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The Ultimate French Onion Soup Recipe: A Comforting Classic

Authentic French Onion Soup (Soupe à lOignon Gratinée) - Easy Homemade Recipe

Discover the secrets to creating the most delicious French onion soup you’ve ever tasted. This timeless recipe transforms simple ingredients into a rich, comforting dish that will warm your soul and delight your taste buds.

French onion soup is a culinary masterpiece that proves simplicity can lead to extraordinary flavors. With just a handful of ingredients – onions, broth, and a few seasonings – you can create a soup that’s both elegant and deeply satisfying. The key lies in the careful caramelization of the onions, which brings out their natural sweetness and complexity.

Many recipes call for cooking onions until they’re extremely dark, but we’ve found that a rich golden-brown color yields the best flavor without risking bitterness. This approach creates a perfectly balanced soup that lets the true essence of the onions shine through.

The Secret to Sublime Onion Soup

What makes a truly outstanding French onion soup? It’s all about creating a harmonious blend of sweet, savory, and umami flavors. We achieve this by:

  • Using a mix of onion varieties for depth and complexity
  • Caramelizing the onions slowly and patiently for optimal sweetness
  • Choosing high-quality broth as the foundation
  • Adding a splash of sherry for a subtle nutty note
  • Balancing flavors with a hint of vinegar and fish sauce

The result is a soup that’s incredibly flavorful on its own, even before you add the iconic cheese-topped crouton. When you do crown your bowl with that gooey, golden layer of Gruyère, it elevates the dish to true culinary perfection.

Mastering the Art of Onion Caramelization

The heart and soul of French onion soup lies in properly caramelized onions. This process takes time – typically an hour or more – but it’s well worth the effort. Here are some tips for achieving onion perfection:

  • Use butter for the best flavor and faster browning
  • Cook in cast iron or carbon steel for optimal results
  • Be patient and stir frequently to prevent burning
  • Deglaze the pan as needed to incorporate all the flavorful browned bits

Remember, there are no shortcuts to great caramelized onions. Take your time and let the magic happen slowly.

Choosing the Best Broth

While beef stock is traditional, a high-quality chicken stock can work wonderfully too. Here are your options, ranked from best to good:

  1. Homemade beef stock (pressure cooker method recommended for convenience)
  2. Homemade chicken stock
  3. High-quality store-bought chicken stock

Whichever you choose, the broth plays a crucial role in the final flavor of your soup, so select the best option available to you.

The Perfect Finishing Touch

To create that classic French onion soup experience, we’ll top our bowls with garlic-rubbed croutons and a generous layer of melted Gruyère cheese. The contrast between the crunchy bread, gooey cheese, and savory broth creates a truly memorable dish.

French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, plus more for bread
  • 3 pounds (1.4kg) yellow or mixed onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick (see note)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, divided
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) dry sherry (such as Amontillado)
  • 2 quarts (1.8L) homemade beef stock or homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) cider vinegar
  • 8 bowl-size slices rustic bread, toasted until crisp
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 pound (450g) Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives, for garnish

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large stainless steel saucepan or two large skillets over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 hours until onions are very sweet and a rich golden-brown color. If browned bits start sticking to the bottom, add a tablespoon of water to deglaze. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour in sherry and simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for about 3 minutes until the alcohol aroma dissipates. Add stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in fish sauce (if using) and cider vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  4. Preheat broiler and position oven rack at the top. Butter the toasts and rub with garlic. Ladle a small amount of broth into 4 ovenproof bowls. Add half the toasts and sprinkle with cheese. Fill bowls with soup and onions. Top with remaining toasts, pushing them down slightly. Cover generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted and browned in spots. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Notes

Yellow onions are ideal for this soup, but a mix of yellow, sweet (e.g., Vidalia), and red onions, along with shallots, creates an even more complex flavor profile.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1011 Calories
59g Fat
71g Carbs
52g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 1011
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 59g 75%
Saturated Fat 34g 172%
Cholesterol 178mg 59%
Sodium 2560mg 111%
Total Carbohydrate 71g 26%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 21g
Protein 52g
Vitamin C 21mg 107%
Calcium 1296mg 100%
Iron 5mg 28%
Potassium 1169mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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