About the Recipe
3 ½ pounds yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced (6 to 7 medium)
4 tablespoons (57 grams or 2 ounces) European-style salted butter, like Kerrygold, plus more for bread
1/4 cup (2 ounces) sweet vermouth, sherry, or brandy
1/4 cup (2 ounces) dry white wine or Lillet Blanc; see notes
4 to 5 cups chicken broth or homemade beef stock; see notes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1 French baguette or rustic loaf, sliced into 1/2-inch slices, 12 slices
2 cloves garlic
1 cup (114 grams or 4 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese
3 Secrets for the best homemade French onion soup
Caramelize your onions to the perfect golden brown. If there’s one thing to takeaway from this onion soup recipe, it’s how we cook the onions. Stirring often is the key. Watch our video to see how we do it or see our photos below!
Garlic-rubbed bread is a game-changer. I honestly don’t know if I could ever enjoy a bowl of French onion soup without it.
Choosing the right cheese. We use melty Gruyère, and love it.
French onion soup is easy to make at home. All you need are a few tips and a surprisingly short list of ingredients. To make this a full meal, serve French onion soup with your favorite salad.
The best onions for French onion soup are yellow onions. We have made this soup with sweet onions and found it to be a little too sweet for our tastes. A combination of yellow onions and sweet onions would be interesting. Red onions are spicier than yellow onions and will change the color of your soup. White onions are more mild and sweet, making them a good alternative.
You can use chicken broth or beef broth to make French onion soup. We’ve tried all combinations (including using half chicken and half beef broth). I can honestly tell you that we’ve loved them all. Beef broth is a bit more savory, while chicken is lighter on its feet.
When using beef broth, we highly recommend homemade or a high-quality beef bone broth. Most store-bought beef broths taste nothing like beef and are salty. Store-bought chicken broth is a bit more forgiving with more availability.
The best cheese for French onion soup is Gruyère. It melts beautifully and tastes earthy and nutty, which works nicely with the savory soup base. If you cannot find Gruyère, substitute with parmesan cheese, Swiss, fontina, or mozzarella.
For deeply flavorful, classic French onion soup, use wine. For the best flavor, we use dry white wine and sweet vermouth, an aromatic fortified wine. We highly recommend using both. See recommendations and substitutions in the recipe.
Can you make French onion soup without wine?
Yes. Wine and vermouth make our soup taste more exciting and complex, but it is still quite delicious without them. If you leave the wine out entirely and find that the soup is missing something, try adding a splash of sherry vinegar and possibly a little Asian fish sauce (I know it sounds odd, but it does wonders in the flavor department of savory dishes like French onion soup.)
How to cut and caramelize the onions
The secret for making rich, intensely flavored onion soup is how we cook the onions.
Cutting the onions: Thinly slice a lot of onions (by a lot, we need 6 to 7 medium onions for a soup that serves four). I do this by hand. First peel them, cut in half, and then thinly slice into half moons. To speed this up, use the slicing disk of a food processor or mandoline slicer.
Cook the onions in butter with the lid ON for about 12 minutes. This step softens the onions and helps them to release some liquid.
Cook the onions uncovered over medium heat, stirring often, until they look golden and caramelized — this takes me somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes. Do you see why we started with so many onions? They cook down a lot!
Focus on the onions, and you’re 99% there to some of the best-tasting French onion soup you’ve had.
Here are a few more tips when caramelizing the onions:
Use a wide heavy-bottomed pot, like a Dutch oven, or a wide stainless steel pot, like a Rondeau. Both of these options work well for caramelizing onions.
Stir the onions often, and ensure you scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom and sides. Incorporating those browned bits helps add color (and flavor) to the onions.
Pay more attention 20 minutes into cooking, since they cook more quickly at this stage. They can go from browned to burnt if you don’t keep a close eye.
Use our photos and video as a guide for when the onions are ready. They will look golden brown and smell caramelized.
Assembling the soup. Easy as 1, 2, 3
1. Simmer the broth and caramelized onions for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let it steep like tea.
2.Toast and rub the bread with raw garlic (so good!) — we use a French baguette or rustic loaf
3.Briefly dunk the bread slices in the soup, add to oven-safe bowls with the broth and top with cheese. Broil until bubbly.
Dunking the bread in the soup before adding it to your bowl allows the bread to absorb some of the soup, so that it doesn’t steal all the broth from your bowl when you eat it.
French onion soup bowls
Any oven-safe soup bowl (sometimes called crocks) will work for this recipe. Handles do help when transferring them in and out of the oven. We also recommend placing them onto a baking sheet to catch any dripping cheese. We used a mini round cocotte from Le Creuset (8 ounces).
And there you have it, the most delicious homemade French onion soup we’ve ever made. I genuinely hope that you try it! This easy French onion soup recipe is part of our chef series, where we share recipes from our friend and renowned chef, Richard Hattaway. He knocked this one out of the park!
Melt the butter in a wide pot over medium heat — use a heavy-bottomed or stainless steel pot like a Dutch oven or rondeau.
Stir in the onions, and then cover with a lid. Cook, over medium heat, until the onions look translucent, 12 to 15 minutes.
Uncover the pot, and continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally and scraping up any stuck browned bits from the bottom and sides. The onions take 45 to 60 minutes to caramelize. Keep a close eye on them. When you notice they begin to brown, stir them more often to keep them from burning.
When the onions are golden and smell caramelized, stir in the vermouth and white wine. Cook, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, for about 2 minutes. Continue to the next step when you no longer smell strong alcohol and instead smell sweet onions with the aromas of the vermouth and wine.
Stir in the broth, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot with its lid and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and then season with additional salt if needed. While Chef Richard suggests 4 cups of broth, we enjoy a bit more liquid and use 5 cups of broth, instead.
Turn off the heat, and allow the soup to steep (covered) while you prepare the bread.
Set aside four oven-safe soup bowls (we use cocottes from Le Creuset).
Heat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Butter the bread slices, and then line them up on a baking sheet. Bake until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Rub the toasted bread with the garlic cloves, and then quickly dunk the bread into the soup. Dunking the bread first helps to prevent the bread from soaking up all the broth in your bowl when serving.
Place one slice into the bottom of each oven-safe soup bowl and sprinkle a little Gruyere cheese on top. Ladle soup into the bowls and top with two more slices of bread. Top with remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.