French Onion Soup Recipe

This authentic and easy French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen. Plus, it’s the best way to use those cute little French Onion Soup bowls you have!

Serve French Onion Soup with Mini Quiches and baby greens tossed in a Homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette for a leisurely lunch with friends.

This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.
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French Onion Soup is really pretty simple to make, and it’s all broken down here. Making the caramelized onions is the most time-consuming step, but every minute you spend tending them is absolutely worth it.

Making French Onion Soup for two, or should I say, deux? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What are the best onions for French Onion Soup?

When a recipe calls for an onion, which onion works best? Don’t cry—this little who’s who of onions shows you what’s what.

  • Yellow onions. You probably already know and love this versatile onion. It’s good for almost everything and can be found anywhere. Yellow onions have layers of white flesh and a tough, brown-yellow skin. They’re spicy and astringent, but they sweeten up beautifully when cooked. Yellow onions are perfect for: roasted meats like braised short ribs, roasted lamb, roasted chicken, soups, stews of all kinds, and sauces (tomato sauce, especially).
  • Sweet onions. Also known as Walla Walla or Vidalia (the onion you can eat like an apple) sweet onions are often battered for onion rings and fried onion recipes. They’re high in sugar without being too spicy. Sweet onions are just the thing for: onion rings, baked gratins, vegetable kebabs, and French onion soup.
  • White onions. Watch out! White onions are large, white-fleshed, with thin paper-like skin. Mostly used in Mexican cuisine, they are crunchy and on the sharper side. White onions are fantastic for: salsas, stir-frys and chutney.
  • Red onions. Good and so good for you, red onions are easy to eat raw, pickled, or grilled. Red onions are delicious for: pickling, sandwiches, burgers, guacamole and salads.
  • Shallots. Shallots are small, clustered onions with pinkish-brown skin and white and pink flesh. Milder and more delicate than most other onions, shallots are great to use when you’re planning to eat them raw—they have a slight garlic taste. Shallots are ideal for: vinaigrettes, salad dressings, quiches, egg recipes and frying for toppings.
  • Leeks. What appears to be an overgrown scallion, leeks are one of the mildest of the allium family, with white flesh that gradually turns green towards the top. Leeks require thorough rinsing because sand and dirt gets into the vegetable as it grows, but it’s worth the extra step. Leeks are delicious in: soups, stocks, breads and braised dishes.

French Onion Soup ingredients:

  • Onions. The star of the show. Standard yellow onions work great, but so do white onions, sweet onions, or even red onions. Speed up prep by running the onions through a food processor.
  • Balsamic Vinegar. This recipe for French Onion Soup without wine is just as delicious as it is with wine, all because of balsamic vinegar, which adds depth and sweetness.
  • Chicken broth.
  • Beef broth. Better than Bouillon base is good, so is College Inn beef broth in the can.
  • Thyme. Fresh or dried.
  • Bay leaf.
  • Butter.
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper.
    This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.

For serving:

  • Baguette. But any good quality white bread works in a pinch.
  • Swiss cheese. Gruyère, a pungent variety of Swiss cheese that is used in quiches, is also the preferred cheese for French Onion Soup.
  • Parsley.

How to make French Onion Soup:

These photos show you the general gist of things, including what the onions should look like when they’re caramelized. For the real recipe with exact ingredients, scroll down.

  1. First, heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and melt the butter. Then add the sliced onions and some salt.
  2. To caramelize the onions, cook them gently down, stirring very frequently, until they darken without burning. This should take at least 30 minutes. The sugars in the onions release during the long cooking process—this is a crucial step, so don't rush it.
    This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.
  3. Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the pot with balsamic vinegar and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the chicken and beef broth, then add the thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil them reduce the heat.
    This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.
  4. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, until the flavors have blended and the broth has reduced a little bit. Then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using baking soda to caramelize onions:

Want to know a good secret to caramelizing onions? Baking soda (NOT baking powder) can help speed up the caramelization process.

Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda over the onions (no more than 1/8 teaspoon) and your onions will get deep brown, quicker, without the flavor being affected.

French Onion Soup in a slow cooker:

Crockpot French onion soup is very easy, especially if you plan ahead and make caramelized onions in the slow cooker the day before. Here's how to make caramelized onions in a crock pot:

  1. In the crock pot, combine 3 pounds sliced onions, 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  2. Stir the onions well and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours. Let the onions cool and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the soup.
  3. On the day you plan to serve the soup, you can add the remaining soup ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Then top the individual soup bowls with bread and cheese, or homemade croutons.
    This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.

