This vegan take on the classic tuna noodle casserole will take you back! It’s pure comfort food, an easy work night dump and bake dinner that’s completely plant-based, dairy-free, and surprisingly healthy! We use jackfruit seasoned with ground nori and miso paste for the tuna. This is combined with noodles, peas, pimentos, and vegan condensed cream of mushroom soup, then baked to perfection. Top it with bread crumbs, potato chips, or seasoned Ritz crackers – your choice!
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Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve never had tuna noodle casserole in my pre-vegan days, but I remember seeing it a lot when I was younger!
As soon as I knew we were doing a vegan casserole series, I knew we had to try veganizing this famous fish dish and make a healthy tuna noodle casserole! After all, we already had the jackfruit, the nori sheets, and of course, the condensed cream of mushroom soup recipe to help create that creamy sauce.
After doing some research, I realized there are quite a few variations to this recipe. I took my inspiration for this recipe straight from the creators of the “original” tuna casserole: the pros at Campbell’s. I have added a few vegan twists to their great recipe of course, but it’s still a classic through and through!
I’m so happy with the result: creamy and flavorful with some serious hug-in-a-bowl vibes. Whether or not Tuna Noodle Casserole was a family favorite in your childhood, I think you’re going to love this meatless, creamy vegan toona noodle casserole recipe!
Why We Love This Casserole
- It’s an easy dump and bake dinner. A lot of noodle casserole recipes call for you to cook the noodles before baking them, but no need with this one! Just add everything to your casserole dish and into the oven it goes!
- Cozy and comforting like the classic 1950s tuna casserole, but vegan. An ultimate comfort food with so much flavor!
- A fantastic freezer meal! Double the recipe and freeze one for later or freeze leftovers in single servings (We love Souper Cubes for this!)
- If this dish is one of the favorite meals in your family, this would be a fantastic first dinner to introduce them to plant-based food!
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What ingredients are in tuna noodle casserole?
Traditionally, tuna noodle casserole is primarily made with canned tuna, egg noodles, peas, pimientos or red bell pepper, milk and/or cream, and cream of mushroom soup.
For our vegan version, we’re going to use:
- Vegan condensed cream of mushroom soup – You’ll want to make this at least a few hours (or up to 2 days) ahead of time to give it time to thicken properly. If you can’t wait for the vegan condensed soup to thicken, you can use the soup out of the blender or food processor(about 2 cups for this recipe – not the whole thing) and reduce the water in this recipe by about 3/4 cup.
- Plain unsweetened non-dairy milk – Not all plant milk is the same! Make sure you’re using a non-dairy milk that is both unsweetened and plain. A neutral-flavored milk is crucial for this recipe! We like the No Sugar Oat Milk from Chobani, Califia’s unsweetened almond milk, or the unsweetened cashew milk from Elmhurst.
- Chopped pimiento
- Frozen peas
- Jackfruit – Drained and chopped. This acts as our vegan tuna replacement! Make sure you get jackfruit canned in brine and not syrup. Jackfruit in syrup is usually used more for dessert recipes. I would not recommend subbing fresh jackfruit.
- Kelp flakes or ground nori sheets – These seaweed flakes help give us that briny taste of the sea!
- White miso paste – This adds a salty savoriness to the mix that enhances the seafood flavor.
- Salt and black pepper
- Dry noodles – We used vegan-friendly Pappardelle from ShopRite to replace the traditional egg noodle for this recipe which worked great! Vegan egg noodles, macaroni dumplings, rotini, broken lasagna noodles or fettuccine / linguine pasta would also work. If you’re using long noodles, it’s best to break them in half.
For the bread crumb topping, we’ll use:
- Bread crumbs – Check your brand to make sure they’re vegan (many include dairy, which I know is weird). Panko bread crumbs are often a safe bet. Or, make your own with our Italian bread crumb recipe!
- Vegan butter – Melted. We love the Plant Butter sticks from Country Crock.
If you don’t have or can’t tolerate one of the above ingredients because of dietary needs, here are our best substitution tips. Remember though, substituting any of the ingredients may lead to a varied degree of difference in the final product. Let us know in the comments if you try any subs and how they work out for you!
For the noodles: Use your pasta of choice. See the noodle options in the list above! Gluten-free pasta or noodles could also work, but you would have to adjust the water depending on what kind of pasta you’re using. This may take some experimenting! Rice or potatoes could also work for this, but again, that would take some experimenting.
For the cream of mushroom: You can use any of our condensed soup substitutes for this recipe – especially our vegan cream of chicken! I can’t vouch for other can of cream of mushroom soup brands, but if you’re using something that’s not condensed, make sure you reduce the water you use.
