Seriously, I'm not even a fan of tuna noodle casserole, but this version is so delicious and easy to make, it's definitely being made often! One ingredient changed everything!
I made my own condensed cream of celery soup and it's a game changer! That one change lightened up and freshened up the dish so much, even Jeff liked it.
Jeff isn't picky, but when he has something in his mind that he doesn't like, it's hard to change it. Now, he will probably never ask me to make it like he asks for burgers or tacos, but he will eat it and not complain when I do!
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Everything about this recipe is EASY. It's all made in one-pot with the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker and Air Crisper or the Instant Pot Duo Crisp or your pressure cooker with a crisping lid.
Even if you don't have one of these wonderful small appliances, no worries, you can still make it. You'll just have an extra step, but that is EASY, too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! You can use any type of condensed soup you like. The flavors might be altered some, so before you put the topping on and crisp it up, give the casserole a taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
I haven't frozen any, but I imagine it would freeze just as well as any other similar casserole. Just make sure it's cold before freezing to help prevent ice crystals.
As it sits in the refrigerator, the casserole can dry out some. Keeping it tightly covered helps and I've found that putting a small amount of cream into the dish you are using to reheat it in also brings the moisture and creaminess back into the tuna noodle casserole.
If you have the Ninja Foodi PC & AC, I would reheat with the casserole serving in a pan, covered and use the steam function with 2 cups of water.
The steam time will depend on how big the serving is, then finish up with a little air crisping on the top.
If it's frozen solid, maybe PC for 1-2 minutes first.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a list of the main ingredients and suggestions for dietary and/or preference substitutions.
I used extra wide egg noodles in this recipe and think they are the perfect pasta choice for this casserole, but if you don't like them or can't have them, here are some suggestions.
If you are gluten free, you can use a gluten free variety of egg noodle. I did some looking around and they are a little pricey, at least on Amazon. Or you can use another type of pasta that is gluten free instead.
You may need to adjust your PC time according the variety of pasta you choose. I have not cooked with gluten free pasta, but from what I've heard, it cooks faster.
Other Noodle Options with suggested cook times.
Elbows or shells would work fine and I would increase the PC time to 3 minutes. If that isn't enough to get the noodles al dente, then use the sear/sauté function to simmer them before adding the cheese and cream of celery soup. You can add more liquid if needed.
I also think campanelle pasta would work great in this recipe. I would PC for 3 minutes.
Penne, ziti, and rotini can also be used, but I would increase the PC time to 4 minutes because they are thicker and will take a little longer to cook.
I used 2 small cans of Albacore tuna in water, but you could use more tuna if you like and that won't change the recipe at all.
You can also use the darker tuna, which, ironically, is called chunk light.
If you aren't a tuna fan and want to make this recipe, it would be incredible with cooked chunked chicken. The canned chicken is stringy in my opinion, so I would opt for freshly cooked chicken instead.
You can also use salmon if you prefer.
You also don't have to use any type of fish or meat and it will be delicious!
The only thing I wouldn't do is use fresh tuna, it's too expensive and is better seared or grilled and served as is, but you can use it if you have leftovers or need to use it up. I'm not sure how adding it raw would change the flavors in the dish, so I would cook it first and then add it after the PC time.
Minor's Vegetable Base
I love the flavor in Minor's Vegetable Base and I have never found another vegetable base that compares.
However, you can certainly use a different base or use 3 cups of a quality vegetable stock or even sub in chicken stock if you prefer.
Cream of Celery Soup
Like I said earlier in this article, I truly believe the homemade condensed cream of celery soup is the magic ingredient in this recipe. I really urge you to try it. It gives such a boost of freshness and balances all the flavors beautifully.
Of course, you can substitute it for the canned variety or switch it up for condensed cream of mushroom soup.
Peas and mushrooms are the most common vegetables used in a tuna noodle casserole and I love both of them, but chose to use frozen mixed vegetables instead for a couple reasons.
