French Onion Soup

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You’re probably familiar with the expression April showers bring May flowers.  Showers in April typically refer to rain, but this weekend the weather forecast actually called for a chance of snow!  (Weather in Upstate New York is just that unpredictable.)  The dreary, cold, damp weather called for something warming from the inside out so I turned to a comforting classic:  French Onion Soup.

img_9516-smallI’ve heard that French Onion Soup is one of the most commonly ordered soups in restaurants; this makes sense to me since I almost always order it when I see it on a menu.  There’s just something about the rich, broth-drenched crouton, sweet caramelized onion, and bubbly, melted cheese that make it irresistible.  After eating French Onion Soup so many times in restaurants, I’ve realized that the homemade version makes even the best restaurant’s soup pale in comparison.

img_9557-smallOther than the patience it takes to caramelize the onions, French Onion Soup is pretty easy to make, but there are a few other tips I’ve discovered that turn a good French Onion Soup into a phenomenal one:


·         Add fresh herbs.  Fresh thyme on its own is my favorite in this soup, but a mix of fresh rosemary and thyme is also absolutely delicious.

·         Use good quality beef stock.  The flavor of the soup comes largely from the stock (and the onions of course), so the quality of the finished product will only be as good as what you put in.  You don’t have to make your own stock though; there are quite a few good quality stocks on the market.

·         Don’t use sweet onions.  Cooking onions cook up super sweet as it is, so if you use sweet onions to start, your soup will be overly sweet.

·         Season your soup with salt and pepper before you add the crouton and cheese.  Otherwise it is much harder to adjust the seasoning. 

·         Use good quality bread, but stale is ok.  The bread is toasted and then placed in the soup so it doesn’t have to be out-of-the-oven fresh.  But using good quality bread does make a huge difference.

·         Use good quality cheese.  I’ve made the mistake of using lower quality cheeses when making this, and the cheese always gets rubbery after broiling. 

·         Don’t skimp on the onion or the croutons.  French Onion Soup is one of those soups that I think is better when it’s thicker, and by thicker I mean chock full of onions and bread.  Otherwise, it’s just beef broth topped with cheese.  :)

img_9552-smallFrench Onion Soup


(Yield:  4 small or 2 large servings)


About 2 TB olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

4 medium-sized cooking onions, thinly sliced (about 4 c sliced)

2 tsp fresh minced thyme

3 c beef stock

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Multigrain baguette (or any bread you like), trimmed to fit inside the bowls you’re using to serve the soup in

About 4 oz Gruyère or Emmental cheese


2 large or 4 small oven-safe individual-sized serving bowls


Thinly slice the onion into rings or half-rings.  In a medium-sized, thick-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it starts to ripple, then add the onion, thyme and a pinch of salt, and stir to coat the onion with the oil.  Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the onion starts to soften and turn color (stirring occasionally).  Lower to the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 to 20 more minutes (again, stirring occasionally) until the onions are a rich caramel color.  You can add a splash of water at any point in the process if the onions start to stick to the pan too much.


Add the beef stock and bay leaf and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom.  Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes.  Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper.


Preheat the broiler.  Broil the bread on both sides until it’s light golden brown.  Ladle the soup into broiler-safe bowls, place the toasted bread on top of the soup, and divide the cheese on top of the bread.  Broil until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and starting to brown (stay with it, this happens fast).


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  1. says

    French Onion soup is probably my favorite soup in the world… I always ask my mom to make it for me when it’s cold out. I’m looking forward to when I’ll be in Europe next winter and will have a nice big bowl of it in front of the fireplace!

  2. says

    Wonderful informative post. Love French Onion Soup. Great job with the photos. Fantastic choice of cheese one of my favorites. Cheers!

  3. says


    This recipe is heaven-sent! I just have all the ingredients, the weather has turned a bit cooler and it is a big favorite around here (especially with my son) so, thanks for all your great tips and it is on the list this coming week!

  4. says

    I totally agree with your tips, especially the don’t skimp on the onions :) I can see yours is generous with the onions as mine is-there’s nothing worse than a thin broth with a few pieces of onion at the bottom. I love the richness of a good French onion soup!

