French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Details

Naturally sweet caramelized onions, rich stock, a toasted baguette and gooey cheese makes up this classic, full-flavored soup.
  • Serves: 6 to 8
  • Active Time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Views: 47,819
  • Success: 75%

Steps

Step 1: Caramelizing the Onions

• 4 lb yellow onions (about 6 large)
• 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
• 1/2 tsp kosher salt
• 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Method

To make the caramelized onions, trim the ends off the onions, cut them in half vertically and peel. Remove the core and thinly slice the onion vertically (from the core to the opposite end).

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil and butter and onions. Cover the onions to help bring out some of their moisture.

After about five minutes, uncover, add the salt, and stir. Leave uncovered and reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to stir from time to time, so they brown evenly. This will take between 45 minutes to an hour.

If the onions start to brown unevenly, you can add a little bit of water. This will help to even out the color. As they start to caramelize, you will need to stir more frequently. When done, they will sort of melt into each other and be a rich brown color.

Step 2: Starting the Soup

• 1/4 cup dry sherry
• 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
• 8 cups dark beef stock (or dark chicken stock)
• 1 bay leaf

Method

Once the onions are caramelized, the next step is to deglaze the pot with the sherry. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and then add the stock. Add the thyme and bay leaf and gently bring to a simmer.

Step 3: Simmering the Soup

• kosher salt (to taste)
• freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Method

Gently bring the soup to a simmer and taste for seasoning. Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes to develop flavor.

Step 4: Preparing the Garnish

• 12 to 16 slices baguette
• 12 oz Gruyère cheese*

Method

While the soup simmers, slice the baguette into about 1/2" -inch rounds. Place them onto a baking tray and toast both sides under the broiler until light golden.

Grate or slice the Gruyère* cheese. Set aside.

Step 5: Finishing the Soup

• kosher salt (to taste)
• freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
• 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or to taste)

Method

Once the soup has simmered for about 15 minutes, finish with the apple cider vinegar. Taste for seasoning one last time.

Place the soup bowls/ramekins onto a baking tray. Place a baguette slice on the bottom of each bowl, followed by a bit of cheese. Ladle the simmering soup over top. Place another baguette slice on top, followed by more cheese.

Step 6: Broiling & Serving the Soup

Method

Place the tray under the broiler until the cheese melts and turns nice and golden.

Remove and serve immediately on a small plate, lined with a napkin (so the bowl doesn’t slide around). Serve with a small cloth to prevent burning yourself on the hot bowl.

Chef's Notes

*Quality provolone, Swiss, mozzarella or any good melting cheese can be substituted for Gruyère – even a mix of cheeses would be nice.

