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Easy Classic French Onion Soup

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French Onion Soup is a classic dish that’s popular on many restaurant menus. With a bit of time and some patience, you can easily make it at home.

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Overhead photo of French Onion Soup

We were traveling through South Carolina one summer and found a Le Creuset factory store. Well, we had to stop and I bought these soup crocks in a lovely shade of purple, auburgine to be exact, with the intention of making French onion soup.

I have used them for more than French onion though, including this delicious vegetable beef stew.

French Onion Soup Twitter image

This recipe is from a cookbook in my collection, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook – Sunday Dinner Collector’s Edition. The weather here in Florida got chilly so I seized the opportunity to make soup.

I’ve made a few French onion soup recipes in the past but this is in my recipe box. It is necessary to have oven-proof bowls so you can melt the cheese. Of course, I use only Vidalia onions when they are available in my grocery store.

It takes patience to make French Onion Soup

French onion soup takes time to make. Patience is key. If you want it for lunch, and want to eat at 12:30, don’t start cooking at noon! Plan for a little longer than 2 hours, prep and cook time, with this recipe.

The longest part of this recipe is caramelizing the onions. If you’ve never caramelized onions before, or want to know how to do it the right way, check out my post about How to Caramelize Onions.

A pile of sliced onions on a wooden cutting board.

This recipe starts with thinly sliced onions. I do this by hand but the slices need to be consistent. Using a mandoline can make the task much easier, though take it from someone who knows…USE THE GUARD! You don’t want to slice your finger and I did one time and one time was more than enough.

You can see I’ve sliced the onions in half-moons. I’ve doe this because it’s easier to enjoy the soup this way. 

What type of onions should I use for French Onion soup?

Sweet onions are the best, in my honest opinion. However, using yellow onions is fine because you are caramelizing them which will lessen their bite and make them a bit sweeter. Be sure to check out the article I mentioned above on caramelizing onions.

Onions on a wooden spoon over a pot of French onion soup.

Tips and Substitutions

  • French onion soup is cheesy, very cheesy. You can see from the photos I used both shredded Swiss cheese and a slice of Swiss over the top. It’s certainly OK to use more.
  • If you don’t care for Swiss cheese the popular substitution is to use Gruyere. They are both hard Swiss, or Alpine, cheeses. So what’s the difference between Swiss and Gruyere? Both are on the milder side with a sweet, yet nutty flavor however Gruyere tends to have a stronger flavor than Swiss, especially if it’s aged awhile.
  • If you don’t care for a larger piece of bread in your soup you can either do what I did and use two smaller pieces or make some homemade croutons. This French Onion soup recipe with homemade croutons from Daily Dish Recipes shows you how to easily make them. Croutons are a great substitution.
  • You absolutely need oven-safe soup crocks or bowls. Putting them in the oven is the only way to effectively melt the cheese. I prefer the ones with a handle because I have a smaller risk of dropping them.

A collage of process photos for French Onion Soup.

More Soup Recipes

When winter strikes you need an arsenal of soup recipes. These are sure to warm you up on a cold day and the chicken noodle soup is comforting when you’re under the weather.

French Onion Soup Recipe

Overhead photo of French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Classic French onion soup will warm you up on a bone-chilling day.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 medium onions, thinly sliced, I prefer Vidalia
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) beef broth
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 slices (½-inch thick) French bread
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices of Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. In a non-stick, 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and begin to caramelize about 45 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.
  3. Transfer onions to a 4.5-quart Dutch oven. Add ½ cup water to the same skillet and heat to boiling, stirring until browned bits are loosened from the bottom of the skillet. Add this liquid to the onions in the Dutch oven.
  4. Add remaining 3 ½ cups water, broth, and thyme to onions and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.
  6. Place four ovenproof bowls on a rimmed baking sheet for easier handling. Spoon soup evenly into bowls and top with toasted bread, slightly pressing bread into the soup to moisten it.
  7. Sprinkle shredded Swiss cheese evenly on top. Top with a slice of Swiss cheese
  8. Bake until cheese has melted and begins to bubble, 10 to 12 minutes.
  9. Soup will be very hot so be careful!

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Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below or share it on Pinterest!

karens kitchen stories

Friday 28th of January 2022

It takes patience, but it's well worth it! That cheesy top is calling my name.

Carlee

Sunday 20th of January 2019

YUMMMMMMMM! I need a bowl of this goodness on this cold wet day.

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