Sure, to some, a tuna melt is a tuna melt is a tuna melt. But when I was growing up back in Swansea, MA, it was my personal manna. During seventh and eighth grades, we were on double sessions, so all of us kids were on our own for lunch.

My best friend Bobby Ledoux and I ate tuna melts about three days a week, before heading off to school. I gussied them up with all kinds of fold-ins: mustard, onions, relish, olives, and just about every spice in the cabinet.

Eventually my tuna-melt phase petered out, only to be replaced by my pizza-loving extravaganza in high school. Nowadays, when I’m rooting around the pantry for something to eat, I delight myself all over again when I realize I’m just a few ingredients away from feeling like 13 again.–David Leite

A halved tuna melt with a fork and knife resting on the side.

Tuna Melt FAQs

How can I customize my tuna melt?

The sky is the limit here. Don’t have sourdough? Try rye bread or split English muffins. Want something a little fancier than plain old Cheddar? Reach for Swiss cheese or Pepper Jack.

What’s the best type of tuna to use in a tuna melt?

We prefer oil-packed tuna, as it adds extra richness and flavor to the tuna melt. But, by all means, grab whatever canned tuna you have in your pantry. To fancy up tuna packed in water, drain it and stir in a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.

A halved tuna melt on a green plate with a fork and knife resting between the two halves.


A person cutting into a halved tuna melt.

Tuna Melt

5 / 6 votes
This tuna melt, made with a creamy tuna mixture, sliced tomato, and melted Cheddar on sourdough is a quick, inexpensive meal, that will please kids and adults alike.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories429 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • Two (5-ounce) cans tuna, preferably oil-packed, drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or finely chopped celery, (about 1 stalk)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow or red onion
  • Up to 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Up to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices artisanal white or sourdough bread, lightly toasted
  • 8 slices tomato
  • 4 slices Cheddar cheese


  • Start by preheating the broiler.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the tuna, celery, onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and oregano until well combined. Taste and add a little more of any particular ingredient that you deem fit. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread 1/4 of the tuna salad onto each slice and top each with 2 tomato slices and 1 slice of cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling and you simply can't resist it any longer, 1 to 3 minutes.
    A tuna melt with two slices of tomatoes on a sheet of parchment.
  • Serve the tuna melts piping hot.
Simply Suppers Cookbook

Adapted From

Simply Suppers

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 429 kcalCarbohydrates: 37 gProtein: 28 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 5 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.03 gCholesterol: 53 mgSodium: 780 mgPotassium: 396 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 5 gVitamin A: 709 IUVitamin C: 11 mgCalcium: 183 mgIron: 4 mg

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Jennifer Chandler. Photos © 2020 Cenk Sönmezsoy. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a great tuna melt recipe. Not spectacular as far as tuna salad goes, but the lemon juice, zest, and oregano were great little additions that elevated this normally homey humble dish. As I am a texture person, I used the celery for some crunch.

The juicy fresh tomato slices and Cheddar cheese made for a substantial lunch. I rather quite enjoyed it and will definitely be making it again. Although the yellow onion was good, I might try red onion next time for a bit of sweetness.

I looked over the simple steps and simple ingredients to this sandwich. I had everything in my kitchen and several house guests, so I decided why not try it for lunch! The tuna melt was delicious!

The hint of lemon zest, juice, and oregano was perfect. I didn’t know tuna salad could be so good. I made half of the melts on rye bread and half on sourdough bread—both were very good. So fast to assemble and a perfect little sandwich for my recipe file!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has 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.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Ha ha, and I thought i was the only one who put potato chips on my tuna sandwiches. Glad to know I’m not really as nutty as i thought.

  2. 5 stars
    I like the use of lemon zest in the tuna. I put curry powder in my tuna salad and have for over 25 years. I started doing it when I was making lunch for myself in 1983. It was my first 9-5 job and lunch was getting boring. I took a jar of commercial mild curry powder out of my mom’s pantry and sprinkled in the tuna. Well, it was a hit with me and my dad (who snuck some out of the refrigerator).

    The tuna melt is a great sandwich.