French Onion Soup

Serve up a big bowl of the best French Onion Soup ever. This super comforting recipe is so cheesy, flavorful and perfect for a chilly day. 

A bowl of French Onion Soup garnished with fresh thyme leaves on a plate with a spoon

The BEST French Onion Soup Recipe 

The weather in Texas has me a little confused, as it continually jumps between the 40s and the 80s, sometimes in the span of a day. And while this is fine, it’s led to me feeling a little less than stellar recently.

The good thing about any cooler weather sneaking back in is that I can have soup. And when I’m feeling not-so-well, I crave it.

Today, an easy French Onion Soup recipe is on the menu. This is my original recipe from way back when.

Let me tell you: It is a labor of love, but it is not hard. 

French Onion Soup takes some TLC, but it’s a pretty low-maintenance dish overall — and your kitchen will smell divine as the onions slowly caramelize. 

Why I love this recipe:

French Onion Soup is one of my favorite things in the entire world, and I can’t wait to share this recipe with you for a few reasons: 

  • It is so comforting. I always say it tastes like a warm hug. 
  • The process of making it feels good. It’s time-consuming and involved, but not hard. You’ll be so proud of it when you dip your spoon in the cheese on top! 
  • This recipe is perfect for dinner parties or chilly weekends when you are craving some comfort. 

This isn’t a recipe I would make for any given evening because it takes time and effort… but when I’m in the mood to make something that feels and tastes impressive, these flavors are what I turn to. 

More French Onion recipes to try: French Onion Risotto | French Onion Bruschetta | French Onion Biscuits | Steak Bruschetta with French Onion Marmalade | French Onion Steak Pasta

What is French Onion Soup?

French Onion Soup is exactly that — an onion-based soup from France. 

It’s traditionally made with caramelized onions, sherry (or white wine) and beef stock (or beef broth). 

Bowls of this soup are usually topped with crusty French bread and a layer of gruyere cheese, which is broiled until melted into a crusty, cheesy topping. 

When eaten warm with a spoon, you get the most amazing cheese pulls! They’ll be Instagram-quality, I promise. 

A bowl of onions with other French Onion Soup ingredients with a blue striped towel

What you need to make this recipe:

The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

The French Onion soup bowls are especially important if you’re going to broil your soup to get the delicious caramelized cheese on top!

Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Yellow onions — white onions work too, but sweet yellow onions work best for caramelizing. Don’t use red onions. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil — any neutral-tasting oil will work here, too, like avocado oil. 
  • Salted butter — unsalted butter also works, but you may end up adding some more salt to taste later. 
  • Dry white wine — you can use red wine or sherry instead, or skip the alcohol. (See customizations section below.)
  • Beef broth — beef broth is traditional and provides the best flavor, but chicken broth and vegetable broth can be used in a pinch, too. 
  • Fresh thyme — you can use dried thyme if needed. You’ll need about 1 teaspoon dried thyme, though I prefer using the fresh herb.
  • Kosher salt — sea salt also works. 
  • Black pepper — freshly cracked black pepper provides the best flavor. 
  • Crusty bread — any kind of bread will work, but it needs to be small enough to fit in your bowl. A baguette slice is classic. 
  • Gruyere cheese — don’t substitute this. Gruyere is classic, delicious and soooo melty! 

Customizations and substitutions

Sherry is traditional, but you can use any dry white wine. I always do because I never have sherry on hand.

My choice of wine is a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio. I do not like using a chardonnay because of the oak flavor of the wine. I do not recommend using a sweeter wine.

If you don’t drink wine or don’t have it on hand, you can deglaze the pan with the same amount of beef broth or water. (I’d go with the broth, but water works in a pinch.)

If you need a vegetarian option, you can use vegetable broth and vegan Worcestershire sauce

Alcohol for French Onion Soup

Traditional French Onion Soup uses alcohol to deglaze the pan. (Deglazing is the name for ​​adding liquid to a pan to loosen food particles and browned bits.) 

Some recipes call for red wine, while others call for sherry. Some even call for cognac or brandy. My recipe uses a dry white wine.

We’re using white wine because I do not keep sherry in my kitchen. People can use that if they so choose, but we like it with wine.

How to Caramelize Onions

*Loud alarm sounds*

Caramelizing onions is the part that takes the most time! It is IMPORTANT. If you try to go too fast, they will burn! Go slowly and be patient. You can do this!

First, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Don’t be tempted to turn it up. 

When the butter is melted, add the sliced onions and salt

Cook over medium-low heat until caramelized, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon so the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

This will take about 45-50 minutes — remember, be patient

While you’re waiting for the onions to caramelize, don’t leave the kitchen.

You don’t have to stand over the onions the whole time, so you can work on prepping other ingredients as the onions cook down.

How to make Easy French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a labor of love, I tell you! I actually took the time to scrawl down my recipe to share with y’all, and it’s a doozy.

Attitude is everything here, and you can taste the quality and love in each bite. 

I KNOW THAT IS SO CHEESY, BUT GOODNESS GRACIOUS, THIS RECIPE IS SO GOOD.

You WILL be tempted to speed things up, but do not give in — the end product is even more glorious than you’d think! (And if you want something quicker, check out my Instant Pot French Onion Soup.)


Once the onions have caramelized, pour in the white wine or sherry and deglaze the pan.

Pro tip!

Use a wooden spoon to scrape any goodness off the bottom of the pan. This liquid loosens any onions bits and other deliciousness that stick to the pan.

Beef broth in a dutch oven with caramelized onions, seasoned with thyme

Once the alcohol has evaporated, which takes just a few short minutes, add in the beef broth and thyme.

Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Taste and add extra salt and pepper, if necessary. I added an additional ½ teaspoon at this point, but measure with your heart.

French Onion Soup in a Dutch oven

While the soup is simmering, preheat the broiler on your oven.

You could probably also use a kitchen torch* (affiliate link) for this in a pinch, though I’ve never tried it myself.

You’ll want to serve the soup in individual, broiler-safe bowls.


Pour the soup into each bowl.

Add a crunchy slice of bread on top, plus a generous portion of shredded Gruyere cheese.

Place the bowls on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment if you want to minimize mess.

Broil the soup bowls for 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned and is bubbly. 

Let cool for 5 minutes, then dig in and be amazed at that cheese pull!

Close up of a bowl of French Onion Soup after broiling with crusty cheese and fresh thyme on top

How to store and freeze

Let the soup cool somewhat before storing it. Ladle it into an airtight, food-safe container and store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. 

The soup can also be frozen and thawed later. It will last about 3 months in the freezer.

When ready to serve, warm the soup in a pot on the stove while the broiler preheats. Then ladle the hot soup into bowls, prepare the toast and cheese in the bowls and stick them under the broiler. 

Close up of a bowl of French Onion Soup on a sheet pan after coming out of the broiler

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

This would be excellent for a soup party or gathering!

Basically, any wintertime party that requires a meal would be great for this because you can make it in advance and keep the soup warm before broiling the individual bowls.

Here’s what I would do:

  • Serve it with extra crunchy bread and some compound butter on the side. 
  • For a real show, use a kitchen torch to broil the cheese tableside for your guests. 
  • Don’t have broiler-safe bowls? You can cook the toasts separately in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese has melted, then place them over the bowls. 
A spoon holds a bite of French Onion Soup over a bowl

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you deepen the flavor of French Onion Soup?

Some people add Worcestershire sauce to the broth. Others add sugar while caramelizing onions. I do neither of these.

The best thing to do is be patient while the onions caramelize — they are so flavorful on their own, but they take time to earn their flavor.

What is the broth of French Onion Soup made of?

The broth contains white wine, beef broth and thyme, plus the sweet and jammy caramelized onions. It’s topped with some crusty baguette and melted Gruyere cheese. 

Three bowls of French Onion Soup straight out of the broiler with crusty cheese and bread on top

Quick tips and tricks to making the best French Onion Soup

  • Use a mandoline* (affiliate link) to thinly slice your onions if you don’t want to use a knife. (Just be careful!) 
  • Mise en place is key. Removing the thyme from the stems is time-consuming and frustrating. Get this done first. If you have a herb leaf remover* (affiliate link), it can help cut down on the time spent here!
  • Be patient. Caramelizing onions takes time, but it pays off in spades. 

More winter soup recipes:

A bowl of French Onion Soup garnished with fresh thyme leaves on a plate with a spoon
Yield: 6 servings

French Onion Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Rich, flavorful French Onion Soup, topped with a crunchy slice of bread and gooey cheese is a comforting entree for the wintertime. This soup's onions caramelize in the oven, then the soup is made on the stovetop before individual servings are topped with bread and cheese and broiled until crusty, gooey and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 4 large yellow onions, sliced thin (about 6 ½ cups, 730g)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine (4 oz.)
  • 6 cups beef broth (48 oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 loaf crusty bread, sliced into 1" thick slices
  • 12 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  2. When the butter is melted, add the sliced onions and the salt.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat until caramelized, stirring occasionally so the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan, about 45-50 minutes.
  4. Once the onions have caramelized, pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any goodness off the bottom of the pan.
  5. Once the wine has evaporated, add the beef broth and thyme, simmering for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and add extra salt and pepper, if necessary. (I added an additional ½ teaspoon at this point, but measure it to what your tastebuds think it needs.)
  6. While the soup is simmering, preheat the broiler.
  7. Serve the soup in individual (broiler-safe) bowls. Add a slice of bread on top of the soup. Top with shredded Gruyere, and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned and is bubbly.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes, then enjoy!

Notes

How to store: Let the soup cool somewhat before storing it. Ladle it into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. 

The soup can also be frozen and thawed later. It will last about 3 months in the freezer.

When ready to serve, warm the soup in a pot on the stove while the broiler preheats. Then ladle the hot soup into bowls, prepare the toast and cheese in the bowls and stick them under the broiler. 

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 759Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 2063mgCarbohydrates: 73gFiber: 5gSugar: 12gProtein: 28g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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8 Comments

  1. French onion soup is THE BEST. We don’t have it very often (beef broth doesn’t work so well when half your household is vegetarian) but we do a roasted onion version that is similarly ark and deep and amazing. 🙂

    1. Agreed, girl! And your roasted onion version of it sounds delightful. Do you have the recipe on your site? I’d love to check that out, as I’m always looking for new and good recipes that are vegetarian even though neither member of our household is.

  2. I LOVE french onion soup! And this looks delicious on a cold raining day that we’re having today. Thanks for sharing. Lovely post.

    1. You and me both, Anne! It’s perfect for a cold, rainy day… and I wish I’d had some today because that was the kind of weather we experienced here.

  3. Me three! I love the sweet smokiness of this soup. And come on, when does crouton and cheese not work in any recipe? 😉

    1. You’re right about that, Jayne. I don’t think that there has ever been a recipe where a crouton and cheese didn’t work. I mean… it’s just so delish!

    1. Thanks, Jess! And what did you expect for the topping, out of curiosity? I know this is sometimes served differently, but I thought a slice of bread and cheese was the traditional way… right? (You’re more of a foodie than me, so I’m wondering what you know that I don’t!)

      And thank you. You are TOO sweet!

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