Nothing beats a hot, cheesy tuna melt sandwich for a comfort food lunch or dinner, and we have a few family secrets to making the best tuna sandwich ever! If there is one thing I grew up eating, it’s fish and chicken sandwiches. ALL the time and as an adult they are still a comfort food for me.
Tuna melts are sandwiches that are made with canned tuna that is mixed into a tuna salad. You then take that tuna salad filling and either pile it onto a bun, or sandwich bread and melt it with cheese. Tuna melts are a hot sandwich, while tuna salad sandwiches are the cold version. They can be open or close faced, with the open sandwiches being more the homemade, 1970’s Mom version and the closed sandwiches are more of the restaurant version. Both are good, but I find that the closed faced tuna melt holds together better, especially with my recipe.
My Mom’s chicken salad sandwich is one of my top favorites, with a good ol’ BLT sandwich not far behind. However the tuna melt is a hot sandwich while most others are cold. Love heavier sandwiches? Try my Monte Cristo sandwich, my Classic Reuben Sandwich or Submarine Sandwich!
How to Make a Tuna Melt
First things first : open top or closed sandwich? Buns or bread? Toppings or just cheese? This is the never cycle of questions when it comes to tuna melts. Now, as a kid my Mom would toast hamburger buns, then pile the tuna mixture on top, then cheese, and then broil them in the oven. THAT’S the real childhood tuna melt.
- Mix together the tuna salad filling.
- Prepare the bread slices with mayo
- Assemble the sandwiches in the frying pan.
- Slowly fry the sandwiches until crisp on the outside and the cheese melts on the inside.
Tuna Melt Fillings & Toppings
Here is where you really personalize ( and get into arguments) about your tuna melts. First, you do have to decide if you are going with a top or topless. THEN come the really hard decisions! I like my tuna melts on a nice grainy bread, with TWO slices of cheese, one on the top and one on the bottom. I’m crazy like that.
1. The Toppings
I have seen tuna melts in restaurants topped with any and all combinations. You tend to see everyone’s artistic take on tuna melts when you go to a restaurant more than when you look online at recipes. I ALWAYS check out what’s on the tuna melt when I see it on a menu. We like to eat at diner type places,(hello tuna casserole!) so I have seen a ton! Toppings can be things such as:
- slices of tomatoes
- thin rings of raw white onion
- pickle slices
- cheddar cheese
- marble cheese
- mozzarella cheese
- potato chips
2. The Filling Ingredients
This comes down to personal preference. I have narrowed my fillings down to the first four on the list, and then I will list some others that I have seen. Mayonnaise is a given! I use lemon juice instead of dill pickles to add the sour tang that the filling needs, and then I add in sweet green relish. The onion and the celery add crunch and flavor, and its best if they are diced small.
- minced white onion
- sweet relish
- minced celery
- lemon juice
- diced dill pickles
- diced carrots
- garlic powder
My Family Secrets to a Great Tuna Melt
- Instead of butter on the outside of your grilled sandwich, use mayo. This is a trick I picked up from my restaurant industry friends. Mayo will take longer to brown, won’t burn like butter AND it doesn’t leave a taste on the outside! We use it on grilled cheese all the time, the kids don’t notice.
- Cook these on medium heat to make sure they warm up all the way through! By the time they brown on the outside they will be warm all the way through.
- TWO slices of cheese per sandwich! This is my secret to holding the sandwich together with cheesy goodness! The slices melt and then hold both sides of the bread together in the middle.
- We use sweet relish for the typical pickle flavor and then add lemon juice for the sour to foil the sweet of the relish. It really is the best of both worlds taste-wise instead of plain dill pickles.
- Grainy bread. It adds a much-needed texture to what can be an almost too creamy sandwich at times.
More Sandwich Recipes
Toasted tomato sandwiches are so easy and one of my favorites all times of the year, and you can’t go wrong with French Dip sandwiches for another hot sandwich. And while they take more work and planning, nothing beats a clubhouse sandwich for dinner, that’s Mr. Magpie’s favorite!
Enjoy! Who else enjoyed these growing up? Did you have them open-topped and melted on buns in the oven, or as a sandwich like this?
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Classic Tuna Melt Sandwich Recipe
- Prep Time
- 10 minutes
- Cook Time
- 10 minutes
- Main Course
- 2 sandwiches
- Karlynn Johnston
- one 188 millilitre can chunk light tuna well drained
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon minced white onion
- 1 tablespoon finely minced celery
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 slices bread of choice
- 4 slices cheddar or marble cheese
- extra mayonnaise for "buttering" the bread slices
- Flake the tuna with a fork, then combine the tuna, mayonnaise, onion, celery, relish, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
- Slather two pieces of bread with mayonnaise like you would use butter, then place into a large skillet, mayonnaise side down.
- Place a cheese slice onto the bread.
- Spread the tuna mixture over the cheese slices. Place a cheese slice on top.
- Use the mayo to "butter " the remaining two slices, then place on top, mayonnaise side up and out.
- Heat the pan to medium heat and cook until the bread is lightly browned on the bottom.
- Flip the sandwiches carefully to the other side, then cook until the other side has browned.
- Remove, slice in half and serve.
- You can adjust everything in the filling to your own liking.
- You CAN use butter on the outside, it just browns faster and might not allow the tuna to get warmed all the way though
- Cook on only medium so that the entire sandwich warms up though to the middle! Don't cook on too high of a heat!
All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.