French Onion Chicken Soup

published Dec 17, 2023
French Onion Chicken Soup Recipe
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Creamy French Onion Chicken Soup
Credit: Kelli Foster

I am a soup person. It’s my go-to comfort food. It’s what I make the second the air turns crisp in early fall and all through the winter when I want to warm up. It’s my favorite thing to eat when I feel like I’m getting sick, when I feel down, when I crave something nourishing, if I want to eat a bunch of vegetables, or I just need to clean out my fridge and pantry. 

So, I make a lot of soup; over the years I’ve made hundreds of pots of it. That said, I’m here to tell you — with absolute certainty — that this French onion chicken soup is hands-down the most comforting soup you will ever eat. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a mash-up of French onion soup and classic chicken soup, all in one bite.

The soup starts with caramelizing a big pot full of onions, which gives the soup an impossibly rich and indulgent, savory-sweet flavor. Then, in go the carrots, celery, herbs, chicken, and chicken broth for big chicken soup vibes. And of course, no version of French onion soup is complete without a slice of cheesy toast on top.

This is the soup to make on a weekend or on a day you have an hour-and-a-half to two hours to spend in the kitchen. It will be worth your time — I promise. Plus, it makes a big batch of soup, which also happens to freeze quite well. 

How to Make French Onion Chicken Soup

  • Caramelize the onions. It may seem like an excessive amount of onions at first, and like there are too many. But don’t worry — the onions cook down a lot. This part of the cooking process takes the longest, and it’s so worth it, because the caramelized onions give the soup its signature sweet-savory flavor.
  • Sauté the vegetables. Melt a little more butter in the pot and cook the carrots and celery just until tender and vibrant.
  • Deglaze. Pour in a mix of dry white wine and a spoonful of dry sherry. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and cook until the liquid is mostly reduced.
  • Add flour. Stir to coat the vegetables until no dry spots remain and cook for about a minute to get rid of the flour taste. This will work to thicken the soup.
  • Add broth and chicken, and bring to a lively simmer. You have the option to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs; both work wonderfully. If using chicken breasts, which often tend to be thick, I do recommend butterflying them first to reduce the overall cook time.
  • Simmer until chicken is cooked through. Simmer the soup until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165℉.
  • Shred chicken. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and use two forks to shred the meat, then return to the pot.
  • Make Gruyère toasts. Just before serving, top baguette slices with grated Gruyère and pop them under the broiler just until the cheese is melted and the bread is lightly toasted. It should take just about a minute. 
Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making French Onion Chicken Soup, a Few Tips

  • Be patient with the onions. The secret to really good caramelized onions is actually quite simple: Give it time. So be patient, as it will take 35 to 45 minutes. Remember to also stir regularly — especially as the onions start to brown and stick to the pot.
  • Don’t forget to stir the soup as it simmers and the chicken cooks. I tell you this from personal experience. When you forget to stir, the bottom of the pot is very likely to scorch, ingredients may stick to it, and the pot is a real bear to clean.
  • The Gruyère toasts cook fast. Keep an eye on the toasts after sliding them under the broiler (especially if you know that your broiler runs very hot). It will take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.

French Onion Chicken Soup Recipe

The best of both worlds combine in one cozy pot.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes

Makes about 11 cups

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 3 pounds

    yellow onions (4 large or 6 medium)

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried thyme

  • 2

    dried bay leaves

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 3

    medium carrots

  • 3 medium stalks

    celery

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

  • 3/4 cup

    dry white wine

  • 1 tablespoon

    dry sherry

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 6 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

For the cheesy toasts: (optional)

  • 1/2

    baguette

  • 2 ounces

    Gruyère cheese (about heaping 1/2 cup)

Instructions

Make the soup:

  1. Peel, halve, and thinly slice 3 pounds yellow onions (about 10 cups).

  2. Melt 4 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 dried bay leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to prevent burning, until the onions are soft and amber brown, 35 to 45 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Peel and cut 3 medium carrots crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (about 1 1/4 cups). Cut 3 medium celery stalks crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces (about 1 cup). Mince 3 garlic cloves.

  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the onion mixture. When the butter is melted, add the carrot mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are crisp-tender and brightened in color, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, season 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs all over with the remaining 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt. (If using thick chicken breasts, start at the thickest end and hold your knife parallel to the cutting board, then cut the chicken breasts in half — also known as butterflying.)

  5. Pour 3/4 cup dry white wine and 1 tablespoon dry sherry into the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute to cook the floury taste out.

  6. While stirring constantly, pour in 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth. Add the chicken in a single layer. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a lively simmer.

  7. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers at least 165°F, about 10 minutes for thighs or 12 to 20 minutes for breasts. Meanwhile, prep the cheesy toasts if desired.

Make the cheesy toasts:

  1. Arrange an oven rack 3 to 4 inches below the broiler unit and set the oven to broil. Cut 1/2 baguette crosswise on a bias into 1-inch-thick slices (about 8). Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Grate 2 ounces Gruyère cheese on the largest holes of a box grater (about heaping 1/2 cup). Sprinkle the bread evenly with the cheese.

  2. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pot. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season the soup with more kosher salt as needed.

  3. Broil the bread until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Top each bowl of soup with a piece of cheese toast.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.