Tarragon Tuna Melt

What is a tuna melt, other than a grilled cheese sandwich dressed up with tuna salad? Two favorite food groups, merged together. I used to love these sandwiches as a kid, and was inspired by a Karen Tedesco recipe in Better Homes and Gardens to make this slightly more fancy version with tarragon. Do you like tuna melts? If so, how do you like yours? Please let us know in the comments.

Tarragon Tuna Melt Recipe

Ingredients

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  • 1 thinly sliced green onion, including the greens
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon, crumbled
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 6-ounce cans of solid white tuna, well drained and flaked
  • 8 1/2-inch slices French or Italian loaf bread (or your favorite bread)
  • 1 thinly sliced tomato (8 slices)
  • 4 ounces grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp softened butter

Method

1 Mix the green onion, parsley, tarragon, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and mayonnaise in a medium sized bowl. Add the drained tuna, mixing with a fork to break up the flakes.

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2 Lay out four slices of bread. Divide the tuna mixture evenly onto the slices. Top each bread slice with tomato slices and grated cheese. Spread one side of the remaining four bread slices with butter. Place bread slices, buttered side up, on top of the cheese.

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3 Heat a large griddle, on medium heat (or couple cast iron skillets). Place the sandwiches, buttered side down, onto the hot griddle. Gently spread butter on top of the bread slices. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side. Then use a metal spatula to lift up the sandwiches and carefully turn them to the other side. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, until the second side is browned.

Serve immediately.

Links:
Goat Cheese and Artichoke Heart Tuna Melt from Alana the Wasabi Cowgirl

57 Comments

  1. Seven

    Never thought to make it as a sandwich! The tuna melts we enjoyed as kids were open-faced, made on half of a hamburger bun or english muffin and toasted under the broiler. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe ~ looks delicious!

  2. lydia

    I’m partial to Swiss cheese with tuna melt — a leftover from my childhood, I think! There is something ultimately so comforting about warm tuna and melted cheese.

  3. grace

    There’s a very cute diner in Stanford that makes the best tuna melts I’ve ever had. once, a waiter was kind enough to give me a list of the ingredients, but i’d never figured them out — this sounds like it’s it! I’m so excited to try this. I don’t like tuna, nor do I love cheese, but I love this tuna melt!

  4. jonathan

    I’m with Lydia on the Fish-n-Swiss.
    (Make mine open-faced, broiled just until the cheese browns, on an English muffin. And don’t forget to toast the muffin first; nothin’ worse than a soggy muffin…)

  5. evil_fizz

    I’m just delighted to see a recipe for a delicious sounding tuna salad that doesn’t involve celery.

    Would you recommend tuna packed in oil or in water?

  6. Anonymous

    I think this recipe is delicious! My family loved it including my identical triplets (girls: Morgan-Kay, Saphirye, Dafodillia.) Even I liked it who does not eat tuna.

    Sincerly,
    Aryssa, Morgan-Kay, Saphirye, Dafodillia

  7. Jerry

    Oh, man! I have these little gems all the time, though I’m partial to muenster on mine, I don’t like anything to compete with the tuna itself.

    My favorite bread… Sonoma Extra Sourdough, but since I can’t get that out here, I usually tend towards a good San Francisco sourdough.

    Yet another recipe I’m going to have to adapt!

  8. Deb Schiff

    Thanks to you, I’ll be trying this for lunch later. ;D Looks delicious!

    As with a few other folks who commented, I grew up with tuna melts being open-faced sandwiches my father made. He was a “soda jerk” as a teen and knows how to make all the “diner” food.

    I usually make my tuna with as little mayo as possible and use Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute (salt-free) as the seasoning. After that sits in the fridge chilling for a while, I plunk some down on toasted rye bread and place a thick slice of Jarlsberg on top. It all goes into the toaster oven to get all melty and lovely. But, I have to say, I like the idea of your grilled cheesy tuna sandwich. It looks fantastic. I’ll bet it smells great from all that tarragon too!

  9. Ace

    Tuna melts are delicious. I like them with just the cheddar. I usually throw an onion into my tuna for texture and bite. And, I like to have it on some sort of sturdy bread. A country white, rye, or sourdough work well for me.

  10. Karen

    Elise, your version looks delicious!
    I haven’t made one of these sandwiches in a while – it might be time for a tuna melt lunch.

    Thanks for the mention…

  11. Pammer

    Wholeheartedly agree on the addition of onion to the tuna. Also add healthy dollop of whole grain mustard, finely chopped green olives and a hard-boiled egg. I usually prefer swiss, but am looking forward to trying the white cheddar!

  12. SUSAN

    Mmmm…I love a good tuna melt. I’ll put whatever cheese I have in the house on it and I love to add chopped pickle to my tuna salad for a little extra zip. Perfect with a bowl of creamy tomato soup.

