The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Dr Smiter’s No-Fail Tuna Melts

I’d be a food photographer except I’d always eat my subjects.

I chat on Twitter every so often with a very nice lady who works as a recipe developer and food photographer.

The stuff she makes always looks really complicated and delectable and, well, totally intimidatingly impressive, so imagine my surprise when I told her one day that I was making tuna melts for lunch and she responded with an envious “Yummmmmmmmmm!”

My friend the Elf does this too (the Elf is notorious for having NO lunch at all…yes, you know who you are!) ;-). And since I’m having them again today (tuna melts, not elves), I figured what better time to put up my own recipe?

So, here we go. You will need:

  • 1 can of tuna
  • 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp green relish (really!)
  • a generous grating of black pepper
  • thinly sliced or grated cheese (I like old cheddar, but use what you prefer)
  • your favourite bread (I use multigrain)

Drain the tuna (if you have a cat, you know what to do with the juice. If you don’t know, the cat will be telling you right about now!). Don’t squash the tuna meat down too hard while you’re draining it; leave a bit of moisture in it, or you’ll end up with “wood-chip melts” instead of tuna melts.

Looks like someone has some suggestions about what to do with the tuna juice….

Plonk it into a bowl (“plonk” is a very technical foodie term) and break it gently apart with a fork.

Add the mayo and the relish (you can skip the relish if that grosses you out, but it makes for a surprisingly tasty tuna salad), and a nice grate of black pepper. Don’t bother adding salt; there’s enough in the tuna, mayo, and cheese.

Give everything a good stir, getting down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the mayo is mixed in.

Now, here comes the part that makes these tuna melts different from the ones everyone else makes, i.e., not soggy. Listen closely, gentle reader, for I am about to impart Great Wisdom unto you.


OK. Here it is: For perfect tuna melts, thou shalt toast the bread first.

For real. So… get thee and thy bread to a toaster. Toasteth thy bread and when it poppeth up, putteth it on a cookie sheet or cutting board and prepareth for Step Two.

Which is…

… Apply the tuna. Put a nice generous layer of your tuna salad onto your toast, spreading it right to the edges.

On top of that, place your thinly sliced or grated cheese — add a goodly amount, but not so much that you have a 1,200-calorie lunch. We are not aiming for Death by Tuna Melt here.

If you’re using a regular oven, place your tuna melt under the broiler, on a cookie sheet (obviously). Turn the oven light on and watch really closely or you will have only Burnt Offerings for all your labour. (Jeez, I’m on a Biblical theme here today, aren’t I??) It will take about a minute until the cheese is nice & bubbly and melted.

Be sure to turn your broiler OFF when you’re done, or your entire house may end up bubbly and melted. And that would be bad.

Meet your ingredients.

Me, I use a toaster oven, so I just put the toast-and-tuna-and-cheese on the little toaster oven tray, slide ‘er in, and press “Toast” again.

Et voila — le perfect Tuna Melt!

Serve with veggies of your choice (today I had carrots, celery, radishes, cukes, and a bit of hummus), or pickles, or whatever you like — or nothing.

Word to the wise: wait about a minute before taking your first bite. Hard as that may be (you will be mopping up your drool by now), the cheese gets really hot and can give you a nasty burn just behind your back teeth, the kind that makes you poke around with your tongue for days going “Jeez, I really am a doofus.”

Makes 2-3 servings, depending on the generosity of your tuna salad application.

Total cost:

  • $1.49 or so for a can of tuna
  • $0.25 for the mayo
  • $… pennies for the relish & pepper
  • $0.15 or so for a slice of bread
  • $0.20 or so for the wee bit of cheese
  • $… more pennies for the veggies, hummus, pickles

Or… about $2.00 for the whole shebang, divided by 2-3 servings = 67 cents for lunch.

Not bad. Not bad at all. πŸ™‚

“Everybody do the Tuna Melt Dance!”



  1. AWESOME! Now I want one. You can deliver, right? πŸ˜‰

    • Hheheh. Sure! I’ll plug the toaster oven into the (un-used) cigarette lighter in the car & be there in… um… 10 hours? πŸ™‚
      You know you’re the one I refer to in this piece, right? πŸ™‚

      • Yes! I figured it out all by mu lil ole self πŸ˜‰ And see you soon! Hahaha I wish

      • Hehehhe. I figured you probably would. πŸ˜€ Oh man, yeah, it would be great to meet up! I’d make tuna melts and/or guacamole… you’d make… ?

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