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  • Ken Perrotte

This Isn't Your Grandma's Tuna Melt - Fresh Tuna, 'Secret Sauce,' Capers, Cheddar Cheese!

Updated: May 9, 2021

best tuna melt sandwich
best tuna melt sandich

When you have a fishing trip for tuna that sees you load the boat with excellent school-size yellowfin tuna ranging from 30-40 pounds, you can count on having fresh and nearly fresh fish dishes for some time. While we really like a traditional quick-sear, thin-sliced ahi tuna over rice or a salad, there’s something to be said for making a sandwich – as in a souped-up version of a classic tuna melt. How many people had moms that would sometimes open a can of Starkist or Bumblebee tuna, scoop it out, mix it up and make you a sandwich or a quick tuna melt with a little cheese? Two words about that relative to this sandwich: no comparison. I guarantee there is nothing like a tuna melt using fresh loin. Now, you can cook your tuna just for this sandwich or save the leftovers from any quick-sear ahi dish.

Here’s how. The version makes two large sandwiches. And, as always, there is no ironclad way to prepare some of these components. For example, the sauce ingredients could easily incorporate some pieces of hot peppers, lemon zest, dill, small crumbled pieces of bacon, etc., (although not all at the same time, perhaps). The sauce is also great as a dip for crudités. You can also serve this dish purely “open-face” without a top piece of bread. If you go open face, use a thicker slice of bread as the base. Another point about bread: watch out for the ones that are extremely dense or over-the-top multigrain; you could end up with something competing with that great tuna/sauce flavoring instead of complementing it as an appropriate, baked delivery vehicle.


2 slices bread or sandwich rolls - light Kaiser rolls work nicely

6 ounces cooked yellowfin, bigeye or blackfin tuna – sliced and broken into small, less-than-bitesize pieces

3 ounces thin sliced or shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss or a combination)

2 tsp capers

1 tbsp olive oil

The Sauce (Maria finally shares her secret blend)

4 tbsp mayonnaise

2 tsp caper brine

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp lemon pepper seasoning

1 tbsp minced sweet onion

2 tsp diced sweet bell pepper (red, orange or yellow)


Mix sauce ingredients. (This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple days)

Cook tuna if needed. (We sautéed/poached in a skillet with olive oil and water)

Fry capers in olive oil until slightly crispy -- about 3 or 4 minutes. Reserve.

Lightly toast bread. (Can use a toaster or, even better, butter in a pan on the stovetop.)

Take toasted bread and slather a thick layer of sauce; then top with tuna and then cheese.

Cook under broiler or in air fryer until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

Top with the capers.

Summer Sides and Wine

Something like a Caprese salad, albeit without the cheese since there’s so much on the sandwich, is a nice side dish. Of course, if you’re a cheeseaholic, go for it with the mozzarella or other favored cheese on the salad. We sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado, then dropped on a couple marinated artichoke hearts, using the marinade as a dressing for the cukes and tomatoes. For wine, go with a light, well-chilled white wine such as Ingleside Vineyard's Pinot Grigio 2018 or Blue Crab Blanc. Another good wine for this dish is a dry rosé.

tuna melt sandwich avocado cucumber salad


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