Mom’s Tuna Casserole – The Classic With Common Ingredients
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Mom’s Tuna Casserole with chips on top is one of those classic dishes that was on every dinner table across the country back in the day, including ours. This fast meal graced our table most often during Lent (made with cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of chicken), but we begged Mom to make it at least monthly.
Best Tuna Casserole from Scratch
Tuna Casserole with peas was a staple in our house growing up, and both Barbara and I remember always liking it. However, Barbara was a little hesitant about making it for her girls because she didn’t think it would be something they like.
Well on a Friday during Lent, our Mom just happened to be over while Barbara was preparing dinner so she decided to give this easy casserole a try. Mom’s version of classic tuna casserole is an old-fashioned version containing peas and crushed potato chips on top.
Boy oh boy, is Barbara glad she gave it another shot. It might not be fancy but both girls had two helpings! So Mom for the win.
If you don’t have any canned cream soup available, try this tuna casserole with Velveeta.
What ingredients are in tuna casserole?
- Canned Tuna (regular or albacore tuna)
- Cream of Chicken Soup (You can use cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup instead.)
- Noodles, wide or curly egg noodles
- Frozen Peas
- Crushed potato chips
We keep the pantry staples needed for this casserole recipe on hand all the time. We love the fact that we can use up all those leftover crushed potato chips as the perfect crunchy topping on this casserole.
How do you keep tuna casserole from drying out?
What’s the key to a creamy tuna casserole? Here’s a tip from years of making tuna casserole from scratch that prevents a dry tuna casserole.
Don’t drain the tuna completely dry.
While you do need to drain off some of the liquid from the canned tuna, leaving the tuna a little wet will not only keep your tuna casserole from drying out but it will also make the homemade tuna casserole more flavorful.
If we use the packets of tuna instead of the canned version, we just dump and go – no draining needed.
A couple of tips from Barbara when making mom’s tuna noodle casserole from scratch.
- Par-cook the noodles so they are just slightly under-done. They will finish cooking in the oven once mixed into the rest of the ingredients.
- Barbara likes the big chunks of the chunk light tuna; however, you can use any kind of canned tuna. You might even be able to trick those kiddos who think they don’t like tuna into believing it’s chicken, just saying.
- We have a deep 1-quart dish that we use for this, but go ahead and use a larger casserole dish. The casserole will just be thinner and may heat through a bit quicker than 30 minutes.
- Megan’s husband LOVES cheese so sometimes she’ll add a cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the dish or sprinkle it on top with the chips…or both. She also substitutes mixed veggies for the peas when that’s all she has. It becomes a bit of a cheese and tuna medley recipe that way.
- Check out our Amazon storefront for our favorite pantry essentials, like canned tuna and cream soups.
How To Make Classic Tuna Casserole with Potato Chips
Step By Step Instructions
- Parboil egg noodles for about 6 minutes; drain.
- Spray a 1-quart cooking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Mix together cream of chicken soup, milk, tuna, peas, salt and drained noodles in a large bowl.
- Pour in the baking dish and top with crushed potato chips.
- Cook in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
Let leftovers cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container or cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up a week.
Full recipe and ingredient list for classic tuna casserole recipe can be found at the bottom of this post on the recipe card.
Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe for Lent
This 1950s tuna casserole has graced our family table for years, especially during the season of Lent.
During Lent, we change up the cream of chicken soup for cream of mushroom or celery…actually we do this whenever we don’t have cream of chicken on hand. Our mom always used cream of celery for almost any recipe that called for a can of cream soup!
Looking for other Lent-friendly recipes? Try our Salmon Casserole, Classic Salmon Patties, Low-Carb Salmon Patties or Easy Baked Tilapia.
Favorite Canned Tuna Recipes
What to do with a can of tuna?
Tuna is a cheap and healthy pantry staple. Here are some family-favorite canned tuna recipes:
- Easy Tuna Salad Coneys
- Tuna Melt Turnovers
- Open Faced Tuna Melt
- Easy Tuna Barbecue
- Tuna Macaroni and Cheese
- Tuna Pasta Salad
Tuna Casserole Variations
Here are some simple substitutions and additions to make this classic tuna casserole your own.
- Switch egg noodles for any type of pasta such as macaroni. Just follow instructions to cook it to al dente.
- Substitute cream of celery or cream of mushroom for cream of chicken.
- Go non-dairy by using almond milk for regular milk.
