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Best French Onion Soup Recipe

The best French onion soup recipe begins with sweet, yellow onions caramelized and simmered in a rich broth, topped with swiss cheese and crusty French bread. This homemade version is inspired by Julia Child’s recipe as rustic comfort food at its finest! For individual servings, this soup is best served in small ramekins before broiling.

Continue reading for recipe details, cooking tips, reheating/storing info, and more.

French onion soup is a classic, traditional dish highlighted at upscale restaurants. Now, a restaurant novelty is easily recreated at home with simple and affordable ingredients. Plus, there are no special skills required.

This recipe isn’t for using up leftover vegetables and meats from the freezer. As fancy as it may seem, it's actually a fantastic one-pot recipe!

But, this dish a time-intensive task that is a labor of love! It will certainly impress your dinner guests and is the perfect first course for your next dinner party.

What is French onion soup?

French onion soup originated in France in the 18th century, but it wasn’t as “fancy” as it is today. Once upon a time, this soup was a way of survival for poor French farmers. 

At that time, onions were easily accessible to even the most impoverished families. The onions were cooked down and combined with a thin broth and served with bread. There wasn’t much flavor or hardiness to it, but it was cheap and accessible.

Although served similarly, our French onion soup looks very different than it did in the 1700s. Today, you can expect deeply caramelized onions, rich broth, and cheesy toasted bread on top.

How to Make French Onion Soup from Scratch

This soup really brings it all the way home as a from scratch recipe. There aren’t many things I make from scratch, but when it comes to French onion soup, no premixed package will do. 

This is a labor of love, totaling at a 3 hour cook time, so this is best made for those cold, dreary days when all cooking and relaxing is the only thing on the agenda.

Ingredients for French Onion Soup

This recipe calls for simple ingredients found at any grocery store. 

  • Yellow Onions. Sweet, yellow onions are best for caramelizing as they take on a sweet, mellow flavor after being cooked down. Do not use white or red onions for this recipe.
  • Salt: Do not skip the salt! The salt brings out the sweetness of the onions as they cook.
  • Sugar: This is added at the beginning of the dish to offset the bitterness of the onions. It can be left out but the flavor may be impacted.
  • Wine and Brandy: These two give this soup tremendous flavor and mouthfeel. The wine creates a rich broth while the brandy packs a punch after every taste.
  • French Bread: A crusty French baguette is essential to sop up the delicious broth! Serve in the soup as well as on the side.

Instructions for Easy French Onion Soup

There are five basic steps for making an amazing batch of French onion soup:

  1. Caramelize the onions. Plan on about 30-45 minutes for deep caramelization. After caramelizing the onions, the recipe moves quicker. Be careful not to over cook the onions which will result in a bitter taste. Feel free to occasionally taste-test during the cooking process.
  2. Deglaze the pot with red wine. Red wine is an excellent tool for deglazing the pan. You may omit this ingredient if you are opposed, but please note that the flavor will not be as deep.
  3. Simmer with the stock and seasonings to meld the flavors together.
  4. Toast the bread to be used as giant croutons in the soup bowls.
  5. Serve the soup and broil. The finishing touch of toasted bread and broiled cheese is really what takes the presentation over the top. Ladle soup servings into individual ramekins or oven-safe bowls, add the cheese, then broil for 3-5 minutes or until desired browning is reached. Keep a close eye on the oven!

French Onion Soup Bowls

Oven-safe soup crocks are ideal for an excellent presentation. To get those fancy French vibes, look for onion soup bowls, ramekins, or soup crocks that are labeled as “oven-safe”. 

They come in many different sizes and designs:

  • Ramekins will be on the smaller side and will often be referred to as mini cocottes.
  • Soup crocks typically have a handle on them for easy serving.
  • Regular soup bowls will be deep and allow for more soup per serving.

I love to use these Le Creuset mini cocottes for French onion soup, which are the perfect individual serving size (they even look great on a charcuterie board).

Tips for Easy French Onion Soup

  • Onions - A quick saute will not do for this recipe! The onions should be deeply colored for the best flavor.
  • Time - This recipe takes around 3-4 hours to fully prepare and serve. Plus, this recipe deserves it! Much of the cooking time is hands-off, but allow for plenty of time for caramelizing the onions (hands-on!).
  • Alcohol - Both of the alcohol sources will completely cook off before serving. With that said, they can be eliminated if opposed, but the end result will suffer.
  • Vegetarian - Make this recipe vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of beef stock.
  • Oven-safe bowls - As noted above, oven-safe bowls are absolutely necessary for broiling the soup, cheese, and bread together. Instead of adding the bowls to the oven individually, place them all on a baking sheet and then into the oven to avoid spills.

