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!
Traditional French Onion Soup
Easy French Onion Soup is a classic soup 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.
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!
What 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, since that's what's readily available in my little grocery store.
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.
French Onion Soup Bowls
French Onion 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. These multi-purpose white bowls are similar to the bowls that I have, and they will be great for chili, stews, and soups all season long.
How to make Easy 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, developing a rich caramelized flavor that gives the soup its hallmark taste.
- Beef broth
- Worcestershire sauce
- Bay leaf
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Swiss cheese
Step 1: Sauté Onions and Garlic
Cook the onions in butter for about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Step 2: Add Broth and Seasoning
Stir in the thyme and one cup of the beef broth to deglaze the pan, scraping cooked pieces 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.
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.
Step 3: 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!
What to serve with Easy French Onion Soup
Here are a few options that go well with the homemade soup to round out the meal:
- Additional slices of baguette or a crusty loaf of No-Knead Bread for dipping into the rich broth
- A simple green salad dressed in Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette or Champagne Vinaigrette
- Grilled Salmon or Baked Salmon Fillet
- Parmesan Risotto
- Grilled cheese sandwiches or panini sandwiches
- Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
- Eggplant Caponata spread on slices of bread or on crackers
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.
Can French Onion Soup be frozen?
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.
Tips for the Best French Onion Soup Recipe
- 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 red onions for a bolder, zestier onion 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.
More homemade soup recipes that you might enjoy:
- Corn Chowder
- Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo
- Crock Pot Vegetable Soup
- Pasta Fagioli Soup
- Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
- New England Clam Chowder
Easy French Onion Soup
- 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
- 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.
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