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.
The Best Tuna for Tuna Melts
Solid tuna canned in extra virgin olive oil makes the best tuna sandwich, melted or classic. The olive oil intensifies the tuna's flavor. If you don't like the taste of the oil the tuna is canned in, drain the oil and add your own extra virgin olive oil.
Likewise, if you can only find tuna canned in water, drain the liquid from the tuna and add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil. Chunk light tuna can make a mushy tuna salad, so look for solid tuna.
The brands of canned tuna we most often use are Wild Planet Albacore Solid Wild Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil. You can also find good options at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. It might take some experimenting before you find a brand you like.
The Secret to a Toasty Tuna Melt
A tuna melt is more or less a deluxe grilled cheese. Spread the outside of the bread with butter so it gets golden-brown and toasty in the skillet.
The other secret? Don't rush it! We all know how disappointing it is to burn a sandwich. Take it easy and use medium heat, which will get that bread nice and toasty -- and melt that cheese -- without burning the bread.
Swaps & Substitutions
- Use fresh or dried dill instead of the tarragon.
- Use Swiss, Havarti, provolone, muenster, or orange cheddar instead of the white cheddar cheese.
- Use a minced shallot or sliced chives instead of the green onion.
- Add some diced celery or water chestnuts for crunch.
- Use sturdy rye or whole wheat bread.
- Add a chopped hard boiled egg to the tuna salad.
More Favorite Tunafish Recipes!
- 1 thinly sliced green onion, including the greens
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons 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 solid white tuna, well drained and flaked
- 8 slices French or Italian loaf bread (or your favorite bread), sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 thinly sliced tomato (8 slices)
- 4 ounces grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
Make the tuna mixture:
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.
Prepare the tuna melts for the griddle:
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.
Cook tuna melts on the first side:
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.
Flip and cook the other side:
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.