French Onion Soup

The trick to a great French onion soup is starting with good stock. French onion soup is usually made with beef stock. I’ve made delicious soup with stock from the leftover rib and chine bones of a rib roast. Another important element is the proper caramelization of the onions. Caramelizing onions take at least thirty minutes of slow cooking the onions over medium high heat. The browning, or caramelizing, of the onions brings out the sweetness in them.

French Onion Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

  • 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced root to stem (see How to Slice an Onion)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock)
  • 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of toasted French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese

Method

1 In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

2 Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

3 To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

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Links:
How to Caramelize Onions (including time-lapse video)

67 Comments

  1. click

    I made this last night and was very happy with the results! This soup is sweet and rich. By the end of the bowl I was ready for bed (of course, a glass of novello helped).

    I’d always thought French Onion Soup was fancy because of the presentation, but it was surprisingly easy. I’ll be making this again! Although, I’ll probably make less, and serve it as a starter so as not to put my guests into a food coma.

    If you’ve got the time, I’d recommend starting at 10 AM and making a beef broth from scratch. The house will smell wonderful all day!

  2. Steve Duran

    Very good!! Carmelizing the onions is key with any onion soup recipe, I will make this for years to come. Thanks Steve

  3. JIMMYBOB

    Very cold day in Northern Wisconsin today. My friends and I did things outside. Came in and wife had made this soup. It was great, everyone loved it.

  4. Theresa Bruni

    French onion soups has long been my 86 year old mother’s favorite lunch…needless to say, she ‘s eaten a LOT of different soups all over the world and her comment was this, “What did you do differently? This is far and above the best I’ve ever had…I believe it was carmelizing the onions and the garlic…and the thyme and bay leaf not found in other recipes. Bon Apetit!

  5. Teresa

    Made this last night, halving the recipe for two, and using sweet onions instead of red onions. Finished off the leftovers for lunch today. mmm. It was wonderful, as are all the recipes I’ve tried on this blog. Thanks, Elise!

  6. JJ

    This recipe is fantastic! I used chicken stock instead of beef as that’s all I had; I also put the entire finished mixture into my blender for a smooth and creamy soup. Dee-lish!

  7. pookie

    “J’aurais aimé avoir une traduction en Français. Merci.”

    Vous pouvez traduire avec ‘Google Language Tools’. C’est facile!

  8. fern

    I made this soup for Christmas dinner, 12 people, it was a huge hit and equally scrummy the next day when we were sober!

  9. kategiasson

    I used smoked gruyere cheese, it gives the soup a strong flavor, it’s very tasty!

  10. Alex

    Word of caution: I bought cheap “extra-dry” vermouth for this recipe, and I wish I had tasted it before I used it. It was very very sweet, almost like white grape juice. It threw off the balance of the soup, which was disappointing since I went through the trouble of making beef stock from scratch. If you don’t normally cook with vermouth, or don’t want to buy a more expensive bottle, it’s probably smarter to stick with a regular dry white wine.

  11. OneSmartCookie

    This was so good and really easy. I have made other recipes for onion soup but this beats them all. I always read comments to see if anyone has added or omitted anything, but it’s perfect the way it is. Not much of a bay leaf fan, but I put a little dried in it and it was fantastic.
    The last recipe I used took 2 days. This reduced down in a couple of hours. Note:
    If you want to serve this to more than 2 people, double or triple the recipe, you will not be sorry!
    Toast the bread to make it like croutons, that’s the only thing I’d do differently

  12. charles sinchuk

    Made this today for the first time. It was amazing! I will be making this for years to come. What I like the best, is that it doesn’t have the salt content that you normally get in restaurants.

  13. Cynthia Cloughly

    Tried this recipe last night–it was AWESOME! Everybody RAVED!

    Thanks!

  14. Gayane

    Can any other type of cheese be used for this recipe?

    Great question, I don’t know! I’ve always made French onion soup with Swiss cheese, usually Gruyere. ~Elise

  15. Peter

    Just made this morning, have a little bit of the flu and once I had this French onion soup I felt a lot better. Although I substituted the toast with garlic parmesan croutons from costco and used gouda cheese instead of gruyere, it was fabulous. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Catherine

    Can dry sherry be substituted for the vermouth or dry white wine? Or would the results be too sweet?

    I think it’s really up to your taste. Try a little with it and see if you like it. ~Elise

  17. Rachel

    Umm I was wondering if you can use fish stock instead of beef or chicken? :D

    Something tells me that wouldn’t be particularly appetizing with this soup. But if you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  18. Larry

    I too made this soup and this recipe is terrific. The dry, white wine really gives it a nice flavor.