  5. says

    as a french-onion-soup virgin, i can tell you that i’ll certainly be applying those excellent tips when i make my first batch. it’ll be all about the cheese and herbs for me. :)

  6. says

    I have never had or made french onion soup–can you believe it?! I was gonna make it several months ago and had the bread and cheese but never did. I really need to now b/c I just can’t resist pictures like that! Thank you for the tips.

  7. says

    I have not had french onion soup in years. Your photos are making me crave it so bad! Love gruyere cheese, yes the better cheeses are so worth it. So much tastier. Perfect chilly weather food. Yes, upstate NY will surprise you sometimes! You know I went to Syracuse U right??

  8. says

    A very lovely soup to enjoy with some crusty bread. I love all those onions there. It gives a natual sweetness to soups. I use a lot in my cooking.

  9. says

    There really is SOMETHING about French onion soup … and I admit that I always order it in restaurants, even though it’s easy to make! I’m with you on using the good quality cheese to make the dish – can’t use anything less! :)

  10. says

    Oh heavenly bowl of deliciousness! The pictures look so savory, full of flavor, and beautiful, I wish I had a spoon and a big big bowlful right now! I’ve only had french onion soup twice in my life, but both times were absolutely unforgettable. Something about the savory beef broth, the sharp bite of gruyere, and the sweetness of the caramelized onions that just makes me swoon.

    Your tips couldn’t be more true or more helpful! I am in complete agreement that the quality of your ingredients (cheese, beef broth) is absolutely crucial to a good turnout. Best advice. Don’t skimp on the big flavor notes!

  11. says

    Super tips, Faith! And what a lovely soup. It’s my sister’s favorite so I am sending her your URL right now. She will love this!
    Getting a tad warm down here for soup, but I’m copying it anyway! You’re right, the stock makes such a difference. A lot of us make our own chicken stock (which I think is the BEST), but not many of us make our own beef stock. Which brand do you prefer?
    I love all that cheese…it always makes an onion soup for me.

    • admin says

      Barbara, I like Pacific Natural but I sometimes have trouble finding it in my local grocery, so I’ve found that Swanson Beef Stock is also pretty good.

  12. says

    My favorite soup of all time. I’ve made french onion soup a number of times, but not lately. I’m thinkin’ you inspired me to make that tonight. Your pics are superb-great job!

  13. says

    there is NOTHING like an ooey gooey rich and chewy bowl of french onion soup. especially with my fave cheese – GRUYERE on top! what another fabulous looking recipe from you faith!

  14. says

    I really love french onion soup! I haven’t made it in so long. This looks so comforting and warming and delicious! I need to make some!

  15. says

    French onion soup is just. So. Good.

    I would it eat rain or shine. I’m like a postal worker that way.

    I can’t believe they forecasting snow for you guys! Craziness.

  16. says

    i love ur write up about one of the best loved soups…i love this soup and ur recipe sure sounds like i wanna simmer some soonnnnnnn……
    and Faith those awards are for u too dear,am addin u in a bit ok, how can i forget u dear…
    Am so glad u like Little Eloise ,i do too,oh gosh i love how ur lemon bars are coming together.
    and did the pic of Little Eloise ,show at begining of the post, actress Sofia as a little gurl? coz it aint showing on my bog here:-(((

    and thannnnxxxx a ton.

  17. says

    It has been years since I’ve made homemade French onion soup. Used to make it all the time, until I discovered Campbell’s was just as good ;) But from the looks of yours, Campbell’s is probably NOT just as good!

  18. Melissa Johnson says

    I made this soup last week and it was incredible. Believe it or not, but i had actually never tried French onion Soup. The idea of eating a bowlful of cooked onions just didnt seem too appetizing to me. I saw the photo of this and it looked so good with the melty cheese and then I found out my husband really enjoys this soup. So, I decided I would attempt to make it and give it a taste as well. I LOVED IT! It was warm and comforting and so different then I had been anticipating. I truly enjoyed this and highly recommend it.

    • admin says

      Melissa, I’m so glad you enjoyed the soup!! French Onion is one of my all-time favorites, and you’re right, it is so warm and comforting! :)

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