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An intensely savory caramelized onion broth topped off with a thick, toasty hunk of bread, all beneath a lid of golden, bubbly cheese, this classic French Onion Soup recipe is a masterpiece.

french onion soup with cheesy bread

French onion soup ingredients—onions (lots of them), beef broth, a bit of white wine, bread, and cheese—are humble.

One secret ingredient transforms them into one of the world’s greatest comfort foods: time.

French onion soup tastes like sweet caramelized onions, with intense savory notes from beef broth, wine, and brandy.

The consistency is brothy at first, but as the bread soaks up some of the liquid, it thickens. It’s heavenly.

classic french onion soup ingredients in a bowl

About French Onion Soup

French onion soup is actually French (like this classic French Beef Bourguignon or French Omelette), and it remains popular in France to this day.

If you’d like to order French onion soup in France, it’s soupe à l’oignon.

While stories as to who first made it abound (was it Louis XV at his hunting lodge? Duke of Lorraine, father of the Queen of France?), its rise to popularity is rooted in practicality—onions were in expensive, making the soup economical.

(Another fun story: apparently the strong scent of the Gruyère cheese on top masked the smell of alcohol from the night before, and it was a popular hangover food.)

Since we can’t go back in time (or hop a flight to Paris!) anytime we’re craving it, I set out to create an authentic French onion soup recipe that lived up the French onion soups I’ve tried in France.

This is it! Let’s make the world’s best French onion soup.

best french onion soup with crispy bread

How to Make the Best French Onion Soup

French onion soup broth is made of caramelized onions, beef broth, wine, and one very important addition…

The secret ingredient in French onion soup is time.

  • To deepen the flavor of French onion soup, the onions need 45 minutes or longer to caramelize.
  • From there, you add a few flavor enhancers—wine, brandy, and beef stock—but without that caramelized onion base, you won’t have the bewitchingly complex French onion soup of your dreams.

Start the onions sautéing in the background, then carry on with other tasks in the kitchen and give the onions a stir every few minutes.

Looking for a quicker version? Check out my Instant Pot French Onion Soup.

The Signature Topping

While the onion broth cannot be overlooked since it is the soup’s foundation, it’s not what most of us think of when we picture a bowl of French onion soup.

It’s that cheesy, toasted bread.

  • When the toasted bread is placed on top of the soup, its bottom half absorbs the rich broth and becomes soft.
  • The top stays crispy.
  • The melty cheese oozes all over everything.

Digging your spoon through those baguette slices and into the soup below is nothing short of a pleasure.

When you eat them all together, that’s the magic of French onion soup!


The Ingredients

  • Yellow Onions. Frequently a member of the supporting cast, onions get their moment at center stage in this recipe. Their inherent sweetness is celebrated through the caramelization process. They become ultra tender and add momentous depth of flavor to the broth.

Substitution Tip

I used yellow onions for this recipe, but you can swap other varieties of onions or do a mix. See the FAQ section below for ideas.

  • Butter. This is French and butter is a must-have. It helps add rich flavor to the onions as they’re caramelizing.
  • Wine. While you can make French onion soup without wine (simply use additional beef stock to deglaze the pot and a dash of Worcestershire sauce for complexity), I love the touch of acid wine adds to cut through the richness, and it just feels so French. White wine or dry vermouth (a fortified wine) are classic. Red wine can also be used.
  • Beef Stock. Traditional French recipes (like Julia Child’s French onion soup) call for homemade beef stock or broth, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have delicious French onion soup. I have great results with good-quality, store-bought broth.
  • Bay Leaf. Adds a subtle savoriness.
  • Brandy. Pulls all the flavors together and adds a hint of sweetness.
  • Cheese Toast Slices. A slice of French bread or baguette topped with olive oil and Gruyère cheese is a major selling point for this delicious soup.
  • Chives. A tasty way to garnish your soup and add some color. Fresh thyme sprigs are also lovely.

