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Best Ever Tuna Melt

Hello and welcome! Like the Wedge Salad, the Tuna Melt is an American invention. The story of the Tuna Melt though, is that of an accident. The story goes that during a busy shift at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Charleston, South Carolina, a bowl of tuna salad perched above the griddle, fell atop a grilled cheese sandwich while it was open-faced, on the griddle. So maybe it’s more like the accidental invention of Toasted Ravioli, when a ravioli accidentally fell in the deep fryer. I love it when an accident becomes an icon! Let’s do this Best Ever Tuna Melt!

Tuna Salad

Tuna salad is pretty simple right? Like chicken salad though, there are myriad ways to mix it up. What makes this tuna salad extra rich and moist is the oil-packed tuna. This tuna salad is not dry or pasty. In fact, it hardly needs mayo. I have scallions, but you can use red onion if you like. Otherwise, we have diced celery; chopped parsley; and dill pickle relish, you can use chopped bread and butter pickles, if you like.

Tuna salad ingredients

Start with placing the tuna – including the oil – in a mixing bowl. Add the diced celery (2 ribs), 2 sliced scallions, and 2 tablespoons of dill pickle relish. Then add 1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise.

Give this all a good mix. Then add the chopped parsley (about 2-3 tablespoons), and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Building The Best Ever Tuna Melt

I like to use a cast iron for this because I can heat it up very gently over low and it will radiate its heat well enough that I can keep it on low – toasting the bread slow and low, allowing the cheese to melt and the tuna salad to heat though without burning the bread.

Butter the outsides of two pieces of sourdough, and put a pat of butter in the skillet to melt. Turn the burner on low heat and once the butter in the pan is melted, place the two bread slices, butter side-down, in the skillet. Then place sharp cheddar cheese slices on one of the halves. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the tuna salad and spread it on the other slice of bread. Place 2 tomato slices on top of the tuna.

As soon as the cheese begins to melt around the edges, use a firm spatula to flip the cheese-topped side on top of the tomato and tuna side.

toast the tuna melt over low heat

You can see the cheese side is very lightly beginning to toast. Now, place a bacon press on top. If you don’t have a bacon press, use your firm spatula to press the sandwich into the skillet.

Press the tuna melt in the skillet

After about 30 seconds to 1 minute, check the bottom and if it’s looking toasty, flip the sandwich and repeat the pressing.

Check the bottom after another 30 seconds to one minute and if it’s looking evenly toasted, it’s done!

Best Ever Tuna Melt

The Best Ever Tuna Melt

And there you have it – The Best Ever Tuna Melt. The secrets are oil-packed tuna and taking your time by toasting the sandwich over low heat and pressing the sandwich to get the cheese to melt, with buttery evenly toasted bread on both sides.

Best Ever Tuna Melt

Thank you for spending some of your day with me; I hope you make this Best Ever Tuna Melt. I had forgotten how much I enjoy a buttery toasted tuna melt! What’s your favorite Classic American Sandwich? Let me know here, in the comments or reach out Instagram to let me know. Take care and be well, everyone! xo Kelly

Best Ever Tuna Melt

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Main Course, Lunch American
By Kelly Djalali Serves: Makes 2 Sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cooking Time: 5-7 Minutes Total Time: 15 Minutes

The Tuna Melt is a classic American sandwich; with flavorful oil-packed tuna, celery, onion, cheddar, tomato and buttery toasted bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 6-oz. cans of Oil-Packed Tuna, including the oil
  • 2-3 Celery Ribs, diced
  • 2 Scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp. Dill Pickle Relish
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • 4 Slices of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 Slices Fresh Tomato
  • 4 Slices Sourdough Bread
  • Butter, for the bread and the pan

Instructions

1

Mix the tuna (with the tuna oil), celery, onion, pickle relish and mayonnaise in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped parsley and give it another good mix.

2

Mix in the lemon juice. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

3

Butter one side of each of the pieces of bread.

4

Melt a pat of butter in a large skillet over low heat.

5

When the butter is melted, place two slices of bread in the pan, butter side-down.

6

Place 2 slices of cheddar cheese on one piece of bread and spoon about 1/2-3/4 cup Tuna Salad on the other piece of bread.

7

Place two slices of tomato on top of the tuna salad.

8

Check the bottom of the bread with the cheese on it, when it is slightly browning, flip the cheese-covered bread, cheese-side down on top of the tomato and tuna side.

9

Use a bacon press or a firm spatula to press evenly down on the sandwich for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

10

Then check the bottom side of the sandwich. If it's evenly browned, carefully flip the sandwich, repeating the pressing for another 30 seconds to one minute.

11

When both sides of the sandwich are evenly browned, transfer to plate and slice in half and serve.

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathy
    December 2, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Sounds delicious! Just might be today’s lunch. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 2, 2021 at 8:43 am

      Good morning, Kathy. Thanks for tuning in today! You know, It had been so long since I had tuna melt… I hope you do make this for lunch, it’s like a blast from the past! Have a great day, xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Suzanne Smith
    December 2, 2021 at 9:23 am

    One of my favorite sandwiches. Only thing I do differently is I add a slice of avocado too. You’re making my mouth water.

