Tuna Melt Sandwiches Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
This easy tuna melt sandwich recipe will make you feel like a kid again.

Updated: May 28, 2024

Call us old-fashioned, but a tuna melt may be our favorite sandwich recipe. Something about the contrasting textures and distinctive, creamy taste brings our souls—and taste buds—comfort. If you’re wondering how to make a tuna melt sandwich, ours is a vintage recipe filled with canned tuna, melted cheese, mayo, celery and onion. As with other hot sandwich recipes, we serve this tuna melt recipe warm on toasted bread.

Essentially, this tuna melt is a hybrid of the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had and a classic tuna salad sandwich. In fact, that’s allegedly how it was first created: Urban legend says that the first tuna melt was actually made by mistake in the 1960s when a bit of tuna salad accidentally fell onto a grilled cheese sandwich at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Charleston, South Carolina. Talk about a happy accident! Here’s how to make a tuna melt (on purpose) at home.

Tuna Melt Ingredients

  • Tuna: For the tuna melt recipe, you can use your choice of the best tuna brand, as long as it’s a water-packed can. Our personal favorite is white tuna for its mild, slightly sweet flavor that doesn’t come across as overly fishy. We also recommend choosing a flaked tuna rather than a chunk variety. Flaked tuna will offer a nice texture to contrast the onions and celery, and will bind together better with the mayonnaise.
  • Cheese: While some tuna melt recipes use sliced cheese (which you can do if you prefer), this recipe mixes diced cheddar cheese right into the tuna salad so bits of melty cheese permeate the entire sandwich.
  • Celery: Chopped celery brings crunch and freshness to the tuna salad mixture.
  • Onion: A bit of chopped onion adds extra texture, along with a little zip, to the sandwich.
  • Mayonnaise: Whether you use store-bought or homemade mayonnaise, mayo adds moisture and richness to the sandwich and helps bind the tuna salad together so it holds its shape once scooped onto the bread. You could also opt for plain, nonfat Greek yogurt to lighten up the recipe.
  • Butter: A little butter spread on the cut sides of the buns gives the sandwich some lovely flavor and helps toast the bread in the oven.
  • Buns: As with other simple recipes with few ingredients, quality matters. For the best tuna melt, choose a high-quality bun that will withstand the weight and moisture of the tuna salad. We especially love brioche buns or brioche rolls for this tuna melt recipe.

Directions

Step 1: Mix up the tuna salad

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the celery, cheddar cheese, canned tuna, onion, mayo and salt in a bowl.

Editor’s Tip: If your tuna salad seems dry, add a bit of extra mayonnaise. Ideally, the tuna mixture should hold its shape when scooped onto the buns in the next step.

Step 2: Assemble the sandwiches

Next, spread the butter over the cut sides of the buns and then divide the tuna salad evenly over the bun bottoms. Replace the bun tops, then wrap the sandwiches in foil.

Step 3: Bake the sandwiches

Bake the sandwiches until the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

Tuna Melt Variations

  • Change up the cheese: While cheddar cheese is our go-to for this recipe, any one of the best cheeses for grilled cheese would also work for a tuna melt recipe. Swiss, mozzarella, fontina, pepper jack or Muenster would all work well in this sandwich.
  • Stir in some artichokes: One unexpected addition that can take a tuna melt to next-level yum is canned artichokes. Drain and chop 1/4 cup, and add them to tuna salad recipes.
  • Add herbs and spices: Tuna melts can be flavored with an array of fresh or dried herbs and spices. Dill, basil, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and celery seed are all fantastic options.
  • Squeeze in some lemon juice: If you want to add a bit of brightness to a canned tuna recipe, a bit of fresh lemon juice or zest is a lovely addition.
  • Swap the rolls for other bread: Buns are not your only option for tuna melt sandwiches. Rye, whole wheat, crusty homemade sourdough or a ciabatta roll would all make a wonderful tuna melt too.
  • Top with tomatoes: A few slices of ripe tomato are perhaps the most popular topping for a tuna melt that you’ll see. We can understand why: Tuna and tomato create a delicious combination!
  • Make the tuna spicy: For a spicy tuna melt, add a few dashes of Tabasco or cayenne pepper to the tuna salad. A drizzle of Sriracha or chopped chipotle peppers in adobo also works great.

How to Store a Tuna Melt

Tuna melts taste best the day they are made. However, leftovers may be wrapped in foil and stored for up to two days in the refrigerator. To reheat, warm in a 350° oven until heated through. We don’t recommend microwaving tuna melts because the buns will likely become soggy.

Can you make a tuna melt ahead of time?

Yes! You can mix the tuna salad up to two days ahead and refrigerate it in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches. You can also fully assemble the sandwiches and wrap them in foil a few hours before you plan to serve them. Then, bake as directed. Here are more potluck sandwich recipes fit for a crowd.

Tuna Melt Tips

How do you make a tuna melt on the stovetop?

To make a tuna melt sandwich on the stovetop, prepare it as you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Rather than buns, opt for a sliced sandwich bread of your choice. Butter one side of each slice of bread, then put the butter side down and top with the tuna salad mixture. Top with the second slice of bread, butter side up, then grill in a preheated skillet over medium heat. Cook until golden on both sides and the cheese is melted.

What goes with a tuna melt?

Tuna melts pair well with many sides. Some of our favorites are air-fryer potato chips, cottage cheese, fresh veggies with dill dip or one of these macaroni salad recipes.

Tuna Melt Sandwiches

Prep Time 30 min
Yield 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup diced cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 6 hamburger buns, split

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, combine first 6 ingredients; set aside. Spread butter over cut sides of buns. Spread tuna mixture on bun bottoms; replace tops. Wrap in foil.
  2. Bake until cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

1 each: 363 calories, 23g fat (10g saturated fat), 50mg cholesterol, 629mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 2g fiber), 15g protein.

When our children were young, I often fixed these warm, crunchy sandwiches. They go well with chips and a salad for a quick lunch. —Carole Anhalt, Manitowoc, Wisconsin