It's been ages since I made French Onion soup, so since we're headed into soup season here in Michigan I figured it was time to do my due diligence and properly test and perfect my French Onion Soup recipe. I'll be honest, it's been harder than usual lately to get inspired to really dive in and create new recipes, but this was a fun one. Therapeutic in many ways. I'm sure everyone has felt similarly this year, so I hope you'll find some comfort in this recipe knowing that it's been tested many times and is absolutely worth the time and effort involved.
Don't bother with shortcuts...
I went through 25 pounds of onions in a week when I was working on this recipe, so you can probably imagine how much leftover soup we have in our freezer. It freezes great, by the way. Once I got the recipe exactly how I wanted it, I tried and tried to find a shortcut that I could recommend to make this a quicker recipe, and spoiler alert: you absolutely must caramelize the onions properly and there are no magical "hacks" that I have found to be anywhere near as good in flavor or texture. Don't get me started on how bland the Instant Pot versions were. You really need to use a big Dutch Oven and do it the old-fashioned way. Literally. I consulted my favorite French cookbooks (vintage and contemporary), and most seem to agree that it's all about the flavor from caramelizing the onions since there often are very few other ingredients. If you glean one thing from reading this post, it's that the vast majority of French Onion soup recipes are absolutely lying about the amount of time it takes to properly caramelize onions. Plan on an hour and a half for this step. It'll be done when it's thick, jam-like, and deep amber-colored. It's worth it.
Which wine or stock to use?
I found that the addition of Balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire to be an essential layer of flavor to really give the broth the depth that it needs. Some French Onion soup recipes call for white wine, others red. Some use chicken stock, others use beef. I tested every variation and the unanimous preference in our house was for beef broth. Both dry white wine or red wine were delicious and either work really well, although red would be my first choice.
Another essential ingredient is of course the cheese! Gruyere, Swiss, or Emmental (or a combination of them) is the recommended cheese for topping the garlic toasts. You can either float the garlic toast on top of the French Onion Soup in ovenproof serving bowls and then brown the cheese on top, or you can make ultra-cheesy garlic toasts to serve on the side. Totally up to you, but of course the iconic floating cheesy toast is pretty impressive and absolutely delicious. Enjoy!Print
French Onion Soup
Homemade French Onion soup is all about technique and layering flavors in a way to showcase and emphasize the simple ingredients. This recipe is a tried-and-true favorite.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6-8 1x
- Category: Soup
4 tablespoons butter
3 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced very thin (about 12 baseball-sized onions)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup dry red wine
6 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
For the toasts-
18 thick slices of baguette bread
1-2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
4 cups grated Gruyere, Swiss, or Emmental
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and sugar and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking for about 90 minutes, stirring periodically and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to avoid burning. Reduce heat to medium-low as needed. The caramelized onions are done when they're very thick and amber/brown, almost paste-like.
Sprinkle flour over the browned onions, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Gently drizzle in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula to loosen the browned bits. Add stock, Worcestershire, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs from pot. Add Balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Arrange bread slices on baking sheet and bake 6-8 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and rub with garlic cloves.
Divide soup into ovenproof bowls and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each bowl with 2-3 slices of toast. Cover top of toast and soup with desired amount of cheese, about ½ cup per bowl.
Set oven to broil setting. Place tray of soup bowl under broiler from about 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.
Make ahead: This soup reheats really well and can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to 3 months. Simply reheat the soup, then add toast and cheese just before serving.
Keywords: french onion soup, caramelized onions,