This seemingly simple toasted sandwich with tuna and lots of cheese is a real American classic. Why? The proof is in the eating.–Bart van Olphen

A toasted classic tuna melt on a wooden board with a dish of ketchup next to it.

Classic Tuna Melt

5 from 1 vote
This classic tuna melt, with its toasted bread, melted cheese, and creamy tuna filling, is proof that good food need not be fancy.
David Leite
Servings2 servings
Calories772 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • One to two (5 ounce) tins of tuna packed in oil (preferably pole-and-line caught and MSC certified), drained
  • 1 small (about 3 oz) red onion, diced
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 bunch (1/4 cup) flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Hot red pepper sauce
  • 4 slices rustic bread, such as sourdough
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 oz) butter
  • 4 slices Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ketchup


  • In a medium bowl, mix the tuna, onion, scallion, parsley, mayonnaise, and a few drops of hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Butter 1 side of each slice of bread and turn them over. Pile the tuna mixture onto the non-buttered sides of 2 slices of bread and top with the Cheddar. Sandwich with the other 2 slices of bread, buttered side up.
  • In a dry skillet over medium heat, cook the sandwiches until the bread is crunchy and the cheese has melted, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
  • Cut the tuna melt in half and, if desired, set out some ketchup on the side.
The Tinned Fish Cookbook

Adapted From

The Tinned Fish Cookbook

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 sandwichCalories: 772 kcalCarbohydrates: 28 gProtein: 36 gFat: 57 gSaturated Fat: 23 gMonounsaturated Fat: 15 gTrans Fat: 0.5 gCholesterol: 93 mgSodium: 884 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 15 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Bart van Olphen. Photo © 2020 David Loftus. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The sandwich was delicious—something I would certainly make again.

Given the amount of onion and chopped parsley, the tuna portion looks a little meagre, but that could be easily solved by the addition a second tin of tuna. The tuna mix was nicely creamy and the cheese melted well.

I used a sourdough bread sliced about 1/4 inch thick. Since it was a wide loaf, it made it awkward to turn the sandwiches over. Next time I would choose a more traditional loaf shape. I cooked the sandwiches about 3 minutes per side to ensure melting of the cheese.

It served 2 for dinner with a green salad.

Often I have a tin of tuna and do something boring with it. This reminded me that you can do something really tasty with it. The tuna melt mixture was appealing in color—pink of the tuna, white mayo, red onion, and green scallion. It was more effort than I would normally put into a tuna mixture but worth the effort.

The tuna melt mixture was easy to make. The amount of mayonnaise suggested for the tuna melt mixed the rest of the ingredients thoroughly. I thought that it might be easier to use a panini press rather than try to turn the assembled (and full) sandwich over on the skillet. As it was hard to get the cheese to melt when the slices of bread were thick, I experimented with making open sandwiches with just one slice of bread and melting the cheese under the grill (broiler). This worked well and looked appealing as the cheese can be melted until it browns up.

This sandwich was really tasty and the ketchup made a great accompaniment. I would recommend it and would make it again.

A simple and quick recipe and a delicious tuna salad sandwich! I used Mild Red Cheddar, a smooth cheese that’s a perfect combination with the tuna salad and the crunchy bread. Served with homemade ketchup, this is a real treat!

A toasted classic tuna melt on a white plate.

This tuna melt turned out really well. There were some elements that surprised me—a lot of parsley and red onion and not much acid in the actual tuna salad, but all put together as a sandwich it was really good.

I used a “light and mild” wheat sourdough from a local bakery and thin slices of Cabot Alpine aged Cheddar.

When toasting the sandwiches, it was 2 minutes on the first side and 1 to 2 on the second to nice toasted brown. These held together surprisingly well during the “flip” stage. Without more mayo to hold them together, I was admittedly a little nervous!

I had pretty large slices of bread from the center of a big loaf and still could have easily made 3 sandwiches. It would have been 4 or more on a more “normal” sandwich bread.

I ended up adding more tabasco to my sandwich for more of a kick.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and it came together relatively easily. The end result of a toasty, cheesy, melty sandwich that wasn’t overpowered with mayo and dipped in a sharp, acidy ketchup was REAL good. I will definitely make this again.

The tuna melt itself was great. The tuna mixture is easy to throw together and tasted great-sharp and creamy, but not overly so.

I used a sharp aged Cheddar that worked well. I had a ciabatta loaf that I needed to use and, while I wondered if that would work as well as a thick rye or rustic loaf, I was really happy with the result. My only modification was to cut the butter for the bread down to 3/4 of a tablespoon (that was plenty to make the bread buttery-crisp). I’d make that melt again.

I used a ciabatta loaf and aged, sharp Cheddar. I found my bread took more like 4 to 5 minutes a side, but it was a thick-crust ciabatta.

The tuna grilled cheese sandwich. Genius. Okay, it’s not like this is some new revelation, I remember eating open-face tuna melts in a share house in London about 25 years ago. But this is like the adult, upgraded version. A proper toasted sandwich with a moreish and tasty tuna, onion and cheese filling.

I used an artisan-style grainy bread from the market bakery. I was surprised the recipe recommended only cheese on one side. I thought it was only right to have cheese on either side of any other filling, so I out down a slice of cheese, then the tuna, then more cheese, and the top slice of bread.

Timing of 3 minutes per side was perfect for delicious golden brown and crispy sandwiches.

It made 2 servings, which my husband and I enjoyed with a fresh tomato gazpacho and a simple green salad for dinner. He gave the tuna melt high praise. The only addition I’d make is a sprinkle of finishing salt on the melt, or a sprinkle of salt if using unsalted butter (which I did).

The tuna melt was delicious. Usually tuna melts turn out as a homogenous mayo-laden cement that gets smothered in melted cheese, with the toasted bread being the only textural contrast. Here, the tuna melt is packed with flavor and texture with a light coating of mayonnaise. Granted, this looseness made flipping the sandwich more of an ordeal than usual (I placed my hand on top as I lifted it, inverted onto my hand, and then used 2 hands to lower it back down into the skillet for minimal mess) but it resulted in a bright and delicious sandwich.

While the concept of eating a tuna melt with ketchup was met with a LOT of skepticism at my table, it did open our minds to new possibilities. When I make the sandwich again, I’d try a savory store-bought variety such as Sir Kensington’s (my favorite) or even cocktail sauce.

I made 4 sandwiches, so I doubled the base recipe. I used La Brea Bakery Roasted Garlic Bread and Tillamook Sharp Cheddar.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Egg Salad Without Mayo

Don’t let those leftover Easter eggs go to waste. This easy egg salad with caramelized onions is so lovely, you won’t even notice that there’s no mayo.

45 mins

Parmesan-Crusted Grilled Cheese with Jalapeños

Why put cheese only inside your grilled cheese sandwich? This beauty is filled with Cheddar and coated with Parmesan, which means you get a creamy, melty interior, and a crispy exterior. Basically, a perfect grilled cheese.

25 mins

Spicy Grilled Chicken Sandwich

This combination of marinated, bacon-wrapped, and grilled chicken tucked into a bun with mayo, tomato, and arugula just became our new favorite way to enjoy a BLT.

6 hrs 30 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Saw this last night and earmarked it for the last of my challah for lunch today. I did use low fat cheddar from TJs and low-fat mayo for the tuna as well the the shmeer on the bread, which is my usual choice for grilled cheese. Husband and I both enjoyed tremendously. Terrific change of pace from usual tuna sandwich or grilled cheese.

    1. Thanks, Roni! I’m delighted that you and your husband enjoyed this so much. Can’t wait to hear what you try next.