French Onion Soup

VideoSoup and StewFavorite WinterFrenchOnion

Stay warm with this GREAT French onion soup! With beef stock base, slow-cooked caramelized onions, French bread, gruyere and Parmesan cheese.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Is there anything more comforting on a chilly day than a hot bowl of French onion soup? Especially with a thick slice of toasted bread loaded with melty Gruyere cheese and lots of caramelized onions.

There are two essential components of a good French onion soup.

The first is the stock. Your soup will only be as good as the stock you are using. This soup traditionally is made with beef stock, though sometimes a good beef stock can be hard to come by and expensive to make.

If you use boxed stock, taste it first! If you don’t like the taste, don’t use it. (If you cook a lot of beef or beef roasts, save the scraps and freeze them to make a stock with later.)

French Onion Soup

The second most important element is to properly caramelize the onions. Caramelizing the amount of onions needed in this recipe will take at least 40 minutes. Caramelizing is a chemical process that occurs when the sugars in the onions reach a certain temperature.

This only happens after a long cooking time (the addition of a little extra sugar will help). The more caramelized, the deeper the color of the onions and the more flavor you’ll get from them.

How to make French Onion Soup (video)

French Onion Soup Recipe

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

Much of the success of this soup depends on the stock that you are using, and stock varies tremendously in its taste. Depending on your stock, you may need to bump up the flavor with some beef bouillon (we recommend "Better than Bouillon brand").

Taste the soup before putting it in the oven, and if it needs more seasoning, don't be afraid to add more!

Ingredients

  • 6 large red or yellow onions (about 3 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced root to stem (see How to Slice an Onion), about 10 cups of sliced onions total
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt
  • 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
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon (loose) of fresh thyme (can also use a few sprigs of fresh thyme) OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • 8 slices French bread or baguette cut 1-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere and a sprinkling of Parmesan

Method

1 Caramelize the onions: In a 5 to 6 quart thick-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and toss to coat with the olive oil.

Cook the onions, stirring often, until they have softened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium high. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter and cook, stirring often, until the onions start to brown, about 15 more minutes.

Then sprinkle with sugar (to help with the caramelization) and 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to cook until the onions are well browned, about 10 to 15 more minutes.

Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more.

2 Deglaze the pot with vermouth: Add the vermouth to the pot and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pot, deglazing the pot as you go.

3 Add stock and seasonings: Add the stock, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Season to taste with more salt and add freshly ground black pepper. Discard the bay leaves. Add brandy if using.

4 Toast French bread slices: While the soup is simmering, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven.

Brush both sides of the French bread or baguette slices lightly with olive oil (you'll end up using about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil for this).

Put in the oven and toast until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven.

Turn the toasts over and sprinkle with the grated Gruyere cheese and Parmesan. Return to oven when it's close to serving time and bake until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

5 Serve: To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and transfer one cheesy toast onto the top of each bowl of soup.

Alternatively, you can use individual oven-proof 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° F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned.

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Links:

How to Caramelize Onions (including time-lapse video)

French Onion Soup

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

212 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Wendy

    Great recipe. Loved your method of caramelising onions.

  2. Melissa Sklar

    Thank you for this recipe. It was delicious. So good I made a few amendments because of my dietary restrictions. I used 8 ounces mushroom broth and 8 ounces of a real good quality vegetarian broth (Zoup). I used 3 cloves of garlic just because I love garlic and I used Canyon’s Gluten Free Hamburger Buns instead of Baguettes. They worked fantastic!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Ruth

    Do you think it would be better to use both red & yellow onions? Or to just use one?

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Treaseek

    OMG! My husband and I absolutely loved this version of French onion soup. I will be making this on a regular basis. Loved using red onions. The vermouth and brandy added to the depth of taste. It was very easy and very satisfying. Had a nice Chardonnay and some crusty bread with it and made it a meal! Thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Micheline

    It was delicious. Will definitely make it again.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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