- For an extra creamy tuna casserole, use evaporated milk instead of regular milk.
- Stir in diced onions to the casserole mixture.
- Add a cup of your favorite shredded cheese to the mixture.
- Instead of potato chips, top with crushed butter crackers mixed with melted butter.
- Use canned chicken instead of tuna for a chicken noodle casserole.
- Season with garlic powder or minced garlic.
Old-Fashioned Casserole Recipes
If you are not a fan of tuna, don’t worry, we have some other great casserole options for you!
- Chicken Noodle Casserole with Crushed Potato Chips
- 5 Ingredient Ground Beef Casserole
- Chicken Crunch Casserole with Water Chestnuts
- Zucchini Tomato and Ground Beef Casserole
- Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole
Our Favorite Recipes from Mom
Our mom is a great cook and baker. While she worked full-time as a high school English and Latin teacher, we almost always had a home-cooked meal for supper (our evening meal) and on Saturday for lunch.
In the summer, she always cooked a large lunch for us, our dad and our uncle – both farmers – who came home to eat each day. We’ve shared many of her recipes on the blog. Here are some of our all-time favorites recipe from Mom.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Cheesy Ham and Potatoes Casserole
Mom’s Oven Baked Pork Spare Ribs
Mom’s Wild Rice and Broccoli Soup
Mom’s Tuna Casserole
- 10.5 oz. can Cream of Chicken soup
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 5 oz. cans, chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
- 1 cup peas frozen
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups egg noodles par-cooked and drained
- 1 cup potato chips crumbled
- Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook egg noodles for about 6 minutes. Drain. These will finish cooking in the oven.
- Spray a 1- 2 quart casserole dish or an 8×8 inch dish with cooking spray.
- Mix together soup, milk, tuna, peas, salt, and drained noodles.
- Pour into casserole dish and top with potato chips.
- Cook in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
- First, par-cook the noodles so they are just slightly under-done. They will finish cooking in the oven once mixed into the rest of the ingredients.
- You could use another type of tuna, but Barbara likes the big chunks of the chunk light tuna. You might even be able to trick those kiddos who think they don’t like tuna into believing it’s chicken, just saying.
- Looking for other Lent-friendly recipes? Try our Salmon Casserole, Tuna Salad Coneys, Low-Carb Salmon Patties or Easy Baked Tilapia.
Sounds good! i still love this dish and it was one of the first things I learned to cook while still at home as a teenager–same recipe. I sometimes use macaroni instead and make it on the stove top or in the oven. If in the oven, our topping of choice is rolled cracker crumbs with dots of butter rather than the potato chips. Think I’m going to cook some up soon as we haven’t had it for a long time and it’s a perfect winter food! Love the combo and get my fix in the summer with macaroni and tuna salad–just add chopped onions and exchange cream soup/milk for Miracle Whip. Stir and let mellow in fridge for a few hours.
It’s super simple but just such a classic! The crackers and butter topping sounds delicious too! We love a good cold tuna/pasta salad too!
the recipe I used had sour cream, mushroom soup, peas, pimento and crushed potato chips on top.Does anyone have that recipe?
That one sounds good too. We’ll keep our eyes open as we are looking through our older cookbooks.
To Roberta Gabor … Your sour cream/pimento recipe sounds good! I Googled TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE MADE WITH SOUR CREAM, and got several returns. Maybe your recipe is among them.
Do I cover it?
No, you don’t need to cover it!
Sour Cream addition sounds yummy
I’m so happy that I read all these comments!
I had no noodles, but I did have tiny pasta shells, and I had no cream of chicken soup, but I did have cream of mushroom. I had frozen peas, but I added some par-cooked green beans too.
It came out great!
And I think small broccoli florets (pre-steamed to partial doneness) sounds very good, too. I do love peas, so I’ll probably always have some of those in it and just add some of the green beans or broccoli as well. (Frozen peas are great when added right from the freezer, but I par-steamed the green beans and will do the same with petite broccoli florets.)
There are lots of good suggestions here. I’ll definitely be trying the asparagus addition. Thank you! And thanks for the clarification on the dry pasta measurement.
This the same as my mother’s but she used cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of chicken
Honestly, our mom used whatever cream soup she had in the cabinet! Sometimes cream of chicken, sometimes cream of mushroom, sometimes cream of celery!
Covered or uncovered to cook it?
Cook it uncovered!
I usually top mine with grated cheddar cheese, Italian bread crumbs, then paprika.
