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A Tuna Melt sandwich is a diner classic that’s easy to make at home whenever you’re in the mood for something toasty and melty. Start with a sturdy bread, add a creamy and zippy tuna salad, and don’t forget the sharp cheddar!

Tuna melt halves stacked on plate

Why You’ll Love This Tuna Cheese Melt Recipe

  • The Best Tuna Melt Recipe. Yes, it’s a bold statement and believe me, it’s not one I make lightly. But this truly is the best because it starts with a stellar tuna salad. Instead of mayo, I use plain Greek yogurt, which adds creaminess with a note of tanginess. Cornichons and lemon juice double-down on the tangy factor, while mustard adds the pep and punch most tuna salads lack. Delectable!
  • That Nostalgia Factor. Like Hashbrown Casserole and Chicken Tenders, tuna cheese melts are one of those meals that gives you an instant hit of nostalgia. Maybe it’s the sandwich’s humble diner origins, or maybe it’s because your grandma probably made you tuna melts for lunch when you’d spend the day at her house.
  • Quick and Easy. If you can manage a grilled cheese (or an Air Fryer Grilled Cheese), you can manage this easy tuna melt recipe! The only difference is that you’ll need to make the tuna salad first, but that’s just a matter of stirring everything together. 
Tuna melt on plate with potato chips

How to Make a Tuna Melt

The Ingredients

  • Water-Packed Tuna. Look for canned tuna that’s sustainably caught.
  • Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt. Using yogurt instead of mayo adds some tangy flavor and extra protein to these tuna melts. (Yes, if you’re a traditionalist, you can use mayo.)
  • Cornichons or Dill Pickles. A delightful addition to tuna salad that brings texture, brininess, and a slightly sour note.
  • Red Onion. I like crunch in a tuna salad and red onion delivers. You can use celery or even water chestnuts for a different spin on this recipe.
  • Lemon Juice. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice, which has a brighter flavor than bottled.
  • Grainy Mustard. Mustard is my (not-so) secret ingredient for making everything from Grilled Pork Tenderloin to Corned Beef and Cabbage a little more flavorful.
  • Fresh Herbs. You can use parsley or dill. Tarragon is also nice if you happen to have it on hand.
  • Bread. I like to use whole grain sourdough, but whatever you choose, you want it to have some heft to it so it doesn’t go soft on you. Rye is also a classic tuna melt bread.
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Sharp cheddar is, in my opinion, the best cheese for a tuna melt; sharp enough to bring some flavor to the table, but not so aged that it doesn’t melt well.

The Directions

Flaked tuna in bowl for tuna melt
  1. Flake the Tuna. Drain the liquid from the canned tuna, then place it in a bowl and flake it.
Ingredients for tuna salad in bowl
  1. Combine. Add all the remaining tuna salad ingredients.
Tuna salad in bowl with fork
  1. Stir. Use a fork to stir everything together and season to taste.
Tuna spread onto bread for tuna melts
  1. Start Assembling. Divide the tuna onto 3 slices of bread.
Cheese slices on bread with tuna for tuna melts
  1. Add the Cheese. Place the slices right on top of the tuna. Top with the remaining bread and then butter the top of the bread.
Tuna melt cooking in a skillet
  1. Toast. Place the buttered side down onto a nonstick skillet set over medium-low heat. Spread the remaining butter over the tops of the sandwiches and cook both sides of the tuna melts until they’re golden and toasty. Cool for a few minutes, then cut, serve, and ENJOY!

Recipe Variations

  • Tuna Melt in a Panini Press. Cook at medium-high until the cheese melts and the bread is toasty.
  • Tuna Melt in an Air Fryer. Secure the bread with toothpicks and air fry at 360°F for 9 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Open-Faced Tuna Melt. Use half the bread and skip the butter. After adding the cheese slices, place the melts on a sheet pan and broil them until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (If you’d like, you can toast the bread first for a crispier base.)