For the pimientos: Roasted red peppers or small diced red peppers will also work!
For the green peas: Feel free to sub any vegetable here really. Diced carrots, mushrooms, edamame for a boost of extra protein, even broccoli would all be great options!
For the bread crumbs / vegan butter: You can replace the bread crumb / vegan butter mixture with potato chip or Ritz cracker crumbs! If using the potato chips, I would wait to sprinkle them on after the casserole finishes baking. You can also top with a little vegan parmesan cheese blended with some old bay seasoning.
Vegan tuna replacement options:
If you can’t find canned jackfruit, try a store-bought vegan tuna like “Tu-No” from Loma Linda/Atlantic Natural Foods or “Good Catch” from Good Catch Foods.
Chickpeas, white beans, hearts of palm, or artichoke hearts could also be great options! If you’d like more of a chicken-y vibe, soy curls would be great but you would need to add a little more water.
Kelp / Nori Options:
Feel free to skip this if you don’t care about adding a fishy taste to your casserole. Also, feel free to increase the amount you use if you want a fishier taste to your casserole.
There are a variety of types of seaweed often available in the “International Foods” aisle of your local market or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, at your local Asian grocery market.
To name some other types: kombu (sea kelp), wakame, and arame are but a few. Here’s a great article from Epicurious about the varieties of edible seaweed and what to look for when shopping for it.
How to Make Toona Noodle Casserole
This is such an easy dinner to throw together on a busy work night! It takes about 10 minutes of active time. Then you let your oven do the rest!
Step 1: Assemble and bake
Heat your oven to 400F and get out a 3-quart casserole dish. Most commonly, a 3-quart casserole dish is a 9×13 inch dish!
Stir the mushroom soup, non-dairy milk, pimientos, peas, chopped jackfruit, miso paste, spices, and water in the casserole dish. Then, submerge the noodles in this mixture. It helps to break the noodles in half if you’re using a long noodle.
Then, cover this dish tightly with foil (or an oven-safe lid if you have one!) and bake for 40 minutes or until the noodles are cooked al dente. Do not remove the cover or open the oven too much during this duration – those noodles need to cook!
Note: Not ALL the water will be absorbed at this stage. Don’t be like me and add more dry noodles because it looks too soupy!
Step 2: Add the bread crumb topping
When time is almost up, stir the bread crumbs and melted vegan butter in a small bowl.
Then, remove the casserole dish from the oven and stir the noodle mixture completely. Then add the bread crumb mixture on the top of the casserole, and bake for another 10 minutes uncovered until the bread crumbs are slightly browned.
Step 3: Let it rest
Let the casserole sit uncovered for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. This part is important!
The casserole will thicken up considerably as it cools during this stage. After 10 minutes, you’re ready to serve!
Do you cook noodles before adding to casserole?
A lot of tuna casserole recipes call for cooked pasta in the casserole, but we wanted to make a dump and bake version, so we added 8 oz dry noodles and 3 cups water to the dish itself and doubled the cooking time. No need to boil with this recipe!
Why is my tuna casserole so dry / wet?
If your casserole comes out dry, there could be a couple reasons. Perhaps you didn’t use enough liquid or didn’t cover it tightly enough. Also, lifting the cover “to check it” too much during cooking will release much-needed steam and moisture every time you go “just to take a look”. To quote The Beatles, let it be.
If your casserole is still too wet, there could also be a reason or two. A major reason is the release of heat from the stove if you’re checking the casserole and opening the oven door too often. Two, different pastas absorb liquid at different rates. Give it a little longer. Another, often overlooked, reason could be temperature calibration in the oven. If you find you recipes often require longer cooking times than suggested, look into this as a potential problem.
How to Serve Vegetarian Tuna Casserole
Serve this vegan tuna casserole hot (after the initial 10 minute cooling time!) sprinkled with parsley for a touch of pretty!
What do you eat tuna casserole with?
This casserole is good all on its own, or try serving it with:
- Salad and Italian dressing
- Side caesar salad
- Garlic bread with vegan cheese seasoning
- Potato chips. Seriously. If that’s your thing, go for it! Potato chips also might be nice as a crumbled topping for the casserole! See our suggestion above.
How to Store Leftover Dairy Free Tuna Casserole
This makes 6 bountiful servings or 8 modest servings. And just like any good casserole, leftovers store great!
In the Fridge: Store this casserole in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave. If you are using the oven, preheat it to 400F and reheat, covered, in an oven-safe dish for about 10 minutes until warmed through. If microwaving, reheat at about 70-80% power (med high) for 2 minutes until warmed through. In either case, add about a tablespoon of liquid per slice to help keep it moist.
