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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
The Tuna Melt is a classic American sandwich; with flavorful oil-packed tuna, celery, onion, cheddar, tomato and buttery toasted bread.
- 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
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.
Mix in the lemon juice. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
Butter one side of each of the pieces of bread.
Melt a pat of butter in a large skillet over low heat.
When the butter is melted, place two slices of bread in the pan, butter side-down.
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.
Place two slices of tomato on top of the tuna salad.
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.
Use a bacon press or a firm spatula to press evenly down on the sandwich for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
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.
When both sides of the sandwich are evenly browned, transfer to plate and slice in half and serve.