Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole is such a nostalgic dish, and when made correctly – is such a yummy comfort food.
But as I’m sure you know – not all tuna casseroles are created equal.
Some tuna casseroles are pretty flavorless, or soupy, or dry.
Thankfully, this recipe is none of those things and is absolutely delicious!
Here’s just a few of the reasons you’ll absolutely love this cheesy tuna noodle casserole.
It’s cheesy, creamy, and super yummy!
Made with simple ingredients and no canned soup
Easy to prep and bakes in just 15-20 minutes time
Great to make ahead and is freezer-friendly
Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole Without Soup
This tuna noodle casserole recipe is made delicious with just a few simple ingredients and is made without any cream of canned soups.
Instead, this tuna noodle casserole is made with a homemade cheese sauce and features a yummy toasted butter cracker topping.
What ingredients are in tuna casserole?
The most budget-friendly option is canned chunk light tuna in water, but if you can splurge a little, then solid white albacore tuna is going to give you a better flavor and texture.
You can also use salmon or even chicken if tuna isn’t available.
I love rotini noodles for this recipe, but there are so many options when it comes to which pasta/noodles you can use.
Egg noodles, medium shells, penne, or farfalle (bowtie) noodles would also be great choices.
Instead of canned soup which is loaded with high sodium and additives, we’re gonna make our own homemade sauce with all-purpose flour, milk, butter, and chicken broth.
*I like to use low-sodium chicken broth and have adjusted the salt in this recipe accordingly, but if you use a regular chicken broth you may need to lessen and/or not add any additional salt depending on your preference.
Our family loves using medium or sharp cheddar cheese, but you can also use Colby jack or Monterey jack cheese, if preferred.
Make sure you use freshly shredded cheese for the best flavor/texture.
For seasonings I love to use a blend of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, parsley, and my favorite onion & herb seasoning. Simple yet so flavorful!
Toasted butter crackers are my go-to for this delicious tuna casserole, but you can also use Ritz crackers, bread crumbs, panko, crushed potato chips, or French fried onions for a delicious variation.
Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole Tips:
Below you’ll find some of my best tips for preparing the best cheesy tuna noodle casserole.
Don’t overcook the noodles
Cook the pasta 1 minute less than al dente. The noodles will still cook in the oven and you want to avoid them becoming mushy from overcooking them.
Use freshly shredded cheese
I know the pre-shredded cheese is tempting if you’re in a hurry, but it only takes a few minutes to use a block cheese grater and shred your cheese fresh. It tastes WAY better and melts better for a more creamy casserole.
P.S. We love using cheddar cheese, but you can also use Colby jack or Monterey jack, if preferred.
Make ahead + bake later
One of the best things about cheesy tuna noodle casserole, is it can easily be prepped ahead, refrigerated, and baked fresh.
If you want to make it in advance, prepare the casserole but don’t add the topping.
Instead, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, until ready to bake.
Once ready to bake, add the topping and bake as directed.
Add veggies if desired
If you don’t have picky eaters, feel free to add in your favorite veggies. Diced onion, mushrooms, and of course peas are all classic, delicious additions to cheesy tuna noodle casserole.
First melt 1 tbsp unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add in crushed club crackers. Stir together and cook for 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted and golden. Remove from heat and transfer to a separate bowl.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and prepare noodles in a separate pot on the stovetop, cooking for 1-2 minutes less than al dente.