This Classic French Onion Soup recipe is made with caramelized onions, a toasty baguette and lots of warm gooey melted cheese on top.
Growing up in the midwest we ate French Onion Soup a lot. It always reminds me of a night out at a steak house. I absolutely love it and we make it year round. This recipe is made in the classic style.
What makes it French Onion Soup?
The soup originated in France in the 18th century. A few key things are necessary for it to be different than regular onion soup.
- Caramelized Onions
- Beef Broth
- White Wine
- Bay Leaves
- Large crouton on top of the soup
- Served “au gratin” with melted cheese on top of the crouton
Key ingredient to make the best soup:
- Onions – white or yellow. The flavor in the soup comes from slowly caramelizing the onions so pick fresh firm onions
- High quality beef broth
- Bay Leaves
- Sourdough or French Baguette
- Best quality cheese – Swiss or Gruyere (or a bit of both!)
- Dry white wine – Viognier recommended but Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Chardonnay will work well too.
- A good quality dry red wine or Sherry
How to make classic French Onion Soup from scratch
This classic soup is actually very easy to make, so don’t let the long cooking time scare you because much of it is hands off.
- Slice onions into rounds about 1/8″ thick and saute in a heavy pot
- Cook until caramelized and medium brown in color, about 90 minutes
- The onions should be super soft with lots of caramelization on the bottom of the pan. That is where the flavor comes from in the end.
- Add the seasonings: Salt, pepper, and paprika, and cook for 1 minute
- Combine flour and about 2 cups of the broth to make a thickener for the soup and stir into the onions. Cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add remaining broth, white wine, red wine (or Sherry) and the bay leaves. Mix well and simmer on low heat for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Mixture will become thick and flavorful. Taste and adjust for more seasonings if desired.
Making the Croutons:
- Turn the broiler to low and make sure your oven rack is in the middle position
- Slice the bread on the diagonal
- Brush with olive oil – add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if you really want it cheesy! ( I do!)
- Broil briefly – about 1 minute – you want the bread to be firm, but not hard, so that it floats on top of the soup
Finishing the soup:
- Ladle the hot soup into ovenproof bowls, filling about 2/3rd full. Traditionally this soup is served in a sturdy bowl with handles or a crock type bowl
- Place on a baking sheet
- Rest a toasted crouton on top of the soup
- Cover with the cheese. Make sure to cover the entire top of the bowl
- Broil for 4-5 minutes, depending on how dark you like your cheese. Keep a close eye on it.
- Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving
Freezing extra soup
The broth of the soup, without the crouton and cheese, freezes well. I always make extra and freeze it in 2 serving size containers. Let it thaw in the refrigerator before rewarming on the stovetop and then add your toppings.
Suggested Wine Pairings:
A more viscous wine goes well with brothy French Onion Soup. Don’t choose anything too light-bodied. We make our soup with a Viognier and then, of course, drink the rest with the soup! We recommend an acidic and medium-bodied red or white wine for our pairing.
Here are some excellent matches:
- Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier, California $12.00
- Elk Cove Oregon Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley $15.00
- Henry Fessy Gamay Beaujolais, Burgundy France $17.00
- 2008 Adelaidia Pavanne White Rhone Blend, Paso Robles $25.00
- Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris Alsace, Cuvee Ste. Catherine, Alsace, France $45
Pair this soup with a salad for a complete meal:
- Tricolore Salad with Oranges
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Brussel Sprout Pomegranate Salad
- Arugula Beet Avocado Salad
Classic French Onion Soup Recipe
- ⅓ cup butter
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 lbs white onions
- 2 tsp salt, divided
- 96 oz beef broth, (3-32 ounce containers)
- ⅔ cup flour
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp mild paprika
- 1 cup white wine
- ¼ cup red wine or Sherry
- 2-3 bay leaves
For Baguette Crouton
- 8 slices French or sourdough baguette
- ⅛ cup extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded, optional
Topping for Soup
- 12 oz Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded or thinly sliced
Preparing the Soup Broth
- Peel and slice the onions in rounds about 1/8" thick.
- In a large heavy-bottom stockpot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil and melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions, separating the rings a little bit as you add them to the pot. Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat to low and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 90-minutes to 2 hours. The onions should be super soft and caramelized to a medium colored brown.
- Add remaining 1½ teaspoon salt, pepper, and paprika to the onions and cook for about 1 minute.
- Turn the heat back up to medium. Mix flour and about 2 cups of broth together in a small bowl and stir into the onions. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add remaining broth, wine, and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
- Simmer the soup on low heat for about 2-2½ hours.
Serving Soup Instructions:
- Heat broiler on the low setting.
- Slice the bread about ½" thick, on the diagonal. Brush with olive oil sprinkle with optional Parmesan, and toast lightly in the broiler or oven. Remove and set aside.
- Ladle the hot soup into oven-proof single-serving bowls, about ⅔ full. Rest the toasted bread slice on top of the soup and then layer with the cheese. Make sure the cheese is covering the entire top of the soup bowl.
- Put bowls on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven for about 4-5 minutes, making sure all the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Place each bowl on top of a serving plate, as the bowl will be super hot. If desired, serve with extra toasted bread.