Warm up on a chilly night by making Instant Pot French Onion Soup! This take on the classic soup is made in the electric pressure cooker and finishes under the broiler. Hearty and comforting, this Instant Pot French Onion Soup recipe is hard to beat. Makes 4 servings.
Easy French Onion Soup
You could call me the queen of all things French Onion.
I’m all about the French Onion flavors.
Specifically, I’m obsessed with caramelized onions, especially when paired with beef, thyme and melty cheeeeeese.
Why should it be no surprise that I’d make you French Onion Soup in the Instant Pot?
Why I love this recipe:
This recipe has been a long time coming.
We might be able to call this a “cheater’s” French Onion Soup because we’re making it in the Insta Pot.
However, that does not imply that it’s ready any quicker than the classic French Onion Soup made on the stovetop.
This is still a labor of love and time commitment… but it’s well-worth it!
Here are some things I love about this particular recipe:
- Don’t want to babysit the caramelizing onions on the stovetop? The Instant Pot is a great tool! Since the pot doesn’t get nearly as hot as a pot on the stovetop can, the onions require less babysitting. (However, I do still recommend keeping an eye on ’em so they don’t scald the bottom of the pot.)
- If you don’t have a stovetop but want French Onion flavors, this hits the spot.
- Afraid of the pressure settings on the IP? We don’t use ’em.
Honestly, the beauty of this recipe is caramelizing the onions in the Instant Pot. (I discovered how to do it while testing out my French Onion Meatloaf, and it is FABULOUS.)
While you can serve your soup straight from the Instant Pot, if you’ve got an oven and the tools to do it, I suggest finishing the soup in the broiler for that classic French Onion toastiness.
More comforting dishes made in the Instant Pot and slow cooker: Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice | Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup | Instant Pot Gumbo | Slow Cooker Pot Roast | Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
Looking for more comfort foods? Check out my Dinner Recipe Index for recipe inspo.
What is French Onion Soup?
French Onion Soup is exactly that — an onion-based soup from France.
It’s traditionally made with caramelized onions, dry sherry (or white wine) and beef stock (or beef broth).
Bowls of this soup are usually topped with crusty French baguette and a layer of gruyère 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.
What you need to make this recipe:
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- Mandoline or sharp knife
- Herb leaf remover
- Instant Pot or another electric pressure cooker
- Wooden spoon
- French Onion soup crocks
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 yellow onions work best for caramelizing. A Vidalia onion, which is a sweet yellow onion, is also excellent, though I tend to use regular yellow onions because I never have Vidalias on hand. Don’t use red onions.
- Unsalted butter — I like to use this because it means I can control how much salt is added to the dish. You may use salted butter, but go light when seasoning with salt and taste as it’s cooking.
- Red wine — you can use a dry white 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 — while I’ve made French Onion flavors with provolone and Swiss, Gruyere is the classic French Onion Soup cheese. It’s soooo melty!
Customizations and substitutions
Sherry is traditional, but you can use any dry red wine. I always do this because I never have sherry on hand.
My wine of choice is a pinot noir or a merlot. I do not recommend using a cabernet sauvignon because of their bolder, jammy flavors.
If you choose to forgo the red wine, I suggest using a cup of beef bone broth to give some extra flavor to the soup before adding in the broth. This will provide some extra depth of flavor that the wine provides without adding the wine.
If you don’t want to go that route, just use an additional cup of beef broth to deglaze before adding in the rest of the broth and call it a day.
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 white wine sherry. Some even call for cognac or brandy. My recipe uses red wine.
How to make French Onion Soup in the Instant Pot
First and foremost, chop the onions.
Measure out the wine and beef broth.
Strip the thyme leaves off the thyme stems.
Shred the cheese and slice the crusty bread.
Set ’em all aside.
How to caramelize onions in the Instant Pot
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!
I find this process to be much easier in the Instant Pot because the pot doesn’t get nearly as hot as a pot on the stovetop.
