If you like tuna noodle casserole, you'll LOVE this Cheesy Tuna Rice Casserole! With a creamy and delicious homemade cheese sauce, hearty tuna, veggies, and rice, it's a complete meal the whole family will love!
Table of contents
- If you like tuna noodle casserole, you'll LOVE this Cheesy Tuna Rice Casserole ! With a creamy and delicious homemade cheese sauce, hearty tuna, veggies, and rice, it's a complete meal the whole family will love!
- Save this tuna and rice casserole recipe for later on Pinterest:
- Why you'll love this cheesy rice and tuna casserole:
- Can you substitute brown rice for white rice in this tuna rice recipe?
- Other substitutions:
- How to make cheesy tuna rice casserole:
- Recipe pro-tips:
- Dietary adaptations:
- Making the recipe ahead of time:
- Serving suggestions:
- Refrigerating, freezing, and reheating directions:
- Recipe FAQs:
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- More tuna recipes:
The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are cooling off here in Northern Colorado, and that means one thing in our kitchen: comfort food time!
Though many of us think of comfort foods as heavy and food-coma inducing foods (though there certainly is a place for that), they don't always have to be!
Thanks to healthy cooking techniques and using spices, broths, and just-enough heavier ingredients to add flavor but not overwhelm, we can create heart-warming meals that satisfy but don't weigh us down.
This tuna rice recipe is a classic example of lightening up a comfort food casserole without affecting the flavor. By adding lean protein and veggies and using a lighter method of making a savory cheesy cream of celery sauce, this casserole is creamy, hearty, and warming all for only an estimated* 313 calories per serving.
What isn't to feel good about with that? Let's dive into this bake, shall we?
*calorie measurements are only estimated and are not an exact measurement. See the disclaimer on the recipe card below for more information.
Save this tuna and rice casserole recipe for later on Pinterest:
Why you'll love this cheesy rice and tuna casserole:
- Comforting & hearty - great for cooler evenings or after long and busy days, this meal will fill you up and comfort you from the inside out.
- Budget-friendly - with easy-to-find and easy-on-the-wallet ingredients, this satisfying meal is a great pick when on a budget.
- Made with whole foods - no premade foods were used in the making of this recipe! Instead, we will make a homemade delicious and (dare I say) even better cheesy cream of celery soup for the base of this casserole. So tasty!
- A complete meal - with protein, carbs, veggies, and fat, this meal is a one-stop dinner powerhouse!
For other delicious one-dish dinners, check out my turkey and sweet potato skillet, Instant Pot chicken and potatoes, sheet pan sausage and veggies, Colorado pork green chili, and house special fried rice.
- Canned tuna - albacore tuna brings the best flavor to this recipe. Chunk light tuna can substitute for the albacore in a pinch but won't provide as pure of a tuna flavor.
- White rice - long grain white rice is or medium grain white rice is best for this recipe.
- Cheddar cheese - all you need is a little over a cup to make the cheesy and rich casserole sauce.
- Milk - adds extra creaminess, protein, and flavor to the cheese sauce.
- Peas - frozen peas or fresh peas are best. Canned peas are too mushy for this casserole.
- Unsalted butter - adds a richness to the base of the cheese sauce, and plenty of delicious flavor to the dish.
- Low-sodium chicken broth - thins out the sauce and provides moisture for the rice to absorb as it cooks.
- All-purpose flour - responsible for helping the cheese sauce bind together. Wondra can substitute for the flour in a pinch.
- Celery - the earthy flavor and crunchiness of this veggie perfectly complements tuna.
- Onion - is sauteed with the celery, adding a light sweetness to the cheese sauce.
- Garlic - adds savory dimension to the casserole.
- Spices - dried dill, onion powder, black pepper, and salt.
Can you substitute brown rice for white rice in this tuna rice recipe?
Unfortunately, you cannot substitute brown rice for white rice in this casserole. Brown rice takes much longer to cook than does white rice, meaning that the rice will be hard and crunchy if you use in it this recipe.
- Cheese - aged white cheddar cheese, extra sharp cheddar cheese, or even monterey jack cheese can substitute for the cheddar cheese in this recipe.