39 Comments

  • Patrick O
    Patrick O
    Could I use something like Sherry or red/white wine vinegar instead? I believe the intent is to add some tang or zip to the soup.
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    You're exactly right. Sherry or red/white wine vinegar will make fine substitutes and give the soup a bit of tang. Enjoy - it's delicious!
  • David L
    David L
    What's the typical size of ramekins used?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Really you can use any size you like. If you are serving it as the main meal maybe use a bigger one...for an appetizer, use a smaller one. The classic French onion soup bowl is around 2 cups or 16oz. This one here is from Le Creuset.
  • Greg B
    Greg B
    Could one use regular Swansons chicken stock in replace of Beef chicken stock? I can't find "dark" chicken stock in the store and I don't want to make my own.
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    Nothing compares to a good homemade stock. The bottom line is that you can use whatever you like, but it is important to understand that the results will be very different. We are strong supporters of homemade stock, as it is extremely easy and inexpensive to make. The body and flavor of homemade stock is far superior to store brands and also contains very low amounts (if any) of sodium. Trust us, if you want to take your cooking to a whole new level, stock is the first step. It is what makes so many dishes taste that much better. If you haven't seen them already, there are fantastic lessons on how to make stock in the cooking school. We can't stress enough the importance of having a supply of good stock in the kitchen. Homemade stock is used in so many places: for delicious soups, stews, braised dishes, rice, and sauce...the list goes on. We guarantee you will be more than happy with the results. Happy Cooking!
  • Tim M
    Tim M
    Just reading the stock comments and was thinking why not take store bought low sodium stock and fortify it with good mirepoix and bouquet garni and reduce it down to something better than the original? I realize making your own is best but this has to be better than using store bought stock as is and faster than making your own with bones from scratch, right?
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    You can, just be mindful of the salt (even if it says low sodium) as reducing will make it saltier. We do say this in the lesson on Short Stock; however, we often use bones as well to give it more chicken flavor. Vegetables will obviously provide more vegetable flavor, so you'll be diluting the flavor of chicken in the stock by only using mirepoix and bouquet garni. Also, the stock in the end will be thinner and won't have as much body from the lack of gelatin.
  • Oliver T
    Oliver T
    I know Stock-making is a french cooking technique. I just don't understand why the use of a Swiss Cheese. Why doesn't the French use French cheese to make this authentic french
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    I lived in France, for two years and believe me, Guyere was available everywhere, and used in everything! It's what we used on our Macaroni and Cheese. It may be Swiss, but don't tell the French they would roll over in their graves if you ever told them that Guyere was not a French cheese! shhh!
  • Thomas J
    Thomas J
    Made my first onion soup with home made stock. Unbelievable! That's why mine never tasted as good as the gourmet rooms at The Mirage! The second soup I used dry vermouth, double wow!! A nice Polish vodka martini made the perfect lead up! Thanks for making my new life devoid of any great restuarants a daily pleasure!!
  • Benoit O
    Benoit O
    Just read “War of the Cheeses,” 1995, article originally appeared in American Way Magazine and was nominated for the 1996 James Beard Journalism Award for Magazine Feature Writing without Recipes. One thing for sure, my preference is always Swiss Gruyère for French Onion Soup. It's all about taste :-)
  • Jillian R
    Jillian R
    I have volunteered my wife Jill to prepare a soup and salad for a progressive dinner with various neighbours in about a week's time. We are English people here on holiday in our ski chalet. English salads are typically, rather droopy and dull, whereas we find Canadian salads to be very crisp and with interesting dressings. Also any ideas as to soup choice. It doesn't want to be anything too heavy, because this is going to be a seven course marathon. Great site by the way. Jill was already a good cook ( bit of careful diplomacy here) but has improved immeasurably. Phil
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    It all depends on the flavor direction you are planning to go and how heavy you want the soup. We have delicious soups on Rouxbe (just type in "soup" in the search bar at the top right of any page). A broth soup is lovely and you can add just a few ingredients to it (or not) - check out the lesson on Broth-Based Soups. Same for the salad. The Belgian endive salad is delicious and pretty - the Soy-Sesame Salad w/ Wild Mushrooms is full of flavor. Lately I have been tossing arugula and sliced Belgian endive with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, s&p and a few parmesan shavings...light and tasty. Hope this helps. Cheers!
  • Monique O
    Monique O
    I can't find any, I'm in France. Perhaps there is another name???? Thanks for your help !
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    If you type in "Sherry" in the search field (at the top right of any page) you will find several forum discussions on substitutions. As for what it is called in France, I am not sure. It is a fortified Spanish wine. Try asking for that at your local wine store. Cheers!