The Directions

onions for french onion soup recipe
  1. Halve, peel, and cut the onions.
onions in pot to be caramelized
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot, then add the onions.
cooking onions in pot for french soup
  1. Cook and stir until softened.
caramelized onions in a pot
  1. Add part of the salt, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cook and stir until caramelized—this will take 45 minutes or longer. WORTH IT.
simmering french onion soup
  1. Stir in the wine, scraping up any stuck-on, browned bits from the pan.
easy french onion soup with bay leaf
  1. Add the stock, bay leaf, pepper, and remaining salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then let simmer for 30 minutes. Add the brandy. Discard the bay leaf.
baguettes for topping french onion soup
  1. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast in the oven at 450 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.
cheesy baguettes for topping soup
  1. Flip the bread slices over, top with cheese, and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve in soup bowls with a slice of bread and chives. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. Store bread separately in an airtight storage container at room temperature.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. If desired, toast leftover bread on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees.
  • To Freeze. Freeze soup in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Prep Tip

Halve, peel, and cut the onions and grate the cheese up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate them in separate airtight storage containers until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

Leftover Ideas

Give your leftovers new life by turning them into French onion pasta. Ladle the onions and broth over a bed of cooked whole wheat pasta noodles. Top the pasta with additional cheese or serve with the cheesy toast.

easy french onion soup recipe

What to Serve with French Onion Soup

This French onion soup is definitely hearty enough to enjoy on its own as a main meal, but here are a few ideas of what would pair well with it:

  • Dutch Oven. Perfect for making soups and stews.
  • Cheese Grater. Grating your own cheese is worth the extra step.
  • Wooden Spoon. Great for stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot.

French onion soup is special.

Yes, it takes time, but once you sink your spoon into that cheesy bread and scoop the savory onion broth below, you’ll know it’s undoubtedly time well spent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Onions are Best for French Onion Soup?

Yellow onions are the classic choice for authentic French onion soup and will give great results, but for an even more complex, nuanced flavor, use a mix. Try any blend of sweet onions like Vidalia onions, red onions, white onions, or even shallots.

What Cheese is Best for French Onion Soup?

Gruyère or comté are traditional for French onion soup, though you can use any cheese with a similar nutty flavor that melts well. Swiss cheese or Emmental are the close swaps. Gouda, fontina, or provolone would also work nicely. Mozzarella, while melty, is a little bland for French onion soup, so if you do use it, add some Parmesan cheese to give it a little oomph.

What is the Difference Between Onion Soup and French Onion Soup?

French onion soup is always made with beef stock. Other onion soups can be made with chicken, vegetable, or beef stock. Additionally, French onion soup typically contains wine or sherry, which isn’t typical or necessary in other onion soups. Last, some onion soup recipes are made with cream which is never the case with a classic French onion soup.

Can I Broil the Bread on the Soup?

If you’d prefer to broil your bread directly on top of your soup instead of on a separate baking sheet, you can do so. Ladle soup into serving-sized, broiler-safe dishes. Top each dish with a slice of the bread. Add grated cheese to the top of each slice. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Can Beef or Chicken Be Added to French Onion Soup?

While it’s not traditional, you could certainly try adding chicken, beef, or even chickpeas to French onion soup if you want some extra protein. I have not personally tried it with this recipe, so it would be an experiment. One easy option would be to stir in some cooked shredded chicken right before serving. Do note however that traditional French onion soup is made without meat (and is plenty filling!).

French Onion Soup Recipe

4.91 from 54 votes
The best French onion soup recipe! Caramelized onions, beef broth, wine, bread, and gruyere, create this splendid French classic.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total: 2 hours

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds yellow onions or a mix of yellow and red (about 6 large)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth see notes if omitting
  • 8 cups unsalted beef stock*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 6 (1-inch thick) slices French bread or baguette
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese about 6 ounces
  • Chopped fresh chives optional

Instructions
 

  • Halve the yellow onions through the stem ends and remove the peels. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should have about 10 cups of onions total.
  • In a large Dutch oven or similar large, deep pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions.
  • Cook, stirring the onions every minute or so, until they soften, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Reduce the heat to medium low to caramelize the onions.
  • Continue cooking, stirring periodically, until the onions are a rich, even golden brown color. Adjust the heat as needed so the onions become meltingly tender and reduce in volume significantly but do not burn (depending upon how your pot conducts heat, you may need to reduce the heat to low for a while); if at any point the juices on the bottom of the pot start to stick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot as needed. The length of time onions take to caramelize will vary based upon your pot, stove, and onions (enamel takes longer than cast iron or stainless steel). Plan on about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Deglaze the pot: Increase the heat to medium high. Pour in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any stuck-on bits. Let simmer 1 minute.
  • Add the stock, bay leaf, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle but steady simmer. Continue simmering uncovered for 30 minutes more. Stir in the brandy. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (depending upon your stock, you may want a bit more salt). Fish out and discard the bay leaf.
  • Meanwhile, make the toasted bread: Place a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with olive oil. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet and toast on the upper rack until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
  • Just before serving, flip each slice of bread over and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Return to the oven and toast until the cheese is melted and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a bread slice, and serve with a sprinkle of chopped chives.

