This ultimate tuna melt recipe takes the often-limp grilled cheese and tuna toasted sandwich and by replacing the milk bread with fresh home-baked sourdough bread turns it into a café-worthy gourmet open sandwich – which in our opinion is the best tuna melt we’ve ever eaten. Here’s how to make our idea of the ultimate tuna melt.
I thought it time to share my ultimate tuna melt recipe, seeing the tuna melt appears to be making a comeback. Is it nostalgia for the simpler life we had in the 1970s when the tuna melt reigned supreme? Or is it that now that life appears to be slowly returning to normal (or a new normal) for some, everyone has pantries full of tinned tuna to use up? Not to mention bathrooms over-stocked with toilet paper.
Or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all finished our canned tuna stock that’s driving everyone to search for tuna melt sandwich delivery and Pizza Hut tuna melt? Pizza Hut is another comforting Seventies relic that makes us a tad melancholic for school-night family dinner outings, pan pizza and salad bars. We don’t recall tuna melt pizza being on the menu in Australia. Maybe that’s a new product to satisfy sentimental Gen Xers?
Whatever the reason, tuna melts are being made with enthusiasm again. Maybe for the same reason that I’ve been perfecting my ultimate tuna melt recipe – it’s another thing that I can make with my sourdough. I have more sourdough bread ideas for those of you who have been baking while you’ve been staying at home quarantine cooking and working your way through a list of cooking projects.
Our sourdough bread ideas include everything from Nineties Australian brunch staples such as smashed avocado on sourdough toast to our latest obsession, rustic French pâté on sourdough bread with dill pickles, and my ultimate tuna melt recipe. So what is a tuna melt and what makes mine the ultimate tuna melt recipe?
Ultimate Tuna Melt Recipe – How to Make the Best Tuna Melt Ever
For our non-American readers, a tuna melt is essentially a toasted grilled cheese sandwich filled with a creamy tuna salad that’s typically made from tinned tuna, mayonnaise, diced onion, pickles, Dijon mustard, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Tuna melts are usually served as closed sandwiches, although my ultimate tuna melt recipe makes an open face tuna melt as they are so filling, you really don’t need two slices of bread, especially if you’re using sourdough.
Similar tuna sandwiches and toasted cheese sandwiches have been eaten throughout history right around the world, however, it was the Americans who made the tuna melt sandwich famous. It was in the American diner that this melted cheese on tuna salad toasted sandwich became an American fast-food classic, after canned tuna became popular in the USA in the 1950s following a sardine shortage. Lara will tell you more about the history of the tuna melt in her post on the history of the grilled cheese sandwich, which dates back to Ancient Rome.
I have to confess that while I have long been a lover of the tuna salad, I have never been a fan of the tuna melt until recent months. Cheese and seafood on the one plate offended my sensibilities. Lobster mornay and oysters mornay made me sorry for the waste of beautiful seafood that was smothered in grilled cheese.
But then the coronavirus swept the world, and we all stayed at home and got baking, and began to look for new ways to use our sourdough. (By the way, if you haven’t begun your sourdough journey yet, see my simple sourdough starter recipe, my beginner’s guide to easy sourdough baking and our sourdough starter discard recipe ideas to use the excess sourdough you remove when you feed your starter.) I began to experiment with all sorts of sourdough sandwiches including the tuna melt.
Notes on Making the Ultimate Tuna Melt Recipe
So what makes mine the ultimate tuna melt recipe? Sourdough, for one thing. The easiest way to elevate any sandwich is with sourdough bread. Even though I’ll make a ham and cheese toasted sandwich on occasion using commercial sandwich bread, with its addition of sugar, milk, butter, and god knows what preservatives, it’s horrible. But lack of income and limited choices here in Siem Reap leave us with no option unless we make our own bread, which is why I make sourdough.
A caveat to this, though: I love pork tonkatsu (recipe coming soon) and for this a lightly-toasted soft Japanese Hokkaido-style milk bread is perfection. Of course it’s always better with homemade bread so you can control the amount of sugar, but baking sourdough bread and sausage rolls and pies keeps me busy enough as it is.
When I started testing this ultimate tuna melt recipe, I knew it had to be based on sourdough. Now, as much as I love sourdough bread, unless it’s cut into thin slices it’s way too much bread for a closed sandwich and the filling gets lost.
Next, use a quality tinned tuna and please try to make sure that it’s sustainably caught tuna. Read the small print on the labels and look for Skipjack tuna, which is the most sustainable tuna. Avoid any products with Bluefin tuna and Bigeye tuna, which are critically endangered, Yellowfin tuna and Albacore, which are threatened. See these guides to buying sustainable canned tuna in Australia (buy Fish4Ever, John West, Safcol, Aldi, Sirena, and Coles), the UK (look for Reel Fish, Fish4Ever, and Waitrose’s MSC certified tuna), and USA (Wild Planet, American Tuna, Whole Foods, and Ocean Naturals).
Also try to use a good quality cheese. It’s challenging during these difficult times, but if you can, avoid the processed plastic cheese that typically features in tuna melt recipes and try use a good cheddar or gruyere. A creamy, tangy tuna salad and sweet ripe tomatoes completes my ultimate tuna melt recipe.
Ultimate Tuna Melt Recipe
- 1 tin tuna in olive oil drained, 240 g
- 30 g mayonnaise
- 15 g red onion diced finely
- 15 g gherkins diced finely
- 10 g pickled jalapeño diced finely
- 5 g capers chopped finely
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Sriracha sauce optional
- 4 stalks spring onions finely sliced
- 2 slices sourdough bread halved
- 1 tomato large, sliced
- 40 g cheddar cheese finely grated
- 20 g pecorino cheese finely grated
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- Toast the sourdough bread.
- In a bowl, combine the tuna, mayonnaise, onion, cucumber, jalapeño, capers, half the spring onions and Dijon mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix until fully combined.
- Place the sourdough bread slices on an oven tray. Turn on the grill section of your oven or toaster oven.
- Top the sourdough bread slices with the sliced tomatoes. Divide the tuna mixture between the slices of sourdough bread, top with a few dots of sriracha (if you’re using it), then top with the cheddar and pecorino cheese.
- Place the oven tray in the oven and cook until the cheese has melted.
- Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with spring onions.
Do let us know if you make our ultimate tuna melt recipe in the comments below. We’d love to know how it turns out for you and if you have any feedback or tips on how to make an even better tuna melt, we’d love to hear those too.