These tuna melt hand pies are so good to grab for a quick lunch or as a snack between lunch and dinner. The homemade puff pastry is super buttery and flaky, and the filling is creamy, cheesy, and absolutely delicious. Making rough puff pastry from scratch takes a bit of extra work, but is totally worth it!
This recipe was inspired by a recipe my friend Erin shared 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.
Tuna is a super practical shelf-stable ingredient I always have on hand. And I love a pastry bake. That makes this one of my favorite weekend baking projects. I end up with lunches all week long!
🥧 Why This Recipe Works
Though these tuna melt puff pastry hand pies (sometimes called "tuna pocket pies") 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. Unlike store bought puff pastry which uses vegetable shortening, this all butter homemade rough puff pastry packs a lot of flavor!
The tuna melt 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. Everything you love about a tuna melt tucked between two sheets of flaky puff pastry.
🥘 Ingredient Notes
Here's what you'll need to make these tuna melt hand pies! Most of if not all of these ingredients are very easy to find. See recipe card for quantities.
- Puff Pastry - I'm including instructions for making your own rough puff pastry from scratch (see below for puff pastry ingredients). Homemade puff pastry is a bit more time consuming but not that hard to do — and it tastes so much better than the store bought pastry. 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.)
- To make puff pastry you will need: All purpose flour, unsalted butter, salt, ice water, and vinegar.
- Canned tuna - Use whatever your favorite type of canned tuna is. I like a chunk light tuna, or yellowfin packed in olive oil.
- Mayonnaise - This helps give the tuna melt filling its creamy texture. You can definitely go heavier or lighter on the mayo if you want, but I don't recommend skipping it entirely.
- Fresh dill - You can find this in the plastic clamshell packaging at most grocery stores. I really do recommend using fresh dill — it adds a lot of brightness to the tuna melt hand pies.
- Shredded cheddar - I like using a medium sharp yellow cheddar for these tuna melt hand pies, but it's really up to you what kind of cheddar cheese you like best.
- Cherry tomatoes - You really don't need a whole tomato for these so I like using 3-4 sweet cherry tomatoes here.
- Celery and onion - These add crunch! I like red onion best for tuna salad, so that's what I use here. But you can use white, yellow, or sweet onions here too.
- Salt, pepper, paprika - Flavor, baby! I've made these with sweet and smoked paprika and they're great either way. Use whatever kind of paprika you have!
- Egg - The egg is the glue that holds the puff pastry sheets together and gives the tuna melt hand pies their shiny crust.
🥣 Instructions - Making Rough Puff Pastry
Okay, so, making rough puff pastry really could be its own blog post. So I'm going to try to give you a quick-but-thorough overview of my preferred technique. There are several different ways to make rough puff pastry, all of them correct. You can use my method, or if you have a method you like better, thats fine too.
The number one most important rule of puff pastry is to always keep the butter and the dough cold! You don't want the butter to start melting from the heat of your hands or it won't turn into flaky layers.
Start by pinching and flattening chilled cubes of butter between your fingers and thumbs until you have lots of large flakes of butter coated in flour (step 1, below).
Then, add ice water mixed with vinegar and gently lift and mix the flour and butter around in the bowl until the water absorbs. Keep adding more ice water until the dough holds together without crumbling when you squeeze it (step 2, below).
Next, turn the messy dough out onto your counter. Use a bench scraper to cut into it. This helps distribute the moisture evenly as you squeeze it into a rectangle shape (step 3, below). Finally, wrap the rectangle of dough in plastic and chill it in the fridge for one hour (step 4, below). This gives the dough time to hydrate and for the butter to firm up.
Puff pastry needs a total of 6 sets of folds — a process in which you roll the dough out, fold it in, then roll it again — to create all those flaky layers. This is called lamination.
There are two types of folds you can do when making puff pastry: single folds and double folds. A single fold counts as, you guessed it, one fold. A double fold counts as, yep, two folds. So to get to 6 folds you can do 6 single folds OR 2 single folds and 2 double folds OR 3 double folds.
I know, it hurts my head too. Don't worry — I'm going to tell you exactly what to do.
For these hand pies I like to go with the second option — 2 single folds and 2 double folds with a 30 minute rest in between. If you're curious how the number and type of folds affects the final result, Nicola Lamb did a great visual breakdown in the Puff Pastry 101 issue of her Kitchen Projects newsletter.
Here's how to do a double fold:
- Step 1: Roll the dough lengthwise. Move the rolling pin only up and down. Do not roll side to side.
- Step 2: Fold the top quarter of the dough down. Fold the bottom half of the dough up to meet it. If you need to trim the ends and fill in any gaps where the dough meets in the middle, that's okay.
- Step 3: Fold the dough in half so the seam is in the middle.
