Recipe Rehab: Not-so-traditional Tuna Noodle Casserole

Our weekly feature, Recipe Rehab, takes a recipe — sometimes basic, sometimes decadent and sometimes just plain unhealthy — and turns it into a scrumptious and healthy dish, pumped up with nutrition. Sometimes all it takes is a few alterations to cook a dish that would make even your nutritionist proud.

OK, I have to confess that I had a blast choosing this week’s recipe. Do you all have vivid memories of the Tuna Noodle Casserole? Maybe your mom made it, maybe Aunt Gertrude, perhaps a friend’s mom. Whichever, I can bet not many of you made it through your childhoods free of Tuna Noodle Casserole. If you ever want to venture down that nostalgic path, here’s a healthy version of the ol’ favorite.

Ingredients (adapted from original recipe):

  • 8 oz noodles, whole grain or sprouted
  • 3 tablespoons naturally refined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain or sprouted flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups plain, organic whole milk yogurt
  • 3 cups tuna, flaked
  • 1/3 cup chopped organic red pepper
  • 1/3 cup olives, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked peas, drained
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kelp powder or a mix of both to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup Ezekiel sprouted cereal or kasha (toasted buckwheat)
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil


Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. Mix with olive oil and set aside.

Melt coconut oil in a saucepan, add water and yogurt and whisk in flour until no lumps remain. Heat until sauce boils and becomes somewhat thickened. Mix tuna, olives, peas, red pepper and salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of a baking or casserole dish with olive oil or unrefined coconut oil. Spread alternating layers of cooked noodles and tuna mixture in the baking dish, finishing with a tuna mixture layer on top. Sprinkle top with cereal.

Bake at 350F degrees for about 1 hour.

Recipe may be doubled.

Rehab Rundown

I’d use brown rice or Ezekiel sprouted pasta for the noodles in this recipe, probably fettuccine or spiral shaped.

Naturally refined coconut oil is a little different than the virgin coconut oil I have mentioned in other posts. Because it is naturally processed, you don’t lose the benefits of coconut oil, but you do lose the taste, which is delicious but not appropriate for all recipes.

Even though it is just a little bit of flour in this recipe, you are gaining fiber and stabilizing your blood sugar levels by using whole grain or sprouted flour. Avoid white flour, even this small amount.

Worried about the mercury in tuna? Recent findings say that you have cause for concern, but if you want the safest tuna you can buy, try a chunk light tuna. It comes from a smaller type of tuna, therefore doesn’t have time to be tainted with as much mercury as the larger fish. This NRDC guide tells you how much is safe for your body.

Red peppers are one of the foods recommended to always buy organic, as they contain a large amount of residual pesticides.

The original recipe calls for corn flakes to be sprinkled over the top of the casserole, but the processing involved in making cereal flakes leaves them nutritionless. Try sprouted Ezekiel cereal, which digests like a vegetable and makes the protein more available.

Using kelp powder instead of plain salt adds trace minerals, like calcium and potassium, and elements, like iodine and iron.

Rehab Reveal

Using yogurt instead of milk, as the original recipes calls for, adds probiotics, makes the dish more digestible and raises the absorption of calcium. Nutrition facts say that it adds sixty percent of your daily calcium, 17 grams protein and vitamins A, and C and iron to the recipe.

Sprouted pasta adds seven grams of fiber, nine grams of protein and ten percent of daily iron per serving, and even a little calcium.

Ezekiel cereal sprinkled on top adds 12 grams fiber, 16 grams protein and twenty percent of you daily iron to the recipe.

Rehab Roundup

Once again, some ingredients are stranger than fiction . . . where to buy them? Click the links for online purchasing information. Stock your pantry with these healthy goods and you will never have an excuse for a nutritionless tuna casserole!


  • Sprouted pasta and cereal may be found at your local health food store, coop or natural foods market, for about 4.00 a package.
  • Kelp powder is most easily purchased at a food co-op, health food/vitamin store, online or in the health food section of a large chain grocery store. Prices vary greatly.
  • Coconut oil is about 7.00 per pound, and may be found at your local health food store, coop or natural foods market.

Don’t forget, you can always vary the veggies. I stuck basically with the veggies from the original recipe, but you can add spinach and mushrooms for more of a Greek style casserole, carrots and celery for that chicken soup feel or artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for an antipasto casserole. Have fun with all of the healthy variations.

Author by Debra McDuffee