An irrepressible steaming bowls of caramelized onions in a lighter vegetable broth, topped with crusty bread and Gruyere cheese. Tips and step-by-step tutorial for how to make French onion soup included in this post!
I generally prefer to eat French onion soup at home. And, to be quite honest, in the comfort of my sweatpants. There just isn’t a good way to eat it without making a bit of a mess.
But the more important reason that I don’t generally order it at restaurants is that I’ve learned to make a darn close version of David Lebovitz’s French onion soup from one of my favorite cookbooks, My Paris Kitchen. It’s pretty much the real deal!
Tips for making the best French onion soup
I have learned a few key things about making French onion soup. First and foremost, budget some time. This is a labor of love that can not be rushed.
And two more tips:
-Begin with really good stock. Likely the best option is homemade beef stock. But if you go for store-bought stock, be sure to taste it first before you add it to the onions. If you don’t like it on its own, it’s not good enough to use in your French onion soup. David uses chicken stock; and after a few trials, I opted for organic vegetable stock. It was cheaper than boxed beef stock and, of course, lighter.
-The star ingredient here is obviously onions. In this recipe, you’ll notice that the onions are first cooked with a little sugar for a few minutes, this starts the crucial caramelizing process. Then–adding only garlic, salt, and pepper–the onions cook slowly on low heat until they basically “collapse into a thick amber-brown paste,” as David puts it. This step is done before adding any liquid, and it is so important to developing that rich, sweet flavor. And the onions continue to cook with white wine and quality stock until we arrive at a lovely, thick, concentrated French onion soup.
Some recipes call for bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon, or other spices. But the required humble ingredients, plus your labor of love, is all you need to make a hearty classic French onion soup.
Step-by-step for How to Make French Onion Soup
(Scroll Down for the Print-Friendly Recipe)
Prepare the ingredients as listed in the recipe. Toast the bread and set aside.
In a 5 1/2-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven like this one, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar and cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent.
Now add the garlic, salt, and pepper and toss to combine, then reduce the heat. Cook on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring less frequently, until the onions cook down to a thick amber-brown paste.
Stir in the flour and cook, keep stirring for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir to loosen any remaining brown bits from the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven.
Add the stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn the heat off and add 1 tsp vinegar; taste and add the remaining tsp vinegar, and a little more salt, and pepper if you need/like.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set six ramekins or ovenproof bowls on a large baking sheet. Divide the hot soup among the ramekins. Top each with a slice of the toasted bread, then sprinkle the Gruyere cheese to cover the toast. [You can go lighter on the cheese if you are watching your diet]
Bake the soup on the upper rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned. Serve immediately!
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