Recipe: French Onion Soup

September 26, 2016

Simple ingredients, cooked slowly for a long time become more than the sum of their parts. It started raining on Sunday afternoon and it got me thinking about simmering soups and bread. I wasn't necessarily thinking about crying my way through a recipe, but you will probably shed a tear or two with all this onion preparation. If you're curious, there is an article here that tests tear free theories of chopping onions. 

So, if you're brave enough to give it a shot, this delicious french inspired soup only needs a few ingredients. 

For the soup:

3 Tablespoons Butter

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

10 - 12 onions, roughly 6 or 7 cups when sliced (lots of recipes call for a specific type of onion, I used everything I had in my pantry: yellow, red and even a large shallot I had hanging around)

1 Teaspoon of Salt (or to taste)

Plenty of pepper (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener alternative like honey or maple syrup)

3 tablespoons flour

8 cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth (try different combinations)

For the croutons

6-8 slices of baguette or french bread (nearly any bread will do)

1.5 - 3 Cups of shredded cheese (Gruyere is traditional but nearly any melty cheese will work)

Tools you will need

Medium sized stock pot with a lid (any kind of 3 - 4 inch deep wide bottomed pan will work great)


Cutting Board

Wooden Spoon to use while cooking

Bowls for serving

Baking sheet


Here's the method I used:

Remove the outer layer of paper/skin from your onions. Remove the ends and then cut the onion in half.

 Peeling Onions aren't they beautiful?

After the paper is off you should slice the half into half moons about 1/8 inch thick. For me it was about twice the width of my knife blade.

Onion skin removed, thin half moon slices.

Close up of onion slices

Isn't that lovely? You need lots of onions chopped like this, I didn't say this was tear-free. 

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat, then add your butter. After butter and oil have combined, add your onions. 

Simmering Onions

Cooking on medium low will work great - the dark caramel colors of this soup are going to come from cooking your onions over a low heat for several hours. Cook covered for about 20 minutes.

Once your 20 minutes are up, remove the lid and add your salt, pepper and sweetener (this will help the caramelization process). You could also add any other aromatics and herbs (like thyme, basil or garilc) at this stage.

caramelizing onions

Continue cooking over medium-low heat for at least 45 minutes to an hour. If they start to stick or crisp up, turn the heat down. Stir frequently as the onions develop a dark brown and carmelized color. 

Towards the end of this simmering phase, heat your broth. I like to use a product called "Better than Bouillon" soup base. It's delicous, economical and a small jar has the equivalent of 38 cups broth. I used equal amounts beef and vegetable broth because that is what I had on hand.  


As your onions become deeper and darker brown add 3 tablespoons of flour and simmer this with your onions for about 3 minutes.

Next, you'll add your hot broth to the onion mixture all at once in a great steaming cauldron of flavor. 

Broth added to onions

Simmer this partially covered for another hour on low heat, stirring frequently. 

Towards the end of simmering, toast your bread lightly and shred your cheese. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Partially fill each bowl with soup, top with a piece of toast (or several depending on your taste) and similarly cover with shredded cheese. 

Set these bowls on a baking sheet and put into your pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes. The baking sheet will prevent the bubbling soup and cheese from overflowing and smoking on the bottom of your oven. 

Soup, toast and cheese.

Your finished bowls of soup should look deliciously browned with a good amount of meltiness. 

Finished french onion soup

That's it, wonderful French bistro style cooking at home. It several hours of simmering to get the finished product, but if you have the time you'll be rewarded with an amazingly simple and delicious soup. Try it at home  and post photos to Instagram or Facebook using hashtag #thekitchenatsecondharvest and we may feature your creation on the blog. Enjoy!