 ounces cream cheese (a block of Philly) softened
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 12 ounces canned tuna drained
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Prep all recipe ingredients. For the melted butter, I suggest microwaving it in a small bowl and setting it aside until needed.
- Cook the egg noodles for a couple minutes less than the package directions indicate. Drain and add them to a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Meanwhile, add the oil, onion, and celery to a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for about 30 seconds, then transfer the skillet contents to the casserole dish.
- To the same skillet, over medium heat, add the cream cheese (microwave it for 20-30 seconds if it isn't soft yet), cream, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of salt & pepper. Stir/whisk nearly constantly until the cream cheese has melted into the sauce (about 5 minutes). Don't let the sauce get too thick (it should be similar to Alfredo sauce). If the sauce seems a bit too thick, add in another splash of cream. The sauce will thicken more as it bakes.
- Turn the burner off and stir in the cheddar and parmesan until melted.
- Add in the peas and tuna (I use a fork to flake it right in the can after draining it), then pour the skillet mixture over the noodles. Toss until well coated and spread it in an even layer.
- Add the crushed Ritz crackers to the bowl that has the melted butter and mix well.
- Top the casserole with the Ritz topping and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
- See blog post for more tips and step-by-step photos.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.