It was truly the best tuna melt I had ever had. And I really should have asked Aunt Joan for the recipe. But at the time, I didn't think of it. And now it's too late....
This Open Faced Tuna Melt is a little spicy, cheesy, has no mayonnaise and is loaded with flavor! It's fast (under 20 minutes), easy and makes a great quick weeknight dinner or lunch recipe. They are also WW friendly at 4 WW points on the blue plan!
For many years I have thought about trying to replicate it. Since I could tell it had onions, cream cheese and cheddar cheese in it, I finally created something very close and one that maybe even rivals it.
I had mentioned to Aunt Joan that I'd be working nearby that day, so she had invited me over for lunch. And I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous. I had never actually been alone with her; we always had buffers. I was pretty worried that it would be awkward.
Aunt Joan was my husband's aunt. Her and Uncle Harry were the only people we knew when we moved to Calgary 25 years ago. And at first, I really didn't think she liked me. So going over to her house to have lunch alone with her felt a bit weird.
When Aunt Joan first told me that we were having tuna melts, I have to admit that I wasn't exactly excited. Tuna melts were fine, but not something that exactly got the salivary glands revved up. Although I've always liked tuna sandwiches, the only tuna melts I had when I was a kid were simple, open-faced tuna melts; basically tuna mixed with mayo, with a slice of tomato and some cheese on top of a slice of bread, then melted in the oven.
What can you put in tuna instead of mayo?
But when I tried her healthy tuna melt (no mayo) with cream cheese...Wow! It was unlike any tuna melt I had ever had. But I really should have known how delicious they would be, given what a great cook Aunt Joan was! I mean, this is the same woman that single-handedly turned a life-long turnip hater into a turnip lover with one dish- Turnip N' Apple Casserole. Her food was not only tasty, it was just so darn comforting. And that's exactly what I needed, given I had just moved far from home and my Mom's comfort food (and I wasn't much of a cook myself at the time).
🥘Ingredients needed for Open Faced Tuna Melts
- Tuna – Drain it well, and chop up the big chunks.
- Jalapenos – Gives these tuna melts a welcome kick! But I use tamed jalapenos (you can buy them in the jar)
- Onion – I use both red and green onion
- Pickles - Pickles naturally go well with tuna, so it's a no-brainer that they pair perfectly with tuna melts!
- "Special sauce" – pickle juice and Worcestershire sauce
- Minced Garlic - garlic makes everything better!
- Cream cheese (light) – mayonnaise is not necessary. The cream cheese adds a nice tang!
- Buns or Bread – I prefer to use Kaiser buns, but I'll use whatever bread I have on hand.
- Cheese (low-fat) – I prefer to use low-fat sharp/old cheddar cheese
While I enjoy plain tuna sandwiches, I will take a hot sandwich over a cold one any day! You can read more about that here. But there's just something about tuna melts in the oven, with warmed cream cheese, onion and melty cheddar cheese, that makes you feel so cozy. Tuna melts really are the ultimate comfort food!
🥫 is Canned Tuna Healthy?
Tuna Melts are not only quick, they are economical and healthy. If you're racing home from work and out the door to soccer, baseball, dance, hockey or whatever another 30 - 60 minutes, later, you'll love this meal option. You can even make the mix the night ahead for a super quick dinner!
If you are most concerned about mercury content and eat tuna more than a couple times a month, then you will likely want to stick with SKIPJACK (CANNED LIGHT TUNA). If getting an OMEGA-3 powerhouse meal is your priority and you don't eat tuna that often, then ALBACORE (CANNED WHITE TUNA) may be a good option for you.
And if you're looking for more canned tuna recipes and love tuna melts, then check out my Two Cheese Tuna Mexi Melts for another unique take on Tuna Melts:
Flash forward 10+ years later...
That lunch was truly a breakthrough for Aunt Joan and I. After that, we not only comfortably spent time together (even without the boys) we’d even phone each other regularly to make family plans or even just to chat. And it was during one of those phone calls she told me that she finally knew why she had been feeling so unwell- she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. At first it didn't register, but when I got home and googled it, my heart sank. Cancer. And the prognosis was not good. She was gone in less than a year.
This tuna without mayo recipe was one of the many things I never got to ask Aunt Joan about. I still make a lot of her recipes, because not only are they delicious, they remind me of her and how her food used to bring me so much comfort and at a time when I desperately needed it.
And now that food brings me comfort for a different reason all together. But of all her recipes that I still make, these tuna melts are the most special because they are what brought us together for lunch, at her little kitchen table, so many years ago, forming a important bond that became such a big part of my life. I miss her dearly and making her food is part of how I remember and honor her.
Open-faced Tuna Melt (no mayo) Recipe
- ¼ cup light cream cheese softened
- ⅔ cup low-fat (sharp) old cheddar grated
- 184 gram can of tuna, flaked
- ⅓ cup green onion chopped
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp pickle juice
- 1 large dill pickle, finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp tamed jalapenos finely chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- ¾ tsp minced garlic
- 2 kaiser buns, split in half
- ½ cup low-fat sharp (old) cheddar cheese grated
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix all ingredients (except buns) together in bowl.
- Slice Kaiser buns in half and top each half with tuna mixture, dividing equally among all 4 buns halves.
- Divide ½ cup of garnish cheddar cheese in 4 and sprinkle on top of each half bun, dividing evenly between all 4.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then turn up to broil (500) for 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve warm with raw veggies or soup.
This recipe is part of The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck!