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.
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.
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!
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.
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
- Fresh Thyme
- Worcestershire Sauce
- French Baguette
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 baguettes 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!
*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!
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.