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 2, 2021 at 10:10 am

      Lol, Suzanne! Avocado is a great addition! Perfect any non-cheese eaters too! xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Mari
    December 2, 2021 at 9:45 am

    This is my absolute favorite sandwich. It brings back so many fond memories. When my mom and I went shopping, we always had lunch at Woolworth’s, and this is what I ordered every time. My mom ordered apple pie and coffee, which is what she liked, but I always thought I had the best part of the deal. It’s hard to beat a tuna melt and a cherry coke. I am so happy to see this recipe. Besides being my favorite treat from childhood, I always ordered it when I was out with friends or on a date. It didn’t matter what time of day it was: if this was on the menu I ordered it. Strangely, I never made this at home, but now I will. This looks so much better than the ones I discovered at Woolworth’s! Happy Thursday to Kelly, Alex, and Terry and all of us ladies who lunch and are inspired by Kelly. ?

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 2, 2021 at 10:14 am

      Morning, Mari! How wonderful to bring back this memory for you! You know it’s the oil-packed tuna that really makes this rich and delicious. No dry tuna here! And then the low and slow grilling gives it that beautiful buttery toasting – just like at a diner, or the Woolworth’s lunch counter ? xo Kelly

      • Reply
        Barbara Lacy
        December 2, 2021 at 11:16 am

        I like these classics you’ve been sharing. It reminds us of easy uncomplicated foods we love

        • Reply
          Kelly Djalali
          December 2, 2021 at 11:48 am

          Hello Barbara, It’s so much fun to revisit classic recipes! I am so happy you have been enjoying these simple, yet delicious dishes. Thanks so much for writing in! xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Sandra
    December 2, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Kelly
    I love a tuna melt and I see your recipe going to the top of the charts!
    This I know I can make.
    My favorite sandwich is grilled cheese.
    No wait, chicken salad.
    No wait, tri-tip.
    Ok so I love sandwiches!
    Have a great day Kelly!
    Take care
    Sandra

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 2, 2021 at 2:29 pm

      Hi Sandra, We are huge fans of sandwiches too! Like pizza, to me, sandwiches are one of the perfect foods. I am sure you will love this Tuna Melt. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment today, it’s great to hear from you! xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Paula
    December 2, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    I’m going to give this a try! I forgot how good a tuna melt can be. As one of the ladies said above I like your classic recipes your sharing. And when the cherry coke was mentioned in a comment that brought back many memories!
    You do share some good and doable recipes. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 2, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      Hello Paula, I am with you and Mari on the Cherry Coke, It’s my favorite soda! Definitely give this a try and let me know what you think. Have a wonderful day! xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Sally Burke
    December 3, 2021 at 1:07 am

    Hi Kelly, this sandwich looks so yum. A new addition to our lunches I think. We have a sandwich press which will do the job perfectly. Our cheeses are so different to yours, a cheddar would be quite soft and runny and not something I buy these days preferring something a bit sharper which will melt just as well as long as I don’t slice it too thickly, our favourite is a brand called Mainland from New Zealand and we buy their Vintage Cheese or perhaps Bega Extra Tasty, that is an Australian Cheese. We are also getting a lot of French cheeses, particularly their Camembert or Brie which are so creamy. Our canned fish comes from a variety of places mainly Australia, Canada or Italy, Tuna is far less expensive than Red Salmon or even Pink, the latter not being nearly as flavoursome, then of course there are the English Kippers, they can stay in the UK, Sprats, Sardines, Smoked Mussels, Smoked Oysters, Crab meat, oh the list could go on and on, and just think of all the dishes we can make out of each and every one. Thank you again for another great post, and for me tomorrow I will see you Friday Night Pizza and movie, I’m surprised my husband hasn’t put his order in ?
    Happy cooking Kelly ?‍?
    Sally?

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 3, 2021 at 8:03 am

      Hi Sally, Cheese is a funny thing isn’t it? By which I mean, We can’t get some of the really great European cheeses here due to pasteurization laws. Which is a shame! Since we have a couple of smokers, we have discussed doing our own smoked oysters, mussels and even cheese! I would love to do our own smoked mozzarella. So, we have a lot of ideas and plans for experimentation. See you later for Pizza and a Movie! xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Arna
    December 4, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Delicious. I had trouble turning the sandwiches (I tried “carefully”), and a bit of the filling slipped out. BUT really delicious. A nice Saturday night dinner. I added chopped hot banana peppers (they are not really hot).

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 5, 2021 at 8:15 am

      Hi Arna, Flipping is almost never as easy as it seems! I am so happy you enjoyed this sandwich and I love your addition of banana peppers! Have a great weekend, xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Kathie G
    December 5, 2022 at 8:42 am

    A tuna melt is one of my favorites! I do use Swiss cheese instead of cheddar cheese on mine.

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 5, 2022 at 9:50 am

      Hi Kathie, Swiss is a great cheese for a tuna sandwich. I will have to try that next time! Have a great day, xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Karen
    December 5, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    Kelly
    Your method and ingredients sounds so good!
    also give English muffin toasted with pepper jack cheese a try, so good!
    Karen

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 5, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you, Karen! I do love an English muffin, so I will have to give that a try. xo Kelly

  • Reply
    Suzanne Schultz
    December 5, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    My grandmother always used onions and pimento stuffed green olives in her tuna salad. That is the way we roll!

    • Reply
      Kelly Djalali
      December 6, 2022 at 6:59 am

      Interesting Suzanne, I have never tried green olives before, but I am sure it’s delicious! xo Kelly

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