Tuna Melt

In order to explain just how tasty these tuna melts are, I need to give you some background.

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

I need to explain how Dustin hates tuna.  Well, canned tuna, rather.

And, when I say, “hates,” I mean: will practically vomit if he smells it.

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

Now, I’m not a huge proponent of canned tuna, per say, but I do like me some tuna melts.  And tuna salad.  Especially when I’m pregnant, for some reason.  Weird.

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

One day, while I was sharing my cravings of a good tuna melt with some tasty tuna salad and, more accurately cursing Dustin for his aversion to said food, Dustin came up with a great idea for me to make my own tuna salad with fresh tuna, rather than the canned stuff.  How had I not thought of this before?  Now, Dustin was in no way hinting that he’d eat any of it, but he thought this would be a great recipe I could share with you all.

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

So, the next week at the Farmers Market, we bought some beautiful tuna steaks and freshly baked New York Deli Rye bread and I prepared my meal.

Now, in order to have a good tuna melt, it is vital to have a good tuna salad.  For this, I use strong flavors and lots of crunch.  I like my tuna salad to be light, but crunchy — and with just the right amount of pickles.  Mmm.

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef
Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef
Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

Needless to say, as I made this sandwich for myself (and you all, of course) for lunch, I also made Dustin his own non-tuna melt lunch in disappointed preparation that he would want nothing to do with my new creation.

When Dustin walked into the kitchen and looked for his lunch (a tuna steak, as opposed to tuna salad).  He then took a look at my tuna salad and said it looked “pretty tasty.”  I tentatively asked if he wanted to try it, knowing the answer already. Would you believe he said he was willing to try it?  I know!  After he took the smallest bite he could possibly try, he finished it and said, “Wow, that’s really good!”

Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef
Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef
Tuna Melt recipe and images by Lacey Baier, a sweet pea chef

After he had a few more bites, Dustin decided to wait for the melts to finish so he could have one with me.  Did you catch that?  Dustin — the man who vomits at the site of tuna melts, tuna salad, canned tuna and the like — waited to eat a tuna melt with me.  And I swelled with pride.

Needless to say, Dustin finished his entire sandwich.  And loved it.

Yep, they’re that good, people.

Try these tuna melts with fresh tuna.  They’re life changing.  Literally.

Tuna Melt

1 tbsp. olive oil
10-11 ounces fresh tuna steaks
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dill pickle spear, finely chopped
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp. dill pickle juice
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pinch freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup mayonnaise plus more to spread on bread
4 slices rye bread (or sourdough)
2 slices muenster cheese (can substitute cheddar or colby)
optional: 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
optional: slice of tomato


Preheat oven to low broil.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of tuna steaks with generous amounts of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook tuna steaks until lightly browned on each side and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Let cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine onion, garlic, pickle celery, oregano, lemon zest and pickle juice. Chop tuna and add to bowl.  Add the mayonnaise — enough to moisten, but not drown the mixture (depending on your tastes).  Season with salt and pepper.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay the slices of bread flat. Lightly toast the bread on one side so it is golden and then remove from broiler. Remove two of the bread slices from the baking sheet and set aside (these will be the tops of your melts). Flip the the other two slices over to expose the un-toasted side. Spread approximately 1/2 to 1 tbsp. mayonnaise over each slice of bread. Top the bread on the baking sheet with a generous serving of the tuna salad. Layer one slice of cheese over the tuna salad. Place under broiler and heat until cheese is melted and the tuna salad is heated through, about 2-4 minutes. If you’d prefer, you can toast the bread in a toaster and then bake the melts at 375 degrees for approximately 3-5 minutes.

Top with sliced avocado and slice of tomato (if you’d like) and the other slice of bread. Cut diagonally and serve. It’s delicious with a dill pickle spear on the side.



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About the author: My name is Lacey and I’m so glad you’re here. I am a foodie, a photographer, a chef, and a project manager at a local tech start-up in Austin. But, most importantly, I am the mother of three adorable little kiddos (Jordan, Savannah and Hunter) and am madly in love with and married to my high school sweetheart, Dustin.

