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Learn how to make the best Tuna Melt, perfect for lunch or an easy dinner. With toasty bread, melty cheese, tomato and homemade tuna salad, this is the ultimate comfort food sandwich!
I’ve always loved a good tuna melt. Basically a grilled cheese sandwich with tuna added in, this classic comfort food is so satisfying. You just can’t beat the buttery, crispy edges, gooey cheese and flavor-packed tuna salad, all packaged into one delicious sandwich.
This recipe features my easy homemade Tuna Salad, made with sweet pickle relish and red onion for lots of flavor. The bread is slathered with butter before cooking the sandwiches in a skillet, so that the bread gets perfectly golden brown and toasted as the tuna melts cook. My secret is to use salted butter for added flavor. It really makes a difference!
This recipe takes just a few minutes to prep and cook, so it’s perfect for lunches. I also add tuna melts to our dinner menu from time to time, when I need something especially easy. Serve a salad or some fruit on the side and you’re good to go!
Tuna Melt Recipe Ingredients
One of the things that I love most about this tuna melt recipe is that it calls for just a few simple ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tuna Salad: My easy tuna recipe is made with canned tuna, plain Greek yogurt or mayo, sweet pickle relish, red onion and salt and pepper. The Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative to mayonnaise; use whichever you prefer. You can mix in your favorite tuna salad ingredients. You’ll find a few ideas below.
- Bread: I recommend a hearty bread, such as sourdough, ciabatta or whole wheat.
- Butter: The butter helps the bread to get nice and golden brown in the pan and it also adds flavor. Using salted butter makes the sandwich especially delicious.
- Cheese: My favorite for a tuna melt is sharp cheddar. Thick slices make the best gooey, cheesy sandwich.
- Tomato: I love adding a slice of juicy tomato to my tuna melt. It adds another layer of flavor, making this the best tuna melt!
The Best Canned Tuna
Wondering what kind of tuna is best for a tuna melt? Here are a few things to consider when picking up a can of tuna at the grocery store.
- Buy tuna packed in water, not oil. It’s a lighter option and you don’t need extra oil in your sandwich. Tuna packed in water also has a more reliable flavor.
- Light tuna is lower in mercury than white albacore. Skipjack is a good, lower mercury option.
- Look for the words “pole and line caught” or “troll caught” on the can. These labels mean that the tuna fish were caught one at a time, not with giant nets that can also catch other marine life.
How to Make a Tuna Melt
- Make the tuna salad. Combine the canned tuna and other tuna salad ingredients in a bowl and stir with a fork until well combined.
- Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread.
Assemble the sandwiches by layering tuna, tomato slices and cheese, with the buttered sides of the bread slices facing out. Put the tomato in between the tuna and the cheese so that it doesn’t make the bread soggy.
- Cook the sandwiches. Heat a skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, over medium-low heat. Add the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 3-5 minutes on the first side, until golden brown. Then flip and cook until the second side is nicely browned, about 3 more minutes. Then enjoy!
- Drain the tuna well before making the tuna salad.
- When cooking the sandwich, start with the cheese side down so that the cheese starts melting right away when you put the tuna melt in the pan.
- Cook the tuna melts slowly, over moderately low heat. This ensures that the bread won’t get too browned before the insides get hot and melty.
The Best Bread for a Tuna Melt
While you can use any bread that you like for a tuna melt, a hearty bread will hold up well to the sandwich filling. Try sliced sourdough, ciabatta, rye, whole grain bread, whole wheat or a thick-sliced white bread. You can even make open-faced tuna melts on English muffins.
- Switch up the cheese: Try swiss, mozzarella, Monterey jack, pepper jack or provolone.
- Use your favorite mix-ins: Add finely chopped celery, green onions, bacon, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to the tuna salad.
- Swap the tomato for slices of avocado.
- Open faced tuna melt: Skip the top slice of bread. Toast the open faced tuna melt for a few minutes in a skillet to get the bottom bread browned and then pop it under the broiler for a minute or two.
- Air Fryer Tuna Melt: Air fry at 360° F for 3-5 minutes, or until the top slices of bread are golden brown and crispy. Then flip the sandwiches over and continue cooking for 2-4 more minutes, until the other side is golden brown and the cheese is melty.
More Sandwich Recipes
- 5 ounce canned tuna in water, drained well
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, or mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 slices bread, such as ½-inch thick sliced ciabatta, sourdough or whole wheat
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 ounces sliced sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 ripe tomato, sliced, optional
- In a medium bowl, combine the drained tuna, plain Greek yogurt (or mayo), relish, red onion, salt and pepper. Stir with a fork until well combined.
- Spread one side of each slice of bread with the softened butter.
- Assemble the sandwiches by layering tuna, tomato slices (if using) and finally cheese, with the buttered side of the bread slices facing out.
- Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom piece of bread is golden brown. Then carefully flip and cook for about 3 minutes on the second side, until both sides of the sandwich are golden brown. Serve.