  19. Diep

    Hi Elise,

    My kids and my husband loved your recipe. We all enjoyed the soup, especially when I could control the salt input! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe to everyone!

    I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!

    Thank you Diep, I’m so glad you liked it. A happy New Year to you too! ~Elise

  20. Steve P.

    Just used this recipe as a starting point for dinner. I only used beef stock, and used cabernet sauvignon rather than vermouth (personal preference). I’d never made French onion soup, so am pleased to report excellent results! Yes, caramelizing the onions is time intensive, but you will be repaid for your patience.

  21. Andie

    I made this soup over the weekend using 4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups beef. (It’s all I had in the pantry). Elise, For the cheese I used grated swiss and then sliced havarti over that. It was fantastic! I will definitely make this again.

  22. Janiva

    I just finished making this and I have to say it is absolutely delicious!!!! I had to use both chix and beef broth because I didn’t have enough beef broth but I can’t imagine it being any better!

  23. Jill

    Is there a way to make this vegetarian?

    You can use vegetable stock, but truly it will not taste the same. If you do so I would double up on the caramelized onions, you’ll need it for the flavor. ~Elise

  24. nikki

    This soup was amazingly easy to make and so delicious. My entire family loved it!

  25. Aaron

    Great recipe, only change was I added a little olive oil to the bread and toasted it. It was wonderful.

  26. Jean

    Elise, this looks like a perfect onion soup! If I had some good homemade beef stock on hand, I would be in the kitchen right now making it. I like to use the individual bowls. Serving it from the large casserole can get a little messy with all that melted Gruyere (but that can be kind of fun).

  27. clymn

    I made the soup using beer instead of wine. I usually use red wine to compliment the beef stock. I also included the left over bone from grilled steaks we had 3 nights ago. instead of the individual bowls. We serve straight off the stove out of the pot. ( we are very informal) The beer added a certain earthiness to the dish. It reminds me of beef stew (pub style). Everyone loved it. the cheese melts from the heat of the dish.

  28. Tammy

    Thank you, made a half-portion last night and it turned out great. Even got husb to help! Thank goodness for mandolines, it makes a quick job out of onion slicing. Looking forward to finishing the leftovers tomorrow night!

  29. slly

    Hello, I’m a vegetarian and I substituted the beef/chicken broth with vegetable broth.

    I must say that despite obvious differences in the broth flavors, the vegetarian broth did well. The bay leaf and thyme were very good touches and made a big difference to the soup.

    The onions were rather sweet so I did not double the onions as the flavor was already pungent.

    Also, I added balsamic vinegar as i did not have white wine, 2 teaspoons. It isnt the best substitute but I have a preference for balsamic vinegar.

    overall, its a very good soup which i enjoyed very much. SO VEGETARIANS go ahead and make it!!

    Your recipe is wonderful!!!!! Thank you :)

  30. Danny

    Fantastic recipe, and easy to follow. Bravo! Looking forward to making this a regular meal.

  31. Brandon Avery

    I just made this earlier. I did not follow the directions exactly. In fact I did it very differently… I thought, “O_O What frying pan holds 8 cups of water?” Well, mine didn’t… So I halved the ingredients. 3 onions, 4 cups of broth, and so on. Also, I made broth by mixing some vegetable bouillon with water. I’m a vegetarian, so I didn’t use beef broth as the recipe called for. I thought it tasted wonderful… The only thing it lacked was the bay leaf. My mom said we didn’t have any. Another mistake would be not halving the wine. I still used the 1/2 cup :P, it turned out fine, although it smelled a lot like wine before it was completely done cooking.

    I tasted some of those caramelized onions as they were cooking. I thought, “I could make this sometime as a snack… Mmmmmmmmm.”

    Overall, great recipe. I loved it.

  32. Harshani Thebwana

    I don’t have individual cups to bake the soup…..instead of baking can I microwave it?

    You can microwave it, but the cheese will not get browned, only melted. ~Elise

  33. Richardk

    Superb, sublime. Who knew french onion soup could be so good? When you’re raised on the version from a can or from a package, you have no idea how nice this can be. I didn’t serve it with the cheese as it was rich enough without. Just serve it will some nice bread for dipping and keep it simple.

  34. Lan

    Made this last week to get through a huge sack of onions…it was delicious (even mid-June)!

    http://hoobears.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/french-onion-soup/

  35. vicky

    FOR VEGETARIANS :)
    I made this last night with vegetable broth and added a handfull of diverse dehidrated mushrooms to strengthen the broth and in my opinion it came out perfect. ♥ there’s a veggie version for everything ♥

  36. Memo Berriochoa

    Turned out great! I made homemade broth and wow, my son and I enjoyed it with a great glass of Rioja wine! Thanks for the recipe. So easy a man can do it!