One, I didn't have mushrooms and peas when I tested the recipe the second time and two, I didn't like the first version with the mushrooms. I'm sure it's just me, but there is something about fish and mushrooms that just doesn't jive with me.
So, I used the frozen mixed vegetables that are a combination of diced carrots, corn, peas and small cut green beans. I also got rid of that dreaded cream of mushroom soup, but that is a whole other story.
The frozen mixed vegetables were PERFECT in this recipe.
You can certainly use mushrooms and I would add them in before pressure cooking.
You can use all peas, but I think 2 cups of peas would be a bit much, so start out with 1 cup and add more if you want.
You can also use fresh carrots and cut them into 1-2"chunks and they should be fine if you add them before pressure cooking.
Really, you can add or omit any vegetable you like. If your vegetables are larger, you might need to simmer a little longer before adding the cheese (add more liquid if needed), but other than that whatever you choose will be just fine.
For this recipe, I used the pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese, but you can use any type of cheese that you like.
If you are dairy free, you can skip the cheese, as well, and add in another ¼ cup of condensed cream of celery soup to add the extra creaminess that comes from the cheese.
Butter & Cream
I used salted butter and heavy whipping cream in the casserole itself and salted butter in the panko topping. You can use unsalted butter and it will be fine.
These are completely optional (so is the cheese), so if you are dairy free, you can still make this recipe.
Instead of the butter, cream, and cheese use 1-1¼ cups of condensed cream of celery soup. Since the canned kind usually has dairy in it, you will want to make this dairy free version: Condensed cream of celery soup. Adjust seasonings as needed.
I chose panko over breadcrumbs because I liked the texture of the topping better, but you can use either or a combination of the two.
If you are gluten free, they do sell a gluten free panko, here is the link I found on Amazon: Gluten Free Panko
I have even seen people use potato chips for the topping and that would work too, I would just make a few changes. Since the potato chips are already crispy and you don't want them to burn, I would simmer the casserole mixture for about 5-7 minutes to cook the vegetables and then add the potato chip topping and either bake or broil (Air fry would blow them around)
I've never made a potato chip topping before, but I think you simply crush them and put them on top of a cheese layer.
You can skip the topping all together! Trust me, the casserole is delicious without it!
Can I Double the Recipe?
Yes, you can. However there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you want to make it all in one pot using the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot Duo Crisp.
The ingredient amounts were chosen so that there is a good ratio of casserole to topping. Doubling the casserole ingredients will throw that off. If that doesn't bother you, then keep reading and I'll give my suggestions to the changes you would want to make.
You can also double the topping ingredients, but that would just make the topping thicker and thicker isn't always better when you want a nice crispy topping.
The other option for doubling the recipe and keeping the ratios on target is to pressure cooker the casserole and then transfer it into a large casserole dish so that you have about 3" of casserole on the bottom. Double the topping ingredients and cover the top. Bake on 375-400°F/190-210℃ for 20 minutes or so. Check on it after about 10 minutes and adjust the temperature down if it's getting too brown.
If you want to pressure cook a double batch, here are the changes I would make.
Don't double the liquid or you will end up with soup. For 16 ounces of egg noodles, I would use 4½ cups of liquid. Double all of the other ingredients, except the topping (unless you want a thicker topping).
You would also want to DECREASE the pressure cook time. The pot will take longer to come to pressure because it has more liquid and the time to pressure is cook time. Since I do not like overcooked noodles, I would PC for zero minutes with a 1 minute natural release, then manually release the remaining pressure. If you like your noodles softer, PC for 1 minute with an immediate release. If you see any foaming or sputtering when you release the pressure, flip the valve back to seal and wait a minute, then release it again.
Heat 6-8 cups of water in a large stock pot on the stove. When boiling, add in the egg noodles and cook according to the package directions JUST until they are al dente.
