This Tuna Mac and Cheese is a hearty, delicious throwback recipe that never disappoints! In this version, everything is made in ONE POT, but has the option to bake into a tuna mac and cheese casserole with a crunchy, buttery topping…or just eat it straight from the pot! Either way, you will love this easy, creamy mac and cheese that’s done in 30 minutes!
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If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know I can’t resist and old school throw back recipe! Whether it’s my Beef Stroganoff or Old Fashioned Sloppy Joes or this classic, Old Fashioned Ham Salad, these meals just remind me of childhood!
This tuna mac and cheese recipe takes me back to middle school when my bestie and I used to boil up boxed macaroni and cheese, throw in a can a tuna and call it a day.
This recipe is SLIGHTLY more elevated than my “original” middle school recipe, but this homemade mac and cheese is almost just as easy and perfect for a quick meal!
This delicious recipe all comes together on the stovetop, but includes the option to add a buttery cracker topping and pop it in the oven for some crunch!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- This dish comes together in ONE POT, meaning less dishes to wash! Score!
- Super easy meal to make using pantry staples.
- A complete meal! Great with a side salad, but perfect all on it’s own!
- Comes together in 30 minutes, making it perfect for weeknight dinners.
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this delicious Tuna Mac and Cheese:
Tuna: I liked SOLID white packed in water.
Macaroni: You can use another pasta, however the cooking times and amount of liquid in this recipe are specifically for elbow macaroni.
HOW TO MAKE TUNA MACARONI AND CHEESE: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Combine milk and water in large stockpot or large, deep sided pan (preferably oven-proof if you want to add the topping at the end!). Bring to a gentle boil.
Step 2: When milk/water boil, add macaroni, garlic powder and salt. Boil 7-8 minutes (or according to package directions) until pasta is al dente. Stir OFTEN so pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Step 3: Turn heat to low and stir in butter and cheese. Stir, stir until smooth and creamy. Note: You DO NOT drain the pasta! The starch from the pasta will help thicken and create the cheese sauce.
Step 4: Last, fold in green peas and tuna.
Step 5 (OPTIONAL): In a small bowl, combine melted butter, Ritz crackers and Parmesan cheese. Add cracker topping to the dish and broil for 3-4 minutes until nicely browned. Note: If you aren’t using an oven safe pan, just transfer the tuna mac and cheese to an oven proof baking dish.
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- I love using my “shallow dutch oven” (as I call it) for this dish. I got mine at Costco, but here is a similar pan on Amazon. It’s nice and big and goes straight from the stovetop to the oven!
- Freshly grated cheese off the block melts so well to make the cheese sauce! Take a few extra minutes to grate your own, if possible!
- When you add in your dry macaroni, make sure you stir frequently so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
STORAGE & REHEATING
- Storage: Store leftover mac and cheese in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: This tuna mac and cheese freezes well! Freeze it (without the topping) in an air tight container OR in 2 gallon zip top bags. Freeze for up to 4 months.
- Reheating: You can reheat this tuna mac in cheese in the microwave or in a pan. Add a splash of milk to loosen up the cheese sauce and add more grated cheese on top!
ADDITIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Substitutions: Here are a few substitutions you can try.
- Whole milk: You can use half and half, too to make it extra rich! I don’t suggest skim or low fat milk, although if you want to use those, I certainly won’t stop ya!
- Cheese: Sharp cheddar and extra sharp work best for mac and cheese in my humble opinion! I also like throwing in a little super melty cheese, too like mozzarella or Monterey Jack.
- Potato Chips: Instead of Ritz crackers, try crushed potato chips for the topping if you are making the tuna casserole recipe (broiled in the oven with the topping).
- Fried Onions: Great in place of or IN ADDITION TO, the Ritz cracker topping!
- Veggies: Instead of peas, try stirring in steamed broccoli or even asparagus!
- Tuna: If you’re family isn’t HUGE on tuna, but you want the added protein, try using only one can of tuna or stir in canned or chopped cooked chicken!
Additions: Here are some great additions to this tuna mac and cheese!
- Spicy Tuna Mac: Stir in a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (I love Texas Pete!).
- Fresh Herbs: Chopped fresh basil or parsley are great to sprinkle over the top!
- Sour Cream: To make this mac n cheese extra creamy stir in about a half cup of sour cream when you add the cheese.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This dish stands alone with protein, carbs and veggies! LOL! However, it never hurts to serve a nice crisp green salad on the side!
Nope! No flour, no roux! The pasta just cooks up beautifully in one pot! Life changing and super quick!!!
OTHER THROWBACK RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
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Tuna Mac and Cheese (One Pot)
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups whole milk See Note 1
- 1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni See Note 2
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated See Note 3
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 7 oz. cans tuna packed in water
- fresh cracked black pepper (optional, for serving)
For Optional Topping
- 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers about one sleeve of crackers
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- When water/milk begins to boil, stir in dry macaroni, salt and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, and boil over medium low heat 7-8 minutes until pasta is al dente. Important: Stir frequently to ensure pasta isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan!
- Turn heat down to low, then stir in butter and cheese. Stir, stir, stir until mixture is smooth. Note: You DO NOT drain the pasta! The starch from the pasta will thicken and help create the cheese sauce!
- Stir in tuna and peas until heated through. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Because different brands of canned tuna have varying levels of sodium, it's important to taste and add salt to the mac and cheese only if needed.
For Topping (Optional Step)
- If you aren't using an oven-safe pan, transfer your mac and cheese to an oven- safe dish such as a 9 x 11 baking dish.
- In a small bowl, combine melted butter, crushed crackers and Parmesan cheese. Stir until crackers are well coated with the butter. Sprinkle topping over mac and cheese and pop the dish under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.