Tuna Melt

updated Nov 13, 2023

Upgrade your typical tuna salad sandwich with toasted bread and melty cheese.

Makes2 sandwiches

Prep15 minutes

Cook6 minutes to 8 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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While some prefer a simple tuna salad sandwich, others like to go all out with a tuna melt, which is basically an amped-up version with toasted bread and melty cheese. Just like most sandwiches, a tuna melt is completely customizable. You can use your favorite sandwich bread or swap in a different cheese. And if you’re not a fan of tomatoes (or don’t have one on hand), it’ll be equally delicious without one. 

Key Ingredients in a Tuna Melt

A tuna melt is essentially a tuna salad sandwich that includes cheese. It’s cooked in a pan until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

  • Tuna: Use either oil- or water-packed tuna fish (just be sure to drain it well).
  • Mayonnaise: Just a quarter cup (for two sandwiches) adds the iconic creaminess. 
  • Tomato. You can use any tomato you have on hand. Beefsteak or heirloom varieties work well. 
  • Cheese. Make sure to use a cheese that melts well. This recipe calls for sharp cheddar cheese, but feel free to use pepper jack, Swiss cheese, or American. 
  • Bread. Use any sliced bread you like, such as sourdough or rye. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ola Wadley

How to Prevent a Tuna Melt from Going Soggy

The key to preventing a soggy tuna melt is to drain your canned tuna really well. To do this, empty the tuna into a fine-mesh strainer then press down on it to release any liquid. 

What to Serve with a Classic Tuna Melt

Anything that is typically served with a sandwich, you can pair with a tuna melt. You can’t go wrong with any of these classic pairings. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ola Wadley

Tuna Melt Recipe

Upgrade your typical tuna salad sandwich with toasted bread and melty cheese.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes to 8 minutes

Makes 2 sandwiches

Nutritional Info


For the tuna salad:

  • 1/2

    small shallot

  • 1

    medium stalk celery or scallion

  • 1

    dill pickle spear

  • 1

    (5-ounce) can oil- or water-packed tuna fish

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1/8 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/8

    lemon wedge

For the sandwiches:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter or mayonnaise

  • 1

    large tomato, such as beefsteak or heirloom

  • 4

    sandwich bread slices, such as sourdough or rye

  • 4

    slices sharp cheddar cheese


  1. If using butter, let 2 tablespoons unsalted butter sit at room temperature to soften. Meanwhile, make the tuna salad.

Make the tuna salad:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Finely chop 1/2 small shallot (about 1 tablespoon). Finely chop 1 medium celery stalk or scallion. Finely chop 1 dill pickle spear (2 heaping tablespoons). Drain 1 (5-ounce) can oil- or water-packed tuna fish well.

  2. Add 1/4 mayonnaise and use a fork to break the tuna down into flakes and mix everything together. Add 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and the juice from 1 lemon wedge. Mix with the fork until combined.

Make the sandwiches:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, assemble the sandwiches.

  2. Cut 1 large tomato crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Spread the butter or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise evenly onto 1 side of 4 sandwich bread slices. Flip 2 of the slices over. Top each one with 2 sharp cheddar cheese slices. Top with the tomato slices. Divide the tuna salad over the tomatoes and spread into an even layer. Close the sandwiches with the remaining 2 bread slices buttered-side up.

  3. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and cut the sandwiches in half before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tuna salad can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.