French Onion Soup from Scratch

One cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowl.

This is the perfect recipe for Classic French Onion Soup with a rich beefy broth, caramelized onions, traditionally topped with golden bubbly Gruyère on floating baguette slices. For two…or more.

Soup may be considered a simple meal. However, a great soup is anything but simple. With a little care and attention to detail, such as using a beefy Homemade Beef Stock, soup can become an art form. Make it a complete meal with a generous slice of freshly baked Cheddar Stout Soda Bread.

Two cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowls.

French Onion Soup

Friends, this homemade French Onion Soup recipe is a journey. The final destination, however, is one of the most flavoursome bowls of soup you will ever enjoy. Add to that the self satisfaction of a job well done and, well let’s just say you’ll be filing this recipe in the ‘keeper’ section of your brain/recipe notebook.

The base of this soup is a rich beef bone broth which contains both dry white wine and sherry. They bring bittersweet flavours to the broth while Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme bring the umami and herbal notes. This is one well rounded, flavourful broth and it both highlights and enhances the caramelized onions.

You didn’t think I forgot about the onions, did you? IMHO, one of the best smells in the world is onions caramelizing on the stove. If you have a sensitive sniffer, you’ll notice their scent changes over time as it starts out sharper, then mellows and sweetens the longer they are in the pan. Properly caramelized onions take at least 45 minutes and you should be suspect of any recipe that tells you otherwise.

Two cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowls.

Last, but certainly not least, au gratin is the crowning glory of a classic French Onion Soup. It’s not the ultimate comfort food unless it has two toasted slices of fresh French baguette covered with a liberal amount of melted Gruyère. Bon appetit!

A History

French Onion Soup, or soupe à l’oignon, is the ‘modern’ (18th C) version of a soup that has been since Roman times. This substantial soup stands on its own as a meal or is enjoyed as the first part of a multi course menu.

Throughout history, onion soup was considered repas de pauvreté (a poverty meal) as it usually contained inexpensive, often leftover ingredients. The luxurious cheese topping became popular much later; once the soup hit American shores.

Ingredients required to make homemade French Onion Soup.

Ingredients

As always, I love a simple dish where the quality of the ingredients shines through. Quality stock (preferably homemade) is an absolute must for this soup. Beyond that, this recipe calls for very few ingredients.

  • Beef Stock
  • White Wine
  • Sherry
  • Onions
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • French Baguette
  • Gruyère

If you absolutely cannot make your own beef stock, please buy the best quality (preferably locally made) beef stock you can find. When I am in a pinch, I go to a Butcher shop to buy my stock, then I enhance the flavour a bit before using it in this soup. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can thicken it with a bit of flour or beaten eggs.

A group of process photos showing how to make French Onion Soup.

Some French onion soup recipes use brandy, white wine, or sherry. I use both white wine and sherry for a rounder flavour profile. Don’t worry, the alcohol boils off so this can be an entirely family friendly meal.

Fresh Thyme is a common herb in French Cooking. I love it so much that I add it to my stock as it simmers and to the soup broth. It’s one of those herbs I just can’t get enough of. Keep the sprigs whole and then fish them out before ladling the finished stock over the onions.

Worcestershire sauce is not a common ingredient in French Onion Soup, unless you are British. It brings a nice umami feel to the soup stock and pairs nicely with the onions. You can leave it out, if you prefer.

A group of process photos showing how to top French Onion Soup.

Depending on the size of your French Onion Soup bowls, you can top the soup with one or two slices of toasted day old baguette. I find it easier to eat with two slices instead of one. Alternatively, you can cut up an old slice of French bread into cubes, toast them and use them instead of slices.

Finally, I’m glad that cheese was a later addition to this cozy soup. I prefer Gruyère for the flavour and epic cheese pulls, however you can also use comtè.

How to Caramelize Onions

If you want super sweet onions, choose the Vidalia varietal. However, you can use any onion in this soup because the caramelization process brings out the natural sweetness of any onion. You could even caramelize shallots or leeks for a fun spin on this classic.

One cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowl.

To caramelize the onions, begin by peeling, then slicing the onions into thin rounds. Add them to a large sauté pan and slowly sauté on medium low heat with a generous drizzle of olive oil and butter. Some cooks even sprinkle a little sugar on the onions to hasten the caramelization.

Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Properly caramelized onions should take at least 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can caramelize onions with almost no effort at all in a slow cooker. Here’s how.

How to Make French Onion Soup

Pour the beef stock in a medium saucepan. Add a few sprigs of thyme (saving one or two for garnish), dry white wine, sherry, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan. Simmer the stock mixture until it becomes fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a sheet of aluminium foil on a baking sheet and turn up the edges so it makes a sheet within a sheet.

Two cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowls.

Divide the caramelized onions between two French onion soup bowls. Carefully pour the stock over the onions, leaving 1/2 inch left in the bowl. Toast four slices of French baguette then place them on top of the soup.

Top the toasted baguette slices with grated Gruyère; 1/2 cup for each bowl. Pick fresh thyme leaves from the sprigs and scatter over the cheese.

Bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 minutes, or until the soup is bubbly and the cheese has melted. For extra colour on the cheese, broil for a minute or so while keeping a close eye on the cheese.

Remove and serve immediately. Careful…it’s very hot!

A cheese covered baguette slice being lifted out of a bowl of French Onion Soup.

Make Ahead and Leftover Storage Instructions

French Onion Soup is the perfect ‘make ahead’ soup recipe and that’s one reason it was a popular menu choice for 1960’s -1970’s dinner parties. Each component is easily made ahead of time and the assembly takes almost no time at all. You can have your first course served in 15 minutes with almost no effort at all.

