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Tuna Casserole, the Ultimate 1970’s Comfort Food

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We all have those foods from our childhood that make us feel good.  The foods that comfort us.  That make us feel loved.  That remind us, yes, winter will eventually end and the sun will shine again.  I am speaking literally here, but it also works metaphorically doesn’t it?

My mother was not a good cook.  She despised cooking and saw nothing wrong with serving frozen tv dinners several nights a week.  Ah, the 70’s a decade when mother’s were still free from guilt and junk food.  Now I feel guilty serving my children the occasional dinner of organic chicken nuggets. And for letting them watch tv. And for not doing enough crafts. Damn Martha Stewart making us all look bad.

I can’t blame my mother. She was a single working mother long before it was really an acceptable choice. She worked long hours and came home to just the two of us. I am not sure I would have felt like cooking a big meal for a picky unappreciated eater either.

Tuna Casserole is one of the few foods that I remember enjoying when my mother made it.

You will need:


26oz can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2 cups frozen peas
2 cans tuna, drained
1 bag hot cooked egg noodles
2T dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp melted butter


Cook noodles according to the directions on the package.


In a large bowl or casserole dish, mix together the noodles and soup,


and peas,



and tuna


and milk.  Mix well.  Put into an oven safe casserole dish.


Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.


Melt butter.


Mix breadcrumbs with butter.


Sprinkle on top of casserole.


Bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve. Feel the love of your childhood come flooding back to you. I am hoping that my children feel this love too. So far only one of them has noticed the casserole and that child wrinkled his nose and said, “What else is for dinner?”

(Updated to add: My children LOVED it. LOVED. Except for my newly turned 4 yr old who is going through a picky phase. Completely random pickiness of the like it one minute, hate it the next variety. So I don’t think that he counts.)

If you want to fully embrace the 70’s serve this with salad made completely of iceberg lettuce and topped with that exotic orange French dressing. Or not.


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18 comments so far...

  • Yum. Actually made this Sunday, though I go all over-achiever and make my own white sauce instead of using the soup (I always forget to buy it).

    Our childhood variation had crushed potato chips on top, though. Perfect use for the chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag.

    Diane  |  January 6th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

  • Could you tell me any good alternatives to the mushroom soup? The rest sounds good, but I have an aversion to mushrooms.

    Chris says: I think that you could use a different kind of creamed soup…. like a cream of brocolli.

    Laura  |  January 6th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

  • Oh my god! I grew up on Tuna Casserole and my husband LOVES that exotic French Dressing. Thanks for a laugh and a great memory.

    Lucinda  |  January 6th, 2009 at 11:03 pm

  • I happen to love tuna casserole, but the one time I made this for my husband he declared it the most vile thing on earth. It’s still a sore spot in our marriage. : )

    Julie  |  January 7th, 2009 at 12:02 am

  • I’m going to have to make this. I also love iceberg lettuce and french dressing!! I know I’m weird!

    Melinda  |  January 7th, 2009 at 6:42 am

  • Ah, the memories. I grew up in a single parent household as well, and now that I have children of my own, I have a new-found respect for the fact that my mother consistently kept the four of us safe, clothed and fed. In our house, tuna casserole was made with elbow noodles and without the peas or bread crumb topping. We would pile it on a plate, place a slice of American cheese on top of it (quickly so that it would melt) and then sprinkled garlic powder on top. I have no idea how we arrived at that particular combination, but there it is. Now, in my house, the way you described it is how I make it.

    Paula  |  January 7th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

  • Yum! My mom was such a lame cook that we never even got the classics like this, or meatloaf, or homemade brownies (in fact, to find out what a brownie even tasted like, I was forced to resort to stealing some other poor girl’s brownie, for which she teased me FOREVER). I was deprived of the proper 70s experience!

    Brigitte  |  January 7th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  • My family LOVES tuna casserole. Every year on my daughter’s birthday, she gets to choose what meal to have for dinner that night. She is famous for choosing tuna casserole.

    Kim Reddington  |  January 7th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  • My mom used to make Tuna Casserole all the time and it was one of my favorites. I am going to have to revive it for sure. But the iceberg lettuce…nah, I can’t stomach that one.

    Oceans Mom  |  January 7th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

  • Chris, I didn’t know you grew up in a single parent household.

    As a single Mom, I love meeting adults who grew up with a single Mom who are now accomplished, principled, and genuinely good people. It gives me a strange kind of hope.

    You were already cool in my books, but even more so now. :-)

    Kristin D  |  January 8th, 2009 at 1:53 am

  • LOL! I survived college on tuna noodle casserole. When I got married, I thought I’d have to give up my beloved casserole and didn’t make it for years. Eventually, it became a family favorite. It’s one of the first “dinners” that our kids learned to make on their own. My son still makes it, even though he’s now graduated from college.

    Our version is even easier. Prepare a package of macaroni and cheese (you know, the kind with the big blue label). Then stir in a can of cream of chicken soup and a can of tuna. Stir till it’s bubbly! Yummo!

    Anne  |  January 8th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  • LOL, at the salad suggestion!

    Nancy R  |  January 10th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  • I’ll have to try your version! I still make my mother’s tuna casserole all the time. The kids love it. :-) We use golden mushroom soup instead of cream of mushroom. We also use about 1/2 bag shredded cheese to mix in with the noodles, tuna and soup and then about 1/4 of the bag to sprinkle on the top in lieu of the bread crumbs. I agree about the guilt thing with 70’s moms…mine left out the peas! I’m thinking yours sounds healthier than mine…

    Wendy  |  January 12th, 2009 at 2:46 am

  • My mom something very simalar when I was growing up, although she used the crushed potato chips as well. I don’t know when she last made it and now that I’m officially “on my own,” I’ve been pining for it!

    Lauren  |  January 13th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

  • Gorgeous. Is this a traditional American dish, cos I’ve never heard of it in the UK? I made it at the weekend and even my (extremely) fussy 3 year old liked it! Thanks Chris. I’m going to try the leftovers stew next!

    Chris says: It may very well be! I know that everyone my age had their mother make this for them growing up.

    Charlie  |  January 16th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

  • Oh man, just looking at these pictures made my day. This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes from growing up. Tuna casserole is to me what mac-n-cheese is to many. I just love it. Thank you for posting this! I think I’ll go call my mom now and tell her that I love her. Seriously.

    Jamie  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 7:01 pm

  • Ladies! You are missing a key ingred! Hello, sharp cheddar?? (I know, I know, even LESS healthy) I can’t have it without that delicious tang from the cheese melted on top, though. We use Ritz crackers crumbled up instead of bread crumbs/butter.

    What a great stand-by. :) Three cheers to your mom, Chris, and to you, too!

    Lee  |  February 6th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  • This is just what I was looking for, minus the peas…my mom made this when I was a kid and, I hated tuna but my kids love it and I know they will like this…I am making it tonight, thanks!

    Shannon Dillman  |  October 17th, 2009 at 6:23 pm