That sounds good too!
I was wondering where the cheese was. Ain’t right w/o some cheese.
I’m about to make this and I’m wondering if the noodle amount is 2c measured out of the dry noodles or a 16oz package of noodles. Big difference. The package I have is 12oz but is a little over 4c dry. But 2c looks like so little. ??? I’m boiling the whole package and winging it. ?
Sorry, I was traveling yesterday so I didn’t see your question until today. It is 2 cups of dry noodles. It’s a smaller casserole so if you do make it with more noodles, I’d just add a second can of soup. Hope it turned out OK for you. I hate winging it with recipes (Barbara loves winging it) so I hate that I didn’t see your question before you made it!
Oh my gosh did we grow up in the same house lol! Beloved favorites tuna casserole, salmon or tuna patties, chipped beef and creamed gravy, I bet you guys had farmers potatoes, too (sliced and cooked in skillet with onions and bacon omg). I’ve been craving both salmon patties and tuna casserole and this just sealed the deal lol. Enjoyed uour post, thanks for sharing ♡
Sounds like our homes were really similar. We just called them fried potatoes but they were a staple!
I think I also grew up in your house. my mom made all of what yours did. Kraft macaroni and cheese with the salmon patties
The classics of the 1980s and 1990s!
Are YOU kidding…. this is 1950 – 60’s foods!!! Yummy!!!
We think it’s a classic no matter what decade!!
You are so right Carolyn. 50s and 60s.
Lisa, sounds a lot like my house, too! I grew up in small-town northeast Kansas. We ate a lot of salmon patties, tuna casserole, and fried potatoes with onion cooked in bacon grease. Oh, man, those were the days!! I have this tuna casserole in the oven right now, and I added a little onion powder, a little garlic powder, and dried dill.
Those dishes sound familiar! Hope you enjoyed the tuna casserole!
Have you ever tried it with canned chicken instead? What about a different green, like broccoli? My hubby doesn’t like peas so I’m trying to think of something else to include! Thanks!
We’ve done it with chicken and it is great. You could leave the peas out for sure. Broccoli should work but we haven’t tried it. We have added cheese and that’s yummy too!
I have made it with green beans before because my daughter didn’t like peas when she was little and it turned out fine.
If I double the recipe how much cooking time should I add??
It should take an extra 15 minutes. It really just needs to heat through!
I have this in the oven, baking as J type 😀
I loved this recipe growing up And it was good! My mom did the same (using whatever cream of soup on hand). I doubled the recipe because my husband wants more for tomorrow. And I like to make extra to take over to My grown children’s homes 😀
Yay! So glad you are enjoying it. We loved it growing up and we love it today!
How so I convert this to fit a 3 qt dish?
If you are wanting to make this in a 3-quart dish, you might want to double the recipe. Or you could make another cup or two of noodles and then adjust your wet ingredients so that it’s not too dry – add another can of soup.
I’M GOING TO MAKE THIS USING CHICKEN AND ASPARAGUS SPEARS CUT INTO PIECES. MY FAMILY ABSOLUTELY HATES HOT TUNA( I PERSONALLY LOVE IT WITH TUNA). I’LL BE USING CANNED ASPARAGUS SO THAT IT WILL BE SOFT. I’M SOOOO LOOKING FORWARD TO TRYING THIS RECIPE!!!!
Let us know how it turns out!!
I’M PUTTING IT TOGETHER NOW,I WLL DEFINITELY LET YOU KNOW HOW IT TURNED OUT❤❤❤
The Tuna Noodle Recipe That I’ve Been Looking For. I Thank You! Will Make This Evening! Charles
It is a favorite of ours! Enjoy.
Charles, I made this as soon as I saw it here last year, and I have probably made it four or five times since! Emailed it to both of my daughters, too.
In my opinion, it’s the perfect ratio of everything.
I do use solid albacore, and I sometimes toss in some sliced scallions, but it’s a great recipe just as it is, too. I have it printed out in my “often used” folder of recipes.
Connie – that’s just awesome and I love the sliced scallions idea! I have to admit that my husband is a cheese fanatic so I’ll throw in some cheese once in a while to keep him happy.
That sounds great, and it reminds me … when I feel like a cheesy casserole, I often turn to the salmon casserole on your site. Lovely way to use canned salmon!
You mentioned making this recipe on a Friday during Lent. It defeats the purpose of a meatless (Lent friendly) tuna casserole to use cream of chicken soup in it. Go with cream of mushroom or celery.
