Bacon Tuna Melt Panini

Do you say “tunafish”? Or just “tuna”?

Sandwiches made with a salad of canned tuna, mayonnaise and celery were “tunafish” to me growing up because that’s what my parents, both New Yorkers, called them. But I’ve rarely, if ever, heard the word in California. It’s always “tuna salad” or “tuna sandwich”, but never “tunafish.” I’m thinking it might be a regional term. Like “pocketbook”, “dungarees” and “AH-ranges” – other notables from my early vocabulary that used to perplex my childhood friends on the West Coast.

My friend Sarah's inspiring tuna melt

I started thinking about tunafish (or tuna) after my friend Sarah recently shared a photo of a tuna melt panino she’d made (see left). “Inspired by Panini Happy!” she remarked.  Hooray! I love hearing when I’ve inspired someone, panini-wise. Hers looked so enticing that she, in turn, inspired me to grill a tuna melt as well. I still do my tunafish really simply – with just celery, mayo and salt and pepper.  This time I dressed it up a little with bacon and piled it all on a batard I baked fresh an hour earlier (I’m telling you, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is the real deal!). I might have preferred it with sliced bread like Sarah used for those great crispy grill marks but my roll version was pretty good too.

No matter what you call it, it’s hard to beat a good tuna melt.

Bacon Tuna Melt Panini

Bacon Tuna Melt Panini

Serves 2


1 6-ounce can albacore tuna in water, drained
1/2 rib celery, minced
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for spreading on bread
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices country-style bread (I used a homemade batard)
4 slices fully cooked bacon
1 tomato, sliced thinly
2-4 slices mozzarella cheese (cheddar or swiss would also be nice)


Preheat the panini grill to 375 degrees. (No grill? See “How to Make Panini Without a Panini Press”)

In a small bowl, combine albacore, celery, mayonnaise salt and pepper to make tuna salad.

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice of bread.  Assemble each sandwich with bacon, tuna salad, tomatoes and cheese between two slices of bread.

Grill panini for 6-7 minutes (if you’re using sliced bread, you might want to brush a little melted butter or olive oil on the outside for extra crispness and flavor) until the cheese is melted and bread is toasted.  Serve immediately and enjoy!


KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
>> About Me

All-Time Reader Favorites!

Panini 101

Recent Posts


Permission Policy

All recipes, text and photographs on this site are the original creations and property of Panini Happy. Do not post or publish anything from this site without full credit and a direct link to the original post. with any requests or questions.

Browse Panini

Leave a Comment


  1. The melted cheese looks amazing, it’s really hard to resist that!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  2. Arlene wrote:

    I’m LOL because I have to think to force myself NOT to say tunafish since people laugh at that word. We always referred to it as tunafish. I also never wore “dungarees” until I was an adult. My mom was born in NYC and moved upstate to Rockland County, where she met my dad, when she was in her late teens. I no doubt have lots more regionalisms. BTW, I had been longing for a tunafish sandwich. I never like it at home. I had one on rye toast yesterday for lunch. I love chicken salad melts, but for some reason, the idea of warm tuna(fish) has never appealed. Yours does look delicious. It may change my mind.

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
    • Lin wrote:

      I am in CA and I still say tunafish sandwich, and I do not care if people don’t like what I say, but then, I still say pop too, just to annoy everyone who calls it soda. 🙂 I grew up in the midwest, although I was born in the southwest, but I hang onto my midwest ways in small ways. Hardly anyone out here knows what a tenderloin is either…they are missing out. Great eating!!!

      Posted 10.1.10 Reply
      • Owen wrote:

        tuna it is… I don’t say salmon fish lol

        Posted 1.25.12 Reply
  3. RobinSue wrote:

    We said tunafish growing up too. I think Tuna Salad does sound better though. I am loving the ABin5 bread too. Your panini looks beautiful!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  4. marguerite wrote:


    (and I grew up just outside of Boston saying tunafish too!)

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  5. camille wrote:

    1. I want to eat this. Right now.

    2. Just tuna, not tunafish – I mean is there another kind of tuna that isn’t a fish? – and I grew up in Vancouver, BC. Although “tuna fish sandwiches” was not unheard of to say, but I’d never refer to the substance as tunafish.

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  6. Maris wrote:

    This looks so good! I feel like I remember my mom saying tunafish…but I say ‘tuna’ or ‘tuna salad.”

    I remember always arguing with my friends over the word syrup: was it “SUR-up” or “SEER-up.” I always said the latter!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  7. grace wrote:

    i’ve made no secret of the fact that i don’t care for tuna, but masked by glorious bacon, i think it’d be alllllll right. 🙂

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  8. Aggie wrote:

    tuna fish is one of my favorite sandwiches! I guess I call it tuna fish…I think of “tuna” as actual tuna steak or something…anyway…

    this looks awesome! oh that bread is making me drool. I have that book, haven’t tried it yet!!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  9. lo! wrote:

    OK, Kathy — you’ve made the humble tuna sammich look seriously incredible. But, isn’t everything better with a bit of bacon?

