This easy air fryer tuna melt is a quick and easy way to make a classic open faced tuna melt. Tuna is combined with celery and onion, piled high on a crusty roll, and topped with melted cheese. Using an air fryer makes this sandwich a simple and healthy weeknight meal, ready in minutes.
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When I was growing up tuna melt was the go to meal for our meatless meals on Fridays during Lent. My mom never did much vegetarian cooking and is allergic to shellfish, so when it came to meatless meals tuna melts were her familiar standby.
So even though I make quite a few different kinds of meatless meals, from fish tacos to potato soup, the classic tuna melt still has a place in my heart. It is a quick and easy dinner that is warm, comforting and brings back memories!
Using the air fryer to heat up this open faced tuna melt is a great way to make this dinner super fast and delicious. And the air fryer does an amazing job of melting the cheese into a gooey layer on top of the sandwich, which is one of the best things about this meal!
Why You Will Love Air Fryer Tuna Melt
- This is a quick recipe which means you can have a hot cooked meal on the table in less than 20 minutes.
- This versatile recipe is kid friendly.
- Make the recipe low carb or keto friendly by using a low carb bread or wrap.
- Tuna can be a very healthy ingredient. It has lots of high quality protein with not that many calories and with very little fat.
- The addition of a slice of cheese melted onto the tuna and dripping down the sides makes it taste amazing!
- Tuna – There are a lot of different kinds of tuna. I like to use light tuna that is either wild or sustainably caught by pole and line fishing. The cans usually indicate right on the label if they are sustainably sourced, so read the labels. I use tuna packed in water, but if you prefer tuna packed in oil that will work fine the recipe too.
- Celery and red onion – These vegetables add flavor and a nice bit of crunch to the air fryer tuna melt.
- Mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice – The mayonnaise makes the tuna creamy and spreadable, while mustard and lemon juice give the sandwich a little bit of zing. You can either use fresh lemon juice or use bottled juice.
- Bread – Almost any kind of bread will work well for an open faced tuna melt. I like to use crusty ciabatta rolls when I am serving this as a dinner, because the are hearty and filling. If I am making a tuna melt for lunch then a piece of bread or an English muffin works well. You can also spread the tuna filling out on a pita bread for more of a tuna melt pizza if you prefer.
- Cheese – Use your favorite type of cheese. My favorites are either cheddar or Swiss cheese.
How to Make an Air Fryer Tuna Melt
Drain the tuna and add it to a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to flake the tuna into small pieces.
Then chop the celery and red onion into finely diced pieces. Add them to the bowl and stir to mix everything together.
Turn the air fryer on and set it to preheat at 370 degrees F while you finish making the tuna filling. I don’t always preheat my air fryer, but I do for this recipe.
Add the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the tuna. Start with the smaller suggested amount of mayonnaise. Mix it all together stirring well.
If you don’t think the tuna is creamy enough then add some more mayonnaise. This is a judgement call – some people like their tuna creamier than others. You want it to spread easily on your bread.
3. Spread the Tuna
Take your bread or roll and spread it with from 2 – 4 Tablespoons of the tuna filling mixture. The amount you use will depend on the size of your roll or bread.
You want the surface to be well covered with tuna filling and I like to mound it up a bit in the center. Once the tuna is spread place the open faced sandwich in the air fryer.
4. Air Fry
Add as many sandwiches as fit well in the air fryer basket. My 5.8 quart air fryer can fit 4 sandwiches on ciabatta rolls or English muffins but only 3 if I am using something like rye bread.
Make sure you leave enough room for the air to circulate among the sandwiches and heat them up. Since it takes less than 5 minutes to heat the air fryer tuna melt cooking in batches is no big deal.
Air fry the open faced tuna melt for 3-4 minutes at 370 degrees F. Use the shorter 3 minute time if you are using thinner bread and the 4 minutes for a thick roll.
After this time the bread should be toasty and the tuna will be a little brown around the edges. Add a slice of cheese on top of the tuna melt.
If you push the air fryer basket back into the air fryer the residual heat will melt the cheese over top of the tuna in a minute or two. Or, for very melty cheese, cook the tuna melt at 350 F for one minute.
How to Serve
Once you have your cheese melted and gooey on top of the sandwich it is ready to eat! Top the air fryer tuna melt off with sliced tomato, avocado, pickles or whatever your favorite toppings are.
How to Store
If you have extra tuna filling store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It makes an excellent cold tuna sandwich too!
Tuna Melt that isn’t Open Faced
I usually serve these as an open faced sandwich. But if you prefer you can put the top of the roll in the air fryer to toast along with the tuna melt. Then it can go on top of the sandwich.
If you are using bread you can put the cheese on the tuna, add a slice of bread on top and cook these as more like a grilled cheese sandwich. Add some oil or butter to the bread so it grills instead of toasts as it air fries.
In this case I would also suggest using a couple toothpicks to hold the bread slices together during the air frying. Sometimes the top slice of bread can fly off because of the air blowing around.
Find More Meatless Meal Ideas
- 4 cans (5 ounce) tuna packed in water, drained
- 1/4 cup celery, diced
- 2 Tablespoons red onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon parsley, minced (optional)
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Ciabatta rolls, English muffins or bread
- Cheddar cheese slices
- Tomato slices
- Drain the tuna and add it to a large bowl. Flake it with a fork to break it up.
- Chop the celery, red onion and parsley (if using). Mince all the vegetables finely and stir into the bowl with the tuna.
- Set the air fryer to preheat at 370 for 2 minutes while you finishing making the tuna salad.
- Add the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice to the bowl and mix. Start with the smaller 1/2 cup amount of mayonnaise. If it doesn't look creamy enough after mixing add another 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and mix again.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Put 2-4 Tablespoons of the tuna salad mixture on your bread or roll of choice. The amount you use will depend on the size of your bread. Mound it up a bit in the middle.
- Put the open faced sandwich in air fryer. Do not add the cheese yet! Air fry the open faced tuna melt at 370 for 3-4 minutes. Use the shorter time for thin bread or English muffins and the longer time for rolls. You can add the English muffin top or top of the roll to the basket to toast along with the tuna melt. This will decrease the number of sandwiches you can fit in at one time though.
- After the cooking time is up open the basket and add a slice of cheese on top of the tuna melt. Close the basket and the residual heat from the air fryer will melt the cheese onto the tuna. If you want your cheese very melted you can air fry it at 350 F for another minute.
- Serve open faced or with a top along with sliced tomatoes, avocados or pickles.
This recipe makes enough for 6-8 tuna melts, depending on what bread you use.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 124Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 210mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g
Nutrition facts are estimates and don't include toppings like cheese or tomato.