tuna melt panini on plate

Ah, tuna salad sandwiches. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, "The whole concept of lunch is based on tuna" (via Seinfeld Scripts), and the great observer of life’s minutiae was right on the money. Although tuna sandwiches became an American institution in the 20th century when canned tuna became available, tuna salad had already long been part of American lunchtime — it was even popular among the ladies who lunched way back in the day, according to Smithsonian Mag.

Today, we’re excited to bring to you this recipe for a tuna melt panini from recipe developer Kristen Carli, which takes good old tuna salad to places all tuna fans will simply love. Carli, the private practice registered dietitian, is a big fan of tuna both for its taste and its nutritional benefits, and here she updates it as Mediterranean-inspired melty panini sandwich.

"This dish is super satisfying for a work-from-home lunch or dinner," she points out. And while this recipe is for one sandwich, it’s "easy to double or triple for a group."

Gather the ingredients for this tuna melt panini

ingredients for tuna melt panini

To make Carli’s tuna melt panini, you’ll prepare a little tuna salad with a 2.6-ounce pouch of chunk light tuna, 2 tablespoons of mayo, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of nonpareil capers. Your sandwich bread will be ¼ of a baguette (around four to five inches long), sliced in half lengthwise. Topping the tuna mixture will be 2 tablespoons of roasted red bell peppers. Making this the melt that it is, you will need two slices of sharp cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon of olive oil for the skillet. Sounds yummy already, right?

Make your tuna salad

making tuna salad

The first thing to do here is open your packet of tuna into a small bowl, and add the mayonnaise, the Dijon mustard, and the capers. "I love the tangy, briny flavor that the capers and Dijon bring to the tuna salad," Carli notes, clarifying that these flavors bring the tuna in this panini melt a Mediterranean vibe. If you prefer your tuna salad to be a little on the drier side than what is pictured here, simply drain the tuna and the capers thoroughly before mixing them together with the Dijon.

Begin assembling your tuna melt panini

assembling a tuna melt panini

Slice your quarter baguette lengthwise, and place the halves open-side up on a plate. Scoop the tuna salad you just mixed together onto the bottom slice of bread, and spread it evenly to just shy of the edges of the bread. Top with roasted red peppers, which will add depth to the flavor profile of your sandwich, not to mention vitamin A and fiber, which Carli points out is an extra added bonus.

Top with cheese, and turn that sandwich into a "panini"

toasting tuna melt panini

To complete your tuna melt panini, lay your cheddar cheese slices on top of the roasted peppers, and cover with the other half of the baguette. Now, since "panini" refers to a sandwich that has been toasted, and in most cases, pressed while toasting, to take this tuna sandwich on a roll to the "panini" place, you’ll need to heat up a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, and wait a moment or two before it shimmers. Then, place the sandwich, either side down, onto the skillet, and weigh it down with another skillet — one that is heavy enough to press down on the sandwich. Allow it to toast and press for five minutes. Then, turn the sandwich over, and go for another five minutes.

Transfer from skillet to plate, slice in half, and serve with fresh fruit for a cool, sweet contrast, Carli advises. We are pretty sure this recipe will end up being one of your quick-to-prepare favorites!

  • 1 (2.6-ounce) pouch chunk light tuna
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
  • ¼ baguette (about 4 to 5 inches long)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, combine the tuna, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and capers until well-blended.
  2. Slice the baguette lengthwise in half, and scoop the tuna salad onto one slice of bread.
  3. Top the tuna salad with roasted red peppers.
  4. Top the roasted red peppers with the slices of cheddar cheese.
  5. Top the cheese with the other half of the baguette.
  6. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil.
  7. Add the sandwich, weigh it down with a heavy pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side. (Alternatively, use a panini press.)
  8. Remove from the skillet, and slice in half.