Tuna Melt

Family-FriendlySandwichGrilled Cheese SandwichTuna

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.

Photography Credit: 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.

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From the editors of Simply Recipes

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!

Updated August 25, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Tuna Melt Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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54 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Drew S

    Legit – Couldn’t stop eating – made all 4 sandwiches.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Madison Balkus

    I loved it, this is such a great guide

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Susan

    I cut this recipe from BHG many years ago-it was a $400 winner in BHG collection – same recipe and it is delicious— the tarragon is special flavor

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Sadie

    This is delicious and versatile! I made an open-face version on sourdough rolls, which I lightly toasted under the broiler before adding the tuna filling. For crunch I subbed chopped water chestnuts for the sliced tomato, and added a few dashes of hot sauce. I subbed havarti for the cheddar cheese, and added grated fresh parmesan. It only took a few minutes under the broiler to warm the filling and brown the cheeses.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. 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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Grilled tuna 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.Tuna Melt