Classic Tuna Melt

Friday 19 March 2021

Classic Tuna Melt

You just cannot beat the Classic Tuna Melt Sandwich for a quick and easy lunch option!  I have been making tuna melts for as long as I have been making tuna salad, which is a very long time. Basically a tuna melt is a grilled cheese sandwich with tuna salad added! 

I have been combing the two sandwiches before I knew it was an actual thing!

You can go as old school as you like or dress it up with a variety of things, but it doesn't get much better than this basic classic recipe which I am sharing here today.
There are a few absolutes when it comes to a great Tuna Salad. First of all, naturally, the most important thing is the tuna you choose to use.  I use only Albacore Tuna, and I prefer to use solid pack tuna over flaked.  

For one thing you get a lot more bang for your buck, and secondly there is just no comparing the flavor of albacore tuna to any other kind. Its just the best flavorwise. With flaked tuna you are paying for excess water or oil.

Because I am always watching, or at least trying to watch, the calories, I use tuna packed in spring water, but if you are not bothered about calories or fat, by all means use the oil packed. It is superior. 

If you are using water packed tuna, drain it as well as you can. I squeeze as much water out of it as I can using my hand.  If your tuna is too wet, you will have a wet and soggy filling. This is especially important if you are using flaked or chunk tuna in water.

Solid packed tuna won't be as wet. In fact if you are using solid packed tuna in water, you can add a tsp of olive oil if you want to once you have drained off all the water. It will add to, and even intensify the flavors. 

Other than a really good tuna, I use some finely chopped spring onions (or red onion), finely chopped fresh celery (for crunch), some Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish (or chopped dill pickle) and a good quality full egg mayonnaise. 

Classic Tuna Melt 

Lets talk about cheese for a minute. Obviously having cheese in a Tuna Melt is really important. I always use this kind. It melts beautifully. It is a processed cheese that tastes very close to real cheddar. You could of course use real cheddar, but I like the processed cheese better for this type of sandwich. It melts smoother.  Its what I use in an old school grilled cheese also.

These slices are thicker than regular slices, melt nicely and have a superior flavor. You can't get much better than these in my opinion.  Add to that the fact that they are not individually wrapped in plastic, thus reducing your plastic waste and carbon footprint, these come up trumps with me every time.

Classic Tuna Melt

You also want to use a really good bread when you are making a tuna melt. I like a nice sturdy country style of bread.  Preferably a sour dough because it is a bit sturdier and toasts up nice and crisp.  

When you are making a tuna melt with a filling that can be a bit on the wet side, it is really important to use a bread that will stand up to it and not go flimsy or get soggy once filled.

A country style bread, or a thicker sliced homestyle bread, or a sourdough is best. A sturdy light Polish rye bread is also very nice.  

Don't stint on the filling.  Be generous. I like to use a good 4 TBS per sandwich of filling and spread it completely to the edges.  I hate it when I get a sandwich and the maker has been really stingy with the filling.

This can especially be true of store-made sandwiches. Making sure you have an ample filling is the first rule of sandwich making.  It really annoys me when I get a sandwich which is only half filled or the edges and corners are left dry, barren and empty.  What's the point!  If you are going to make a sandwich then fill it properly for goodness sakes! 

Classic Tuna Melt 
You will need to spread both of the outer sides of the bread/sandwich with softened butter, or  . . .  my secret ingredient . . .  full fat mayonnaise.  This is a little trick someone shared with me many years ago.  

At first I thought it sounded strange, but I tried it and wow, it made for a beautiful finish.  You can also use garlic butter if you are really looking for extra flavor here.

Classic Tuna Melt 
Another secret to making a really great tuna melt is not to rush it.  A heated non-stick skillet over a moderate heat does the trick perfectly.

If you try to cook it at too high a temperature you not only risk burning it, but your filling doesn't have enough time to heat up properly and the cheese won't melt properly either.

You also get a much crisper finish when you toast it more slowly.  And when you are talking about a grilled sandwich, crisp is everything.

Classic Tuna Melt

I have seen some people add chopped olives, or peppers, chopped tomatoes and even sliced tomatoes.  I don't really like any of those things in my Tuna Melts. I find that they can give you a really soggy finish.  I will add a few slices of tomato to an open faced one, but never in a closed one.

I have also seen people add herbs such as tarragon, lemon juice, or even chopped boiled egg. Keep it simple, that's my motto. I think messing with it too much messes with the integrity of the sandwich. In the case of this classic Tuna Melt, less is more in my opinion!

With a few crisp potato chips on the side, or some fresh raw vegetable sticks,  this  makes for one very delicious, mighty fine lunch!

Classic Tuna Melt Sandwich

Classic Tuna Melt Sandwich

Yield: 2
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 10 Mincook time: 10 Mintotal time: 20 Min
Tuna melts don't have to be filled with calories and fat and light tuna melts don't have to be lacking in flavour! Try this one and I guaranteee you will be pleasantly surprised!


  • 1 6-ounce tin of albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 7 TBS good quality mayonnaise, divided
  • 1 TBS sweet pickle relish
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped, or the equivalent measure in chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 slices bread
  • 4 processed cheese slices


  1. Mix together the tuna, 3 TBS of the mayo, onion, relish, mustard and seasonings.
  2. Lay out 4 bread slices and cover them with tuna mixture, 1 cheese slice and finally the second bread slice. Spread outsides of each sandwich with 1 TBS of mayonnaise.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook until lightly browned on one side before flipping over to brown the other side.
  4. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining sandwiches. Serve immediately.
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Classic Tuna Melt

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  1. These look so good, Marie. I love tuna sandwiches and grilled cheese sandwiches so a lovely combination of both. Enjoy your day. Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. Thanks very much Elaine! I hope you enjoy your day also! Love and hugs, xoxo

  2. PS - Sounds great but you have Sweet Pickle Relish and Celery in the ingredients but not in the Instructions. Those 2 items have been replaced with Green Bell Pepper. I know, just another way of making a sandwich.

    1. Ahh, sorry James. I had copy and pasted my recipe from my recipe storage page on google docs. I should be more careful. I was tired when I did this. Thanks so much for pointing out my error. I have fixed it! xoxo

  3. My favourite sandwich, though I do substitute real cheese slices for processed as I can’t eat anything processed. Yum!

    1. Normally I don't like anything processed either, but these slices are really good. Real cheddar is also very good! xoxo

  4. This looks and sounds absolutely delicious. What a clever idea with spreading the mayo on the outside of the bread - I've never heard of that before, but want to try it now. I think I'll add lemon and dill, as I love them with fish.

    1. Excellent additions Marie! I can almost taste them!! xoxo

  5. I love a tuna melt but I haven't had one of those in ages. Thanks for such a good recipe!

  6. This popped up again for me today. Tuna is on sale for 99 cents this week at Walmart, just bought 6 tins. So know what I'm having tonight, along with tomato soup it will be warming and delicious.

    1. Its on my menu for today also Linda! I Hope you enjoy it! xo

  7. Works well with canned salmon, and I'm going to try it with chopped sardines.

    1. I love doing this with canned salmon also. Chopped sardines sounds interesting!


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