an overhead shot of 9 puff pastry rectangular hand pies resting on a wire cooling rack

tuna melt hand pies with homemade puff pastry

an overhead shot of two triangular tuna melt hand pies and four rectangular hand pies on a wire cooling rack. a small black bowl of shredded cheddar sits to the right of the pies. cherry tomatos are on either side of it. a sprig of dill is visible in the top corner.
a straight on shot of the side edge of a rectangular tuna melt hand pie showing all the flaky layers of golden brown dough

Hi there! I am so excited to share today’s recipe for these tuna melt hand pies with you because they’re basically all I’ve been eating for lunch lately and they’re so, so good. I was inspired by a recipe Erin Clarkson shared recently on her blog that uses a smoked salmon filling. I don’t like salmon, so I decided to make a filling inspired by something I do like: tuna melts.

These tuna melt hand pies are so good to grab for a quick lunch or as a snack between lunch and dinner. The big triangle ones are definitely enough for a meal but the smaller ones are the perfect lil snack size. Though these were influenced by tuna melts which are traditionally eaten hot, you can eat them chilled, at room temp, or reheat them in the oven to keep the outside pastry crisp and the cheese inside melty.

The homemade puff pastry dough is so perfectly flaky, crisp, and tender. It’s basically the same dough from Erin’s recipe, though I add a bit more salt than she does. The tuna filling is made in a food processor so that it’s super creamy with bits of fresh dill, smoky paprika, melty cheddar, and bright pieces of cherry tomato. A good tuna melt, imo, has lots of melty cheese and slices of fresh tomato, so it’s important that the cheese and tomatoes get added last and just barely pulsed into the mixture.

how to assemble tuna melt hand pies

1
Roll your puff pastry sheet so it’s at least 16×16” square. Trim excess so you have straight edges.
2
Divide dough sheet in half (two 8×16” rectangles) and chill one on a sheet pan in the fridge
3
Divide remaining sheet in half so you have two 8×8” squares
4
Use egg wash to divide one square of dough into quarters. Brush around edges with egg wash too.
5
Spoon a small amount of tuna filling into each quadrant of dough; try not to get it on the egg wash
6
Drape the other sheet of dough over the filling and gently press down around the tuna to seal shut
7
Use a pastry wheel to cut the dough into fourths. Trim any excess or uneven edges.
8
Use a fork to press around the edges to seal the dough tightly. Use pastry wheel to trim edges.
9
Cut slit for steam in each pie. Freeze 30 mins. Then brush with egg wash, sprinkle w/salt.
10
Repeat w/other sheet of dough. Bake 25-35 mins at 375F until golden brown and crisp on the bottom.
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notes

  • I included instructions for making your own puff pastry from scratch — it’s a little time consuming but really not that hard to do. Erin McDowell has a really good video at Food 52 showing how to do the folding process. If you go this route just plan to make the pastry at least a day before you assemble the pies. That said, store bought frozen puff pastry sheets will work fine. (Make sure you get puff pastry and not pie dough. Pie dough won’t puff up when it bakes.)
  • Keep the puff pastry dough as chilled as possible while you’re working with it so the butter doesn’t melt (this will prevent you from getting nice layers). Work quickly and try not to touch it with your hands unless you have to. Keep any dough you aren’t working with in the fridge. If the dough gets too warm at any point, you can always pause and put it back in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before continuing.
  • Erin’s assembly instructions have you divide the dough into individual 4×3″ rectangles and then pipe the filling in and seal them together. I tried this method but found it was a little too finicky and precise for me. The method I use is more like making ravioli where you fill and seal the dough before cutting it. The best way I can describe how you brush on the egg wash is to think of it like a child’s drawing of a window — a square border and then a line down the middle and another line across the middle, dividing the dough into quarters. Then you plop down a dollop of filling in each square and layer another sheet of dough on top. This lets you press out any air pockets and seal the sheets of dough together before you cut them apart and trim the edges down.
  • I used chunk light tuna in water, but any tuna you like is fine. Albacore, tuna in olive oil, chunk white, etc. Just drain it well before adding to the food processor! If you use a type of canned tuna that’s pretty salty, just use a lighter hand when adding salt to the filling. You can always add more salt if it needs it, but it’s much harder to take salt out if its too salty.
  • Be careful not to overfill your hand pies or the filling might spill out when you bake them. I’m not usually super precise with my measurements when I fill mine, but I’d estimate it at about 1-2 TBSP filling per square hand pie.
  • To trim the edges of my pies I used my Norpro pastry/ravioli cutter which has two round wheels on it. One is a regular straight-bladed wheel like a small pizza cutter, the other has a fluted edge to make a scalloped edge cut which is really good for sealing sheets of dough together. I use the straight edged wheel to cut the big sheets of dough and the fluted edge when I’m trimming the filled and shaped hand pies.
  • These can be shaped into eight square-ish rectangles or four big triangles (or four square-ish rectangles and two big triangles) and they’ll stay good in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week just fine.
  • You can bake these all at once or you can freeze some of the unbaked pies and bake them later. After you cut the slit for steam to escape, put the sheet pan in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, transfer the pies to an airtight container. Before baking, brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of salt. You can bake them right from frozen, they just might need an extra 5-10 mins in the oven, so just start checking on them around 30 mins and pull them out when they’re done.

