Treat yourself to French Onion Soup made from scratch! This easy soup recipe is warm, comforting and full of rich flavors. Perfectly caramelized onions are cooked in beef stock with a touch of red wine for extra depth of flavor. Top it off with croutons covered in melted Gruyere cheese for the ultimate cozy soup experience!
Nothing beats a bowl of warm soup on a chilly day. Whether it's Potato Leek Soup or perhaps a steaming bowl of Homemade Chicken Soup without the Noodles, cold weather calls for food that warms you inside and out.
What is French Onion Soup?
This decadent soup doesn't need an introduction. It's loved around the world for its rich flavor, caramelized onions, crunchy croutons, and bubbly, cheesy topping.
When someone says the words "French Onion Soup," you already have a picture of an amazing bowl of soup unlike any other.
Deliciously caramelized onions are combined with a combination of wine, seasonings, and broth to create the perfect savory base. Then, it's topped off with crunchy bread pieces and melted cheese!
Typically served as an appetizer or starter dish, this soup takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes from start to finish. Serve it for dinner parties, a romantic evening, or a party of one.
Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Onions: Thinly sliced yellow onions yield the best flavor. Although, white or red onions also work. Each variety of onion lends a unique flavor.
- Butter: We usually opt for unsalted butter, but salted butter works well. You'll likely want to adjust the amount of salt you add later.
- Thyme: Fresh thyme lends the best flavors. If needed, substitute this with a small amount of dried thyme.
- Garlic: Freshly minced garlic cloves are the way to go! Jarred garlic and garlic powder don't compare to the taste of fresh.
- Flour: Flour gets added to the butter to make a roux for thickening the soup slightly. All-purpose makes a great option!
- Wine: Good quality red wine is our pick especially since we're using beef broth. White wine may be used but consider switching to chicken or vegetable broth. Substitute with broth if you'd prefer not to use wine.
- Broth: We use beef broth in our soup, but some recipes use chicken or vegetable broth. It's a matter of preference and what you have on hand. Since broth makes up the majority of the liquid, the type you choose will change the base flavor of the soup.
- Bay Leaves: Find these in the spice section of the supermarket. Don't forget to remove bay leaves once the soup is done. They aren't edible.
- Salt and Pepper: Add salt and pepper to taste. Start with less and add more once the soup finishes cooking.
- Baguette: A French baguette cut into slices or made into croutons works well. If a baguette isn't available, look for any type of crusty bread or sourdough loaf to cut to the appropriate size.
- Cheese: We love Gruyere cheese to melt over the top of this hearty soup. It's wonderful with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled throughout. Good substitutes are mozzarella, Gouda, provolone, and Fontina.
How to Make Homemade French Onion Soup:
The most important thing to remember about this recipe is to be patient. Don't rush the process or you'll compromise the flavor.
Scroll to the recipe card below for full instructions and ingredient amounts!
- Start by placing the onions, butter, and thyme in a large pan and heat over low heat. Stir occasionally, and cook until the onions are translucent, and begin to caramelize, about 45 minutes to an hour. Just before the onions finish cooking, add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Dust the mixture with flour and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.
- Add your wine (or beef broth) and stir to combine the onions and wine. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes over low heat. The liquid will reduce some but should not completely evaporate.
- Pour in the beef broth and add the bay leaves. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes while continuing to stir occasionally. Taste, and add salt and pepper if desired.
- While the soup simmers, place the cubed baguette onto a large baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake at 250°F for 10 to 15 minutes to warm and dry the bread slightly. Or, bake at 350°F to toast the bread until crunchy.
- After the soup cooks, discard the thyme sprig and bay leaves and ladle the soup into individual, oven-safe bowls. Place several pieces of toasted bread into each bowl of soup, and top with shredded cheese (about 1 ounce each).
- Place the bowls on a baking sheet or in a baking dish for easy handling. Transfer the pan to the broiler, and broil for 4 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Enjoy!
Tips for Success:
- Substitute red wine with equal amounts of low-sodium beef broth or stock.
- Make this recipe gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour blend (with xanthan gum for thickening) and gluten-free bread pieces.
- Try premade croutons in place of a baguette.
- Use a combination of fresh thyme and rosemary for the ultimate in earthy flavors.
- A dry red wine works best in this recipe. Not to mention, there may be some leftovers to enjoy a glass with the soup.
- Make garlic bread slices to add to the soup instead of using plain toasted bread.
How to Store Your Soup:
Refrigerator: Store leftovers (without croutons) in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Reheat in a pan over the stovetop until warmed through.
Freezer: Allow the soup to cool completely then transfer to plastic, sealable bags. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop.
The bread or croutons are best made fresh each time.
What is the Best Broth to Use?
Technically speaking, stock makes the best soup. But, we use broth because it's available to most people and easy to locate.
That said homemade beef broth or beef stock is superior to store-bought and makes a better-tasting soup. If you're able to make beef stock at home, do that! You'll be so happy you did.
If you can't, no worries! Choose your favorite brand from the supermarket. We opt for a low-sodium variety and add salt as needed.
Does this Soup Taste Like Wine?
Nope! Not at all. The alcohol in the red wine evaporates away leaving a wonderful flavor that mixes with the broth. It doesn't taste like wine once all the ingredients marry together.
What Are the Best Onions For French Onion Soup?
The best onions for French onion soup are sweet varieties, such as yellow or Vidalia onions. Sweet onions will give the soup a sweet and mellow flavor. You can also use white or red onions if desired, but they tend to give the soup a sharper taste that some may find overwhelming.
What Should the Onions Look Like When They Caramelize?
The onions will have a translucent, golden brown appearance and be soft in texture. It takes a significant amount of time to cook the onions to this point, so don't rush it by turning up the heat.
Make sure to stir frequently and a little water to the pan as needed to help deglaze the bottom. Deglazing helps to "unstick" any bits off the pans so they don't burn.
What Cheese Is Best For French Onion Soup?
Gruyere cheese is the best cheese to use when making this soup. Gruyere has a distinct nutty flavor that compliments the sweetness of caramelized onions perfectly. Additionally, this cheese melts nicely and adds a creamy texture to the soup. Other good choices are mozzarella, Fontina, and even Swiss cheeses.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced; yellow onions
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup red wine
- 32 ounces low-sodium beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Baguette, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded off the block
- Place the onions, butter and thyme in a large pan and heat over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and begin to caramelize, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Just before the onions finish cooking, add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.2 large onions¼ cup unsalted butter2 fresh thyme sprigs2 garlic cloves
- Dust the mixture with flour and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Add the wine and stir to combine. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce some but should not evaporate completely.¾ cup red wine
- After the alcohol evaporates from the wine, pour in the beef broth and add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Taste, and add salt and pepper if desired.32 ounces low-sodium beef broth2 bay leaves
- While the soup simmers, place the cubed baguette onto a large baking sheet. Bake at 250°F for 10 to 15 minutes to warm and dry the bread slightly or at 350°F for crunchy bread.Baguette
- After the soup has simmered, ladle it into individual, oven-safe bowls. Place several toasted bread pieces into each bowl of soup, and top with shredded cheese (about 1 ounce each).4 ounces Gruyere cheese
- Place the bowls onto a baking sheet or in a baking dish for easy handling. Transfer the pan to the broiler, and broil for 4 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Enjoy immediately! Scroll up and see the post for tips, FAQs, and storage options.