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover tuna melt sandwiches in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
  • To Reheat. Heat leftovers in a skillet over medium-low heat or in the air fryer at 350 degrees F. 

Meal Prep Tip

You can make the tuna salad for these tuna melts up to 2 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Two halves of a tuna melt sandwich on a plate with potato chips

What to Serve with a Tuna Melt Sandwich

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Mellow the Onions If You Need To. If you’re not a fan of the bite of raw onion, you can place the lemon juice in a small bowl and stir in the onion. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes while you work on putting together the rest of the tuna salad ingredients. This will pickle the onions, softening their texture and mellowing their flavor.
  • Don’t Overfill the Sandwiches. Part of the appeal of tuna melts is their gooeyness. That said, too much tuna and you’ve got a mess on your hands—literally. It’s better to save some of the tuna salad for another day than to pile too much onto your bread.
  • (Medium) Low and Slow Is the Way to Go. Cooking tuna cheese melts over lower heat gives the tuna salad time to warm up and the cheese time to melt before the exterior of the bread starts to burn. Your patience will be rewarded with a perfect sandwich.
Hand holding tuna melt sandwich

Tuna Melt

5 from 15 votes
For an easy lunch with a heavy dose of nostalgia, you can't beat a tuna melt sandwich! Melty and toasty, this version is packed with flavor.

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes

Servings: 3 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans solid, water-packed tuna, drained (look for sustainably caught)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cornichons or small dill pickles
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley or dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 slices bread I like whole grain sourdough
  • 3 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Instructions
 

  • Drain the tuna as completely as you can. Flake into a bowl and top with the Greek yogurt, pickles, red onion, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, salt, and pepper. With a fork, stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • For each melt, top a slice of bread with one-third of the tuna mixture, spreading it evenly all the way to the edges. Lay a slice of cheese on top, then another slice of bread. Butter the top of the bread with 1/2 tablespoon butter. (If cooking in a panini press or the air fryer, go ahead and butter the other side of the melt too.)
  • To Cook on the Stove: Heat a nonstick skillet over medium low. Once the skillet is hot, add the sandwich, buttered-side down. Butter the top. Cook on each side for 2 to 4 minutes until the bread is toasty and golden—low and slow will guarantee the most melty, perfectly cooked grilled cheese.
  • To Cook in a Panini Press: Cook on medium-high until the bread is golden and the cheese melted.
  • To Cook in the Air Fryer: Use toothpicks to secure the tuna melt by sticking a toothpick into two of the opposite corners of the bread. Air fry at 360°F for 9 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Let the tuna melt cool for a few minutes. Cut in half and enjoy.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover tuna melt sandwiches in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Heat leftovers in a skillet over medium-low heat or in the air fryer at 350 degrees F. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 3)Calories: 673kcalCarbohydrates: 70gProtein: 42gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 94mgPotassium: 413mgFiber: 3gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 824IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 322mgIron: 7mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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16 Comments

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  1. I’m always looking for lunch ideas that are quick, easy, and satisfying. This tuna melt definitely fits the bill! Definitely a lifesaver for busy weekdays. I will use shredded chicken breast next time. I always make an extra so I can take some to work and to share it with my colleagues.5 stars

  2. I’m a sucker for classic sandwiches, and this tuna melt took it to a whole new level. The recipe was easy to follow, even for a kitchen newbie like me. My husband, who usually avoids fish, even raved about it! The secret? That sprinkle of dried dill in the tuna salad – it added a bright, unexpected flavor that really elevated the dish.5 stars

  3. This was delicious! I took the leftover filling we had for lunch the next day with crackers and it was just as good! This will be my new tuna salad recipe!5 stars

  4. I whipped it up last night after work, craving something comforting and quick. Crispy sourdough, creamy tuna salad with just the right amount of Dijon kick, and gooey cheddar that stretched for miles… pure bliss in every bite. My taste buds are still thanking me!5 stars