- Step 4: Rotate the dough 90 degrees. The next time you roll, you will roll top to bottom to get a long vertical piece of dough ready for the next set of folds.
Here's how to do a single fold:
- Step 1: Roll the dough lengthwise. Move the rolling pin only up and down, do not roll side to side. It's okay if the dough is narrow.
- Step 2: Fold the top third of dough down.
- Step 3: Fold the bottom third of dough up.
- Step 4: Rotate the dough 90 degrees. You should be able to see the layers of dough at the top and bottom of the dough packet. It's now ready for the next set of folds.
At the start of the this process the dough will feel very messy. You might start to worry that it won't stick together. But just trust the process. As it gets rolled, folded, and rested, it will become much smoother and easier to work with.
Once all the folds are complete, wrap the dough in plastic and place it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
🧀 Instructions - Tuna Melt Filling
Once you have the puff pastry made, the tuna melt filling is SO super easy. You're basically combining everything in the bowl of a food processor and processing it until it's smooth.
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. That's it!
🔪 Instructions - Hand Pie Assembly
This hand pie recipe will make 8 tuna hand pies. To make them, you'll need four 8x8 inch squares of puff pastry.
Divide the square of puff pastry in half. Wrap whichever half you aren't using and place it back in the fridge.
Roll the other half out until you can trim a large rectangle that's 8 inches by 16 inches. You may have to roll it a bit bigger to make sure you can cut a perfect rectangle out of it.
Then cut the 8x16 inch rectangle half so you have two 8x8 inch squares. Brush an egg wash border around one of the squares. Then draw a line down the middle and a line across the middle so the square has been divided into four sections.
Fill each section with about 2 tablespoons of tuna melt filling. If you have some extra cheddar cheese, you can put a little on top of the filling.
Then, roll the other 8x8 square of puff pastry just a little bigger in each direction. Carefully lay it down over the filling. Press from the middle out to seal the two layers of puff pastry together. Lift the top layer as needed to let any trapped air out.
Use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut the dough apart into four separate tuna hand pies. Take a fork and crimp the edges of the dough to seal them.
Freeze the hand pies for 30-40 minutes. Then, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with flaky salt, and use a sharp knife to cut two vent holes for steam in the top.
These puff pastry tuna melt hand pies bake for 25-35 minutes at 375F until golden brown on top. You'll want to let them cool slightly before eating.
Store baked tuna melt hand pies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Eat cold or warm.
To reheat: 10 minutes at 300F in your oven.
To freeze tuna hand pies: After you cut the slit for steam to escape, put the sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the tuna pies to an airtight container. Brush them with egg wash before baking. You can bake them right from frozen, they just might need an extra 5-10 mins in the oven.
👩🏻🍳 Recipe Notes & Practical Tips
- If you're feeling intimidated by the puff pastry folding process, Erin McDowell has a really good video at Food52 showing how to do it. I know it seems like a lot of work but it's one of those things that's only difficult the first time you do it. Once you get the hang of it, it's really fun and meditative and really freaking cool!
- If you need to let the puff pastry dough chill in the fridge for 30 minutes between each set of folds that's okay. I always try to do three folds (a single + a double) in one go so that it speeds up the process. But if your kitchen is very warm, you may need to let the dough take a 30 minute rest in the fridge between each set of folds. That's totally fine.
- 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.
- If you use a type of canned tuna that's pretty salty, use a lighter hand when adding salt to the tuna filling.
- 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, but I use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to try to keep it as even as possible.
- To cut the pastry dough, 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 also helps seal sheets of dough together.
💭 Recipe FAQ
Vinegar is acidic and helps tenderize the dough! You can use white or apple cider vinegar, both will work.
Four sheets. Let them defrost in the fridge overnight before assembly. You'll need to roll them a little bit thinner than they are right out of the box and then trim each sheet to be 8x8 inches.
I like to use one of these large spherical ice cubes in my water when I'm making puff pastry. It melts slowly, keeps the water very cold, and also won't accidentally pour out of the container and get in my dough! If you do get ice cubes in your dough, just fish them out.
Absolutely! You can make it up to 3 days ahead and keep it wrapped in the fridge until ready to use it. You can also wrap it tightly and freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it defrost in the fridge overnight if you're using it from frozen.
As long as there isn't any egg wash on them, yes you can! Gather any pastry dough scraps up into a ball. Flatten it out and fold the edges under into a disc shape. Wrap tightly and let rest in the fridge before re-rolling. Each time you re-roll the dough, you're going to lose some flakiness. But it can definitely be reused!
Yep! If you have a hand mixer, you can use that to make the tuna filling. Just chop up the tomatoes before adding them. You could also use a very sturdy whisk or beat the mixture well with a fork. It'll be a little chunkier than if you used a food processor, but it will work!