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tuna melt hand pies

These flaky puff pastry hand pies are filled with creamy tuna and lots of melty cheddar cheese. perfect for lunch or a quick snack break. I've included instructions for making your own puff pastry, but, as the great Ina Garten says, "store bought is fine."
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
puff pastry time4 hrs
Total Time5 hrs
Course: Main Course, Snack
Keyword: cheddar cheese, puff pastry, tuna
Servings: 8 pies
Author: The Practical Kitchen

Equipment

  • Rolling Pin
  • pastry wheel
  • silicone brush

Ingredients

puff pastry

  • 375 grams all-purpose flour (a little more than 3 cups)
  • 225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks, 16 TBSP)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 60 grams apple cider vinegar (¼ cup)

tuna filling

  • 1 can tuna, drained (5.5 oz)
  • cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup red onion (small dice)
  • 1 stalk celery (small dice)
  • tsp paprika
  • ¾ tsp diamond crystal kosher salt (use a scant ½ tsp of another brand)
  • 3 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese (grated on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper

egg wash & topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP diamond crystal kosher salt (optional, for topping)
  • 2 TBSP everything bagel topping (optional, for topping)

Instructions

puff pastry

  • Cut cold butter into chunks then let them chill in the fridge at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hand to incorporate.
  • Add the chilled butter cubes to the flour and toss to coat. Working quickly so the butter doesn't melt too much, squish the butter cubes between your fingers, rubbing the flour into the butter. The goal here is just to flatten all the cubes, it's ok if there are still some big chunks. Try not to handle the butter too much with your hands or it will melt.
  • Combine water, ice cubes, and apple cider vinegar in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Splash 3-4 tablespoons of liquid into the flour and butter mixture. Use your hands or a bowl scraper to mix well. Continue adding liquid 1-2 TBSP at a time (in Erin's recipe she says she usually ends up adding 8-10 additional tablespoons, I've found I usually end up more around 6-8 additional tablespoons of liquid) mixing well between each addition.
    What you're looking for: When you squeeze the dough it should hold together without crumbling but it shouldn't be too wet. The flour will have plenty of time to fully hydrate when the dough rests, so if you aren't sure, err on the side of a slightly drier dough that.
    Squeeze the dough together and shape into a rough rectangle shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • On a clean surface lightly dusted with flour unwrap the chilled dough. Roll the dough into a rough rectangle shape (I like to use a bench scraper to square it off as I go, but it doesn't have to be perfect). Dust on extra flour if you need it, but don't use too much or it'll prevent the dough from sticking together in the next step (a process called lamination).
    Dust off any excess flour on the surface of the dough, then fold the rectangle in thirds (like you'd fold a letter). Roll it the folded dough out again into a rectangle shape, then repeat the folding process, this time in the opposite direction (fold the rough edges in). Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, repeat the rolling and folding process. Do this two more times — a 30 minute rest followed by two sets of letter folds.
    The entire rolling and folding process should take about 2 hours, with folds every 30 minutes. After the final set of folds, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. It is now ready to be used.
    It will stay good in the freezer for several months or in the fridge for a couple weeks.

tuna filling

  • Combine drained tuna, mayo, red onion, celery, paprika, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a mini food processor. Run the food processor on the puree setting until the mixture is very smooth and creamy.
  • Add dill and cherry tomatoes and pulse several times, just until the cherry tomatoes have been decently chopped to pieces. Finally, add the shredded cheddar and pulse just a few times to combine, or stir it in by hand — you want bigger pieces of cheese to give that "tuna melt" vibe. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to use (it will stay good in the fridge up to a week).

assembly & baking

  • Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Use a bench scraper to square off the edges of the dough as you go, but it's ok if the edges are a little rough or misshapen. You can trim any rough edges off, but you do want to be able to cut at least a 16×16" square with straight edges all the way around in the middle of the dough.
    Work quickly to keep the dough chilled — the thinner it gets, the warmer it will become and you don't want the butter to melt.
  • Divide the dough in half so that each half is 8×16". Place one sheet of dough on a parchment or silicone mat lined sheet pan in the fridge to chill while you work with the other half.
  • Cut the remaining sheet of dough in half so that you have two 8×8" squares. On one of the sheets of dough, use a ruler to lightly divide the dough into quarters without cutting through it. So each 8×8" square will have lines dividing it into 4×4" squares. This sheet of dough will be the bottom of your tuna melt hand pies.
  • Brush the egg wash along the outer edges of the dough and down the center lines. Spoon the chilled tuna filling into the center of each square, maybe 2-3 TBSP per square.
    Then, take the other 8×8" square of dough and gently drape it over the tuna. Start in the center of the dough and use the sides of your hands and flat fingers to press it down around the tuna filling, pushing out any air bubbles and being sure not to squish out any of the tuna.
    You should have about 1-1½" of flat dough running around each of the tuna pockets.
  • Use a pizza cutter to divide the dough into quarters, separating the tuna pockets. Use the tines of a fork to tightly seal the two sheets of pastry together by pressing down all around the edges of the dough right up to where the tuna filling starts. Trim away any excess dough around the edges.
    Place the four tuna hand pies on a silicone or parchment lined sheet pan and chill in the freezer for 30-40 minutes before baking. Repeat with the remaining dough and tuna filling.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F while the hand pies are in the freezer. Right before baking, cut one or two slits in the surface of the pastry (be careful not to cut into the bottom sheet of dough!), brush the hand pies with an egg wash and top with salt or everything bagel topping.
    Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and flaky. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, room temp, or right out of the fridge. Store extras wrapped tightly in foil or saran wrap in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Video

Notes

  • If you don’t want to make your own puff pastry, store bought will work fine.
  • You can freeze unbaked hand pies pies after cutting the slit in them on a sheet pan. Transfer the frozen pies to an airtight container. Before baking, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. You can bake them from frozen, but they may need an extra 5-10 minutes in the oven.
  • When working with puff pastry you always want to keep the butter as cold as possible. Try not to touch it with your hands too much. If at any point the dough seems too warm and malleable you can pause and stick it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before continuing.
  • This recipe was inspired by Erin Clarkson’s (aka Cloudy Kitchen’s) recipe for smoked salmon and cream cheese hand pies.
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