Posted by: Erica Retrochef | March 5, 2012

Hearty Tuna Biscuit Pie

I think that Campbell’s Soup is one of the mainstays of retro dining. Not only did they widely advertise the awesomeness of canned soup, touting convenience, nutrition and affordability, but they increasingly came out with recipes that called for soup. We’ve visited these before — Shrimp Lamaze, Meatza Pizza, and even Tomato Soup Cake. In general, it only manages to rise to the level of “meh” — despite plenty of sodium, canned soup just doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor.

I clearly haven’t learned my lesson, though, because now I’m making a casserole…

Hearty Tuna Biscuit Pie

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 can (6-1/2 ounces) tuna, drained and flaked
1 package (10 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and drained
6 refrigerated biscuits, cut in half
1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
Parmesan cheese

In 8-inch square baking dish, blend soup, milk, and juice until smooth; stir in tuna, vegetables. Bake at 450°F. for 10 minutes. Stir mixture; top with border of biscuits. Brush biscuits with butter; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 8 minutes more or until biscuits are browned.

I’ve been trying to improve the overall quality of food in our kitchen, cooking more from scratch and being more mindful of ingredients (both their source, and their quality). More and more, this has ended up being a huge pain in the butt when I am working on a retro recipe. It’s hard to cut down on sodium and processed foods when you’re pondering which Spam recipe is going to be part of an upcoming meal. Cream of Something Soup is no exception, with an array of ingredients that I’d generally prefer to avoid.

Unlike a lot of other foods, I had no idea how to substitute for Cream of Something soup. Despite being gloppy, grey, and smelling sort of like dog food, it nevertheless has a critical consistency that can bring a dish together. Minute Rice swaps for regular rice, Minute Tapioca for tapioca flour — but canned soup baffled me.

Then I stumbled across this promising alternative. I made it, liked it (a lot), and that’s why you see a measuring cup of soup rather than a can!

Also, made-from-scratch biscuits. Daughter insisted these be cut into heart shapes rather than “boring” circles…

Anyway, back to the retro cooking!

The vegetables (and even tuna) are bright, colorful, and almost cheery.

That is, until they get mixed into the gloppy, grey soup stuff. Apparently, cream of mushroom soup is critical not just for texture, but also to ensure the casserole looks like somebody got sick in the baking dish.

After ten minutes of baking … well, it looked exactly the same. And the consistency was exactly the same, except it was warmer.

The biscuits, when placed on top, promptly sank into the glop. Hmm.

We put butter and cheese on top anyway, and stuffed it back in the oven.

After eight minutes, it was clearly not done. (Plus, the biscuits had sunk even further.) We left it in for another eight minutes.

And then left it in for another four minutes.

Finally, we gave up and took it out — not out of fears that anything would overcook, but because we were hungry and wanted to know whether this would be edible or Buzz would be buying everyone hamburgers.

The preschooler took one look at his bowl and burst into tears.

Despite appearances, this wasn’t nearly as bad as he (or any of us) expected. Nobody thought this was a really delicious meal, but it tasted pretty good for a gloopy, tuna-laden casserole. The biscuits didn’t rise like biscuits normally do, since they were buried in soup goop, and had the consistency of dumplings (although they still tasted like biscuits, which was good).

Overall, I doubt I’d make it again, but the experiment of homemade condensed cream of mushroom soup was fairly successful. It will be useful to have for other casserole things that I already know taste better — I made a pretty good sausage and rice casserole with it earlier in the week that everybody thoroughly enjoyed. What’s probably at fault in this case is the tuna fish, and general lack of seasoning!

Original scan of the ad-recipe comes from the Flickr stream of aimeebakes


  1. I was recently lamenting to a friend that we hadn’t really eaten dumplings growing up, and aside from a rough idea of how to make gnocchi, I had no idea how to actually make them.

    …and now I do!

    The best thing to have learned is how to make Cream of Whatever soup; I’ve done this with dried and fresh mushrooms and silken tofu, but it’s good to know a recipe that people who are tofu-resistant might eat! And I have tons of celery, for some reason, so this one’s for tonight… possibly sans biscuit dumplings, however. The rice and sausage sounds promising, though!

  2. I just used some condensed cream of tomato soup in a seafood mousse…oh yeah.
    Can you please share your cream of mushroom soup recipe?

    • Recipe credit really goes to Kitchen Stewardship:

      3/4 cup butter
      3/4 c. flour
      4 cups milk
      2 cups chicken stock
      Chopped onions (optional)

      Melt butter over low heat. If using onions for extra flavor, sauté in butter until limp. Add flour and whisk together until smooth. Cook 1 minute. Do not let it brown! Gradually add milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when sauce has thickened.

      General notes: That’s Cream of Chicken soup; if you want celery or mushroom, sauté that vegetable in the butter before you proceed with adding flour. (For cream of broccoli, put the broccoli in after the stock and milk.) It took about 15 minutes of simmering to thicken up well. Whole wheat flour works quite nicely.

      • Thank you!

      • I actually forgot the most important note: this recipe makes the equivalent of 4 cans of condensed cream of something, and 1 can is equal to 1.5 cups of this mix. Plan accordingly 🙂

    • This is a good substitute for condensed cream of mushroom soup, but it’s a tiny bit flour-y. Commercial condensed soups have weird stabilizers in them. Their effect on the consistency may be a bit hard to duplicate with ordinary ingredients.

      For the regular soup, we use

      2 tbsp butter
      1/4 cup finely chopped onions
      1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
      1 tbsp flour
      2 cups chicken broth
      1/2 cup cream
      salt and pepper to taste

      Melt the butter in a pot and add the onion and mushrooms. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and cook for a few minutes more. Slowly add the stock and heat, stirring, until it reaches the boiling point. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, add salt and pepper to taste, and reheat before serving.

      We typically use mostly baby bellas, with a few more exotic varieties mixed in.

  3. You and your family deserve a lot of credit for experimenting with this dish. I doubt I would be so brave. It appears to have come together; somewhat, Erica.

    That solution to Cream of Whatever soup is good to know too.

    Thanks for sharing…

    P.S. I think the kids still deserve hamburgers!!!

    BTW: Tomorrow the Oreo Cookie is celebrating its 100th birthday. I’m doing an Oreo Cookie recipe round-up. Do you have anything you’d like to share? (email me with the link if you do:)

  4. Whew. Glad to see those were frozen mixed veggies. For one heart-stopping second I thought you were experimenting with the dreaded Veg-All!!! Eeek!

    • I’m pretty confident that she will never touch another can of Veg-All ever again.

  5. I know I’m commenting on a post from over a year ago, but I couldn’t hold myself in. This recipe is a complete dud! I often make casseroles with dumplings, using a mix very similar to biscuit dough, and it works fine, BUT…

    – The casserole needs to be boiling before adding the dumplings or they will sink and fall apart. Getting it to boiling point takes a LOT longer than 10min, even at 450F! They should have had you heat it on the stove-top first, or bake it for at least 30min before adding the biscuits.
    – The dumplings need to cook in the hot casserole for 20-30 minutes in order to rise and cook through.

    10min then 8min are like microwave timings, not oven timings! Bad, bad Campbell’s promotional recipe people, peddling garbage like that – no wonder you had the dinner from hell! I hope you’ve all come to terms with it in the months since.

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