Substitutions, reheating, and storage

  • Reheating: Soup may be reheated individually in the microwave or stovetop. If you are reheating a larger serving, reheat over medium-low heat on the stovetop until heated through.
  • Storing: Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
  • Freezing: Freeze the leftover soup in an airtight container for up to three months.

Although inspired by Julia Child’s French Onion Soup, this recipe slightly differs from the original.

Here are the substitutions I made that are also listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this post:

  • Used store bought beef stock instead of homemade.
  • Eliminated parmesan cheese. Used only Swiss cheese.
  • Used brandy instead of cognac.
  • Eliminated the raw onion, grated before serving.

What to serve with French onion soup

French onion soup is a simple soup that’s easily served as a light meal alongside a small sandwich or salad. 

What kind of cheese is on French Onion Soup?

Swiss cheese and parmesan cheese are two popular kinds of cheese used in French Onion Soup. Swiss cheese gives the soup a punch of sourness, which is my recommendation.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Best French Onion Soup Recipe

Best French Onion Soup Recipe

The best french onion soup recipe begins with sweet, yellow onions caramelized and simmered in a rich broth, topped with swiss cheese and crusty french bread. This homemade version is inspired by Julia Child’s recipe as rustic comfort food at its finest! For individual servings, this soup is best served in small ramekins before broiling.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 1 ½ to 2 lbs)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ raw onion, grated
  • 16 ounces swiss cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 tablespoons brandy or cognac
  • 8 slices French bread (about 1 inch thick)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

Prepare the ingredients

  1. Begin by thinly slicing the onions. A mandoline is an excellent tool for this task to quickly slice the onions.
  2. Add the beef stock to a saucepan and simmer.
  3. Grate the raw onion and swiss cheese. Set aside. 

To caramelize the onions

  1. To a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat.
  2. Add sliced onions and stir until they are evenly coated with the oil. Cover and continue to cook the onions for about 20 minutes, until they are tender and translucent.
  3. When the onions are tender and translucent, increase the heat to medium or medium-high heat. 
  4. Add the sugar and salt to the pot. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, caramelize, and reduce significantly.
  5. Once caramelized, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour to the pot of onions.
  6. Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes, whisking all the while. Avoid scorching the flour by reducing the heat if necessary. (If the flour does not form a thick paste, you can add a bit more butter here).
  7. Stir in about 1 cup of warm stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up all of the cooked-on bits.
  8. Add the remaining stock, wine, sage, and a bay leaf to the soup. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

To make the “croutes”

  1. To make the "croutes" (toasted bread), heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle each side of the bread slices with a bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Cook the croutes for 15 minutes on each side (30 minutes total).
  4. While the bread is toasting, check the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Assemble the dish

  1. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. 
  2. Then, add the brandy, raw onion, and a few ounces of swiss cheese directly into the soup and stir.
  3. For easy moving, place the individual oven-safe casseroles, ramekins, or mini cocottes on a baking sheet. Then, transfer the soup to the individual dishes.
  4. Remove the toasted bread from the oven and place one slice on top of each soup serving.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over each bread slice, making sure to cover the edges of the toast to prevent burning.
  6. Place in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler and brown cheese well.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Serve.

Notes

Please read the entire post for details, tips, and more!

French Onion Soup Bowls

Oven-safe soup crocks are ideal for an excellent presentation. To get those fancy French vibes, look for onion soup bowls, ramekins, or soup crocks that are labeled as “oven-safe”. See my recommendation in the Recommended Products section below.

Instead of adding the bowls to the oven individually, place them all on a baking sheet and then into the oven to avoid spills.

Substitutions, reheating, and storage

  • Reheating: Soup may be reheated individually in the microwave or stovetop. If you are reheating a larger serving, reheat over medium-low heat on the stovetop until heated through.
  • Storing: Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
  • Freezing: Freeze the leftover soup in an airtight container for up to three months.

Although inspired by Julia Child’s French Onion Soup, this recipe slightly differs from the original. Here are the substitutions I made:

  • Used store-bought beef stock instead of homemade.
  • Eliminated parmesan cheese. Used only Swiss cheese.
  • Used brandy instead of cognac.
  • Eliminated the raw onion, grated before serving.

What to serve with french onion soup

French onion soup is a simple soup that’s easily served as a light meal alongside a small sandwich or salad.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 729Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 1340mgCarbohydrates: 71gFiber: 5gSugar: 14gProtein: 31g

The nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate generated by a calculator.

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