Paleo Tuna Melt Protein Bombs

Posted on Posted in Fish, Low Carb


UPDATE 2/07/17: I don’t follow paleo anymore, but I still dig this recipe because it’s fast, easy, and doesn’t weight me down with carbs.  It tastes damn good, it’s healthy, it’s got a lot of vegetables and hardly any heavily processed ingredients; I’d say it’s definitely part of the sustainable food revolution.

ORIGINAL POST:  Once again, I face my nemesis.  Canned fish.  I’ve discussed my aversion before.  No need to rehash it here.  But still, my mini-quest to make from canned fish culinary creations that are, shall we say, nummy, continues.  This time I take on my constant childhood foe, tuna.

Yes, that beloved staple of busy mothers and ravenous younglings across these United States, that paragon of convenience and 50’s-era sanitation, was for me a personal DEMON, bedeviling me every time my mother pulled one of those iconic silver pucks from the pantry.  She would relate her own past loathing of tuna, then reveal that her own mother once added apples to the mixture, and that the added sweetness and crunch turned her attitude towards the stuff right around.  ‘I’ll put more apples in it this time, then you’ll like it,’ she would say, spreading a few spoonfuls on the bread and setting it before me.

My tongue would touch the ‘salad’. 1  I would carefully bite off a piece of sandwich.  It sat, leaden, in my mouth, while my throat clenched.  I would chew, once, twice.  Two chews was all I ever managed before I spit the stuff out.  Meanwhile, my brothers, who are just as discerning about their food and tastes as I am, happily devoured their sandwiches and ran outside to play in the sunshine, while I had a staring contest with the sandwich that I eventually lost and finally just made myself a PBJ.

THIS IS NOT MY MOTHER’S FAULT.  I just want to get that straight.  (Naturally, she is probably one of the few people reading this.)  Her tuna salad was absolutely fine.  I was just a dang picky kid, and remembered aversions have continued to influence my adult behavior, keeping me from fully enjoying the vast cornucopia of foodstuffs available to modern Americans even at my own pay grade.  This aversion I will conquer.

‘Josh,’ you sigh, folding your hands paternally in front of you and trying very hard not to roll your eyes, ‘it’s okay that you don’t like tuna salad.  Seriously.  There are lots of things out there to eat.  Why are you being so dramatic?’

Because, as you might recall, I am trying to grow muscles, and I discovered that it takes a hell of a lot of protein to do it.  Tuna is a fast lunch option that packs 25 grams of protein into every 69¢ can.  The cans keep practically forever unopened.  It’s exactly the kind of thing that a cash-strapped boy desiring musculature should learn to love, a practically perfect Feral foodstuff.  And now I have the perfect recipe with which to unleash its transformative powers upon myself.  A veritable torpedo of protein and deliciousness!  Behold!DSCN6606Bam!  Straight-up Paleo tuna salad MELTS!

These buggers will seriously knock your socks off.  Oh, and because I wanted to double the protein without worrying about mercury potential, I went ahead and conquered another little food aversion with this same recipe…DSCN6589That, my friends, is a can of sardines.  Almost a buck a can at Aldi, but no mercury and a ton of good vitamins and oil, in addition to that sweet, sweet protein.  Okay, you could say this is the same ‘canned fish aversion’ I’m tackling here, but I will argue that sardines are really in a class of their own, as far as American (dis)taste goes.  You see tuna sandwiches all ’round, but nary a sardine.  They are packed tidily away beside the potted meats and jars of escargot, there more for posterity than profit.

And I have found a way to make them delicious.DSCN6598I think the secret is probably the pecans.  Pecans will make a lot of things delicious.

If you eat the full serving of this yourself, which I have done a couple of times, you get FIFTY grams of protein from the fish, plus another TWENTY from the four slices of cheese.  That’s a protein bomb if I ever saw one.

Oh, and I think I’m gonna start making a lot of different melty sandwiches on Napa cabbage after having discovered this.  : )  Melts are no longer off-limits to Paleo-ers!



Primal Fishy Cheesy Melts
A scrumdiddlyumptious tuna and sardine salad with crunchy pecans, spread atop Napa cabbage, topped with cheese, and broiled till melty.
  1. 1 can tuna, drained
  2. 1 can sardines, drained
  3. 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  4. 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  5. .3 cup chopped pecans
  6. 1tsp Siracha
  7. .5 tsp garlic powder
  8. juice from half a lemon
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. 4 Napa cabbage leaves
  11. 4 slices cheese of choice
  1. Mix all ingredients but the Napa cabbage and the cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Spoon the fish salad onto the four cabbage leaves. Top each with a cheese slice.
  3. Put under the broiler until the cheese is browned. Enjoy!
Feral Cuisine


  1. I am confused to this day why any flesh mixed with mayonnaise is referred to as a salad.

6 thoughts on “Paleo Tuna Melt Protein Bombs

  1. We like adding jalapeños on ours along with pecans. Of course our boys (2 & 4) don’t get the peppers but love a good pickle on the side.

    1. Sounds nice! I bet roasted poblanos would also be a good flavor in here. Or… ooooh… STUFF poblanos with the fish salad. : D I might have to start working on a Southwestern fish salad to accommodate this idea.

  2. So sorry, Josh!! I thought everyone loved my tuna salad!!! Just goes to show you how much attention I paid to my kids… or at least to their food likes and dislikes:) Now, don’t bring up the time I left you at that friend’s house; every parent does that at least once, right?

    Anyway, I’ll have to try your melts. One question: Since I grew up not around any water, I really don’t know what to do with sardines. (I thought they were just supposed to be props for plays or movies.) Do you just chop them up in little pieces? I have actually never tried them…

    1. Hey, you had four kids to keep track of, I don’t blame you. : ) And I’m sure every parent forgets their child and takes off, leaving the kid in a strange place… (I’m going to keep using that one as long as I can get away with it. ( 🙂

      For the sardines, I would treat them just like the tuna: drain them (I get the ones in oil, not mustard or tomato sauce or anything like that) and mash them up into the salad. They just disintegrate into everything else, bones and all. Usually sardines have a really weird flavor to me, but with the lemon juice and parsley, I don’t notice any fishy flavor at all!

    1. I guess, technically, they aren’t. Maybe I should have called them ‘Primal Tuna Melt Paleo Bombs’. I’ll add a few lines to the top noting this.

      That said, the dogmatic interpretation of any diet and a blanket application to the world at large (i.e., ‘This is how everyone should be eating’) can be a real hindrance both to a popular embrace of healthy lifestyles and to one’s own individual enjoyment of food. Michelle Tam has particularly well-worded argument against this kind of thinking:

Say something crazy!