This homemade French onion soup recipe will knock your socks off! Made with the richest broth, perfect caramelized onions, and topped with three different types of melted cheese!
What can I say about French onion soup? It’s in a soup class all by itself. Using only a handful of budget-friendly ingredients, yet delivering the most amazing flavor. A bowl of this is pure comfort food and always hits the spot on a cold dreary day.
What is French Onion Soup?
Classic French Onion Soup originated in France in the 18th century and isn’t just any ‘ol soup, but basically a way of life there. Made with caramelized onions, beef broth, wine, and topped with a crusty baguette slice coated in melted cheese, it’s amazing. No surprise this soup is now incredibly popular worldwide and a restaurant favorite, but we have the French to thank for it. Thank you, France!
French Onion Soup Recipe Ingredients
Classic French onion soup only requires a few simple ingredients, the base of which are onions, beef stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Plus a sliced baguette and cheese to bring it all home. In my recipe, I use a combination of beef stock, chicken stock, red wine, and also add in some balsamic vinegar, plus three different types of cheese. The flavors are bold, complex, and incredible.
What kind of onions for French onion soup? The classic way to make this soup is to use large yellow onions. But there’s no shame in using white, red, sweet, or even a combination of all four.
What kind of cheese is on French onion soup? Gruyere cheese is the traditional choice. In this recipe, I use a combination of Swiss, Mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
What kind of wine is used in French onion soup? Wine is used to deglaze the pan, and while it is optional, it lends a depth of flavor you don’t want to miss out on. You can use a dry white like Sauv Blanc or Chardonnay, or a dry red like Merlot or Pinot Noir. Red wine is used in this recipe.
Tips for the Best French Onion Soup
There are three essential components to good French Onion Soup:
- Stock: this soup is traditionally made with beef stock. If you’ve got scraps from a leftover roast and time to make beef stock from scratch, do it! I never have time for that, so I opt for store-bought. But instead of buying it canned, I actually get it from the butcher. Either way, make sure it’s the best quality. It’s the base of this soup and can make or break it.
- Onions: properly caramelizing the onions is critical. A quick sauté or even golden is not good enough for French onion soup. Those onions need to be fully caramelized for the deepest color and flavor. It’s a non-negotiable.
- Time: time and patience is required for this soup. But the pay off is worth it, I promise! Properly caramelized onions takes time, about 40 minutes. Then those simmer in the broth for a long time. Skimping on either will get you less than stellar results. The good news is, a lot of the time is hands-off, so at least you’re not laboring away at the stove the entire time.
How to Make French Onion Soup
There are five steps to making this soup. Here’s a brief rundown. (Scroll down for the detailed printable.)
- Caramelize the onions: you’ll cook the onions in butter low and slow, stirring occasionally for a good 40-45 minutes, adding in salt and a little bit of sugar (which helps the caramelization process along.)
- Deglaze the pot: pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any brown bits.
- Simmer with the other ingredients: stir in the stock, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Gently simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the herbs, stir in the vinegar, taste and adjust any flavors, if necessary.
- Toast the bread: while the soup is simmering, prep the bread. Traditionally, the bread is basted with olive oil and toasted in the oven until golden.
- Ladle soup into bowls and broil: place oven-safe bowls or crocks on a sturdy baking sheet. Ladle soup into each bowl, top with the toasted bread and cheese, then place under the broiler for a couple minutes (6-inches from the heat source, keeping a close eye, so nothing burns!) until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.
As the cheese softens, it will fall over the sides of the bowls and form a luscious crusty seal. To die!
French Onion Soup Bowls
Want that bistro style look and feel? Then you need to serve this soup in some French onion soup bowls. True French Onion Soup made in restaurants will always be served in special crocks. Some come with lids and handles, some are more basic, but they’re always made of a good quality ceramic that can withstand high heat in the oven and are 10 ounces in size – anything larger and the cheese will sink into the soup instead of being stuck to the outside. Special bowls are not required, of course, but they are nice to have, not only for this soup, but also to serve other soups and chili in.
French Onion Soup Recipe Notes
- Caramelizing onions is a chemical thing. It happens when the natural sugar in the onions reaches a certain temperature. This takes a while, which is why you need to be patient and stir occasionally, not constantly, or they won’t brown. While the sugar in the beginning is optional (although highly recommended for taste and to help the process along), the salt is a must. Don’t skip it.
- You can make this vegetarian by replacing the beef and chicken stock with vegetable stock and use vegan Worcestershire.
- The red wine not only deglazes the pan, but it cooks off and deepens the flavor of this soup. Having said that, if you are completely opposed to using it, you can skip it, but note that the soup will not be as tasty.
- If you don’t have oven-safe bowls (as mentioned earlier), you can skip the broiling part, make cheese toasts on a baking sheet and top the soup with those, or even use croutons.
What to Serve with French Onion Soup
You certainly can enjoy this soup all on its own, but it’s also wonderful with a simple salad or a side of sautéed mushrooms. For a complete meal, serve it with a nice skillet steak, bangers and mash, glazed salmon, or a roast beef sandwich.
If you’ve got leftovers, you can store them and have another delicious meal for lunch or dinner the next day.
How long can French onion soup last in the fridge? Allow to cool completely, then transfer to a large airtight container or individual ones. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Can French onion soup be reheated? Yep. Remove soup from the fridge, pour into bowls, and place in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, then top with the fresh cheesy bread.
Can you freeze French onion soup? You can freeze this soup without the cheesy bread. Add soup to freezer safe containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, let soup thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Make the cheesy bread fresh before serving.
The deep, dark broth, silky buttery onions, and gooey cheese on top of crunchy bread will make you weak in the knees. If you’ve only enjoyed this soup at restaurants, now you can make it at home. It’s really quite something!
Other Classic Soup Recipes
Watch it Being Made
French Onion Soup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 large yellow onions , thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 32 ounces low-sodium beef broth
- 24 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- 5 1-inch thick slices of French bread
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere Swiss cheese , room temperature
- 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese , room temperature
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese , room temperature
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add in the onions and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium, stir in the salt and sugar; cook for another 35 minutes, stirring occasionally (every 5 minutes or so), until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy.
- Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom and sides.
- Add in the beef broth, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and bay leaf.
- Gently simmer over medium/medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove and discard the herbs.
- Mix in vinegar and taste. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Reduce heat to low, cover to keep hot while you prepare the bread.
- Preheat oven broiler, with rack 6 inches from the heat source. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with the olive oil. Broil 2-3 minutes, flipping once, until well toasted on both sides. (NOTE: keep an eye on the bread the entire time to ensure it doesn't burn. Every oven is different.) Remove from heat; leave broiler on.
- Arrange oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each bowl 2/3 full with hot soup. Top each bowl with 1 slice toasted bread, and sprinkle with the Swiss, Mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.
- Broil until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will fall over the sides of the crock and form a wonderful crusty seal.
- Serve and enjoy!