Video

Notes

  • *If using regular or even reduced sodium beef stock instead of unsalted, reduce the salt added in step 5 to 1/2 teaspoon; salt at the end to taste.
  • If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, simply leave it out! You can use part of the beef stock to deglaze the onions.
  • TO COOK IN INDIVIDUAL CASSEROLE DISHES: Instead of toasting the bread separately, ladle the cooked soup into individual broiler-safe dishes. Lay a bread slice on top (no need to brush with oil) and sprinkle with cheese. Broil 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. Store bread separately in an airtight storage container at room temperature.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. If desired, toast leftover bread on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze soup in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 470kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 23gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 68mgPotassium: 978mgFiber: 4gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 657IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 527mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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81 Comments

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  1. This was AMAZING. My husband and son both said this was a meal to put in “The Favourites “..I added red wine which I think is a must.. Definitely worth the burning of the eyes when cutting the onions.5 stars

  2. Valentine’s Day Romantic Dinner with Well Plated French Onion soup coupled with Well Plated Honey Garlic Salmon and wine {also used in the soup). The soup was delicious and if blind-folded, the taster would have thought it was from a high end restaurant. The caramelized onions were amazing and the wine enhanced the flavor. Easy to make, so this will have a return showing.5 stars

  3. Just cooked this onion soup and devoured it. Very, very, very nice. Perfect for a cold Winter day. My husband, a professional chef, loved it too and praised the soup.
    I used yellow onions and Swiss Gruyère cheese. The beef broth was homemade.5 stars

  4. Delicious! I used 2 red, 2 yellow and 2 sweet onions. I did not have any brandy on hand but added a few shakes of Worcestershire. I used red wine because I had a bottle of Pinot noir open. It was so good!5 stars

  5. I have been wanting to try this for a long time and finally got around to it yesterday. This is EXCELLENT! I love that you can make a delicious French onion soup without needing extra bowls that are broiler safe. My husband said “this is better than some French onion soup we’ve had hat restaurants!” Thank you so much Erin for creating this delicious, easy to implement recipe.5 stars

  6. This was absolutely delicious! The key definitely is making sure the onions properly caramelize for the best deep flavor. I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the onions while they were cooking for a little added flavor and used havarti cheese on my toasts because it melts so nicely. This recipe is a keeper for sure! Thank you for sharing it :)5 stars

  7. My husband and I love the restaurant version, and I’ve been searching for a delicious homemade version of French Onion Soup, and this is a WINNER! So good! Very easy and incredibly flavorful 😋

  8. I’ve tried FOS before but this recipe is outstanding! So well-written with great photos. They helped me know how dark to get the onions! And you are right, so worth the wait! We all loved it!5 stars

  9. Fabulous recipe! I’m very happy to find a delicious recipe for French Onion Soup! This is our favorite soup when we go out to eat, and I love to find great soup recipes!5 stars

  10. Definitely a labor intensive recipe but really delicious! I have been wanting to make homemade french onion soup for a long time now and am glad I finally did. I chopped all the onions the day before to break up some of the steps. I used a pinot grigo wine… and drank the rest of the bottle while I stirred it :)5 stars

  11. This was so good!! My family had a soup night and this was the recipe I made and it was the first soup that was completely devoured. It’s such an easy soup to make and the flavor is amazing! I’m glad I made it for the Challenge this month!5 stars

  12. Such a delicious and easy soup to prepare just takes time and patience! Next time I think I will try a mix of onions. My husband said I nailed it! Thank you for another great recipe.5 stars

  13. This is the BEST French onion soup! It is creamy, sweet, and savory all at the same time. The brandy is a must! It took me about an hour to cook the onions, but it is well worth it to get that sweet, creamy taste. Why pay $10 at a restaurant when you can make a better version yourself at home for a quarter of the price that serves 6? Simply amazing recipe!5 stars

  14. Just made this tonight! I’ve never tried making it at home before and this was even better than a restaurant. Everyone LOVED it.5 stars

  15. Incredible! First time making French Onion Soup and this didn’t disappoint at all! Used red wine as that’s all I had on hand and it turned out delicious!5 stars

  16. The process is spot on. Turned out great for my first homemade onion soup. The onions were perfect. It was a little sweeter than I prefer. I think maybe because I used pinot grigio. Next time I may use vermouth.5 stars

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