  13. Genie

    Oh, man…you had me at the blog post title…this sounds killer! I am a big fan of Muenster on a tuna melt — that’s probably the only thing I would swap out, even though I’m also a huge fan of white cheddar, as well.

  14. Lizzi

    I didn’t know that tuna melts had options until I was at least 25! Growing up, my dad was in charge of all things tuna-related, so we ate ours open-faced on toasted rye bread.

    The rye toast was topped with tuna mixed with herbs, a teeny bit of mayo, dijon mustard, and celery. Then on top of the tuna salad went a piece of swiss or muenster cheese, a dollop of horseradish, and then a chunky slice of tomato. Into the broiler they went and when they came out, they were finished off with a dose of worcestershire sauce and eaten with a knife and fork (if you were my dad) or your hands and a pile of napkins (if you were me). Yum!

  15. Fran

    I had some tuna salad, I had some olive bread, I had some Irish cheddar…hmmm… what to do, what to do. Guess what I had for lunch today. MMMmmm. I usually do this with swiss and rye.

  16. Georgiana

    I love tuna melts. I’m not sure about the tarragon though. Had broiled chicken breasts with tarragon at a restaurant once and hated that. But I will try adding a bit of tarragon to the next tuna salad I make. I’ve always enjoyed the basic tuna melt made with mayo, chopped celery, onion power and freshly ground pepper to taste with american cheese to melt usually on hearty white bread or english muffins. I think using fresh minced onion overpowers the tuna so if I do use fresh onion it’s only a little bit. I love reading all the comments with all the other suggestions. Thank you!

  17. Matt

    I’m always looking for things I can make in my panini maker. This tuna melt looks like a perfect recipe for adapting to the panini. By using a panini maker to grill the sandwiches, I’ve found I can replace the griddle with a non-stick surface and in doing so not need to butter the pan or the sandwich.

    Note that the panini maker does change the height and texture of the sandwich since it presses down on the bread. So the panini made sandwiches would not be as tall as those pictured here. More like 1/2 – 3/4″ tall.

    You know it’s foods we grow up that set our impressions with what we like. So I’m especially fond of the way the panini maker works because when I grew up my father had this campfire cooking thing we called the ‘flying saucer.’ It was like two pan tops that would clamp together and was on a long handle to hold over a fire. When we were kids we’d take two pieces of bread and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, place it in the saucer and cook over a campfire. When it was done, the result was a round sandwich, toasted on the outside, (a hot pb&j you might say!). It was such a simply device compared to the modern panini maker, yet worked well (if you had a campfire handy). I wonder where that flying saucer maker is now?

  18. SAS

    Oh, Elise! My all-time favorite sandwich! I’ve eaten tuna melts coast to coast, and upscale to divey diners. I often make my own with tarragon, and sometimes I add nuts (walnuts or toasted pine nuts), always on rye. Your post is making me remember every great one I’ve had! If you’re ever in Boston, or near a Legal Seafood restaurant, they make a great albacore tuna melt in a pita – sinfully good.

    Like Lydia, I’m also partial to Swiss, although I enjoy cheddar, provolone, or even good ‘ol American cheese on occcasion. When it comes to a tuna melt, I’m open. Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. Mary Beth

    Our most recent tuna melts were delicious and served thusly: open face on toasted, sandwich size english muffins, w/a slice of tomato, avocado and sharp cheddar. Mmmmm!

    And Matt, that flying saucer thing is otherwise known as a Hobo Pie Maker, or a Pie Iron. Good for sandwiches w/cold cuts, hamburger, eggs and cheese, or Hobo Pies – two slices of bread w/pie filling in the middle.

  20. Valli

    I’m a Canadian girl through and through so usually have my tuna melt on a lovely bun with Cheddar cheese. I sometimes add some hard boiled egg to the tuna mixture.

  21. Lauren

    Oh, hmm, I think you could do this with chicken salad. I think. Not a big tuna eater, but I loved tuna melts when I was a kid (and liked tuna) so I’m wondering if I could make some sort of chicken salad melt with this recipe and have it be delicious. Tarragon is a great herb.

    Green onion is a really good idea for these. I like chopping up white onion very small for my chicken salad, but I think green onion would have a more suitable flavor!

  22. Alana

    Thanks for the link, Elise! Tarragon is my favourite herb, and your tuna melts sound amazing — I’ll definitely try making them soon.

    Coincidentally, I also made up a new tuna melt this week, using pineapple, curry, and spicy monterey jack. I’ll be putting the recipe up on my blog in a couple days. Cheers!

  23. Susan from Food Blogga

    Karen is so talented, and what a fabulous recipe! I make one for my husband with mayo, dill, caraway seed, and Swiss on toasted rye.

  24. Elise

    Oh my gosh, who would have thought there was this whole subculture of “tuna melt aficionados” each with their unique way of preparing this humble sandwich? I’m impressed people. So many great ideas. So few cans of tuna in the pantry. Guess I’ll have to go get some more.

