Plant-based “tuna” casserole dishes up comfort with each guilt-free bite. This easy, healthy twist on a traditional favorite is powered with chickpeas, mushrooms and peas and a creamy sauce with a subtle sea flavor. Let’s get to it!
I love me a good casserole, I do. It isn’t just the comfort factor. Preparing everything beforehand and then popping one dish in the oven plays on my love of organization. This means I can clear up the kitchen while it bakes and relax while the aroma wafts through the house. Post dinner clean up is already done but for a few plates. Sweet! This might explain why I was so into sweet potato Shepherd’s pie and oil free Briam (to name a few).
It starts with the sauce
We’ve done quite a few versions before perfecting the sauce that our plant-based “tuna” casserole deserves. I won’t single out any one ingredient, but let’s take just a moment to discuss kelp powder. This is where the subtle ‘sea’ flavor comes in.
For this recipe, I used kelp powder, but you can also use nori (seaweed) and just grind them. I usually call on my spice grinder for this job. I strongly encourage you to use either. It’s only slightly seaworthy, but it worth adding for that “tuna” flavor. Yep, it’s my the same secret I use for not-tuna salad.
What is aquafaba? Why are we talking about it?
If you aren’t familiar with aquafaba, it's simply, the liquid from a can (or pot) of cooked beans. I won’t elevate it to magical as some folks do, but I will say, it’s the perfect thickener for our “tuna” casserole.
No extra fuss
Aquafaba is quite convenient in this case as we are using chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for this recipe.
Just a quick note – I mash them by hand (use a masher or fork) because you don’t want a smooth hummus-kind-of consistency. Besides, mashing is good therapy for me.
You’ll be surprised at how quick your plant-based “tuna” casserole comes together. I start by mixing up the sauce (leave the whisk in it so you can do a last-minute swish or two before you add it). I usually get the pasta rolling and then start the sauce. No need for perfect timing. If the pasta is done first, just drain it and set it aside. It will reheat when you get it into the oven.
Be sure to use a large skillet or pot for this recipe. The ingredients start to add up. I am always a bit touch and go when I use my favorite stainless-steel skillet. Audible sigh when I get the pasta added without overflow.
Top it off
I credit my husband with the idea of sliced tomatoes. They add a little sweetness and a bit of color. You can also be a bit more traditional and add breadcrumbs – or both.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on all the creative, new ways I use ingredients. All the things I’ve learned since embracing my plant-based journey. Interesting how quickly a ‘new’ approach becomes the standard and the past fades away. A different kitchen. Peace.Print
plant-based "tuna" casserole
Plant-based “tuna” casserole dishes up comfort with each healthy guilt-free bite powered with chickpeas, mushrooms and a creamy sauce with ‘sea’ flavor.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: American
- 3 cups plant milk (oat works well, but use what you prefer)
- 1 cup aquafaba (liquid from the chickpeas)
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or Tamari
- 1 tablespoon kelp granules or kelp powder (you can also use ground nori)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp. dry mustard powder
- 2 tbsp prepared mild mustard
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 3 cups (300 gm.) dry small shells or macaroni noodles
- 2 15-oz. (400 gm) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), be sure to reserve 1 cup of the liquid when you drain the beans
- 1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
- 8 medium cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups green peas (frozen are fine)
- 1 medium tomato sliced thin (optional)
- Drain the chickpeas and reserve 1 cup of the liquid. Add the chickpeas to a medium bowl and mash them with a masher or fork. Leave some of the chickpeas whole if desired.
- Prepare the onions, mushrooms and measure out the peas.
- In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside (you’ll want to give is a quick stir before you add it to the filling).
- Preheat the oven to 3750F (1900C).
- Start the water for the pasta in a large pot. When it boils, add the pasta and cook according to directions. Meantime start the filling.
- Heat a large skillet or pan to medium heat and add the onions. Allow them to soften for 5 minutes. Add water a tablespoon at a time if they begin to stick.
- Add the mushrooms and stir them with the onions until they start to release their moisture.
- Next, add the peas. If they are frozen, allow them to thaw a bit and then add the chickpeas. Mix well.
- Give the sauce a stir and then add it to the skillet. Mix everything well.
- Once the pasta is done, drain it and add to the same skillet.
- Spoon the ingredients into a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm.) baking dish and top it with thin tomato slices.
- Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until the top is lightly brown.
- Additional topping ideas include breadcrumbs, but thinly sliced green onions are also nice along with the tomatoes.
- To prevent drying out, reheat in the microwave or wrap servings in foil and steam them.
- Look for kelp powder in the health food sections of the supermarket or health food stores. You can usually find nori sheets in the Asian section (use a spice grinder to them break down).
Keywords: plant-based "tuna" casserole