Fill bowls of French Onion Soup to the brim, then top them with a slice of toasted bread and a layer of bubbly melted Gruyère. Sauteing thin slices of yellow onions transforms them into melt-in-your-mouth caramelized vegetables. When the piping hot bowl hits the table, I can’t wait to break through the cheesy toast to uncover a rich and flavorful soup.
French onion soup demands your attention. It’s like risotto, where you need constant watching and stirring to develop just the right texture and flavor of the onions. But that’s the only challenging part. And I promise the task is not as daunting as it may seem. If you’ve never caramelized onions before, you’ll be amazed to see the transformation from raw, pungent slices to deep golden and subtly sweet onions.
The secret is patience. Gradually cooking and moving the onions in the pan draws the moisture and natural sugars to the surface, unlocking deep new flavors. The caramelizing process creates the base of the entire soup. So when it’s done right, you’ll love how the onions build the soup’s rich taste.
The most anticipated part of this dish is the crunchy baguette slice. It gets covered with a blistery layer of cheese that completely blankets its surface. I grab my spoon the second it’s served, to make sure I get a big scoop of rich broth and crunchy cheesy bread before it becomes soggy.
Each bite gets better. At the bottom of the bowl, you’ll find luxurious pieces of caramelized onion that you worked so hard to develop. So take a moment to disconnect from the world and make this decadent soup.
How to make French onion soup
- Yellow onions provide a balance of sweet, pungent, savory, and mild onion flavor.
- A small amount of brown sugar helps to accelerate the caramelization process.
- Salting the onions at the beginning of cooking promotes quicker browning, good seasoning, and tender texture.
- Use high heat to kick-start browning of onions, then reduce to medium for gentle cooking.
- Extended sauté time, and reduced heat creates a more complex, sweet onion taste.
- Deglaze the pan with red wine to infuse tasty bits of caramelized onion from the bottom.
- Toasting the bread before adding it to the soup keeps the surface crisper.
- Use a high melting cheese like gruyere for optimal spread when broiled.
Use gruyère cheese
Gruyère cheese creates that irresistible gooey crust. Originating from Switzerland, it has a firm texture, nutty flavor, slight sweetness, and faint aged aroma. The hallmark of this cheese is that it tastes good by the slice and works well as a cooking cheese.
It grates easily and has a smooth and cohesive melt when heated, giving that sought- out cheese pull. When broiled on a toasted piece of baguette and laid on the onion soup, the contrast of flavors and textures becomes irresistible.
The simple components of French onion soup make it shine. It’s one of those foods that give me butterflies of excitement when it arrives. I like to imagine that I’m in a small bistro in Paris, enjoying a hot bowl, while, out the window, people flow through the streets of the city.
When done right, the onions will melt effortlessly, while the crisp, cheesy toast gradually soaks up the rich broth with hints of wine and herbs. Once you practice the caramelization technique a few times, this soup will be a breeze to make at home.
More soup recipes
Selecting the right onions
As the onions cook, they release their natural sweetness, so there’s no need to start off with white onions (such as Maui and Vidalia), which are already high in sugar. My preference is yellow onions. They have the right balance of onion taste, slight sweetness, and savory notes. As they cook, they become tender, and they dissolve quickly in the mouth.
French Onion Soup
- 2 pounds (908 g) yellow onion, peeled, halved, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (10 g) minced garlic
- 1 cup (240 ml) red wine
- 1 quart (32 ounces) unsalted beef stock
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 slices crusty bread or baguette, ½-inch thick slices
- 1 cup (100 g) shredded gruyere cheese
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven over high heat.
- Melt the butter, add olive oil, brown sugar, and salt, stir to combine.
- Add in onions and stir to coat, saute and stir frequently until onions begin to soften and lightly brown, 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium, cook onions, stirring frequently, ensuring they do not burn just browned, 30 minutes.
- Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add wine to deglaze the pan, stir to scrape any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Increase heat to high, allow wine to boil and evaporate, stirring frequently, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add beef stock, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf.
- Bring stock to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer, 30 minutes.
- Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf, taste soup and season with salt and pepper.
- Place bread on a baking pan and broil on high in the center of the oven for 5 minutes, flip and toast another 3 minutes or until golden brown.
- Add soup to 4 bowls, top with toasted bread slices (1 to 2), and evenly distribute cheese on top of each piece of bread.
- Broil on high, about 8 inches away from the top of the oven until cheese is melted and golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Immediately serve.
- Soup base can be made ahead of time or frozen and reheated before serving.