French Onion Soup

published Jan 28, 2024
French Onion Soup Recipe

This luxurious soup is easier to make at home than you think.


Makesmakes about 9 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour 30 minutes

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Overhead shot of french onion soup in a navy blue soup crock, topped with herbs.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

French onion soup takes the humble onion and makes it the star of the show. Between its deeply caramelized onions and bubbly cheese toast lid, it’s the meal of our dreams.

If you’ve only eaten French onion soup in restaurants, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to make at home. With just a bit of time and attention, you too can transform a handful of basic pantry ingredients — onions, broth, butter, and cheese — into a luxurious bowl of silky, melty onions swimming in a rich broth. 

In this recipe, I’ll give you the lowdown on the best type of onions to use, which wine to avoid, and how to select the perfect cheese. Before you know it, you’ll be impressing your friends and family with this delicious bistro classic.

Key Ingredients in French Onion Soup

  • Onions: Yellow onions have the right balance of sharpness and sweetness, which makes them the best choice. 
  • Broth: Soup is always a great place to use homemade stock. But store-bought is really OK. Opt for a low-sodium broth so you can control the salt level as the soup reduces, and balance it with the salty Gruyère on top. Beef broth is traditional for the rich color and flavor it brings to the soup.
  • Wine: There was an interesting split in the recipes I researched that used white or red wine. In addition to deglazing and dislodging any stuck bits on the bottom of the pot, the acidity and flavor of the wine cuts through the natural sweetness of the onions and introduces some other flavor notes for dimension in the broth. I chose white wine because it is overall less tannic and intense than red wine, making it a complementary flavor to the onions rather than a dominating one. Choose a dry white wine, but avoid ones that are overly buttery, oaky, or tropical.
  • Cheese: Gruyère is sharp, salty, and melty, which is the perfect trio for the flavors in the broth. Sprinkling a little into the soup before topping gives the broth a kiss of cheesy flavor.
  • Bread: Sliced bread is the raft that floats on top and carries the bubbly cheese topping. French baguette has the right mix of gentle, crusty edges and a soft interior, and it is the correct length to nestle on top of a crock. There is no need to pre-toast the bread. You want the bottom to soak up some of the juices so you can break through with a spoon. 
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make French Onion Soup

If caramelizing onions gives you trouble, take heart that the onions in this recipe do not need to be cooked quite as dark as that. It’s easier to control the browning in a pot with a thick, heavy bottom, which is why a Dutch oven (we have an opinion on which one is best!) is ideal. If using a pot made out of a thinner material, keep an eye on the temperature under the pot to avoid scorching.

  1. Slice your onions. Halve and slice onions from root to tip for slightly shorter strips that are easier to slurp up and won’t become a big tangle. Do not shave them paper thin. Instead, cut them about 1/4-inch thick. Too thin, and the onions will end up mushy or start breaking apart. Despite the long cooking time, they will still have a little texture if you start with a slightly thicker slice from the start.
  2. Caramelize the onions slowly in butter, stirring for even browning. Starting the onions covered helps them steam and collapse quickly, giving the cooking a head start and making it easier to stir the initially large volume of onions. Stirring frequently once the onions start to brown and scraping the bottom of the pot helps the onions brown slowly and uniformly, as well as avoiding burning or tasting bitter. If one side of the pot gets dark, rotate the pot on the burner so that the hot spot doesn’t stay in one area.
  3. Add the broth and let simmer. The goal here is to concentrate the stock. The pale liquid will darken and thicken just enough that the onions are suspended in the broth rather than feeling like two separate ingredients. 
  4. Make the cheese toasts. Divide the soup between bowls, top with cheese, bread, then more cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and any bread edges are toasted. 

If this is a soup you enjoy, consider getting some onion soup crocks. They are not expensive, make the soup feel extra special, and have plenty of other uses.

Helpful Swaps

  • Use chicken or veggie broth. Although beef broth is traditional, you can substitute homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can even consider replacing some with mushroom broth, as it is full of umami flavor and will deepen the final color. 
  • Any Gruyère will work. You may encounter Gruyère at the store that has been aged for different lengths of time. A younger cheese will be creamier and less sharp, while a more aged block of cheese will be drier and bolder in flavor. Either option works, depending on your preference. 
  • Cube the bread. Try cubing the bread instead for ease of eating. As long as the top of the soup is well covered with bread to hold all the cheese, it works.

What to Serve with French Onion soup

French onion soup can be served as a first course or as the main dish with a few sides. Here are some great options.

  • A green salad with a sharp vinaigrette to help cut the soup’s richness.
  • A plate of hot crispy french fries to bring home that bistro vibe. 

French Onion Soup Recipe

This luxurious soup is easier to make at home than you think.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes makes about 9 cups

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 2 1/2 pounds

    large yellow onions (3 to 4)

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 5

    sprigs fresh thyme

  • 2

    fresh or dried bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup

    dry white wine

  • 6 cups

    low-sodium beef broth

  • 2 tablespoons

    brandy or Cognac (optional, but highly recommended)

  • 8 ounces

    Gruyère cheese

  • 1

    (about 9-inch-long) piece baguette (about 6 ounces)


  1. Halve, peel, and slice 2 1/2 pounds yellow onions from root to tip about 1/4-inch thick (about 8 cups). Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large, wide pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, 5 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 fresh or dried bay leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir, cover again, and cook for 5 minutes more.

  2. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally at first and then more frequently once the onions start to brown, until the onions are a rich caramel brown color, 30 to 40 minutes more. Reduce the heat as needed if the bottom of the pot is getting too dark. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot when stirring, especially the corners, so any browned bits get mixed back into the onions and do not burn. Rotate the pot on the burner if one side is cooking faster than another.

  3. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour over the onions, stir well, and cook for about 1 minute to lightly toast the flour. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add 1 cup dry white wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot, until thickened and reduced by about half, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme stems.

  4. Add 6 cups low-sodium beef broth, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a steady, rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thickened slightly, glossy and richly brown in color, 25 to 30 minutes. The onions should be suspended in the broth and not sink to the bottom. Add 2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac in the last 5 minutes if desired.

  5. Meanwhile, arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler element, then heat the broiler to high. Place 6 (12-ounce) broiler-proof onion soup crocks or large ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Grate 8 ounces Gruyère cheese on the large holes of a box grater (2 1/2 to 3 cups). Trim and cut 1 (about 9-inch-long) piece baguette crosswise into 12 (3/4-inch-thick) slices.

  6. When the soup is ready, remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season the soup with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed (remember the cheese will add more salt). Divide the soup between the crocks until 3/4 full (about 1 1/3 cups each). Sprinkle 1 heaping tablespoon of the cheese into each bowl. Top each bowl with 2 slices of baguette, trimming the ends if too long and slightly overlapping as needed to fully cover the soup. Top with the remaining cheese in a thick, even layer (about 1/3 cup each).

  7. Broil, rotating the baking sheet for even broiling as needed, until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and any uncovered edges of bread are toasted, 3 to 6 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: To make ahead, prepare just the soup, leaving out the optional brandy addition, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. When ready to serve, slice the bread and shred the cheese. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add the brandy, if using. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, then proceed with the remaining instructions.

Storage: Refrigerate the soup without cheese or bread in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat before broiling with the bread and cheese.