Easy 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

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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, aubergine 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.

This is a non-alcoholic French onion soup meaning there is no white wine or sherry. So if you’re looking for a French onion soup recipe without alcohol, this is it!

It takes patience to caramelize onions

This French onion soup recipe 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.

If your French onion soup tastes bland, you haven’t properly caramelized your onions.

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 done 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. I prefer to use only Vidalia onions when they are available but any sweet variety, such as Walla Walla or Maui, will work well too.

However, using yellow or white 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. Try a mixture of yellow, white and sweet 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.
  • Increase the depth of flavor by adding a 1/4 cup of good sherry when you add the broth. This is totally optional and you can certainly leave it out, though some would consider this the French onion soup secret ingredient.
A collage of process photos for French Onion Soup.

More Tasty 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.

Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a comment and 5-star review on the recipe card below. If you really love this recipe, please share it on your social media!

French Onion Soup

Classic French onion soup will warm you up on a bone-chilling day.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 10 minutes
Course: Salads and Soups
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 servings

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

  • 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.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Preheat oven to 400℉. Arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.
  • Place four oven-proof 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.
  • Sprinkle shredded Swiss cheese evenly on top. Top with a slice of Swiss cheese
  • Bake until cheese has melted and begins to bubble, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Soup will be very hot so be careful!

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5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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