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This easy French Onion Soup recipe is one of the best soups in the world! With just a few simple ingredients, you’ll enjoy a warm bowl of sweet caramelized onions in a savory broth that’s finished with crusty bread and gooey, melted cheese. Traditional French Onion Soup makes a simple and delicious meal on a chilly day!

Side shot of a bowl of homemade french onion soup with baguette and cheese on top.

Traditional French Onion Soup

This easy French onion soup is a classic dish made with onions and a meat-based broth. It’s typically topped with a slice or two of crusty bread and served au gratin — sprinkled with grated cheese and browned on top. The soup tastes slightly sweet, thanks to the caramelized onions, and savory — thanks to the herbs, beef broth, and garlic. The toasted baguette and gooey cheese add a hearty, rich taste and texture that complements the otherwise light soup.

Overhead shot of hands holding a bowl of french onion soup.

What makes French Onion Soup French?

This version of onion soup, made from beef broth and caramelized onions, originated in Paris in the 18th century. In 1861, chef Marie Julie Grandjean Mouquin introduced the soup to the United States at her restaurant in New York. The dish became incredibly popular in the 1960s, however, when Americans showed a greater interest in French cuisine (source). Easy French Onion Soup has remained popular to this day — because it’s both simple and delicious!

Adding sliced onions to a pot.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of French onion soup. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Butter: to sauté the onions. If using unsalted butter instead of salted butter, you may need to add an extra pinch (or about 1/8 teaspoon salt) to the onions.
  • Onions: I like sweet onions, such as Vidalia, which offer a nice contrast to the savory broth. For slightly less sweetness, use yellow onions.
  • Garlic, thyme, and bay leaf: give the soup classic flavor.
  • Beef broth: the base of the soup. Use beef stock if you prefer. You can substitute with chicken broth, but it will have a slightly different taste.
  • Worcestershire sauce: for savory, umami flavor that adds richness to the beef broth.
  • Balsamic vinegar: a splash of acidic vinegar really brightens up the soup.
  • Salt and pepper: the total amount necessary will vary depending on the saltiness of your broth and on your personal preference. Season to taste!
  • Baguette: a good crusty loaf of bread is the perfect topping for the soup. You can make your own baguette with this easy recipe, or purchase one at the bakery. The baguette slices create a delicious topping on each bowl of soup.
  • Cheese: Swiss or Gruyere work well. The top will become ooey, gooey, and flavorful under the broiler.
Pouring beef broth into a pot.

The Best Cheese for French Onion Soup

A traditional French onion soup recipe typically calls for Comté (or Gruyère de Comté), but you can also use Swiss Gruyère, Emmentaler, or Fontina cheeses. I tend to use a regular block of Swiss cheese, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, or even Gouda cheese, since that’s what’s readily available in my little grocery store. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese is also delicious!

Slicing a baguette.

What kind of wine for French Onion Soup?

This is a recipe for French Onion Soup without wine; however, you can certainly add wine to the broth if you like. There’s no “correct” wine choice for French Onion Soup, as versions include red wine, white wine, and no wine at all. If adding wine to your beef broth, I would recommend using a dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio/Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay. Of course, if you’re a red wine lover, that will work, too! Try Merlot or Pino Noir. Start by replacing ½ cup of the beef broth with the wine of your choice, and add more to taste.

Ladling soup into a bowl.

Classic French Onion Soup Bowls

This soup is traditionally served in lion’s head bowls, which are deep porcelain bowls with relatively narrow tops. If you don’t have these specific bowls, you can use any oven-safe, deep bowls that will accommodate the soup, bread, and cheese.

Adding baguette slices on top of soup.

How to Make French Onion Soup from Scratch

There’s nothing difficult about this soup — it just requires some patience! The key is allowing the onions plenty of time to cook slowly over low heat. The caramelization process brings out the natural sweetness in the onions, giving the soup its hallmark taste.

  1. Sauté Onions and Garlic. Cook the sliced onions in butter for about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add Broth and Seasoning. Stir in the thyme and one cup of the beef broth to deglaze the pan, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Those little bits add so much flavor to the soup! Then add the rest of the beef broth, the Worcestershire sauce and the bay leaf.
  3. Simmer. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 more minutes. Finally, stir in the balsamic vinegar, discard the bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Broil Individual Bowls with Bread and Cheese. Ladle the soup into individual oven-safe bowls. Place toasted slices of baguette on each bowl and sprinkle grated cheese over top. Place the bowls on a rimmed baking sheet and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Keep a close eye on the bowls while they’re under the broiler, because that cheese and bread can burn very quickly!
Square side shot of French onion soup on a dinner table.

Serving Suggestions

Here are a few options that go well with the homemade soup to round out the meal:

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of the best french onion soup recipe.

Make Ahead

Prepare the soup in advance (without the bread and cheese on top). Allow to cool completely, package in airtight containers, and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

How to Freeze

Packed in airtight containers, the soup will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Freeze the soup before adding the bread and cheese topping.

