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Tuna Melt

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This tuna melt recipe is just like your favorite diner sandwich, with creamy tuna salad, melted cheddar, and sliced tomato on toasty white bread. Here’s how to make it at home!

Two stacked tuna melt halves, showing filling

Tuna melts are a staple at diners and delis, but there’s no reason you can’t make them in your own kitchen too. Once you’ve whipped up the tuna salad (which is as easy as dicing some veggies and stirring everything together in a bowl!), the sandwiches themselves are no more complicated than making a grilled cheese. Just layer everything onto your bread and cook until the cheese is melty and the bread is nicely browned.

Easy!

If you want to go for the full deli experience, you can serve up your homemade tuna melts with a handful of potato chips. You could also cut the leftover celery into sticks and pair it with Homemade Tzatziki Dip or Beet Hummus for a more virtuous side. Easy Oven-Baked Zucchini Chips or Kickin’ Tomato Soup are excellent options, too!

Does Tuna Taste Good With Cheese?

Surprisingly, yes! Cheese and tuna might not sound like the most natural pairing, but since tuna salad has mayo and veggies to add flavor, the cheese complements it nicely, especially in the form of a tuna melt sandwich.

Two halves of a tuna melt stacked, with hand removing top half

What You’ll Need

The beauty of a tuna melt is you can switch things up and make it your own. If you have a go-to tuna salad recipe, use it! Want to use a different cheese or omit the tomatoes? You can do that too! Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

  • Canned tuna – Drain this well to keep your sandwiches from getting soggy!
  • Mayonnaise 
  • Purple onion
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Celery – Chopped water chestnuts or even dill pickles can be substituted for the celery.
  • Green onion
  • Cheddar cheese slices
  • Tomato
  • Bread – White bread is the traditional choice for tuna melts, but you can use whole wheat, rye, sourdough, or anything else you like.
  • Salted butter – Let this soften up a bit so it’s easy to spread onto the bread without tearing it.

What Can I Use for Tuna Salad Instead of Mayo?

If you’re not a fan of mayo, you can swap it out for plain Greek yogurt instead. This will add the same creamy texture you want in a tuna salad (and tuna melt!), and also boost the protein in your sandwich.

Which Is Better, Tuna in Oil or Tuna in Water?

You can use either tuna in oil or tuna in water for this recipe; nutritionally, water-packed tuna is lower in calories, but some people prefer oil-packed because it’s softer and has a more assertive fish flavor.

Closeup of stacked tuna melt halves, showing layers of filling

How to Make a Tuna Melt Sandwich

Here’s how to make a warm, toasty tuna melt at home.

Make the tuna salad. Place the tuna in a medium bowl and break it up with a fork. Stir in the mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, celery, and green onion.

Preheat your cooking surface. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat.

Assemble. Spread the butter on one slice of bread. Place it in the skillet butter-side-down. Spread the top with about ½ cup of the tuna mixture, then layer on slices of tomato and a slice of cheese. Butter another piece of bread and place this on top, with the butter side on the outside. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Cook. Once the bottoms of the sandwiches are nicely browned, flip them carefully and cook the other side until it’s toasted and the cheese has melted.

Two stacked tuna melt halves, surrounded by potato chips and sandwich ingredients

Tips for Success

Here are a few hints and tips to help make sure your tuna melt turns out perfect!

  • Use a sturdy bread. No matter what variety of bread you use, make sure the slices are fairly sturdy so your sandwich doesn’t fall apart when you bite into it. If you’re using white bread, you may want to use slightly thicker slices.
  • Don’t turn the heat too high. If you do, your bread will burn before the tuna warms up and the cheese melts.
  • Making it open-faced. To make your tuna melt an open-faced sandwich, don’t add the top slice of bread and turn the heat a little bit lower to ensure that the cheese melts before the bread gets too browned.
Halved tuna melt sandwich on small cutting board, surrounded by sandwich ingredients

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

If you have unused tuna salad, it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. To store the tuna melt sandwich, keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat it in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, or for about 5 minutes.

Can Tuna Salad Be Frozen?

Mayo-based salads don’t freeze well; while it’s safe to freeze tuna salad, the mayo separates when frozen and thawed, so it won’t be very appetizing.

Two stacked tuna melt halves, surrounded by potato chips and sandwich ingredients

Tuna Melt

A homemade version of the classic diner sandwich!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 sandwiches
Author: Julie Chiou
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Ingredients 

  • 10 ounces canned tuna, drained
  • cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese
  • 8 slices tomato
  • 8 slices bread
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
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Instructions

  • After draining the tuna thoroughly, place it into a medium bowl. Use a fork to break it up really well.
  • Mix mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, celery, green onion, and cheese with the tuna.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-low heat.
  • Spread butter on one slice of bread. Place this piece of bread, butter side down, into the skillet. Add about ½ cup of the tuna mixture and spread it to the edges of the bread. Add slices of tomato and a slice of cheese. Butter on one side of another piece of bread. Place this piece of bread (butter side up) on top of the cheese. (The butter goes on the outside of the sandwich so that it will toast nicely.) Then carefully flip the sandwich with a spatula to grill both sides.
  • Cook the sandwich in the skillet at medium-low heat until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.

Recipe Notes

If you have unused tuna salad, it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. To store the tuna melt sandwich, keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat it in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, or for about 5 minutes.

YOUR NOTES

NUTRITION FACTS

Serving: 1 sandwich | Calories: 479 kcal | Carbohydrates: 31 g | Protein: 24 g | Fat: 29 g | Saturated Fat: 10 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 65 mg | Sodium: 699 mg | Potassium: 377 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 5 g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Course: Lunch
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy lunch ideas, tuna melt sandwich, tuna sandwich
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