How to make Instant Pot Caramelized Onions:

The electric pressure cooker is a pro at making richly flavored caramelized onions in almost no time at all. You can freeze them to make the soup later, or get to work right away.

Here's how you do it.

  1. Add sliced onions, butter and olive oil to the Instant Pot.
  2. Cover and seal the lid and set for 20 minutes on the manual function. When finished, quick release the steam.
  3. Remove the cover and turn on the sauté function. Cook on the sauté function for about another 20 minutes to allow the extra liquid to evaporate and to get that lovely golden brown color. You only need to stir the onions occasionally.

How to make Instant Pot French Onion Soup:

It's super smart to make the whole soup in the Instant Pot. If you're planning on doing this, add the bay leaf and thyme to the onions as they cook during the initial stage.

  1. Once you've made the caramelized onions in the Instant Pot, keep the sauté function on and deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar.
  2. Then add the remaining soup ingredients to the pot, and bring to a simmer and let cook until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes.
  3. Then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed before serving.

How to serve French Onion Soup:

Nothing is more special than serving this remarkable soup in individual French onion soup bowls. The bowls are either made from heavy-duty porcelain, pottery, or cast iron, something that can withstand high temperatures.

  1. Preheat the oven broiler to HIGH, then arrange the number of soup bowls you plan to use on a baking sheet.
  2. Divide the soup between the bowls, then top each bowl with baguette slices and cover the bread with cheese.
  3. Carefully place the baking rack under the broiler and broil, rotating if necessary, until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Keep your eye on the broiler.
  4. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.

You can also use homemade croutons to top the soup, with or without cheese.
This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.

French Onion Soup for Vegetarians:

Vegetarians need not feel left out, because there is a wonderful option for getting a rich, umami-like broth for the caramelized onions to swim in. In place of beef and chicken broth, use mushroom broth. It's more appropriate in this recipe than vegetable broth, which may not have enough depth of flavor.

Make your own using a blend of flavorful dried or fresh mushrooms: shiitake, porcini, or cremini, and please leave a comment about how it goes down below.

French Onion Soup Recipe

This authentic French Onion Soup tastes like it came straight from Paris, but non, it’s made right in your kitchen.
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American, French
Keyword bread, cheese, onions
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 (1 cup each)
Calories 308kcal
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 pounds onions halved and thinly sliced (see notes)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 baguette sliced and toasted (see notes)
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese or 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
  • In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions are starting to darken and caramelize, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in vinegar and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add chicken broth, beef broth, thyme, and bay leaves. Simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. Season to taste salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven broiler on HIGH. Place broiler-safe soup bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the soup evenly among the 8 bowls (about 1 cup each). Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices and cover with one slice of cheese (or 1/4 cup shredded).
  • Broil until the cheese is hot and bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • You can use any onions in this recipe. I used standard onions, but you could use sweet or red or white. No matter which onion you use, the low, slow caramelization process will mellow out any harsh flavors.
  • I use Better than Bouillon beef base for beef broth (2 teaspoons + 2 cups water). If using canned beef broth, substitute 1 (14.5 ounce) can beef broth. You can add another 1 1/2 ounces water to make up for the difference if you want, but overall you'll still have about the same amount of soup. So don't sweat it. French Onion Soup isn't science thank goodness!
How to make French Onion Soup in a Slow Cooker: 
  1. In the crock pot, combine sliced onions, butter and salt.
  2. Stir the onions well and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours. Let the onions cool and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the soup.
  3. On the day you plan to serve the soup, you can add the remaining soup ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Then top the individual soup bowls with bread and cheese, or homemade croutons.
How to make French Onion Soup in the Instant Pot:
  1. Add sliced onions, thyme, bay leaf, butter, and olive oil to the Instant Pot.
  2. Cover and seal the lid and set for 20 minutes on the manual function. When finished, quick release the steam.
  3. Remove the cover and turn on the sauté function. Cook on the sauté function for about another 20 minutes to allow the extra liquid to evaporate and to get that lovely golden brown color. You only need to stir the onions occasionally.
  4. Once you've made the caramelized onions in the Instant Pot, keep the sauté function on and deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Then add the remaining soup ingredients to the pot, and bring to a simmer and let cook until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes.
  6. Then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed before serving.
How to Toast Baguette Slices:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut 1 baguette into slices and brush with olive oil (about 1/4 cup oil for 1 baguette).
  3. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes.
You could also substitute croutons.

Nutrition

Calories: 308kcal

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