  25. Nora

    Hello from Singapore, I am just passing by – this tuna melt is making me so hungry right now, happens to be lunch time now….

    Looks soooo gooood, so juicy….mine is usually just sticking a piece of cheese and tuna into the oven toaster.

    Thanks for sharing

  26. Kim

    This recipe sounds delish! I’ll have to try the tuna with tarragon. Normally when I make mine it varies each time, but I almost also make it open-faced on an english muffin and add plenty of dill. The dill and tuna combo are hard to beat in my book!

  27. Kim

    I LOVE tuna melts! Too bad they are so laden with calories, or I’d have one once a week!

    A local restaurant has Dungeness crab melts – even better! That’s taking it to 11!

  28. Jennifer

    I adore tuna melts. You can really top them with anything too- have you ever tried pickled okra? I bet that would be good on a tuna melt with some fresh scallions!

  29. jancd

    Where have I been? I eat tuna salad often, but never in my life have had a tuna melt. I don’t they existed in west Texas!! That will change this week. Your recipe looks delicious and I am determined to get acquainted with this favorite of so many readers. Thanks for the recipe! Jancd

  30. evinrude

    I like my tuna mayo to have lots of chopped onions in it! =) Topped off with loads of mozzarella and toasted in the oven till nicely browned and crisped and the mozzarella all melted and stringy! Mm~

    P.S. It’s odd how you would say it’s a cheese sandwich dressed up with tuna salad, I always called mine a tuna sandwich dressed up with loads of cheese. =)

  31. seamaiden

    I think my best tuna melt ever was at a gluten free bakery cafe, Panne Rizo, in Vancouver, Canada. It was on their amazing gluten free panini bread and served in this adorable plastic basket with paper just like fish and chips. So tasty!

    At home I mostly just make grilled cheese sandwiches in a sandwich press- but I often add a really tasty mustard or pesto (not both together, of course). Since I love tuna fish salad, I should add it more often… the fresh herb aspect of this recipe is inspiring me!

    -Sea

  32. Anne

    Wow, so many comments, and I still have something new to add! Tuna melts are a winter staple in our house, and we always go with my husband’s favorite — open-faced on english muffins (toasted first) with sliced tomato and a good Vermont cheddar. In the tuna salad go chopped white onions, and DILL RELISH. I usually use plain yogurt instead of mayo, just personal preference. I’m going to try this one, though!

  33. Rupa

    Sounds delicious! I usually make my tuna melts a very odd way in that I basically sauté my tuna. I put in some cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin powder, regular pepper, kosher salt (just a dash), onion, and garlic. Then I sauté everything with the tuna in a frying pan until you can get the aroma of everything mixed together, since the tuna is already cooked of course, you don’t need to have it on there too long. That goes on already toasted 7 grain bread in the toaster oven and is covered with a slice of meunster, then I broil it and sometimes add on a piece of cold iceberg lettuce before I close the sandwich and devour.

  34. Katherine

    I like to put sweet pickles & curry powder (my own mix – changes slightly every time) and sometimes onion in my tuna salad. I’m a traditionalist on the cheese, though – American. This is a comfort food.

    I’ve made the grilled cheese part with nan (the bread from an Indian Resturant) the last few times in my George Forman Grill. I put the tuna in after the rest of the sandwich is grilled. Excuse me, I’m hungry now.

  35. Kelly B

    I make almost an identical tuna melt with lime zest and juice instead of lemon. It is delicious! I love tarragon with fish. Try it on grilled sour dough or rye. Incredibly addictive!

  36. Christine

    I made this tonight for my husband to heat up – my supermarket had no tarragon – used some oregano and added chopped green pepper! It was great…thanks elise

  37. Wesline J

    My family and I love tuna melts! We’ll definetely try this one! Ours are usually open faced. My fanciest one to date was made with diced onion, sweet peppers(orange & purple- you can use any sweet pepper),diced celery, cranberry mustard, honey mustard, relish and miracle whip. If your taste buds can handle it, some pepper flakes or tabasco, also. The salad is topped on wheat bread slices, then a slice of cheese, Sargento Chipotle- for a little kick, or Swiss, or any cheese, thinly sliced heirloom tomato, which are available this time of year at our local farmers’ markets in Boston. The final topping is some grated Parmesan cheese, then under the broiler it goes until browned. It’s a bit of extra work, but well worth it!

  38. John Mulder

    This is an AMAZING sandwich! The tarragon and lemon are incredible with the tuna. Made it for Sunday brunch and it was the talk of the week!

  39. Betty

    This is a delicious sandwich. It is very similar to a tuna melt that I had at a restaurant recently. I normally hate warm or hot tuna (except for steaks) but the flavors of this salad are sooooooooo good1

  40. Helene

    I like my tuna melts with a kick. Try some pickled hot peppers instead of the tomato, topped with provolone. Or keep the tomato and use pepper jack cheese. Mmmm…

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