Drain the water and reserve about ½ cup. Add in the drained tuna, diced onion, seasonings (including the vegetable base to taste), condensed soup, frozen vegetables, heavy cream, and 1½ cups of shredded cheese. Stir until combined. If the mixture doesn't look creamy enough, add in some of the pasta water.
Cook on low for about 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables soften up. Transfer to a casserole dish and spread the panko topping on top. You may need extra topping depending on how big your casserole dish is.
Bake on 375-400℉/190-210℃ in a PREHEATED oven for 10-15 minutes or until the topping is brown and crispy.
Pressure Cooker without Crisping Lid Directions
Follow the directions for pressure cooking up until the point of crisping the top. Transfer the casserole mixture to a casserole dish (9x11 should work fine). Spread the topping over the surface. You made need more topping to cover the entire top.
Bake on 375-400℉/190-210℃ in a PREHEATED oven for 10-15 minutes or until the topping is brown and crispy.
Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot Duo Crisp Directions
Whether you use the Ninja Foodi, IPDC or your pressure cooker with a crisping lid, the instructions will be the same. If you don't have the same temperature settings, just choose the closest air fry setting to 300°F/150℃ to crisp the top.
Put the 8 ounces of egg noodles in the inner pot. Drain 2 cans of tuna and add to the pot. Add in the salt, pepper, and onion powder.
Dice the onion and add to the pot and stir it all together.
Mix the vegetable base with the water to combine or measure out 3 cups of vegetable stock/chicken stock and add to the inner pot. Add the 2 Tablespoons of butter on top.
Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Set the pressure on high for 2 minutes. When the time is up immediately release the remaining pressure.
Turn the sear/sauté on medium low. Add in the ½ cup of condensed cream of celery soup, ½ cup of heavy cream, and 1½ cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Stir to combine and keep the heat on low medium while you make the topping.
Melt 2 Tbsps of butter in a medium size mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of panko bread crumbs and mix to combine. Add in ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese and mix until combined.
Spread the topping evenly on top, make sure to cover the noodles or they dry out.
Put the crisping lid down (or on) and set the air crisp (or air fry) setting to 300℉/150℃ and the time to 15 minutes. I always suggest checking on the topping after about 8-10 minutes to see if you need to adjust your temperature.
When the topping is brown and crispy, it's done!
Serve & Enjoy!
EASY Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 8 ounces extra wide egg noodles
- 11 ounces canned albacore tuna 2 (5.5) cans, drained
- ½ onion about ½-3/4 cup diced
- ½ tsp fine grind sea salt
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ Tbsp Minor's vegetable base
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 4 Tbsp butter divided in recipe
- ½ cup cream of celery soup
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 cups mixed vegetables frozen
- 2 cups cheese divided in recipe
- 1 cup panko
- Add 8 ounces of egg noodles to the inner pot. Drain 2 cans of tuna and add to the pot. Dice the onion and add to the pot. Add ½ tsp fine grind sea salt, ½ tsp onion powder, and ¼ tsp of black pepper. Stir to combine.
- Mix the vegetable base with the water to combine or measure out 3 cups of vegetable stock/chicken stock and add to the inner pot. Add the 2 Tablespoons of butter on top.
- Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Set the pressure on high for 2 minutes. When the time is up immediately release the remaining pressure.
- Turn the sear/ sauté on medium low. Add in the ½ cup of condensed cream of celery soup, ½ cup of heavy cream, frozen vegetables and 1½ cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Stir to combine and keep the heat on low medium while you make the topping.
- Melt 2 Tbsps of butter in a medium size mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of panko bread crumbs and mix to combine. Add in ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese and mix until combined. Spread the topping evenly on top, make sure to cover the noodles or they dry out.
- Put the crisping lid down (or on) and set the air crisp (or air fry) setting to 300℉/150℃ and the time to 15 minutes. I always suggest checking on the topping after about 8-10 minutes to see if you need to adjust your temperature.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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