Yes, that’s what we do too. We usually use whatever “cream of” soup we have on hand. Guess we should have noted that in the post. Thanks!
Just like the home economics recipe I learned to make in 1960 and still love today. We topped the casserole with shredded cheddar and potato chips!
We’ve started adding cheese to the top of ours when I met my husband, a cheese lover!
Fun! What kind?
Usually whatever is in the fridge! 🙂 That is normally mild cheddar or colby jack!
Well, I’m going to try that! I didn’t really love it as much when I tried adding cheese to the mixture, but on top will be different. THANKS!
Good luck. We love the classic version too – hard to go wrong with mom’s version!
We tried this during the Coronavirus Pandemic when we were all staying home. I used what I had in my pantry, No Yoke brand stir fry noodles, canned chicken, green beans instead of peas and cream of mushroom soup. I added some seasoning salt to the dish and topped it with shredded cheese and cheddar and sour cream flavored potato chips. I would definitely make this again.. but with more cheese, more chips and more seasoning salt.
Barb – Great way to use a recipe as a guide and use what you had on hand! Thanks for sharing.
Very resourceful and creative!
If I was to prepare ahead of time how long would you suggest cook in oven when ready to eat?
If you prep it ahead and just keep it in the refrigerator, wait to top it with the potato chips until right before you pop it in the oven. It’s basically already cooked so you just need to heat it through. It may need an extra 10-15 minutes to warm through. Might want to pull it out of the refrigerator a bit before you pop it in the oven so the dish has time to warm up a bit instead of going directly from the cold fridge to the hot oven.
Ditto with Megan … I prepare it a little earlier in the day almost every time I make it. 🙂
This shounds like the one my Mom used to make when I was a kid (am 71 now). Do you have one for Frito Pie. Kind of like sloppy joe mix with Fritos sprinkled on top. Fun to see these again.
We don’t have a Frito Pie recipe but we’ve definitely seen them. We’ll have to check it out!
This was delicious! I used cream of mushroom soup, frozen mixed veggies instead of just peas and added some finely chopped onion.
I honestly had my doubts about 1 can of soup being enough, but it really was perfect. I’ll be making this more often.
Double the recipe if your family has big appetites!
Thanks for sharing! We love it too.
I prefer a white sauce to cream of chicken soup
A white sauce sounds good too!
Sounds good to me too!
I just have to say, WOW. I ended up adding a cup of shredded cheese (I had colby jack but I’m sure cheddar or any medium yellow cheese would be fine) and instead of potato chips (I didn’t have any on hand), I crushed up Ritz crackers and drizzled the top with about 1/4 cup of melted butter. I also didn’t have any frozen peas, but I *did* have frozen mixed vegetables, so I used those instead, which is fine — my husband hates peas, anyway. The tip about not cooking the noodles too much was the kicker — it made such a difference, and the noodles didn’t fall apart in shreds when I stirred everything together.
It was SUPER fast, easy, and it Turned. Out. PERFECTLY. I didn’t really expect to like it much myself (never been a tuna casserole fan) but it was delicious, husband loved it and my daughter and her overnight guest, both two picky little girls, dove right in and snarfled it down. No leftovers at our house tonight! Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It’s so hard to find classic old recipes — but they’re just the thing for little ones like mine, who have some problems with texture and such due to autism.
So glad you all liked it…isn’t it great how you can tweak it to make it your own!! We add cheese sometimes too!
I’m with you … this is the best tuna noodle casserole recipe, and very adjustable! Both my adult kids now use this recipe too. 🙂
When I made this for my boys, I added a can of drained LeSeur English peas. I also added half the mixture to the dish, and layered American cheese slices over that layer, then put rest of filling into my Corning ware. Topped with Lays potato chips before baking. What memories this recipe brings back…
Those sound like great additions. Peas sound terrific!
I use Lays potato chips on this casserole too.
Tuna-noodle is probably my favorite casserole, and this recipe is the best one I’ve tried.
Happy memories of my Mum making this, back in the late 50’s. Made it today: sauteed onion & celery & a bit of cauliflower ’cause my celery was not much. Did buttered crumbs on top. Sooooooo good!
I love this recipe, and your version sounds terrific!
I made this. I do like it. I made it as chicken noodle casserole. Came out pretty. Only thing I did was I had to add more liquid than recipe called for.😁