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  10. Maria wrote:

    I love tuna, but always forget to eat it! Thanks for the reminder, great looking sandwich!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  11. Holly wrote:

    Hi. Looks delish! Long time reader, first time commenting… I have a quick question for you. Do you think I could successfully make a great Panini on a George Foreman grill? Thanks for your time.

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  12. I grew up saying tunafish. Must be an East Coast thing. Either way your panini looks awesome.

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  13. Just tuna. Tuna all the way. No cheese, but tons ‘o bacon!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  14. Jordan wrote:

    OHH my gosh. Looks delicious. Reminds me of the days when my sister and I worked at Subway, and we’d make ourselves tuna sandwiches with bacon, avocado, and cheese. LOL.

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  15. PaniniKathy wrote:

    Holly – You can absolutely make great panini with a George Foreman grill. Depending on the model you have it may not be all that different from many panini grills. Happy grilling!

    Posted 2.25.09 Reply
  16. Marysol wrote:

    I use few words as possible; so tuna it is.

    But, no matter. I just wish I had that tuna/tunafish sandwich in front of me right now.

    Posted 2.26.09 Reply
  17. Esi wrote:

    I have never had a tuna melt..can you believe it?! Tons of tuna fish sandwiches, but never a melt. I love this sandwich (maybe it’s the bacon, lol). It’s so weird, when it comes to sandwiches I say tunafish, but with everything else, just tuna.

    Posted 2.26.09 Reply
  18. Melissa wrote:

    We always called it tunafish too. And my parents were NY’ers as well. Regional, I suppose.

    Looks great Kathy. Panini is the plan for dinner tonight. It will be attempt #3 with my new press. First time I made the sandwiches too big, second time too smashed. This time I hope to get it right. 🙂

    Posted 2.26.09 Reply
  19. Karen wrote:

    I grew up in Massachusetts and it was tunafish. Of course, now it’s tuna. I mean, we don’t say bassfish or troutfish, do we? LOL

    Posted 2.26.09 Reply
  20. Margie wrote:

    I enjoyed “tunafish” salad as a kid in Chicago. Now I can’t wait to try your tuna melt. With bacon!!! Mmmmm bacon.

    Posted 2.26.09 Reply
  21. I never would have thought to combine tuna with strips of bacon. I guess it’s a texture thing for me. Your sandwich looks great.

    Posted 2.27.09 Reply
  22. Emily wrote:

    Wow! This tuna panini looks fabulous!

    Posted 3.1.09 Reply
  23. Janice wrote:

    I grew up in New England and it was tunafish and dungarees! Can’t wait to make this recipe- lunch tomorrow perhaps?

    Posted 3.2.09 Reply
  24. Kristen wrote:

    I can’t get my hubby to eat tuna, but maybe if I tried putting it in something this good looking, he’d change his mind. Yum!

    Posted 3.2.09 Reply
  25. Sara wrote:

    When I was a kid, it was always tunafish, because thats what my grandma always called it. Though I never actually eat it myself, I call it tuna. I am on the west coast, and have heard plenty of people say it both ways.

    Posted 3.3.09 Reply
  26. Kevin wrote:

    That tuna melt looks great!

    Posted 3.6.09 Reply
  27. Penny wrote:

    I am a 5th generation Californian and NEVER said tuna salad….it was alway a tunafish sandwich!

    Posted 2.6.10 Reply
  28. Karla wrote:

    I say tuna fish as well, I’m from PA…..I also say pocketbook. That gets me more looks than tuna fish. This sounds great. I have all of the ingredients…I just have to decide between this one or garlic chicken. Thank you for this blog, it is fab!

    Posted 11.20.10 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Thanks, Karla! Yeah, I had to unlearn “pocketbook” early on to be understood around here. 🙂

      Posted 11.20.10 Reply
  29. trisha wrote:

    Grew up in Texas with a Texas born and raised Grandma and we always said tunafish and/or tunafish sandwich. Forgot about that since she passed on 12 years ago. I think I just say tuna now or tuna salad.

    Posted 3.14.11 Reply
  30. Carol wrote:

    I just bought a Breville Panini press so I am new to your blog. I was born In Louisville, Ky and we always said tunafish in my family. Also we said purses though I did hear pocketbooks a lot. My New York friends called them handbags. We said soft drink instead of soda and we wear blue jeans. I have been browsing your website and can’t wait to try more of your recipes! So far I had the Roast Beef French Dip with aioli sauce. So good. So far my family and I love our panini press and how its makes dinner quick and delicious.

    Posted 6.30.13 Reply
  31. Darlene wrote:

    Do you think I could put some lettuce on this before I put it on the grill?

    Posted 1.17.15 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      Hi Darlene — I usually like to tuck in any lettuce after grilling, otherwise it’s likely to wilt a bit from the heat. ~ Kathy

      Posted 1.17.15 Reply