French Onion Soup – a traditional recipe.
I love this time of year. Our temperatures have dropped slightly. The sun is not as intense. The mornings are cooler as well as our evenings.
Soup is just calling my name this time of the year, and onion soup makes it to the top of my favorite soup list. Warm, savory, easy, and flavorful, it’s made with beef stock, wine, and loads of onions.
And don’t forget — it’s topped with loads of cheese over crusty French baguette slices. Heavenly!
In this Article
- My version of the French onion soup recipe
- What makes it a French Onion Soup?
- Why Oxtail?
- Why You Will Love French Onion Soup
- Cooking tips
- Step-by-step instructions to create this excellent Onion Soup
- How to finish and serve this easy French Onion Soup:
- What to Serve With French Onion Soup
- Other Flavorful Oniony Recipes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- If you enjoy this delicious recipe, look at my other recipes.
- Onion Soup – Traditional French
My version of the French onion soup recipe
It is very rich and sustaining due to the oxtail, the toasted bread, and tons of ooey-gooey melty cheese that accompanies it. I added the oxtail to give the store-bought broth a richer flavor.
Another significant component for the success of this onion soup is slicing your onions very thinly versus in chunks. This will help them to caramelize better.
Caramelize the onions with care, and do not rush this step. You want your onions to cook evenly and gently while they release their natural juices.
I love to mix two kinds of onions: yellow onions and sweet Vidalias. I’m not fond of the pungent white for this recipe. However, it is my choice – you can use your favorite variety.
I’ve also used red onions. My only suggestion is to taste as you go — you will have to season with a bit more salt since the onions are sweeter when cooking.
What makes it a French Onion Soup?
This beautiful soup originated in France in the 18th century, and it is not just a soup but a way of life. Throughout history, it was seen as humble food for the peasant, as onions grew quickly and plentifully, and broth was fairly easy and simple to make.
French onion soup differentiates from its English counterpart, as it always calls for beef stock or broth.
The English soup is readily made with beef, chicken, or vegetable stock (or broth).
However, both versions will incorporate fresh herbs — thyme and bay leaf for the French and sage for the English.
White wine is used in the original version. I use a rich red wine like Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon.
I added oxtails that my butcher chopped up into 2-inch pieces to make my soup richer and to deepen its flavor.
You can enjoy the meat of the oxtails on its own after cooking — it’s exceptionally rich in flavor. Once shredded and the thick membrane removed, the saved oxtail will work beautifully in a tomato sauce, omelet, or quesadilla. Nothing will go to waste.
However, I’ve also been known to incorporate the meat into this recipe, too. I’ll shred some of the meat at the end of cooking and add it to the soup.
Oxtail is the tail of beef that requires lengthy and slow braising to release its rich flavor. It’s not necessarily pretty to look at, but it makes a great addition to the beef broth.
Use the smaller parts or end pieces that cook alongside the onions for this soup.
Why You Will Love French Onion Soup
Flavorful – This recipe creates layers of flavor with a rich, savory broth and sweet onions. It’s texturally perfect, too, with the crusty bread that cradles the melty cheese over top of the warm and comforting soup.
Easy – Despite how elegant this soup can be, it’s in no way hard to make.
Versatile – You can serve this soup as a meal on its own or make it as a side or starter.
Convenient – Stir up this soup on a Sunday or Monday and just reheat it throughout the week.
- Use a mandoline or a food processor with a thin slicing disk to slice your onions. You want all your slices to be the same thickness to ensure proper and evenly cooked.
- Caramelized onions will freeze well for up to three months. Make an extra batch to keep on hand so you can procure a quick pot of onion soup when the craving strikes.
- I use a large heavy cast enamel pot that will hold all the liquid but also has a large stable base with a heavy lid. You do want to evenly cook your onions as well as your soup, and I always found it I achieve the best results on my Le Creuset.
- I am a massive fan of using fresh herbs when on hand, it will do it more hommage to this soup.
