A fun twist on the classic sandwich, this Tuna Melt Panini starts with a crunch and ends with a cheesy, flavor packed tuna mixture in the center!
Tuna and Cheese Melt Panini
Years ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post from a neighbor that was selling her panini press. I had wanted to try one out but didn’t know if I wanted to commit to yet another kitchen appliance that I may or may not use down the road.
Since the deal was one I couldn’t pass up, I purchased it, came home, and immediately set out trying my first panini. I kept it simple with only some turkey, cheese, and mayo. The bread crisped up perfectly, everything melted together, and I knew paninis were my new favorite lunch option!
Tuna Melts are something I grew up enjoying, so I knew I just had to make one into a panini. Using a few simple ingredients, this came together in no time and was packed with flavor! Anytime that tuna craving hits, I simply pull out my press, throw a few ingredients together, and these paninis are ready in no time! Definitely a tried-and-true family favorite!
What is a Panini?
A panini or panino is a sandwich made with Italian bread. They are sometimes served warm after grilling or toasting. In many English-speaking countries, the name panini is given to a grilled sandwich made from any type of Italian bread, typically Focaccia or Ciabatta.
Why I love this recipe:
- Quick – Only 10 minutes from start to finish! Perfect for a busy weekday lunch, and you can even make the tuna mixture in advance, for meal prep.
- Healthy – Lots of protein and fairly low in calorie. Use tuna packed in water or in the pouch.
- Family favorite – This is a great change from normal lunch sandwiches, and adults and kids love it!
Ingredients Needed for a Tuna Melt Panini:
- Tuna- I use the pouches as they are much easier. Simply open the pouch, pour into a bowl and add ingredients. No draining necessary.
- Cottage cheese- feel free to use low-fat to save on calories
- Mayonnaise- I use avocado oil mayonnaise, use whatever you have on hand
- Purple onion- diced finely
- Lemon juice- fresh is best
- Dijon mustard– you can even use jalapeno mustard for an added kick
- Focaccia bread- or Ciabatta rolls work great too
- Sliced Cheese- I love cheddar cheese, pepperjack, American, or Provolone cheese on these, use whatever you prefer though
How to make a Classic Tuna Melt
In a bowl, combine all ingredients minus the bread and cheese.
Spoon tuna mixture onto one side of the bread.
Place one slice of cheese on top of tuna and cover to create sandwich.
Preheat your panini press or griddle.
Place sandwich on to press and close lid. Allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sandwich is toasted. *If using a griddle or pan, cook on each side for a few minutes, to toast evenly.
Remove from griddle/press and serve.
To Make Ahead: The tuna filling can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. Great for meal prep and quick lunches.
To Store: Keep the tuna mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Cheese: Use your favorite kind of cheese–pepper jack, American, or any kind will work!
- Bread: Any crusty bread works great. Ciabatta rolls are my go-to, but Focaccia works, Artisan, and more!
- Toppings: Keep it simple with the ingredients below or jazz it up by adding tomato, avocado, bacon, sprouts, jalapeños or hot sauce for a spicy tuna melt.
- Air Fryer Tuna Melt: Air fry at 370 for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the cheese is melted rather than using a panini press.
- Tuna Melt Wrap: Add tuna mixture and cheese to a tortilla and fold like a burrito. Cook on a skillet over medium heat until toasted on all sides and the cheese is melted.
- Seasonings: Feel free to use any extra seasoning desired. I love adding Everything but the Bagel Seasoning to this!
Do I have to use a Panini Press?
Nope! If you don’t have a press, don’t worry! Below are some simple instructions on how to adapt this recipe!
Heat a large skillet over medium heat for a minute or two, so it has time to heat fully.
While skillet is heating, butter the bottoms of two of the sandwiches and place into the hot pan.
Place a heavy piece of cookware over the panini (cast iron works great for this) and press down firmly. Allow to cook for 1 to 2 minutes until golden and crunchy.
Butter the tops of the panini and flip. Set cookware back on top, pressing down to flatten further. Cook for a minute or so and remove from heat.
More Recipes to try
Instant Pot Tuna Noodle Casserole- a quick and family friendly casserole made conveniently in the Instant Pot
BEST EVER Tuna Casserole- a one pan meal, this casserole is loaded with goodies and packed with flavor
Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado Panini- this classic panini is layered with shaved turkey, crispy bacon, and fresh avocado slices
Roast Beef and Provolone Panini- crisp Ciabatta bread stuffed with roast beef, provolone, peppers, and of course a creamy mayonnaise sauce
Classic Tuna Melt Panini Recipe
- 6 oz tuna *drained
- 1/3 cup cottage cheese
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup onion *finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 loaf Foccacia bread *cut into desired size sandwiches, also slice in half to fill with tuna
- Sliced Cheese *any works, we use American
- In a bowl, combine all ingredients minus the bread and cheese.
- Spoon tuna mixture onto one side of the bread.
- Place one slice of cheese on top of tuna and cover to create sandwich.
- Place sandwich on to press and close lid. Allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sandwich is toasted.
- *If using a griddle or pan, cook on each side for a few minutes, to toast evenly.
- Remove from griddle/press and serve.
Recipe updated 9/19/2022