Classic Tuna Melt

Tuna melts are easy to make at home! Make some tuna salad, sandwich with cheese, and grill on the stovetop until toasty. Makes a simple lunch or a light dinner.

Tuna melt sandwich cut in half and stacked on top of each other. The bread is toasted and tuna, melted cheese and tomatoes are visible in the filling.
Sally Vargas

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.

Video: How to Make Tuna Melts


How to Make Tuna Melts

Stack of cheesy tuna melts separated with parchment paper on a table
Sally Vargas

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!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Classic Tuna Melt

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Total Time 18 mins
Servings 4 sandwiches


  • 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


  1. 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.

    Tuna melt filling in a glass bowl on a marble countertop.
    Sally Vargas
  2. 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.

    How to make a tuna melt. Four pieces of sturdy bread laid out on a wooden cutting board and two of the pieces have tuna salad, sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese on top.
    Sally Vargas
  3. 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.

    Two tuna melt sandwiches in a cast iron skillet. The tops are being spread with butter.
    Sally Vargas
  4. 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.

  5. Serve immediately.
    Two of the best tuna melt sandwiches toasted in a cast iron skillet.
    Sally Vargas
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
563 Calories
33g Fat
32g Carbs
33g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 563
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 43%
Saturated Fat 12g 61%
Cholesterol 87mg 29%
Sodium 989mg 43%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 13mg 65%
Calcium 318mg 24%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 416mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.