French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is something that I always thoroughly enjoy when given the opportunity to order it at a restaurant. A stunningly white crock full of aromatic, brothy onion soup topped with a chunk of baguette and smothered in bubbly, browned Gruyere cheese that is dripping over the top and down the sides. I love to savor that cheesy baguette, and take only a little bit off with each spoonful. I can never make it last for the entire bowl of soup, but pulling a soup spoon out of a crock of French onion soup with cheese stretching itself thin is just about the most wonderful site in the culinary world.

I have been aching to make French Onion Soup at home for some time now, as it was on my original Top 100 list, and I am so thankful that I finally got around to doing it. I’m pretty sure I still smell like onions, but wow, this recipe rivals some of the best French onion soup I have had at great restaurants. It’s that good. Perhaps even better.

Now, I would never throw you to the wolves without full disclosure. This recipe is time-consuming. By my estimation it took over 4 hours (maybe 5?) from start to finish, however most of that is inactive time while the onions are doing their thing in the oven. This recipe calls for braising the onions in the oven for three hours instead of laboring over caramelizing them on the stove, noting that the low and slow braise imparts a much deeper flavor. Since I have never made it before I have no basis for comparison, but I can tell you that this soup is absolutely bursting with flavor. Your mouth will do a happy dance.

To give you an idea of what the onions will look like at each stage of the process, I am including a number of pictures.

This is what the pot of onions looked like raw, before going into the oven:

This is what they looked like after one hour in the oven (you take them out to stir):

This is after two hours in the oven (again, another stir):

And finally, at the end of the marathon oven session:

I was out of cooking spray and did my best to just oil the pot before putting the onions in, but as you can see, the sides got a little charred. It didn’t impact the soup at all, so don’t be too worried if this should happen to you.

I didn’t get a picture of the onions once they were browned on the stovetop, but Cookography has a great one from the same recipe so I am including it here. This is pretty much exactly what mine looked like:


Notes on the recipe
:

♦  Do not use sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, just use straight up yellow onions or the soup will be too sweet.

♦  Once you get the pot on the stove, patience is key. All of the stirring and deglazing takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but it’s a big key in developing the flavor.

♦  I cheated and did not use a baguette. There was some Italian bread in the pantry, so I cut a couple of slices in half to make “baguettes”.

♦  I cheated again and did not use Gruyere. I had the perfect amount of leftover Swiss from my Quiche Lorraine Scones, so I used that.

♦  I cheated AGAIN (third time’s a charm?). I don’t have broiler-safe crocks, so I toasted the bread and then put it on a baking sheet and sprinkled with the cheese, then slipped it under the broiler to bubble and brown. Then I just put those on top of the soup.

Now, don’t be afraid. Go buy some onions and get ready to have one of the most wonderful soups you’ll ever make in your kitchen.

Interested in more soup? Check these out:
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Pasta Fagioli
Cheddar Corn Chowder
Italian Wedding Soup

Best French Onion Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Soup:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut into ¼-inch thick slices
Table salt
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
½ cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons:
1 small baguette, cut into ½-inch slices
8 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese (about 2½ cups)

Directions:

1. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at leasts 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1½ to 1¾ hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.

2. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary. (Scrape any crust that collected on spoon back into onions.) Stir in ¼ cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

4. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

5. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1¾ cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyere. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

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52 Responses to “French Onion Soup”

  1. Farmer Dan RN on January 29, 2010 at 12:12 am

    YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  2. Angela on January 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

    this looks amazing! I will be making this for the BF soon. p.s. did you notice that in the middle of the cheese there is what looks like a lizard! Cute!

    Reply

  3. Pink Panda on January 29, 2010 at 2:17 am

    The first and only time I’ve ever tried french onion soup was at Applebees, and it was the most disgusting soup I’ve ever had.

    Yours, however, makes me want to give it one more chance :).

    Reply

  4. MaryMoh on January 29, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Mmm….looks very delicious. I love that big chunk of bread on the soup.

    Reply

  5. shelly (cookies and cups) on January 29, 2010 at 7:47 am

    YUM! My husband loves french onion, but it is one that I have never made. You made it look totally doable!

    Reply

  6. amanda @ fake ginger on January 29, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Those onions look incredible! Mmm, I love when they’re all mushy.

    Reply

  7. Alissa on January 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Amazing that a soup seemingly so simple – it seems difficult!

    …and I just end up eating the bread and the cheese!

    Reply

  8. Katy R on January 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Mmmm, this is perfect for a cold day like today!

    Reply

  9. Emily Ziegler on January 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    That looks beautiful! So often the cheese is funky on french onion soup, but it appears as if you have nailed it!

    Reply

  10. Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on January 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I’ve never made it, but when I eat it out, I usually eat all the bread and cheese…and leave the onions. :)

    Reply

  11. megan on January 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    oh yum! I’ve always wanted a good recipe for french onion soup. I can’t wait to make this. My mom is giving me her dutch oven that she never uses next time I see her, and I think this has just made it to number one on my list of things to make in it!

    Reply

  12. Farrah on January 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I was actually craving this the other day with some fresh rolls and turtle cheesecake. Needless to say I didnt’ get any of them. I cannot get enough of it.

    This is my favorite soup of all time! I always add lots of swiss cheese but I omit the bread. I know, I know the bread helps make the recipe, but the family and myself cannot stand mushy bread. I haven’t tried to caramelize the onions in the oven before that would be great instead of hovering over the stove.

    Reply

  13. Arlene on January 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    This looks heavenly! I’ve made onion soup, but the process you used for preparing the onions must have made them indescribably good. Gruyere is so expensive, but I use it when I can get it; but, I’d never turn down ANY melted cheese and yours looks yummy.