21 comments… add one

  1. Tara February 2, 2011, 8:04 am

    That looks so good! I love tuna melts but have never tried with fresh tuna. It’s kind of funny the foods we crave during pregnancy.

    1. lacey - a sweet pea chef February 2, 2011, 3:15 pm

      Oh, Tara, you’re in for a treat with the fresh tuna. I love tuna melts any way I can get them, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never go back to the canned stuff now. Yeah — I craved tuna when I was pregnant with Jordan also…practically lived at Subway for their tuna sandwich!

  2. KarenC February 2, 2011, 8:58 am

    The first time I ever had a tuna melt was after watching Bobby Flay make tuna salad from freshly grilled tuna steaks. It looked so good I had to try it myself. His had a bit of finely chopped habanero in it… which was quite a kick.

    Once you’ve had a tuna sandwich made with “real” tuna… it’s hard to go back to the canned stuff.

    I’m going to try your recipe as soon as I can get to the store for some tuna. I love the idea of putting avocado on it. It looks delicious!

    1. lacey - a sweet pea chef February 2, 2011, 3:16 pm

      Leave it to Bobby Flay to add some heat into his tuna melt, huh? :) I hope you enjoy this tuna melt recipe, Karen!

  3. Miss Becky February 2, 2011, 9:38 am

    You may have won me over too. I’ve never prepared fresh tuna steaks. I’ve had them fresh while in Hawaii (I think they’re called Ahi or Mahi Mahi there or something) and they were delicious. Yours look absolutely positively divine. there’s a reliable fish market in the area so this is being added to my list of future meals. thanks Lacey.

    1. lacey - a sweet pea chef February 2, 2011, 3:18 pm

      Thanks, Miss Becky. The nice thing about preparing the steaks for this recipe is it’s okay if they get overcooked a bit because they have to be cooked through for the tuna salad. Otherwise, tuna steaks can get a bit tricky to prepare because people often like then simply seared and rare in the middle. Enjoy!

  4. Katherine February 2, 2011, 12:57 pm

    This sounds so delicious! I’m gonna have to find me some fresh tuna first, but will definitely be giving these a try.

  5. Dustin Baier February 3, 2011, 7:44 am

    It really is shocking that I liked these considering I hate tuna so much. :)

  6. KarenC February 3, 2011, 10:43 am

    I made these last night and they were WONDERFUL! I loved the dill pickle in it, and topping it with the avocado was brilliant. Don’t skimp on the amount of salt & pepper you use to season the tuna.

    I used Havarti cheese… which melted beautifully. I’m thinking next time that a couple of slices of bacon would be really good on there, and maybe switching the pickles for capers.

    I think the reason these are so darned good is beacause the tuna is so firm and meaty. It’s nothing at all like canned tuna.

    I highly recommend this recipe. I’m already thinking about making them again. LOL

    Thanks for the receipe, Lacey.

    1. lacey - a sweet pea chef February 3, 2011, 3:06 pm

      Yay!! As far as I’m concerned, bacon makes things better, so I bet the melt will be tasty! Thanks, Karen, I’m so glad you enjoyed the tuna melts!

  7. Charlotte February 3, 2011, 11:48 pm

    Can’t wait to try this!

  8. Tiffany February 8, 2011, 7:35 pm

    I have always been a canned tuna hater just like Dustin, but for some reason when my husband makes a tuna melt using fresh fish, I LOVE them! I will send my husband this recipe, I bet he will like it too!

  9. Rubi January 11, 2012, 7:09 pm

    looks yummy, cant wait to try it! on a side note, you need a facebook button!

    1. lacey - a sweet pea chef January 13, 2012, 3:03 pm

      Hi Rubi!
      i actually have a facebook button in the left-hand column near my newsletter sign-up form. I also have the option after each post to share the link on facebook. I hope that helps!

  10. wonder berry August 22, 2013, 2:07 pm

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