Not only that, French Onion Soup freezes well. I always make extra so I can wash, then refill the soup bowls with onions and broth. I allow them to freeze overnight, then use a bit of hot water to melt the outside just enough so that it releases. That way the soup portion is exactly the size and shape you need for your bowls/ramekins.

Store the frozen soups in a freezer bag for up to three months. To reheat from frozen, preheat oven to 400 F and place the frozen soup block in the bowl/ramekin. Place a sheet of aluminium foil on a baking sheet and turn up the edges so it makes a sheet within a sheet.

Place the bowls on the prepared baking sheet and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes. Top them with toasted bread slices or cubes and grated cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes and broil, if necessary.

Two cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowls.
Pinterest image featuring two cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowls.

If you make this French Onion Soup recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Yield: 2 servings

French Onion Soup

One cheese topped bowls of French Onion soup in stunning pottery soup bowl.

The perfect recipe for Classic French Onion Soup with a rich beefy broth, caramelized onions, traditionally topped with golden bubbly Gruyère on floating baguette slices. For two...or more.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups beef stock*
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Sherry
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • handful fresh Thyme sprigs
  • 2-3 medium onions
  • four slices French baguette
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice the onions into thin rounds. Add them to a large sauté pan and slowly sauté on medium low heat with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Properly caramelized onions should take at least 45 minutes.
  2. Pour the beef stock in a medium saucepan. Add a few sprigs of thyme (saving one or two for garnish), dry white wine, sherry, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan.
  3. Simmer the stock mixture until it becomes fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a sheet of aluminium foil on a baking sheet and turn up the edges so it makes a sheet within a sheet.
  5. Divide the caramelized onions between two French onion soup bowls.
  6. Carefully pour the stock over the onions, leaving 1/2 inch left in the bowl.
  7. Toast four slices of French baguette then place them on top of the soup.
  8. Top the toasted baguettes with grated Gruyère; 1/2 cup for each bowl.
  9. Pick fresh thyme leaves from the sprigs and scatter over the cheese.
  10. Bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 minutes, or until the soup is bubbly and the cheese has melted. For extra colour on the cheese, broil for a minute or so while keeping a close eye on the cheese.
  11. Remove and serve immediately. Careful...it's very hot!

Notes

*the amount of beef stock you need will depend upon the size of your French onion soup bowls. This recipe was tested with bowls that have a cup capacity. You can also decide if you need more seasonings (Worcestershire sauce, wine, sherry) if using a larger bowl. Always taste test!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 467Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 1875mgCarbohydrates: 119gFiber: 10gSugar: 17gProtein: 43g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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32 comments

  1. Hayley Dhanecha

    What an easy and delicious comforting recipe. First time ever I made french onion soup . Replaced beef stock with veggie. Worked absolutely well for us. Thanks for this amazing recipe.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great idea. A homemade veggie stock can be just as delicious as beef stock.

  2. Ramona

    This is one of the best comfort dishes ever and I can’t wait to try this recipe out! I will definitely make this for dinner tomorrow night for me and my family. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      There’s nothing like homemade French Onion Soup! I hope everyone loves it.

  3. Enriqueta E Lemoine

    I love how you build up your onion soup in every soup bowl. This is a perfect trick to ensure everybody gets the same. Your pictures made me hungry. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I find it easier this way then to heat the onions in the soup then try and ladle them into the bowls. Less mess this way!

  4. Healing Tomato

    You know, French onion soup is one of those recipe that I let other people make it for me, lol. Your pictures and instructions make it look easy for me to make. I think, this time, I will make it for others, haha

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Sometimes it’s such a nice break to have others cook for us.

  5. Liz

    I love french onion soup, but I have never tried making it at home! Your recipe makes it look and sound so simple!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Yes, once you have all the components ready, it really is simple and delicious.

  6. Veronika Sykorova

    This is such a tasty soup! It’s always my go-to when ordering a soup at a restaurant but this was the first time I made it at home. It was definitely easier to make than I thought it would be.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I’m glad you gave it a try Veronika and I hope you made extra!

  7. Jenny

    Can’t think of anything better than french onion soup! Bernice, you did it again. It looks gorgeous and I bet it will taste amazing. I am saving the recipe to my collection and I am trying it tonight. Thanks so much!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you Jenny. Enjoy the soup!

  8. discoverregina

    Every time I get your recipes, I GET HUNGRY!! Everything looks so good ! I I am going to try the French Onion Soup . UMMMM
    Thanks again

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I’m glad you love my recipes and thanks so much for reading my blog.

  9. Stine Mari

    Delicious! The beefy broth is so important here.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      You are correct…it’s an essential part of the recipe.

  10. Kathryn

    This is the absolute best french onion soup! It was easy to make and has all the classic flavors that I crave. I’ll be making this again asap!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great to hear Kathryn! Thank you for letting me know.

  11. Liz

    I have always wanted to make homemade french onion soup! Your presentation is beautiful, looks so delicious! I will have to give this recipe a try!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you so much! It’s a bit of work but really worth giving it a try.

  12. Tracy

    One of my favorite soups! So delicious and comforting. This recipe looks great!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I agree! Thanks for stopping by Tracy.

  13. nancy

    i love a good hearty classic onion soup. thanks for the easy instructions and tips

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s one of our favourites, for sure. Glad you enjoy it as well.

  14. Gloria

    The ULTIMATE gourmet soup recipe made right at home. Perfect for entertaining. Delicious and so worth the effort.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It really is! Especially if you make extra and freeze it for another time.

  15. Lydia

    I absolutely adore French Onion soup and this recipe for it looks so easy and delicious!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s easy, but somewhat time consuming. Completely worth the effort!

  16. Toni

    This is so comforting!! I love it!

    Reply

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