Why It Works
- Brushing the bread with oil or butter ensures it's evenly coated for proper griddling without accidentally saturating it with pools of grease in the pan.
- Adding extra mayo plus panko bread crumbs to the tuna salad creates a texture that is moist and light and fluffy, but not runny.
- Toasting both sides of each bread slice ensures maximum flavor and textural contrast.
Inspired by the tuna salads found at Jewish delis, this tuna melt is built on sliced sandwich rye bread, draped with layers of melted Swiss cheese, with a tuna salad that's loaded with fresh dill, red onion, celery, and sweet relish.
If you're in the mood for something simpler, give our all-American diner-style tuna melt a short. Feel like going crazier? This fully loaded tuna melt with pickled peppers, avocado, bacon, and more may be for you.
- One 5-ounce (142g) canned oil- or water-packed tuna, drained well
- 1/2 cup (120g) mayonnaise, such as Hellmann's (see note)
- 2 tablespoons (10g) panko bread crumbs (optional; see note)
- 2 tablespoons (20g) minced red onion
- 1 tablespoon (5g) minced fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon (20g) drained sweet relish
- 1/2 rib celery (30g), very finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon (5g) coarse ground mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Four 1/2-inch-thick slices rye sandwich bread
- Vegetable oil, clarified butter, and/or melted butter, for brushing the bread
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
Adjust oven to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). In a small mixing bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, panko (if using), red onion, dill, sweet relish, celery, and mustard. Stir, mashing very well with a fork or stiff spatula, until almost no flakes of tuna remain. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a pastry brush, lightly but evenly brush both sides of each slice of bread with oil, clarified butter, or melted butter. In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet, or using a griddle, toast bread slices on first side over medium heat until nicely browned and crisp, about 3 minutes; using a cooking weight or spatula, gently press down on bread slices while toasting to ensure even heating and browning.
Flip bread and lay one slice of cheese on top of each bread slice. Mound tuna salad on top of 2 of the bread slices, spreading it in an even layer. Close sandwiches, placing top bread slices cheese side down, and continue to cook until bottom of sandwich is well toasted; press down gently on sandwich with cooking weights or a spatula to ensure even heating and browning.
Flip tuna melt and cook until second side is well toasted. If cheese at this point isn't melted enough, transfer sandwiches to a baking sheet and heat in oven until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Serve.
We don't often specify brands, but in this classic tuna melt, Hellmann's adds its signature flavor. Feel free to use another preferred brand or homemade if you prefer.
Panko helps make a tuna salad that's light and fluffy and moist without being runny. If you don't have it, do not substitute with another type of bread crumb as they will be too dense. Instead, reduce the mayonnaise from 1/2 cup (120g) to 6 tablespoons (90g).
For the fat to toast the bread, a neutral vegetable oil will make very crisp toasts but won't add any flavor; clarified butter will also make very crisp bread with a buttery flavor; melted butter will add buttery flavor too, but its water content will impede crisping slightly. You can use any three by themselves, or toast with oil for maximum crispness and then lightly brush with melted butter for just a bit of that rich dairy flavor.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The tuna salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight.