I’ll never forget the first time I ordered French onion soup. It was at an old-timey café and pie shop in my Kansas hometown, the sort of place where groups of retired ladies meet to sip sherry at noon and giggle about their husbands. I thought it was fancy, and I LOVED it. This Instant Pot French Onion Soup is a quick and easy way to make French onion soup in an electric pressure cooker. A classic French onion soup recipe that tastes like Julia Child and Ina Garten recipes but is easy and more healthy!

White soup crock filled with easy Instant Pot French onion soup, topped with cheesy baguette croutons

My grammy treated my sisters and me for lunch on special occasions, and when I spotted a bowl of what appeared to be thick-cut bread magically floating beneath a golden lid of toasted, gooey cheese, I immediately needed to know what this mysterious, glorious substance was.

My grammy informed me that it was classic French onion soup. Though I cannot remember this part word for word, as the woman who had cooked me homemade macaroni and cheese for my birthday by my personal request for 10 consecutive years, my hunch is that she added something along the lines of “You’ll love it.”

I was a picky eater as a kid, and I have a feeling that back then, the concept of onion soup would have made me skeptical.

My love of toasted bread and cheese must have triumphed, because order French onion soup I did, and to this day, I still remember it as the best French onion soup in the world.

Prior to making this homemade Instant Pot French Onion Soup recipe, I could not tell you the last time I had it. I don’t often see French onion soup on restaurant menus, and if I did, I must have ordered something else.

As delicious as French onion soup can be (and it is delicious—even my persnickety elementary school self adored it), it is also a commitment.

Butter, cheese, and bread are used without any manner of restraint, and while that is a tasty prospect in some ways, the amount in most classic recipes (think Julia Child or Ina Garten) is too much for me in a single bowl of soup.

P.S. Please don’t tell Julia Child or Ina Garten I said that. Ina, if you are reading this, I’d still love to come to the Hamptons and be your BFF. I make great cocktails, and I bet you’ll even like this lighter recipe for Instant Pot French Onion Soup!

2 white ramekins full of homemade French onion soup made in a pressure cooker with herbs, baguettes and spoons

Lighter French Onion Soup

When I set out to create a recipe for French onion soup that wouldn’t send me into a complete food coma, I knew that if I was going to reduce the amount of butter and cheese, I was going to have to come up with something else to compensate for their flavor. I found my answer in two parts.

  • Part 1: The Broth. Despite all the flashy bread and cheese on top, broth is the heart of French onion soup’s flavor.

It’s what those thick slices of bread soak up to become all the more delicious. It’s what gives the onions a home. It’s what you’ll be slurping from your spoon.

Instant Pot pressure cooker next to a cutting board with the ingredients to make homemade French Onion Soup

To give the broth a deep, natural flavor, I used beef bone broth.

Bone broth has been trending in the health sphere over the last few years. It’s popular for sipping (it’s very high in protein) and is excellent for cooking too.

  • Part 2: Caramelized Onions, a.k.a. the sweet nectar of the cooking goods.

Caramelized onions give the French onion soup a large amount of flavor, without the need for excess.

They have an intense sweet and savory flavor that makes them one of the most fantastic culinary tools you can add to your repertoire. I love them in or on just about anything—pizza, sandwiches, pastas, dips, mac and cheese, directly out of the pan, and of course, French onion soup.

Ordinarily, caramelizing a large batch of onions takes 45 minutes or more. I might do that on a Sunday.

On a weekday? Maybe if my laundry is done, my giant pile of mail sorted, and I get through the ever-growing stack of cooking magazines that is threatening to force our coffee table into submission.

To make the Instant Pot French onion soup recipe attainable on even a busy weeknight, I caramelized the onions in my Instant Pot.

It makes the process completely hands off; the onions caramelized in just 20 minutes of pressure, AND you can cook the rest of the same pot, so you’ll still only have one pan to clean in the end. (More one-pan recipes can be found in this post, 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes!)

caramelized onions and a wooden spoon in an Instant Pot

Although a lighter pressure cooker French onion soup recipe might not be traditional, the way I finished it off was: thick slices of baguette, a sprinkle of cheese, and a quick toast underneath the broiler.

large ramekin full of classic French onion soup topped with melted gruyere cheese, thyme, and toasted baguette croutons

For the cheese, I recommend picking something with a robust flavor.

Gruyère is a traditional French onion soup cheese, and if I could only have one cheese in my French onion soup for the rest of my life, that would be it. Incidentally, it is also incredible on a grilled cheese sandwich or in a cheese fondue.

That said, if you can’t find Gruyère, any fully flavored, nutty, and easy-melting cheese would be a great swap. Try fontina, gouda, or in a pinch, sharp white cheddar. The key is to pick something with a lot of flavor so that a) you don’t need as much and b) your soup has a lot of flavor too.

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soup crock of Instant Pot French Onion Soup garnished with cheesy baguette croutons

Instant Pot French Onion Soup

4.93 from 26 votes
A quick and easy Instant Pot French onion soup with beef bone broth made using an electric pressure cooker. The BEST French onion soup recipe.

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 1 hr 20 mins
Total: 1 hr 30 mins

Servings: 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 very large yellow onions or Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 springs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 4 cups beef bone broth or beef stock
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 12 slices small baguette cut about 3/4-inch thick
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Gruyère cheese Swiss, white cheddar, fontina, and gouda, while less traditional, are also delicious

Instructions
 

  • Turn the Instant Pot (or similar electric pressure cooker) to sauté. Add the butter and let melt. Once melted, add the onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, until onions slightly soften and start to release liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons water. Cover and seal the Instant Pot, then set to cook on HIGH pressure (manual setting) for 20 minutes. Release pressure to vent immediately.
  • Remove the lid, then turn the Instant Pot back to sauté. Cook for 5 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates, then add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits that have collected on the bottom of the pot. Let simmer for 10 minutes, until most of the wine has evaporated. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf.
  • Add the bone broth and stock. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  • When you’re ready to serve, prepare the crouton topping. Preheat your oven's broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyère. Broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, watching constantly towards the end so that the bread does not burn. Remove promptly. (See notes section for alternate serving method)
  • Ladle the soup into bowls, then carefully float the toasted cheese baguettes on top. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Alternate Serving Method. If you have ovenproof bowls, you can ladle the soup into them first, top with each with a baguette slice and cheese, then arrange the bowls on a baking sheet and place the sheet under the broiler, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.
  • TO STORE: Leftover French onion soup may be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. For best results, store the soup without cheese or toasted baguettes and prepare topping while reheating.
  • TO FREEZE: Instant Pot French Onion Soup may be stored in the freezer (without the cheese and baguette) for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before serving.
  • TO REHEAT: Warm the soup over the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming. Prepare freshly toasted baguettes with cheese while soup reheats.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6), including baguette and cheese toppingCalories: 328kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 19gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 36mgPotassium: 449mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 373IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 256mgIron: 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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73 Comments

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  1. Really tasty! I had to saute low to caramelize, it was burning too quick for me even though I was standing right there. I personally would add more onions for the second cook, the ratio of broth to onion “strings” was off for me. Delicious recipe, but all your recipes are delicious.5 stars

  2. I doubled the recipe  and it turned out wonderfully. Served it for the big game today with some smoked pork sliders. Was a big hit. Thank you!!5 stars

    1. WHOOO HOOO! CJ, soooo happy to hear you all enjoyed it. Thank you for letting me know and sharing this lovely review!

  3. Very tasty soup, great recipe. But I made one (pretty big) change : I didn’t use my instant pot! I thought it was more likely to overcook the onions that way. So I doubled the recipe and made it on the stovetop in a large pot. 
    I’ve made it 3 times now because my family loves it. I purée the leftovers and use it to make the tastiest beef stew ever (according to me and my family at least).  
    Thanks for the recipe. Love your site! 5 stars

    1. YAY! Thank you for taking the time to share this kind review and your alternative cooking method! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe!

  4. OMG I’ve been having the most intense French Onion soup craving and this totally fit the bill! I was a little concerned because I ended up using about 9 onions after following the 2.5 lbs the recipe called for, but they reduced down to a normal amount and all was right with the world. I made this for lunches this week but my wife and I are about to polish this off tonight! Thank you for this wonderful recipe!5 stars

  5. Am using twice the recommended onions and am also  using both red onions and vidalia onions. Great results. One of our favs5 stars

  6. I think carmelizing in a pan works better, added sherry, a little brown sugar and more dried thyme. Turned out great !5 stars

  7. Yum! We didn’t have bayleaf or thyme, so left those out. Used 4 large onions, and 1/2 cup salted butter because yum. No red wine, so used Rose. Decided I was too lazy to saute the final mix of beef broth (no bone broth either) so put the IP on the soup function for 15 minutes and then quick release. No baguette or Gruyere, so used a sub bun and some Bothwell aged cheddar. So good, worth the scalds to my tongue, and I’m not sharing this with hubby – it’s all mine! Can’t wait to try it with a heartier bread like rye.5 stars

      1. Or sure what went wrong but my inions definitely did not caramelize. Transferred the cooked down onions to the slow cooker I hope I can get them golden and delicious.

        1. Brittany, I am sorry to hear that! Onion caramelization goes pretty slowly, so they may have just needed more time. I hope you loved the soup in the end.

  8. Onions carmelized beautifully. Had lots of liquid at the end that didn’t thicken. I even left out one container of the bone broth. Any suggestions as to how to thicken at the end?4 stars

    1. Hi Abby! The soup is meant to be liquidy and brothy, and I’ve found most traditional French onion soups to be like that, especially so that it soaks up easily into the bread. I hope you were still able to enjoy the soup!

      1. Just made this for my dads bday dinner with the family and i have to say i added a roast cooked it in the Insta pot first then caramilzed onions in a skillet and added everything in recipe and went again in the insta pot the meat added a lot to the soup and made it even better! Very hearty for sure!!5 stars

  9. This is honestly one of the best recipes I have found on the internet. My husband and I just are half a pot for dinner and will have the rest for dinner tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!5 stars

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