- Tuna - not a tuna fan? Canned chicken or flaked jackfruit can work in place of the tuna. Just drain the chicken thoroughly and shred before adding to the rice mixture.
- Veggies - frozen chopped broccoli can substitute for the frozen green peas if you don't have or don't dig peas!
How to make cheesy tuna rice casserole:
For the complete recipe and measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter.
Step 2: Heat a Dutch oven or deep 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the onion and the celery in the butter until the onions are translucent.
Step 3: Add the garlic to the onions and celery and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant and golden.
Step 4: Whisk the flour into the onion mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, or until the flour has absorbed into the butter and smells nutty and fragrant.
Step 5: Pour the milk into the flour and whisk, bringing to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the milk has thickened.
Step 6: Reduce the heat to medium. Whisk in the cheddar cheese, salt, onion powder, and black pepper until the cheese is melted and smooth.
Step 7: Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the white rice, flaked tuna, dried dill, and frozen peas until combined. Pour in the chicken broth and stir together well to combine.
Step 8: Carefully pour the rice mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil or a baking lid. Bake the casserole for 40 minutes. Uncover the casserole and bake for 10-15 more minutes, or until the rice is cooked through.
Step 9: Remove the casserole from the oven and cover with the foil or lid. Let rest for 5-10 minutes and serve hot with additional cheese to garnish, if desired!
- Prepare and measure out the ingredients ahead of time. The cooking time when making the cheese sauce will go quickly, so you want to have all of the ingredients at the ready when you turn on the stove.
- Don't step away from the stovetop. Though this casserole is hands off once it goes in the oven, it does take a little bit of constant attention while you are making the cheese sauce and assembling the casserole. But don't worry-- by attention, I just mean consistently stirring the ingredients and sauce. You just want to keep from stepping away from the stove for too long of a period so the veggies or sauce burn or scald.
Make a dairy-free casserole by:
- substituting vegan butter for the dairy butter
- using unsweetened/unflavored almond milk (or other nut milk) in place of the dairy milk
- whisking in vegan cheddar cheese instead of dairy cheddar cheese
- stirring in 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast along with the salt, onion powder, and black pepper when making the cheese sauce
Make a lactose-free casserole by:
- Using vegan butter in place of dairy butter
- Substituting lactose-free milk for the regular milk
- Stirring in vegan cheddar cheese in place of the dairy cheddar cheese
- Whisking in 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast along with the other spices
Make this tuna rice casserole gluten-free by:
- Substituting 1-to-1 gluten-free flour (or measure-for-measure gluten-free flour) for the all-purpose flour
Making the recipe ahead of time:
This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. It can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time, so it is perfect to whip up the night or morning before a busy evening. Here's how:
- Skip preheating the oven and follow the recipe directions up until placing the casserole in the oven
- Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil or a baking lid and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Preheat the oven 10 minutes before baking. Bake the rice tuna casserole according to the recipe directions.
Though this tuna and rice recipe is a complete meal on its own, you can serve it with any of the below side dishes to add a little extra staying power:
Refrigerating, freezing, and reheating directions:
Refrigerating: leftovers keep covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Freezing: leftovers can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.
Reheating: the tuna casserole can dry out in the refrigerator or freezer. Sprinkle the casserole with a few tablespoons milk (or almond milk) before reheating in the microwave on medium-high heat to help rehydrate the rice.
Your tuna casserole could be try because you didn't add enough moisture, didn't bake it with the foil/lid on long enough, or over baked the casserole.
No, you do not cook rice before adding it to a casserole. The casserole has enough moisture and a long enough cooking time to cook the rice completely while it bakes in the oven.
This tuna casserole with rice is best served hot. The rice is tender and the cheesy sauce is saucy and creamy when heated up, making it the best temperature for maximum enjoyment.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Cutting board
- Chef knife
- Dutch oven or deep 12-inch skillet
- Silicone spatula
- 9 x 13-inch baking dish
More tuna recipes:
- Mom's Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Instant Pot Tuna Casserole
- Tuna Stuffed Peppers (Keto + Low-Carb!)
- Zesty Italian Tuna Pasta Salad
- Tuna Mac and Cheese
- Cheesy Tuna Rice Casserole
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