Nov 3, 2015

French Onion Soup

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Because it is a dish with few ingredients it makes it that much more important to patiently balance the ingredients and season everything carefully.

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With French onion soup, soupe à l’oignon in French, you have to have the patience to let the onions caramelize, it will make or break the soup. Because it is a dish with few ingredients it makes it that much more important to patiently balance the ingredients and season everything carefully. I’m teaching you how to make the best French onion soup.

French Onion Soup / Soupe à l’oignon

History of French Onion Soup

I love hearing the origins of dishes, especially one as classic as this. It is believed that this French staple originated when Louis XV had only onions and flat champagne while hunting. It is possible that it was created long before then, but I prefer a story involving a French monarch. I remember visiting France when I was 11 and ordering “French onion soup,” they looked at me like I had seven heads. Just ask for onion soup, they will get the point.

gruyere cheese shredded for french onion soup cooking with cocktail rings

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Caramelized onions – While caramelizing onions takes a bit of patience. Don’t try to rush the process by turning up the heat. The goal is to draw out the sugars in the onions and caramelize them – you have to go low and slow. You end up with mellow sweet onion flavor. I used a mix of yellow onion and red onion in this recipe for a mix of mellow and sweet, as well as deeper onion flavor. The onions should be deep in color (a golden brown is best) but not dark – you don’t want to burn the onions. Making them too dark and deeply caramelized risks creating a bitter flavor.
  • Red wine – Red wine rounds out the flavor of this soup. Use a dry red wine for French onion soup since it won’t overpower the dish by making it too sweet. While I will use just about any red wine in a pinch I prefer cooking with pinot noir. Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink! 
  • Beef stock – Beef stock is typically made from bones as well as aromatics and vegetables while beef broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Beef stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, beef broth is much more mellow in flavor.
  • Gruyère cheese – Gruyère is a hard cheese with a nutty, sweet flavor from Switzerland. The fact that it melts well (due to a high water to oil ratio) mixed with t’s distinct flavor makes it the perfect addition to anything from sandwiches to mac and cheese or fondue. If you can’t find Gruyère, I recommend substituting with another Swiss cheese like Emmental.

How to Make French Onion Soup

  1. Sauté onions to remove moisture. Heat a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and toss quickly to remove the moisture from the onions.
  2. Caramelize onions. Sauté until the onions are soft and tender, about 10 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar and salt over the onions (to help them caramelize) and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are uniformly brown and caramelized, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Simmer the soup. Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme, stirring to combine. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pot, and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  4. Assemble bowls of soup. Heat broiler to high. Ladle the soup into ceramic dishes. Add a finishing splash of brandy, if desired.
  5. Broil and serve. Arrange the toasted baguette slices on top of each bowl of soup in single layer so that the surface of the soup of each is covered. Generously top with Gruyere cheese, and broil until bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
The best French onion soup recipe made from a few simple ingredients. Caramelized onions simmered with red wine, beef stock served with gruyere cheese.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • Because it’s made with a few humble ingredients, this soup is great for those just learning to cook! It’s a classic for a reason. I include it on my list of top recipes for beginner cooks here.
  • If you don’t have soup bowls that are oven safe, instead arrange slices of bread on a baking sheet, sprinkle the cheese on top of the bread and broil until it melts (as you would garlic bread).
  • In my opinion, this soup is actually best after sitting for a day. It gives the flavors time to meld.
  • If you don’t have Gruyere or favor a more mild flavored cheese I recommend using shredded low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese.
  • Brandy is used to enhance the flavor of the soup.
French Onion Soup recipe from cooking with cocktail rings cheese pull

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

French Onion Soup / Soupe à l’oignon

Print Pin
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium red onions thinly sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • ¼ cup brandy optional
  • 1 French baguette sliced into ½”-thick slices, approximately 15 slices, toasted
  • 10 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese

Instructions:

  • Heat a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and toss quickly to remove the moisture from the onions.
  • Sauté until the onions are soft and tender, about 10 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar and salt over the onions (to help them caramelize) and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are uniformly brown and caramelized, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme, stirring to combine. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pot, and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  • Heat the broiler to high. Ladle the soup into ceramic dishes. Add a finishing splash of brandy, if desired.
  • Arrange the toasted baguette slices on top of each bowl of soup in single layer so that the surface of the soup of each is covered. Generously top with Gruyere cheese, and broil until bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

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  1. This was AMAZING. Made it for Valentine’s Day with hubbie. Probably the best French onion I’ve had and I made it myself! Thanks Kylie.

    • YESSSS so happy you enjoyed! Makes me so happy that you were able to use my recipe to create a wonderful meal!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow! So good.

    Made 2 batches of this today, and going to make a 3rd one later. Friends and family are already in love with it!!!

    Be sure to get quality ingredients to really make this a tasty meal!

  3. Going in on this for NYE 2020! Any changes you would make to this? Also, do you think this will re-heat well if I make the whole recipe (we are only 4, not 8 ) or should I just halve the recipe? Thanks!

    • Apologies for the delayed response, I hope you were able to enjoy on New Years! I would absolutely recommend making a whole recipe, it reheats very well (just save the bread and cheese bit until you’re about to reheat and serve!). I think this recipe tastes even better the second day!