Does tuna casserole rank right up there as a favorite comfort food for you, too? In my Instant Pot, this nostalgic meal is easy and lower carb.
Back in the day (you know, when government guidelines advocated low fat, high carb diets), I made this one-bowl meal with a box of the macaroni and cheese that came with the bright-orange powdered cheese mix. Yeah. And canned, condensed cream of mushroom soup. Sometimes, I’d add some mixed veggies, too. After the other ingredients (and chunk light tuna) were stirred into the mac and cheese, the casserole was baked in the oven. The finished casserole was delightfully cheesy, gooey, and altogether delicious. Pure comfort food.
Admittedly, I was a big fan of that method of making tuna casserole; now, however, I prefer cooking from scratch and using unprocessed, whole food ingredients as much as possible. I also try to reduce simple carbs where I can…and this dish really lends itself to a lower carb version. How, you ask? By adding an incredibly flexible ingredient: cauliflower.
My riff on this classic dish features the goodness of homemade pastured chicken bone broth, as well as (carrageenan-free) half and half, cremini mushrooms, and mixed veggies. I also threw in about 6 ounces of pasta* odds and ends – spaghetti and elbow macaroni – that were languishing in the pantry; having traditionally made this with elbow macaroni, I didn’t miss the egg noodles.
The first step was cooking the whole cauliflower in the Instant Pot. I chose to cook it for 2 minutes on Steam, followed by natural release. It was pretty soft after cooking. I then chopped it into small pieces, intended as a noodle stand-in, but I think 2 minutes is too long for this application because the cauliflower virtually disappeared in the finished dish, behaving much like a thickener.
*If you’re skipping the pasta to keep this low carb, chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, add it (raw) to the other ingredients prior to cooking, and reduce the bone broth to 3 cups.
Once the cauli is in the inner pot, everything but the cheese is added; yes, the original recipe says to add peas after the dish goes through the cooking cycle, but I just cook the frozen peas/mixed veggies with everything else. And, if you prefer, add just peas instead of mixed veggies. The casserole cooks for 8 minutes on Manual (high), then Quick Release. When the pressure has been released, the lid is opened and the cheese (I like a generous amount) is added and stirred to incorporate it. Salt and pepper to taste when serving.
Other changes I made to the original recipe included making my own cream of mushroom soup by adding 1.5 cups of half and half plus about 8 ounces of fresh, chopped cremini mushrooms to the pot prior to cooking (I actually did have cream of mushroom soup on hand, but it only took a couple of minutes to prepare and worked out great in the finished casserole), adding about 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies, and increasing the shredded cheese to about 3 cups.
Believe it or not, this dish just gets better when refrigerated and eaten as leftovers – the flavors really develop. Note: because of the tuna, I’d have to recommend against reheating this meal it in the office breakroom microwave…but if you’re at home, go for it. 😂 Hot or not, I think you’ll find this one bowl meal satisfying and more than worth the effort!