  • Monique O
    Monique O
    As always Thanks and I can't wait to try it! By the way, I would love to shed some light on the Gruyère since I've been living here since 1998. The French know that this cheese is not French. It is however a staple in the French household. This is ALWAYS on the grocerie list and even when you buy a pizza, most of the time that is what's on it unless you get it from a REAL pizzaiolo !
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    Monique. Absolutely true! My comments above were somewhat tongue-in-cheek! I truly miss the daily trips to the French markets for the daily dose of baguettes and cheese, and oh how I would love to find an authentic Camembert!
  • Darren S
    Darren S
    I made this with some dark chicken stock and it was pretty good, I think. However, if making it for vegetarians is it just a matter of using dark veg stock? I haven't made dark veg stock yet but can't imagine it would be anywhere as dark as a meat based stock?
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    Darren, I've made French Onion Soup with dark vegetable stock and it makes a great soup. I still prefer beef stock, but I am sure any vegetarian would be delighted with the results. Most of the color and flavour in the soup seems to be coming from the caramelized onions anyway. Take the time to get the onions right, and you've got a great soup regardless of the type of stock -- chicken, beef, or vegetable.
  • Darren S
    Darren S
    Thanks Leigh. One other thing. I went to use the leftovers today and when I took it out of the fridge it was solid!!! Is this normal or was my stock way too fatty!?
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    Gelatinous stock which is jiggly/solid when cold is perfectly normal. This means you have done a good job of extracting the gelatin during cooking. The fat will float to the surface which can easily be removed to keep the stock grease-free. Nice work!
  • Janice T
    Janice T
    I made some chick stock yesterday. Wow! It's very good, and has that gelatinous consistency. So, I wanted to do something to really enjoy it, and made some Fr. Onion soup with some of it. I was very reluctant to put vinegar in b/c the stock is so nice, and started experimenting with a little dish and traces of vinegar and a dollop of my soup. I noticed that the flavour did change and become "brighter". But, I also noticed that the soup coated the inside of my mouth a little before I put vinegar in - as though from the butter and oil I'd used to cook the onion. So, I'm wondering, does the vinegar have that purpose in the soup in addition to the flavour change? Funny question, I suppose, but curious if that might also be a reason for the vinegar.
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    The vinegar is really just used to brighten the flavor. Vinegar is also used to help cut through the richness of certain dishes, so perhaps that is what you were experiencing. Cheers!
  • R gordon S
    R gordon S
    Fortify the beef stock with a beef or veal demi-glace. Yum.
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    I cook primarily for fun, and to enjoy the reactions of those I cook for. I enjoy making and eating French Onion Soup, and I especially enjoy the bubbling Gruyère on top of the croutons. However, I have a problem. My wife does not like soggy food, and though she also likes Gruyère, she won't let me put any on her soup because she doesn't want the croutons... which of course get soggy as they absorb the soup. I've tried crispy croutons, toasted french baguettes, crackers, and a half dozen other variations, but still haven't found anything that maintains its crunch after sitting in the soup while under the grill. Any ideas?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Besides serving the croutons on the side, I am not sure how you can get around something crunchy getting soggy as it sits in a liquid. For me that is the charm of French onion soup (as long as it is served quickly so that the bread doesn't get so soggy that it starts to fall apart). Unfortunately, there are just some people that do not like dishes such as French Onion Soup or Beef Dip as they simply get soggy due to the way they are served and/or eaten. I know my sister wouldn't go near either of them for that reason. Cheers!
  • Debra R
    Debra R
    I have everything to make soup, but just realized I only have italian bread (can't get to store-snow storm) would that still work?
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    Of course! Although you may detect a slight accent. :)
  • Dave
    Dave
    The last few times I've made French onion soup, the croutons sunk into the broth before browning the cheese. Is there a trick to keep the croutons from not sinking?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    It sounds like you might either have a bit too much liquid in comparison to the ratio of onions or perhaps you are using a bowl that is a bit too deep? Cheers!
  • Jim C
    Jim C
    I'm having a problem carmelizing the onions. I followed the directions and turned the temp down to medium/medium low after 5 minutes. After 2 hours I still had a lot of moisture and water from the onions. So I turned the heat to high to evaporate the excess. Close to an hour later my onions started to carmelize but not as well as they should have. Any suggestions?
