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This healthy take on tuna casserole is every bit as delicious as the original. It's brown rice baked in a creamy cashew sauce with canned tuna, peas, and crunchy croutons on top. It's easy comfort food at its best, and it's ready in under an hour!
This healthy tuna casserole is a lightened-up version of a childhood favorite. It's just as creamy and comforting as the dish we remember, but healthier and completely dairy-free!
There are a few things to note about this casserole. Unlike many tuna casserole recipes, this one is made with brown rice instead of pasta. We also swap the heavy cheese sauce for a lighter cashew-based sauce and use cubes of bread to make croutons, instead of using traditional breadcrumbs.
This lightened-up healthy tuna casserole recipe is simple yet satisfying and takes us right back to our childhood.
Here's everything you need to make it:
- Raw cashews – raw cashews make up the base of the creamy sauce. You'll need to soak them for a minimum of 4 hours (or scroll down for our quick-soak method).
- Brown rice – medium-grain brown rice is what we use, but any variety of brown rice will work.
- Sea salt
- Garlic – this classic aromatic adds lots of flavor.
- Peas – frozen peas are perfect for adding a pop of color and sweetness.
- Canned tuna – when choosing canned tuna, look for pole-and-line caught for a more sustainable option. You can use either skipjack or albacore tuna packed in water (not oil). And canned salmon makes a nice alternative.
- Olive oil – we use olive oil to keep this casserole dairy-free, but you can also use butter (or a non-dairy butter alternative).
- Bread – feel free to use your day-old (aka slightly stale) white or whole wheat bread. Use gluten-free, if needed.
How to make healthy tuna casserole
This healthy tuna noodle casserole recipe is a creamy and comforting dish that comes together quickly. Here's how we make it in a few easy steps:
- Start by making the rice according to the package instructions.
- Drain the cashews and then add them to your blender along with water, sea salt, and garlic. Blend on high until smooth and then add the frozen peas and tuna to the mixture.
- In a bowl, toss the breadcrumbs in olive oil.
- When the rice is ready, it's time to assemble your casserole. Make a layer of sauce in your baking dish, followed by a layer of rice. Do this a few times to use up all the ingredients, then top the casserole with bread crumbs.
- Bake until hot and bubbly and then allow it to sit for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!
A high-speed blender is ideal for getting a nice smooth texture to your cashew sauce. If you're using a regular blender, we recommend soaking the cashews for as long as possible (up to 24 hours).
Healthy tuna casserole variations
Like most casseroles, this one is pretty forgiving, so there are lots of ways you can mix up this recipe to make it your own. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Use a different grain like farro, wheat berries, or even quinoa.
- Turn it into a noodle casserole using short pasta or egg noodles, cooked to al dente.
- Swap the tuna for canned salmon or cooked chicken.
- Add flavor and color with some diced carrots and minced onion.
- Make our vegan mushroom sauce and use that in place of the cashew cream sauce.
What to serve with healthy tuna casserole
Enjoy this healthy tuna casserole on its own or pair it with any vegetable side or salad for a well-rounded meal. It's one of those casserole dishes that is perfect for potlucks or parties because it's suitable for anyone who eats dairy-free, and it's easy to make gluten-free, too!
It tastes great with a variety of veggie sides or a simple spring mix salad.
Vegetable sides that pair well with tuna casserole
Is tuna casserole healthy?
Tuna casserole can be healthy but it really depends on what it's made with. We think this lightened-up version is pretty healthy. Unlike many tuna casseroles, it contains only real ingredients, with no canned cream of mushroom soup or heavy cheese sauces.
How long do leftovers keep in the fridge?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 3 days.
Can I freeze it?
Absolutely! This healthy tuna casserole is a great make-ahead meal. If you're planning on freezing it, cook it, then allow it to cool completely. Cover it well and store it in your freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge and then reheat it the next day.
Can I make it gluten-free?
Yes, this casserole is easy to make gluten-free by swapping the breadcrumbs for gluten-free ones.
Can I use breadcrumbs instead?
Yep, you can use regular breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs in place of the croutons. Mix them with some olive oil or melted butter until moist and then sprinkle them over top of the casserole before baking.
What does cashew sauce taste like?
If you're new to using cashews to make a cream sauce, prepare to have your mind blown. It's a super simple kitchen hack that has revolutionized dairy-free cooking. It has a neutral flavor and a super creamy texture.
- 2 cups raw cashews (soaked in cold water for 4-24 hours)
- 1 ½ cups brown rice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 clove garlic (grated on a Microplane or very finely minced)
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 2 cans tuna (use both the tuna and the liquid in the cans!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups cubed bread (gluten-free if needed)
- Bring the brown rice and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook until the rice is soft, about 40 minutes.1 ½ cups brown rice
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the casserole. Drain the cashews and place them in your food processor or blender with 2 ¼ cups of cold water, sea salt, and garlic. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. Stir in the frozen peas and tuna.2 cups raw cashews, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 clove garlic, 2 cups frozen peas, 2 cans tuna
- Place the bread crumbs in a medium-sized bowl and toss them with olive oil.2 cups cubed bread, 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Once the rice is cooked, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and assemble the casserole. Begin by covering the bottom of a 9×11 inch casserole dish with a thin layer of the cashew cream sauce. Top with half the rice then half the remaining sauce. Repeat once more. Top with the bread cubes.
- Bake, uncovered, in your oven for 30-40 minutes, or until it is hot and bubbling and the croutons are toasted. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before serving.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.