  37. Helen

    Just made this soup for dinner. I was feeling a bit under the weather and had some onions about to go bad on me. Therefore, french onion soup it was….I used home-made beef stock, dry vermouth & emmenthaler swiss cheese. Absolute heaven!!! Better than at the restaurants since I control all the ingredients. Thanks for a great recipe.

  38. Casey Couch

    We made this for a twist on the classic Thanksgiving meal…it turned out wonderfully! The soup is delightfully rich and savory. I opted to skip the vermouth and stick with white wine, and I’m so glad we did. I used fresh thyme from my herb garden which my husband-to-be loved. Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe!

  39. Ellie

    I made this French Onion soup the other day for lunch, and it was fantastic! It had a unique sweetness that was unmatched by any French onion soup I’ve tried before, and it tasted marvelous!

    I’m lactose-intolerant so I skip the cheese whenever I have French onion soup, and sometimes it seems a bit lacking. This soup, however, was delicious even without the cheese. It was even better reheated the next day.

    I am making this again today for my parents (my mom in particular LOVES French onion soup) and I’m very sure they’ll both love it. Thanks for such a wonderful recipe!

  40. jenn

    I am a huge French Onion Soup fan and I just made this and it was fantastic! It took me a long time to caramelize the onions; for the wine I used mostly dry white but added a little sherry; I used about 2/3 beef, 1/3 chicken stock because that’s what I had; I used fresh thyme sprigs and left out the bay leaf altogether because I didn’t have any; used greyere and a little parmesan as suggested. My boyfriend and I loved it, and I love this blog:)

  41. AJ

    So, I decided to make this soup as I’m sick and thought it would make a nice dinner. According to your instructions, the total cooking time on this should be about 1.25-1.5 hours. Well, nearly 3 hours in, the soup is still nit done and I am exhausted and frustrated. The onions took nearly 2 hours to caramelize, not 30-40 minutes. I would not have chosen to make this tonight if I had known how long it would take. I just hope it tastes good at this point.

  42. Cynthia Brown

    In terms of the French onion soup, I use a 1/4 cup of dry red wine and a 1/4 cup of dry sherry. Also, you are spot on that proper caramelization of the onions is key. I find that sweating them for at least 20 minutes before cranking up the heat helps a lot.

  43. Robin

    Wow I made this last night. It was so good! I made it for my boyfriend and I. Let me tell you he is tougher to please than a New York city food critic. So I was nervous making it for him. but he told me it was the best he ever had. Thank you so much!

  44. Camille

    I just made this soup and instead of using dry white wine, I used red wine vinegar, because I love the flavor. I added an extra bay leaf and also a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce with a few drops of hot sauce. It came out DELICIOUS.

  45. Alex

    wow this was SOOO good. Thank you so much for this perfect recipe.

  46. Debbie

    Made this for the first time and absolutely loved it! I will be using the left overs in a recipe that calls for French Onion soup and can’t wait to taste the difference from canned soup!

  47. Nicole

    I just made this soup for work. I work at a golf club, and we make different kinds of soup all the time. It turned out awesome! I’m not the head chef yet but with soups like this it won’t be long!

  48. Elaine

    what is beef chine?

    The chine bones are attached to the rib bones. Usually they are removed by the butcher. ~Elise

  49. elaine

    OK – beef “chine” is shin.

  50. Lauren

    This recipe was fantastic! It was both my first time caramelizing onions and my first time making french onion soup, so needless to say I was a bit terrified waiting for my husband to get home and try it. It was delicious though! It was of course time intensive, but absolutely worth it. It tasted even better than I remember restaurant versions tasting. Fantastic recipe.

    We went with white wine (even cheap white wine like we had works) and no bay leaf. I used bullion and mozzarella because it was all I had on hand. I look forward to making it with better cheese and wine now that I know I’m capable!

  51. Bailey

    [quote] Can any other type of cheese be used for this recipe?

    Great question, I don’t know! I’ve always made French onion soup with Swiss cheese, usually Gruyere. ~Elise[/quote]

    I used mozzarella and it comes out wonderfully. Especially when you have lots of long strings lifting a spoonful out.. mmmm (most chain restaurants cheat and use mozzarella but it’s what I prefer.

    As with any recipe, customize it to your tastes, but if you go with mozzarella, i personally guarantee it will be great.

  52. Bailey

    [quote]Can any other type of cheese be used for this recipe?