How to Reheat

Thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight. Place the soup in a large pot and warm over a low flame until heated through. Ladle into bowls, top with toast and cheese, and broil as instructed.

Close overhead shot of easy french onion soup in a white bowl.

Homemade French Onion Soup Recipe Variations

  • I prefer the rich flavor of beef broth in this recipe, but you can also make French Onion Soup with chicken broth.
  • If you like wine in your soup, replace ½ cup of the broth with a good, dry wine of your choice. White or red will work, so see my suggestions above.
  • Instead of the balsamic vinegar, try adding a splash of dry sherry at the end of cooking.
  • In lieu of Vidalia onions, you can use yellow onions for a less sweet taste, or red onions for a bolder, zestier flavor.
  • A variety of cheeses work well for this recipe. Try Comte Gruyere, Gruyere, provolone, mozzarella, Swiss, Gouda, and Parmesan.
Front shot of someone sitting at a table eating a bowl of French onion soup.

Tips for the Best French Onion Soup Recipe

  • Be patient and allow plenty of time for the onions to soften and cook over medium heat. The caramelization process brings out the natural sugars in the onions, giving them a sweet flavor and a greater depth of flavor.
  • Choose a high-quality crusty bread (such as a French baguette) for topping your soup. It only needs to be toasted lightly, because it will go under the broiler and get even darker and crispier on the edges.
  • Keep a close eye on the soup while it’s under the broiler, since the bread and cheese can burn quickly.
  • Garnish each bowl with fresh herbs for a bright, colorful touch. Good options include thyme, parsley, rosemary, or chives.
Side shot of a bowl of traditional French onion soup recipe served with extra baguette on the side.

More Easy Soup Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of a bowl of french onion soup

Easy French Onion Soup

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 293 kcal
This easy French Onion Soup is one of the best soups in the world! The traditional dish makes a simple and delicious meal on a chilly day!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3-4 large Vidalia onions (about 3 lbs. total), peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 baguette, sliced into ¾-inch thick rounds
  • 8 ounces Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and saute 10 minutes more.
  • Add the thyme and 1 cup of the beef broth. Deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen the cooked pieces on the bottom. Add the remaining beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard bay leaf.
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the soup is simmering, arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven just until barely browned (about 5 minutes). Remove and set aside.
  • Switch the oven to the broiler. Place oven-safe soup bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle soup into the bowls. Top each bowl with 2 slices of toast and sprinkle with about ¼ cup of cheese. Place on an oven rack about 6 inches from the heat and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Keep a close eye on the broiler so that the bread and cheese don’t burn.

Notes

  • Be patient and allow plenty of time for the onions to soften and cook over medium heat. The caramelization process brings out the natural sugars in the onions, giving them a sweet flavor and a greater depth of flavor.
  • Choose a high-quality crusty bread (such as a French baguette) for topping your soup. It only needs to be toasted lightly, because it will go under the broiler and get even darker and crispier on the edges.
  • Keep a close eye on the soup while it’s under the broiler, since the bread and cheese can burn quickly.
  • Garnish each bowl with fresh herbs for a bright, colorful touch. Good options include thyme, parsley, rosemary, or chives.
  • I prefer the rich flavor of beef broth in this recipe, but you can also make French Onion Soup with chicken broth.
  • If you like wine in your soup, replace ½ cup of the broth with a good, dry wine of your choice. White or red will work, so see my suggestions above.
  • Instead of the balsamic vinegar, try adding a splash of dry sherry at the end of cooking.
  • In lieu of Vidalia onions, you can use yellow onions for a less sweet taste, or red onions for a bolder, zestier flavor.
  • A variety of cheeses work well for this recipe. Try Comte Gruyere, Gruyere, provolone, Swiss, Gouda, and Parmesan.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 293kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 15gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 1199mgPotassium: 405mgFiber: 2gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 323IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 299mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: best french onion soup recipe, easy french onion soup, French Onion Soup
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: French
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in September, 2020. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this today for lunch and we very much enjoyed it! Followed the directions/ingredients as listed except I used shredded smoked gouda cheese. Also, I toasted the bread slices as listed but then I left them on the sheet pan and put cheese on top and broiled that way. Some of the cheese melted off and got a little crispy on the pan–so good! Then I used a spatula to get the bread and any melted cheese off and served at the side. We dipped the bread into the yummy soup instead of the traditional floating on top of the soup. This made for a really nice texture difference and also made it (I think) a little easier to eat. I always appreciate that your prep and cook times are more realistic than some–it helps me plan better.

    One recommendation I would make for anyone making this soup is to be sure to use a really good broth (definitely not bouillon) since the onions and the broth are the stars of the show.

    Anybody who enjoys French Onion Soup would really love this recipe! It tastes especially good on a cold day!

  2. Blair,
    I so enjoy your blog!
    The onion soup looks delicious, I’m looking forward to making it! Quick question, where did you purchase your bowls? I love them!
    Thanks!