Tuna Melt

published Aug 31, 2023
Tuna Melt Recipe

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

Makes2 sandwiches

Prep15 minutes

Cook6 minutes to 8 minutes

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a stack of three tuna melt sandwich halves showing melty, gooey cheese and ripe, red tomatoes on a butting board
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ola Wadley

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. 

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. 

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

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. 

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

Makes2 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.