This one-pot tuna mac and cheese recipe is one of our family’s favorite weeknight recipes. You will need just a handful of ingredients and about 15 minutes of your time.
Bring a simple homemade mac and cheese dish to a new level by adding canned tuna. A delicious recipe, simple but effective, I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t like this dish. I never once had to go shopping for this dish; it is a comforting, warming, and filling meal using pantry ingredients exclusively.
Why should you cook this recipe?
- Super-quick: Really, it all comes down to how fast the pasta water cooks, and you can speed that up by starting with already hot water.
- Only one pot to clean. Cook the pasta and mix it with the rest of the ingredients in the same pot.
- Kid’s favorite: If your young children are not into fish yet, they will love it after eating this tuna mac and cheese.
- No box: Why use boxed macaroni when all there is to the recipe is stirring a few cheap pantry ingredients?
- Pasta: elbow macaroni is the standard for this type of dish, but any short pasta will do just fine.
- Cream cheese: it makes the dish luxuriously creamy.
- Cheese: I use sharp Cheddar most of the time, but you can try other sorts if you like. How about Gouda, Swiss, American cheese, Provolone, Gruyere, Fontina, Parmesan? Or a mix of leftover sorts you happen to have in the fridge.
- Don’t use already shredded cheese; its additives will prevent it from melting nicely.
- Tuna: Two cans of tuna in water, drained and flaked. A standard can weighs 6 oz (170 g); a little more or less is acceptable. And if you like pasta and tuna, have a look at the Creamy Tuna Carbonara.
- Mustard: Dijon or any other (not too hot) yellow mustard you like.
- Other ingredients: milk, salt, and pepper.
- Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt generously and cook the noodles al dente. Drain them well and return them to the pot.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the rest. Grate cheddar, drain cans of fish.
- Sauce: Whisk milk, cream cheese, flour, mustard in a medium bowl until no large clumps are left (1).
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- Combine: Pour the sauce over the drained pasta in the pot, turn on the heat again and stir well for about 30 seconds or so until the sauce thickens and coats the macaroni (2).
- Add the cheddar and let it melt, stirring continuously; it will take about a minute or so. Carefully fold in the flaked fish (3).
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper generously. Add a little bit of lemon juice if desired.
- Sprinkle with some fresh parsley if you like, and serve immediately.
Expert Tips and FAQ
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese; the anti-caking agents will prevent it from melting properly.
Work quickly once you add the sauce and the cheese; you should not overheat the mixture.
- frozen peas (add them to the cooking pasta about 2-3 minutes before draining)
- canned corn
- chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- a handful of chopped tomatoes, I prefer cherry tomatoes
- baby spinach
- green onions
- cooked vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, peppers, etc.
- fresh herbs, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) while the noodles cook. Cook the pasta for about 2 minutes less than indicated on the package; it will continue cooking in the oven. Make the sauce and combine the ingredients as instructed. Pour the contents of the pan into a lightly buttered, large casserole dish. Sprinkle with a handful of bread crumbs. Bake tuna macaroni for about 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
A large bowl of salad with vinaigrette is perfect. Otherwise, any kind of veggies is fine: steamed or roasted broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, green peas, green beans, sauteed carrots, Air Fryer Asparagus, and so on.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat on the stovetop, add a splash of milk and stir while reheating. You can also reheat tuna mac and cheese in the microwave.
Freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat before serving.
More comfort food recipes:
- Air Fryer Baked Sweet Potato
- Fried Spaghetti (with Leftover Pasta)
- Fast American Chop Suey Recipe
- Air Fryer Meatloaf
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Tuna Mac and Cheese (One Pot)
- 1 lb macaroni 450 g
- 1 2/3 cups milk 400 ml
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 50 g
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 9 oz sharp Cheddar about 3 cups grated/ 250 g, Note 1
- 2 cans of tuna 6 oz/ 170 g each
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook pasta al dente. Drain well. Return to the pot.
- Meanwhile, grate the cheese, stir the sauce, and drain the tuna while the pasta cooks.
- Whisk milk, flour, mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Combine: Pour the sauce over the noodles. Heat gently for less than a minute stirring continuously until the sauce thickens slightly (it will happen quickly).
- Add the grated cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Add the flaked tuna and mix gently.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
- Don’t use pre-shredded cheese; the anti-caking agents will prevent it from melting properly.
- Baked tuna mac and cheese: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) while the noodles cook. Cook the pasta for about 2 minutes less than indicated on the package; it will continue cooking in the oven. Make the sauce and combine the ingredients as instructed. Pour the contents of the pan into a lightly buttered, large casserole dish. Sprinkle with a handful of bread crumbs. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.