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    It sounds to me like your initial temperature was too low, so you ended up sweating the onions... which will produce lots of liquid. Essentially, you end up steaming the onions in their own juice. You didn't state what kind of pan you are using, but that also will make a big difference. If you aren't already doing so, I'd suggest that you uses a large stainless steel pot or saute pan. The pan needs to be hot enough to cause the onions to brown. You want to let the onions rest on the bottom of the pan long enough to brown before stirring, then rest again, stir, rest, etc. The onions are cooking at a heat that is hot enough to burn them if they are ignored, but not so hot that you have to stir too frequently. They require constant watching... not constant stirring. There should be a nice sizzle as they are cooking, allowing them to rest long enough to start to brown. Careful tho' because if they burn, they will become bitter and unsuitable of your soup. Don't be in too much of a hurry, but you should be able to reduce a huge pot of onions to a beautiful brown sauce in less than an hour. You will get to the point that you will be able to tell from the wonderful aroma that develops when it is time to turn them. I can practically smell them as I describe this! One of my favorite activities in the kitchen is to caramelize onions, simply because they make such an amazing and unexpected addition to almost any dinner. If you do end up burning some, don't throw out the whole pot. Personally, I quite like a few 'well cooked' onions as a garnish on my meat, or in hashbrowns, etc. but don't try to use burnt onions in your soup. :-(
  • Suzanne C
    Suzanne C
    I thought 'gratineeing' meant melting and browning cheese on the top of your dish. Then I was looking up information for a new oven and the salesman wanted me to see the Gaggenau (of course) wall oven which boasts 'gratineeing' as one of it's capabilities. Is that just fancy way of saying broiling. Then I looked on the 'Merriam-Webster' website and they don't really know either. Hmmm, I'm glad it's not just me.
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    In the culinary, the term "au gratin" refers to any dish that has been topped with grated cheese and/or breadcrumbs and then baked or placed under an overhead grill or broiler to form a nice golden crust—think gratin potatoes or even in some cases, macaroni and cheese (if it has a topping) and of course, French onion soup. Gratins are meant to be served straight from the dish; therefore they are served in what is known as a gratin dish, which refers to an (often shallow and oval-shaped) oven-safe serving dish or pan. Hope that helps to clear things up for you Suzanne. Cheers!
  • Jennifer N
    Jennifer N
    I've just joined and have noticed that metric measurements are not given. Would it be possible for you to include the metric measurements and temperatures etc. to help the full paying members of metric countries enjoy their tuition easier - without having to go through a recipe first to convert them? I have noticed that some are done, and I wondered if you were working on it. Many thanks and I love your videos.
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Hi Jennifer- You are not to first to ask. It is very simple to convert recipes to metric and some already are converted (as you mentioned). Here are some links to help with conversion: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/equiv.htm http://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/cooking/
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    Canada is in the enviable position of being pretty fluent in both metric and non-metric measurement systems. Our government converted us to metric in the mid 70' with reasonable success. Our ties with Britain, and our proximity to the United States has resulted in the need for us to be able to conduct our lives being comfortable with both. We measure distances between destinations in Kilometers and our speed in km/hr, yet we talk about a building being a couple of miles down the road, and for the most part talk about our height in feet and inches. We'll talk about a 6' 6" basketball player weighing in at 200 lbs, a new born baby being 7lbs 6oz and 18 inches tall. We talk about gas mileage and MPG, but we purchase gas by the Litre. We buy pop in 355 ml cans, 591ml bottles, or 2 litre containers. But we will often refer to a quart of milk, or a 50 gallon drum of oil. Meat is usually priced by the kilogram but we'll usually ask for a 15 lb turkey. Some of the holdouts from metrication are the construction industry. (Wall studs are 16 inches apart, made with 2x4's or 2x6's (inches), and house sizes are typically measured as so many sq ft). Others are the automotive industry, but ALL mechanics will have both metric and imperial wrenches and sockets. Another holdout is the culinary world, where we commonly measure in teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups. We still buy a pound of butter, which weighs in at 454g. Cut a pound of butter in half, and you get a cup of butter, 1/4lb of butter is 1/2 cup, Cut that in half and you get 1/4 cup. Cut the 1/4 cup into four and each cube is a tablespoon. I don't even think about the metric equivalents, but I do know that a tablespoon is 30ml, a cup is 250ml, and 1000ml (1L) is close enough to a quart that I don't have to worry about it. I guess what I am saying is that it is worth getting comfortable with both systems (especially in the culinary world). Rather than concentrating on conversion, see if you can find a set of imperial measuring cups, and measuring spoons to complement your metric kitchen tools.
  • Cecilli P
    Cecilli P
    I made this soup tonight and it turned out AMAZING! Perfect flavor, so yummy! I'll admit, I sweated the onions (lots of liquid) and ended up cooking them for about 90 minutes but they turned out great. Swiss cheese instead of Gruyere...I'll definitely make this again!

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