In the freezer: You can freeze this casserole in a freezer-safe container for up to 6 weeks. Make sure you let the casserole cool completely before moving it to the freezer. We like to freeze leftover casserole in 1-cup or 2-cup Souper Cubes for easy grab-and-go single portions.
To reheat from the freezer: Defrost in the microwave on a medium heat to medium low power setting. About 40-50% power for 2-3 minutes until mostly thawed through. Then you can reheat at 70-80% power for 3-4 minutes until warm. If using the oven, preheat to 400F and reheat the casserole covered in an oven-safe dish for about 30-40 minutes until warmed through.
Plant-Based Tuna FAQ
To wrap up this post, we wanted to go over a few of the common questions we get about vegan tuna! If you have more questions, leave them in the comments, so we can make this a more complete resource for future readers!
Do vegans eat tuna fish?
Vegans do not eat tuna or any animal life from the sea. Contrary to some popular beliefs, fish is “meat” and yes, they do feel pain.
Is vegan tuna healthy?
I actually consider vegan tuna healthier than its living counterpart. It contains less fat, no cholesterol, and no mercury or other aquatic-borne toxins and pollutants than a can of tuna.
What is vegan tuna made of?
We’re using jackfruit for this vegan tuna recipe, but other vegan tuna replacements include chickpeas, white beans, hearts of palm or artichoke and bamboo shoots. They are all almost always seasoned with some form of edible seaweed to give them their “fishiness”. There are also quite a few vegan “tuna” brands at grocery stores these days like Tun-No and Good Catch.
More Vegan Tuna Recipes:
I hope you’ll try this recipe – especially if Tuna Noodle Casserole was a staple in your pre-vegan days! And I hope everyone in your family can enjoy it together. That’s what good food does!
When you make it, I would so appreciate it if you could leave a star rating and review below. It helps more people find our vegan recipes and supports our efforts to bring you more of them!
That’s all for now, friend. Happy cooking!
- 2 (8-oz.) jars vegan condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup chopped pimiento
- 1.5 cups frozen green peas
- 1 (15-20 oz) can jackfruit in brine, drained and chopped
- 1/2 - 1 tsp kelp flakes or ground nori sheets
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 8 oz dry noodles (see notes for options)
For the bread crumb topping:
- 1/3 cup vegan-friendly bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsp vegan butter, melted
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Stir the soup, non-dairy milk, pimientos, peas, chopped jackfruit, spices, miso, and water in a 3-quart casserole dish (most commonly a 9x13 inch dish). Then, submerge the noodles in this mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the noodles are cooked al dente.
- When time is almost up, stir the bread crumbs and melted vegan butter in a small bowl. Remove the casserole dish from the oven and stir the mixture completely. Top this with the bread crumb mixture and bake for 10 minutes uncovered.
- Let the casserole sit uncovered for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or the freezer for up to 6 weeks. We like to freeze our leftovers in our 1 or 2-cup Souper Cubes for easy portioning!
Noodle options: We used vegan-friendly Pappardelle from Shoprite for this recipe which worked pretty good! Vegan egg noodles, macaroni dumplings, rotini, broken lasagna noodles or fettuccine / linguine pasta would also work. If you’re using long noodles, it’s best to break them in half.
Miso paste sub: Just double the salt if you don’t have miso paste! You can also sub dijon mustard 1:1.
Condensed Soup options: You can use any of our condensed soup substitutes (especially our vegan cream of chicken) to replace the cream of mushroom if you wish. If you can’t wait for the vegan condensed soup to thicken, you can use the soup out of the blender (about 2 cups for this recipe - not the whole thing) and reduce the water in this recipe by about 3/4 cup.
Bread crumb options: Feel free to replace the bread crumb / vegan butter mixture with potato chip crumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs! If using the potato chips, I would wait to sprinkle them on after the casserole finishes baking.
Jackfruit options: Make sure you get jackfruit canned in brine and not syrup. If you can’t find jackfruit, try a vegan tuna like Tun-No or Good Catch. Chickpeas, white beans, or artichoke hearts could also be great options!
Non-Dairy Milk: Make sure you’re using a non-dairy milk that is both unsweetened and plain. A neutral-flavored milk is crucial for this recipe! We like the No Sugar Oat Milk from Chobani, Califia’s unsweetened almond milk, or the unsweetened cashew milk from Elmhurst.
Serving Size:1/8 the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 756mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 8g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.
Watch our jackfruit tuna casserole web story here.