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French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a classic meal you’ll love! Rich caramelized onion soup is topped with a crusty slice of baguette and plenty of melted cheese in this restaurant-worthy recipe.

overhead shot of soup with cheese croutons, garnished with thyme sprigs.

Classic French Onion Soup, Made from Scratch!

French onion soup is a perennial favorite, and there’s no better time to serve it than on a cold winter night. The crisp, frigid air and early nightfall are lightened a bit by the warm, cozy fragrance of caramelized onions simmering away in the best broth, deepened with wine and brightened with fresh herbs. This is peasant food, incredibly comforting and nourishing.

The simplest onion soup is made with just onions, water, and wine – and it’s amazing. But it takes a long, long time to cook plain onions down enough to make a rich soup, so this version uses a few tried-and-true shortcuts: beef stock, herbs, and a little bit of acid from Worcestershire and vinegar. Made this way, you get a mouthwatering soup that hits all the right notes.

Double-handled bowls of French onion soup on a tray.

The List of Ingredients

This soup is loaded with flavor! Check out the ingredients list, and you’ll see why. Here’s what you’ll need to make French onion soup:

  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin is fine, or you can use lighter olive oil.
  • Onions: The star of the show! Thinly slice the onions into half moons.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter, for caramelizing the onions.
  • Garlic: Minced or pressed.
  • Flour: Just a bit, for thickening.
  • White Wine: Dry white wine. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be your favorite white wine.
  • Stock: Use the best quality beef stock you can find.
  • Herbs: You’ll need sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, and a couple of bay leaves.
  • Worcestershire Sauce and Vinegar: A splash of Worcestershire sauce and white wine vinegar cuts the sweetness of the onion and adds brightness.
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Cheese Croutons

  • Baguette: Cut a French baguette into slices, each about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. 
  • Shredded Cheese:  A combination of shredded Gruyère cheese and Swiss cheese finishes the dish to bubbly perfection.
Ingredients for French onion soup arranged on a work surface.

Which Onions Are Best for French Onion Soup?

Yellow onions are the “gold standard” (see what I did there?) for French onion soup. If you can find sweet Vidalia onions, those are great, too. In a pinch, white onions will work.

Onion soup with chees croutons in individual bowls.

How to Make French Onion Soup

The cooking method for this soup mostly takes place on the stove, where you’ll be caramelizing the onions and then simmering everything together. But you’ll also want to fire up the oven – first, to dry the bread a bit, and second, to melt all of that gorgeous cheese.

  • Partially Cook the Onions. We’ll start by adding some olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium heat, and cooking the onions in it for 10 minutes or so. Stir often. The onions should soften up and be translucent. Don’t let them burn!
  • Caramelize the Onions. Next, reduce the heat, and then add the softened butter, salt, and pepper into the pot and stir well to coat the onions. Cook them for another 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized and slightly reduced in volume.
  • Add Garlic, Flour, and Wine. Stir in the minced garlic until it releases its fragrance, about 1 minute. Then add the flour, and cook for an additional minute. Finally, stir in the wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let this cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the Stock and Herbs, and Simmer the Soup. Now stir in the beef stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup is slightly reduced. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Finish the Soup. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and then add the white wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Season the French onion soup with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Make the Baguette Croutons. While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake them in the oven at 400°F. Once the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at the edges, set it aside. 
  • Assemble the Bowls. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on a baking pan, and fill each one with about 1-1/2 cups of soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices, and sprinkle them evenly with shredded Gruyère and Swiss cheese. Place in the oven under the broiler, until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges.
  • Enjoy! Let the soup bowls cool for five minutes before serving.

Should French Onion Soup Be Thick or Thin?

Generally, French onion soup is a broth-based soup that’s thick because of a long, slow cooking process which causes the onions to break down and give the soup more body. However, sprinkling a little flour in can speed things up and give the soup a thicker, silkier texture. I like adding flour to mine, but you can also leave it out if you prefer a thinner soup.

Close-up shot of soup with cheese croutons, garnished with thyme sprigs.

Tips for Success

Making a recipe as beloved as French onion soup has its quirks, and of course, every cook has their own “secrets” for making it just right. These are my top tips for making great French onion soup:

  • Cutting the Onions: Believe it or not, how you cut the onions for this recipe can really affect the flavor and texture! First, cut them thin, and then be sure to cut them as if you were cutting onion rings. Finally, cut them in half to make half-moons. This way the onions will hold their shape, caramelize, and eventually taste better in the soup. 
  • Be Patient: It’s easy to get impatient, turn up the heat, and char those onions, but that will spoil this great dish! Don’t do it. Make sure to budget enough time to caramelize them slowly for the best flavor.
  • Use Sherry: For a little added depth of flavor, try stirring a teaspoon or so of sherry or marsala into the soup at the end of the cooking time.
  • Use Sourdough: Crusty sourdough bread can be used instead of a baguette, for a more tangy contrast.
Spooning soup out of a bowl.

What to Eat with French Onion Soup

With plenty of cheese and toasted bread, this soup is already a meal – think of it as a bowl of hearty soup with an open-face cheese sandwich. However, if you want to add more to the meal, try one of these tasty additions:

  • Steak: Since this dish has a beef stock base, it goes really well with beef dishes like classic Grilled Steak with Bleu Cheese Butter. Served on the side, thin slices of this robust grilled steak make a flavorful added protein.
  • Grilled Cheese: Skip the toasted baguette and shredded cheese, and serve Baked Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on the side of your French onion soup. They’re easy to dip, and everyone can have as many as they like. Make them with Swiss and Gruyere for the best flavor.
  • Gnocchi: Buttery Gnocchi Alla Romana is a traditional Italian dish that qualifies as basically the ultimate comfort food. Serve a bowl of real French onion soup next to a small serving of this gnocchi, and you’ll be in heaven! 
Spooning soup out of a bowl.

Storing Leftover Soup

  • Keep leftover French onion soup in the fridge, in airtight containers for maximum freshness. It will last for three days or so.
  • Reheat on the stovetop, or in your microwave.

Can I Freeze This?

  • Yes, you can freeze this soup for several months! Make sure to cool it down first, so that it doesn’t form condensation and ice crystals in the freezer. Then pack it into freezer-safe containers, mark it with the date, and freeze it for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw in your fridge before reheating.

French Onion Soup

Loaded with rich caramelized onions, melty cheese, and a crusty slice of baguette, this French Onion Soup is a classic meal you’ll love!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 25 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: French
Keyword: best french onion soup recipe, how to make french onion soup, onion soup
Servings: 6
Calories: 428kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 to 6 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

For the Cheesy Baguette

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven, add olive oil and cook sliced onions over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir often to prevent burning.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the butter, salt, and pepper into the pot and stir well to coat the onions. Cook for another 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, jammy, and slightly reduced in volume.
    Add a splash of water every now and then, whenever the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 20 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add the flour and cook for an additional 1 minute.
  • Stir in the wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the beef stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
  • Stir in the white wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; taste for salt and pepper, and adjust accordingly.
  • While soup simmers, arrange baguette bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 400°F until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
  • Set individual broiler-safe bowls on a baking pan and fill each bowl with about 1½ cups of the soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices and sprinkle evenly with shredded Gruyère and Swiss cheese.
  • Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 428kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 882mg | Potassium: 682mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 570IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 466mg | Iron: 2mg

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