    Great question, I don’t know! I’ve always made French onion soup with Swiss cheese, usually Gruyere. ~Elise[/quote]

    Use the cheese YOU like. I make mine with mozzarella. After all, you are the one eating it… why not make it like you like it?

  53. sarah

    Just made this for my family and even though I didn’t caramelize the onions quite enough it was still delicious! Will make it again for sure

  54. paula powell

    made this soup per my son at Le Cordon Bleu and I have to say it was probably the best thing I have ever eaten, so much so that I am planning on making it again tomorrow as it will be cold and rainy! :)

  55. Trevor

    Kinda improvised a bit,I used tarragon with the onions instead of thyme as my girlfriend isnt very fond of it. It made for a bit of a sweeter flavor in the soup. I also boiled the onion and garlic ends/peels into the beef stock(I actually had some ends set into the freezer as well from other culinary exploits), as well as some rosemary, thyme and bay.

    Word of warning: Make sure that you carmelize the onions in a well ventilated room. Our whole place was full of onion smell, and it was so strong it even got my poor cats eyes watering.

    (Maybe on the grill? Little wood smoke would add a brand new flavor level to the soup. Also, maybe use rendered beef fat instead of olive oil,or maybe butter?)

  56. Linda Eglet

    This soup was excellant!!! Don’t know much about wine so I didn’t use it in the recipe …I thought this recipe ranked a 5 star…ranked up there with the best resturant soup!!!!

  57. Jenna Hurt

    After searching for a good french onion soup recipe, I selected this one based on the positive comments. Unfortunatly, I have to disagree with them. I usually improvise recipes, but followed this one to a T because I hadn’t made french onion soup before. I used 6 onions, 3 red and 3 sweet, but this was overkill. When the soup had finished cooking, I had to spoon out half of the onions. Also, I found the broth lacking. I used store bought organic beef broth, but had to doctor it up with worcestershire sauce and a touch of tomato paste (a tip from America’s Test Kitchen) to create meaty richness. In the end, the family consensus was there were still too many onions. I tossed the remaining onions and am reserving the broth for a beef stew. Needless to say, I will not be making this recipe again.

  58. Jim Lawrenson

    I must agree with the previous poster. I followed the recipe to a ‘T’ and the end result was most disappointing. The soup was thin, watery and almost completely lacking in taste ( I used home cooked chicken stock for my base ). I found that allowing the soup to reduce with plenty of stirring to partially break-up the cooked onions helped improve the thickness of the soup and improve the flavour a little, but overall I found this recipe disappointing and would not serve it to a guest.

  59. Angela

    This was the best onion soup I ever had. I made is for Christmas appetizer last year, all my guests loved it and were fighting over taking home the leftover (quadrupled the recipe). I was told I had to make it again this year.

  60. Jennifer

    The first time I ever had this soup in a French restaurant, I vowed to find the recipe and try it for myself (I love to cook!). Not only was this recipe easy, it tasted so delicious! Thank you!

  61. Moxie

    Made this last night using store bought beef stock (sorry, no time to create the real thing). Otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Tasted pretty nice, but even with pre-toasting, the bread was super soggy. Any tricks on avoid this?

    You might want to sprinkle some cheese on the soup before laying down the toasted bread and adding more cheese. The bread will get soggy, it’s lying in soup. But perhaps not as soggy if you put some more cheese between the soup and the bread. ~Elise

  62. Stephanie

    Elise,

    Whenever I want a classic recipe, I know where to go. Another winner! Like many, I didn’t have any beef broth homemade, so I used store bought. I can only imagine the difference.

  63. Karen Boustany

    Elise ,It is a great recipe,i always thought that frech onion soup is somehing difficult to make,but it was quite the opposite,it is very easy,i used red wine instead of white wine,and added 3tbs. of worcestersshire sauce,gr8 taste,thank u.but i need to ask you, onion soup tastes better with white wine more than red wine?thanks

    When it comes to wine, it’s usually a matter of personal taste. I would experiment and see what wine works best for you. ~Elise

  64. Charles

    I love French onion soup and am going to make it tomorrow. I am not a big cheese fan so my question is what if I do not use cheese at all? Also would anybody care to guess at the numbers of this soup. Thank you: Charles

  65. Sarita

    This was a great way to use up hard old bread! *grin* Thanks for a delicious recipe.

  66. shana

    oh my. too too sweet. needs a ton more salt or something. maybe if i’d used all red onions?

  67. Madeline

    This is the best french onion soup I have ever tasted, It is outstanding! I’ve made it on several occasions for a number of people and everyone loves it. Great recipe, thanks.

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