A Canned Salmon Swap Will Instantly Elevate Your Next Tuna Casserole

Homemade tuna noodle casserole
Homemade tuna noodle casserole - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

We dare you to show us a Midwestern dinner table that hasn't been graced by a steaming pan of tuna noodle casserole. Even if you don't live in the American Midwest, there's probably a pretty good chance that you're well-acquainted with the reliable workhorse that is tuna noodle casserole. It's economical, nutritionally well-rounded, and warming. But, for all its years in the last-minute weeknight-dinner rotation, this longtime favorite might need a little sprucing up. It's time to add a sophisticated facelift to your go-to recipe that doesn't require extra steps, techniques, or cooking times. All it takes is the difference of one ingredient -- swap the canned tuna for canned salmon.

Salmon and tuna are both dark fish with deep flavors and firm textures that hold up in the oven. Tuna is meaty and mildly fishy, whereas salmon features a sharper umami flavor profile and richer, more robust fishiness. It's a super economical swap, too (hooray for beautifying comfort food classics on a budget).  According to online listings for a Walmart in New York, a 14.5-ounce can of StarKist Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon runs for $3, and a 12-ounce can of generic Great Value chunk light tuna costs $2.16. Costco's Kirkland canned Wild Alaska Pink Salmon offers an especially stand-out flavor.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Canned Salmon Is All It Takes To Add Mature Dimensionality To Your Go-To Fishy Noodle Casserole

Bowl of canned salmon
Bowl of canned salmon - Ac_bnphotos/Getty Images

Perhaps the best part is that you can use a regular tried-and-true tuna noodle casserole recipe here. Or, feel free to tailor the ingredients to complement the flavor profile of the salmon. For an interesting textural element, swap out the egg noodles typically used in tuna casserole for a short pasta like elbow macaroni or cavatappi.

You could keep your adapted casserole straightforward and add ingredients like onion, celery, garlic, marjoram, thyme, chicken broth, and lemon juice as you might with the traditional tuna version. Or, for a simple inclusion, you could make the swap in this Dilly Tuna Casserole recipe with canned salmon, Dijon mustard, fresh dill, crispy fried onions, and condensed canned cream of celery soup. The flavors of sweet-umami-briny salmon and fresh dill are a gastronomic dynamic duo.

You could take a cue from poke bowls and make your salmon noodle casserole with lemon pepper, Gochujang paste for sweet-spicy flair, scallions, black and white sesame seeds, and a drizzle of Kewpie mayonnaise to serve. Or whip up a Tex-Mex-inspired salmon casserole with rotini pasta, frozen corn, canned fire-roasted tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, black olives, breadcrumbs, and shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese. To let the bold salmon flavor shine, surround it with a mild yet complementary lineup of egg noodles, asparagus, thinly sliced leeks, white cheddar cheese, and minced fresh parsley.

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