    Reply

  14. Georgia @ Comfort of Cooking on January 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    This is the way to my heart… French onion soup cooked to perfection in a Le Creuset (gotta love those cast iron beauties)! Mmmm…

    Reply

  15. deana@lostpastremembered on January 29, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    You had me at that melted cheese… great looking photo, and wow, what soup!

    Reply

  16. Amedy on January 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I love onion soup this recipe looks delicious i wanna try it

    Reply

  17. bridget {bake at 350} on January 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I LOVE French Onion Soup! Yours looks delicious! I bet your house smelled so good and cozy!

    Reply

  18. Christina on January 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    French onion soup is one of my favorites, though I’ve never jumped in and made it yet. It reminds me of when my mom and I used to go out together when I was little! I love the taste with the bread and cheese on top.

    Reply

  19. Dani H on February 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I can’t believe that I didn’t comment the first time I saw this post. French onion soup is my favorite soup, especially with Swiss cheese. I’m so grateful that you included the note to not use sweet onions because I would have. Yellow onions and Swiss cheese are both on sale this week. :-)

    Reply

  20. Anastasia on February 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I love French Onion Soup but have never tried to make it myself. Thanks for the recipe. I’m going to do a post about your blog, your soup and you 100 item list. :)

    Reply

  21. a fan of anything chocolate on February 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    This looks wonderful! I’d like a bowl right now…

    Reply

  22. Daniel on February 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Oh french onion soup so rich and gooey!

    Reply

  23. Eliana on February 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    comforty goodness is a bowl – wish i had some right now for lunch.

    Reply

  24. Texas Hill Country Tom on February 12, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Sweet onions are not sweet in that they contain any sugars or sacchirides. They are called sweet because they contain less of the irritating alkaloids that other onions contain. They will not make your soup sweet.

    Reply

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  26. Andy on December 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I’m a big fan of this soup and have made it twice (and gave the recipe to my mom who just made it yesterday) and was wondering what the difference is between cooking the onions in the oven and just on the stove…? I normally just cook the onions on medium heat over the stove for ~30mins… Also, what does cooking it repeatedly into a crust do? Does this all just intensify the flavour?

    I would love to know since I can’t use beef broth (parents on a beef-free diet sadly!) and I find that chicken/veggie stock just doesn’t seem to give that extra ‘umph’ to the intensity!

    Reply

    • Michelle on December 16th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Andy, According to the recipe head notes, this is done to impart a deep, caramelized flavor while not requiring constant stovetop attention. The crust adds significant flavor as well.

      Reply

      • Andy on December 31st, 2010 at 1:39 pm

        Just remembered I commented on this awhile back! Will definitely try this method next time. Thanks for the clarification!

        Reply

  27. shasta on January 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I have a big ol’ pan of onions in the oven right now! My daughter & granddaughters LOVE French Onion soup & this recipe sounds perfect! Can’t wait to try this out – I’ll report the results!! Thanks for the recipe!! :)

    Reply

  28. Jessica on January 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    When you made the soup, did you stir the burnt edges in?

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 15th, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      Yep, I stirred everything together!

      Reply

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  30. Sandy on September 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Has anyone tried this with just beef broth? My mom loves french onion soup and is now allergic to chicken, so sadly she rarely gets to eat most soups. I’d love to surprise her with some she can eat when she comes over for dinner the next time.

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 26th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Sandy, You could go ahead and use all beef broth. Enjoy!

      Reply

  31. Alexa on September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Hey I don’t have a dutch oven are they’re any variations i can make?

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 28th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Hi Alexa, Just use a heavy-bottomed pot, preferably at least 5 quarts.

      Reply

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  33. Rena on January 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    The only thing different I would do is make sure the cheese covers the top and sides of the bowl a bit. Love pulling the cheese off to eat after the soup is gone!!!

    Reply

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  35. Bruce Mason on February 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Good Afternoon, Michelle:

    This recipe sounds absolutely great but unfortuately I only have a two burner electric stovetop and two small toaster ovens. Do you have a recipe with instructions for cooking your recipe on the stove? You would be supprised at what I can cook up with what little I have.

    Thank you in advance for responding to my request.

    Bruce
    Hungry Seabee in Long Beach

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 27th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      Hi Bruce, You could attempt this on the stovetop, for sure. I haven’t done it that way so I don’t have any recommendations on temperature or cooking time for caramelizing the onions. If you give it a go, stop back and share your results!

      Reply

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  38. anickh on July 7, 2012 at 6:31 am

    hands down my favorite Soup. way too scared to make it though! if i try any recipe, i’ll try yours! (cooks illustrated) but it better be as good as the restaurants versions j/k. if it doesn’t turn out, i’ll just blame myself because i don’t know how to cook!(as u can see from my amateur blog)

    Reply

  39. Nicole Hughes on October 24, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I am in the process of making this soup… the wonderful smells of the caramelizing onions, such a luxury!!! I looked up this recipe on allrecipes and started with a popular one there until I came to my senses and found the recipe here. I love your photos of the cooking process (and all you baking photos), I come here to get inspiration and any time I want to drool over amazing kitchen creations. Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply

  40. Alana on June 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Does the recipe require the sherry?

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Alana, No, you can omit it if you’d like.

      Reply

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  45. Jill on June 8, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I chose your recipe because you cheated! It’s my first time making this soup and the over-flowing, so cheesy bread never looked good to me – doing it seperate makes me happy!! I love family walking in today asking what smells sooo good! So far it’s just onions in butter going in the enameled cast iron pot in the e oven :)

    Reply

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