Do You Have To Use Tuna To Make Tuna Helper?

Making a meal from scratch is often easier said than done. Luckily, when busy schedules limit the time dedicated to cooking, there are trusty boxed meals like Tuna Helper that can help get dinner on the table quickly. The only problem that could arise with the prepackaged meal is lacking one of the main ingredients the recipe calls for, such as tuna. Rather than make another trip to the grocery, you could simply substitute for another protein — but would it still produce an equally tasty result?

A piece of Americana cuisine, General Mills shares that the Helper lineup was initially launched in the 1970s as a solution to help families better stretch their dollars given rising food costs. With a pound of beef and a package of Hamburger Helper, a delicious and satisfying meal could be made for an entire family. Since then, Hamburger Helper (in addition to Chicken Helper and Tuna Helper, among others) has been a staple in the American diet whenever nostalgia strikes or time restraints play a factor.

While various flavors exist like Tetrazzini or Creamy Broccoli, the process of preparing Tuna Helper is always the same. After stirring the contents of the package together with water, milk, butter, and a couple of cans of tuna, Hamburger Helper explains that the ingredients should simmer until the pasta is tender and the liquid has more or less evaporated. However, in the absence of tuna, will another protein still function the same way?

Believe it or not, you don't have to use canned tuna

Whether you've finished your last can of tuna or can't quite appreciate Tuna Helper as much as the next person can, there's good news. Just because the boxed meal recommends using tuna as the featured protein, that doesn't mean that it's a steadfast rule.

Despite suggesting that two cans of tuna be used as per Tuna Helper's cooking instructions, Betty Crocker explains that the tuna can be replaced with either two cans of chicken or even two cups of chopped, rotisserie chicken without having any major repercussions on the final taste or texture of the dish. In fact, you can even make a meat-free version of Tuna Helper. According to Foods Guy, meat can be replaced with plant-based alternatives or ingredients like beans or mushrooms. However, customization doesn't end there. 

A box of Tuna Helper can also be further modified by adding in other ingredients like fresh herbs, minced garlic, sautéed vegetables, grated cheese, or a splash of hot sauce. As for the pièce de résistance, Instrupix shares that you can add textural complexity by including a crunchy topping of breadcrumbs or chips. With so many ways to make a box of Tuna Helper work for you, a prepared meal never looked more intriguing than now.