And if your electric pressure cooker has a Sauté setting like my Instant Pot does, you can easily do this, too.
As the pressure cooker heats, add the butter and let it melt.
Once melted, add the onions.
Stir them constantly as they cook down, until they’re nice and caramelized!
My IP’s settings for Saute only goes up to 30 minutes, so you’ll have to reset it at least once during this process. I have details about resetting it in the recipe card below.
Make the soup
Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the pot with red wine.
Be sure to scrape the bottom of the Instant Pot with your wooden spoon to release any browned bits from it. This is major flavor, so don’t let it go to waste!
Add the beef broth and the thyme, stirring to combine.
Give the soup a taste, then add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Simmer for the rest of the 15 minutes, then bake in the oven or serve with a little shredded cheese and a toasted piece of bread on top.
That’s right. You don’t even have to put the pot under high pressure and seal the lid! All you do is saute and simmer! No quick pressure release OR natural release of the remaining pressure is necessary.
How to broil French Onion Soup
Move a rack to be about 6-7″ from the top of your oven. (The top of the oven is where the broiler is.)
Preheat your oven’s broiler. Mine goes up to 550°F, so it gets HOT.
Make sure you use oven-safe bowls. Place them on a large baking sheet.
Spoon the soup into the crocks.
Top each bowl with 1-2 pieces of crusty bread, then add cheese on top of that.
Broil for 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is gooey and browned.
Please keep an eye on these as they’re broiling, as you do not want things to break or burn beneath the broiler.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve.
How to store and freeze
Let the soup cool before storing it. Ladle it into an airtight 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.
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.
- Let guests serve themselves… and add on their bread and cheese accordingly. Broil ’em all together!
- 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.
- Serve the soup with the wine you used to deglaze the pan!
Frequently Asked Questions
Gruyere cheese is the traditional cheese in French Onion Soup.
That said, I’ve used provolone and Swiss cheese in a pinch, and they both work nicely with this recipe, too!
Personally, I prefer yellow onions. While they’re not as sweet as a Vidalia onion, when they caramelize, they become a lot sweeter without becoming too sweet.
You can obviously use a sweet onion if you like your onions to be on the sweeter, mellower end.
I’ve never made this recipe with red onions and do not recommend it.
Quick tips and tricks to the BEST French Onion Soup
- Give the onions time to caramelize. These golden brown onions add so much depth of flavor, and you can’t rush it.
- 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!
More comforting soup recipes to try:
- Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Easy Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Dutch Oven Chicken and Dumplings
Now who’s ready to make some of this soup?
Scroll on down to learn how easy it is!
Instant Pot French Onion Soup
- 3-4 medium yellow onions sliced thin (around 6 cups sliced)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup red wine
- 4 cups beef broth
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme about 1 tablespoon, plus extra for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ loaf crusty bread
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 2-cup liquid measuring cup
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Make the Soup in the Instant Pot
- Chop and measure out the onions. Set aside.
- Measure out the red wine, as well as the beef broth. Set aside.
- Turn on the Instant Pot to the Sauté setting. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
- Melt the butter in the Instant Pot.
- When butter is bubbling, add the onion.
- Cook slowly, constantly stirring, as the onions cook down.
- When the Instant Pot Sauté setting turns off after the 30 minutes are up, set it again for another 15 minutes.
- Cook the onions until caramelized and brown.
- Set to the Sauté setting for another 15 minutes.
- Deglaze with red wine, scraping the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Add the beef broth and the thyme, stirring to combine.
- Give it a taste, then add salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Simmer for the rest of the 15 minutes, then bake in the oven or serve with a little shredded cheese and a toasted piece of bread on top.
Finish the Soup in the Oven
- Preheat your oven’s broiler.
- Ensure your bowls are oven-safe, and place them on a large baking sheet.
- Spoon the French Onion Soup into the bowls.
- Top each bowl with 1-2 pieces of crusty bread, then add cheese on top of that.
- Broil for 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is gooey and browned.
- Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve.
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…