- Use a rich white wine if wanting to substitute.
- Gruyere can be substituted by Emmenthal cheese. Grated is best of course.
- Season with salt and pepper once done. You will find that it tends to be on the sweeter side.
Step-by-step instructions to create this excellent Onion Soup
Spread the rounds of baguette on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet of bread slices in a preheated oven and bake until crispy.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven melt the butter. Then, add the onions.
Slowly cook the onions, stirring occasionally until translucent and soft.
Sprinkle in the sugar and salt and increase the heat to caramelize the onions.
Add flour and cook briefly before adding the stock, oxtails, wine, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the oxtails and thyme before adding the cognac.
How to finish and serve this easy French Onion Soup:
- Place in a soup bowl that is ovenproof. Even though they will stay under the broiler for a very short time, you want to make sure you do not crack your dishes.
- Use a croak bowl or onion soup bowl, which is rounder and taller with a small opening mouth.
- Place the onion soup bowls on a baking sheet to accumulate any cheese spillover.
- Broil until the cheese is melted and starts to be bubbly.
What to Serve With French Onion Soup
White wine – Substitute a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc for the red wine.
Worcestershire sauce – Add umami with a a small dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Herbs – Incorporate other fresh herbs like rosemary or sage. Or, garnish with parsley.
Croutons – If you don’t have a baguette handy, croutons will work instead.
Cheese – Swap out Gruyère, and use Emmental instead.
Some recipes will make you toast the baguette first. Some do not. I have tried both ways, and I like to toast my bread a little bit before placing it on top of the warm soup.
It will hold its consistency longer, allowing you to dig in the melted cheese.
Do not be shy to add as much cheese as you wish after all, who does not like melted cheese combined with onion soup, just divine.
Cognac is a must. It will give that extra rich, uplifting taste to this beautiful soup.
As you know, the alcohol will burn off while cooking, leaving a beautiful aftertaste.
I do love French onion soup. Comfort food at its best in my book on a cold evening night.
Other Flavorful Oniony Recipes
Frequently Asked Questions
What is French onion soup made of?
There are a variety of ways to make French onion soup but many recipes call for a rich beef stock with herbs — and caramelized onions, of course. It’s also topped with a round of bread (that is often toasted) and broiled, melted cheese.
Why does French onion soup taste so good?
French onion soup is a hearty, comforting soup that get’s its layers of flavor from herbs, cognac, onions, and beef stock. Brandy and wine also further add to the complex flavor profile.
Why is my French onion soup so bitter?
French onion soup can become bitter if the onions are overcooked. When you caramelize onions for French onion soup, be sure to use a low temperature and cook them slowly.
This soup is as good reheated as it is fresh off the stove. It’s great for weekly meal prep.
Make-Ahead: Make the onions ahead of time and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Refrigerator: Store soup in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. Avoid storing the bread and cheese with the soup in the container.
Freezer: Freeze soup for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container or a resealable freezer bag.
If you enjoy this delicious recipe, look at my other recipes.
Equipment and ingredients used to prepare this recipe
Onion Soup – Traditional French
- 3 yellow onion, medium thinly sliced
- 2 sweet vidalia onions, medium thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 cups beef stock
- 1 pound oxtail
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 thyme, sprigs
- 3 tablerspoons cognac
- 4 French bread, slices
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400º. Spread the rounds of baguette on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown. Set aside.
- Add the sugar, pinch of salt and increase the heat to high. Cook for about 2 minutes until the onions caramelize slightly.
- Stir in flour and cook for about 1 more minute until light brown. Pour in the beef stock, the oxtails, red wine, fresh thyme, add pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 50 minutes.
- Remove the oxtails and the thyme. Add the Cognac to the soup. Stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Turn on the broiler. Leave the door open while reaching the temperature.
- Put the soup terrine under the broiler until the cheese melts.
- Serve immediately.
Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.
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Originally published on January 5, 2022. Updated on September 28, 2023.