Absolutely! You can use a full size (8+ cup) food processor to do the first step of cutting the butter into the flour. You'll still have to do the lamination — rolling and folding — by hand. My friend Cynthia has a really great quick and easy puff pastry recipe on her site that uses a food processor. You can use the measurements from my recipe but then follow the instructions for making the puff pastry from hers!
Tuna Melt Hand Pies with Puff Pastry
- 375 grams all-purpose flour (a little more than 3 cups)
- 225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks, 16 TBSP)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup water, with ice in it
- 30 grams apple cider vinegar (⅛ cup)
- 1 can tuna, drained (5.5 oz)
- ⅛ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup red onion (small dice)
- 1 stalk celery (small dice)
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cherry tomatoes
- 1 sprig 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 teaspoon water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt (optional, for topping)
Rough Puff Pastry
- Prep your ingredients: Cut cold butter into chunks then let them chill in the fridge at least 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, combine water, ice, and vinegar. Set aside until butter has chilled.
- Cut in the butter: 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 and break them into slightly smaller pieces. It's ok if there are still some big chunks. Try not to handle the butter too much or it will start to melt.
- Mix the dough: Splash about ¼ cup of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture. Use your hands or a bowl scraper to gently mix the flour and butter around until the water is absorbed. Drizzle another ¼ cup of ice water directly onto the dry bits in the bowl and repeat the mixing process. Continue adding water 1-2 tablespoon at a time mixing until the dough holds together without crumbling when you squeeze it.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.Dump the messy dough out onto a clean counter. Use a bench scraper to cut through the dough and redistribute the moisture if needed. Squeeze and pat the dough into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Do a double fold: On a clean surface lightly dusted with flour unwrap the chilled dough. Roll the dough into a long rectangle shape (I like to use a bench scraper to square it off as I go, but it doesn't have to be perfect). Move the rolling pin up and down but not side to side to keep the gluten strands moving in the same direction.Lift the dough occasionally to make sure it's not sticking; dust extra flour underneath if you need it.Dust any excess flour off the surface of the dough. Fold the top quarter of the dough down to the middle, fold the bottom quarter of the dough up to meet it. Then fold the top half down to hide the seam in the center. Rotate the dough 90 degrees.
- Do a single fold: Dust any excess flour off the surface of the dough. Roll the dough in another long rectangle, moving the rolling pin only up and down, not side to side. Fold the top third of the dough rectangle down. Then fold the bottom third up. Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Use your finger to make an indent in the bottom right corner of the dough so you know how to arrange the dough after it chills. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Repeat: Remove the dough from the fridge. Arrange it so the corner with the indent is at the bottom right. Repeat the folding process — one double fold followed by one single fold. If you need to let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes between each set of folds that's okay.
- 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 and can be rolled in any direction.
Tuna Melt Hand Pie Filling
- Combine drained tuna, mayo, red onion, celery, dill, 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 the shredded cheddar and tomatoes and pulse just a few times to combine — 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 puff pastry dough from fridge. Divide in half. Wrap and refrigerate the dough you aren't using.Roll the puff pastry sheet to about ⅛" thickness. 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. Trim the sheet to an 8x16" rectangle. Then divide the sheet in half so you have two 8x8" squares of puff pastry.
- Place one sheet on a lined sheet pan in the fridge to chill while you work with the other.
- Brush the egg wash along the outer edges of one 8x8" square of dough and through the center in both directions, creating a four section grid on the pastry. Spoon the chilled tuna filling into the center of each square, about 2 tablespoons each. Work quickly so the dough doesn't get too warm or sticky!
- Take the other 8x8" square of dough from the fridge and roll it slightly bigger in each direction. Gently drape it over the tuna melt filling. Start in the center of the dough and work outwards, pressing it down around the tuna filling, pushing out any air bubbles without squishing out any of the tuna. You should have about 1" of flat dough running around each of the tuna pockets.
- Use a pizza cutter to divide the square into quarters, separating the tuna hand pies. Crimp the edges of each tuna hand pie with a fork to seal them together. 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 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 flaky salt.
- 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 in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- If you don't want to make your own puff pastry, store bought will work fine. You'll need four sheets. Defrost in the fridge overnight before use.
- 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.
- 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.
- For extra cheesy tuna melt hand pies, top the filling with additional shredded cheddar before you put the top layer of puff pastry down.
- It's hard to give a specific time for how long it takes to make the puff pastry — it depends on how often you chill the dough between folds, etc. I've estimated 4 hours assuming this is your first time making it, and that you might need to chill the dough more often than I do when I'm making it.
- This recipe was inspired by Erin Clarkson's (aka Cloudy Kitchen's) recipe for smoked salmon and cream cheese hand pies.