The Crunchy Ingredient To Elevate Your Tuna Casserole

The mention of tuna casserole usually has the power to transport you back in time. Though many consider it the ultimate comfort food from their youth, not everyone remembers the dish in quite the same way. However, you might be pleased to know there are ways to elevate the standard tuna casserole. Beyond adding fancy ingredients like kale instead of peas or swapping Gruyère for cheddar, you might want to consider the help of a crunchy companion.

Branded as the original dump-and-bake dinner by Campbell's, tuna casserole uses an array of pantry staples like pasta noodles, canned tuna, vegetables, and condensed soup that are simply stirred and baked. The first mention of this all-American classic was in a 1930 issue of Sunset Magazine, proposed by a Mrs. W. F. S., reports Taste. However, the dish wasn't fully embraced until a few decades later, in the 1950s, given its affordability, convenience, and satiety — all of which made the dish perfect for potlucks, funerals, and freezers as a backup meal.

While the recipe appears to be fool-proof, Retro Recipe Box notes that despite its simplicity, some things could be keeping your tuna casserole from reaching its full potential — like not adding enough liquid or forgetting to cook the pasta al dente before baking. Another thing that could be holding you back from a heavenly casserole could be a lack of texture.

Top with chips for a crispy crunch

Tuna casseroles are often a warm and creamy mess of soft, gooey meltiness. For this reason, Bon Appétit recommends adding a bit of texture. What better way to do that than with potato chips. 

While any crunchy topping will do, whether it's crumbled crackers, fried onions, or toasted breadcrumbs, potato chips are an especially great addition because they can also add flavor based on the variety you use — whether barbecue, salt-and-vinegar, jalapeño, or ranch. Leave them whole or gently crush them before topping your casserole and baking.

Interestingly, there's a scientific reason why adding crunch can solve casserole conundrums. Food texture based on moisture, fat content, and preparation, plays a massive role in food preference, according to Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Whether food is crunchy, creamy, or chewy, Delish reports that the contrast of these textures will make for a more pleasurable dining experience — especially in the case of foods with a crunch factor since the auditory sound brings awareness to the experience, heightening enjoyability.

But potato chips aren't just for topping tuna casserole. Add them to creamy mac and cheese, chewy sandwiches, omelets, cookie dough, or alongside fresh tuna tartare. You can never go wrong with adding a bit of texture.