This Instant Pot French Onion Soup is an easy way to enjoy restaurant-style French onion soup at home in a hurry. It’s a classic French onion soup recipe made quicker and more healthy too!
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 cocktails at noon and giggle about their husbands.
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.
Then my grammy informed me that it was classic French onion soup and assured me that I would love it.
SPOILER: She was right.
5 Star Review
“This is honestly one of the best recipes I have found on the internet.”— Kristina —
To this day, I still remember that bowl of cheesy onion goodness as the BEST French onion soup in the world (it was even the inspiration for this French Onion Chicken).
So this Instant Pot French onion soup recipe is my attempt to recreate a little bit of that magic but in a faster, less labor-intensive way.
If you’re familiar with authentic French onion soup, you’ll know it is a commitment.
- Onions are slowly (and patiently) caramelized to sweet, sweet perfection (just like this Blue Cheese Burger recipe).
- A fragrant bouquet of fresh herbs gets infused into simmering, rich beef broth.
- Butter, cheese, and crusty bread are used without any manner of restraint (ahem, Air Fryer Grilled Cheese).
As magnificent as the classic is, I wanted a weeknight version of this comforting soup that was fast, easy, and (a little bit) healthy (for full-on healthy, check out my Instant Pot Carrot Soup).
How to Make Instant Pot French Onion Soup
Now this healthy French onion soup recipe is made using all of the same ingredients of traditional French onion soup but in lightened-up amounts.
PLUS it’s made right in the instant pot (like this Instant Pot Lentil Soup) for ease and efficiency.
- Butter. It wouldn’t be French onion soup without butter.
- Onion. Slowly caramelized onions are what give French onion soup its depth and body.
How to Caramelize Onions Quickly
Ordinarily, caramelizing a large batch of onions takes 45 minutes or more. For me, that’s a feat that might be possible on a Sunday. On a weekday? Not gonna happen!
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.
- You cook the rest of the soup in 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.)
- Garlic. To amp up the aromatics.
- Thyme + Bay Leaves. These savory herbs pair well with the sweet onions and robustly flavored beef stock (as in this Instant Pot Beef Stew).
- Red Wine. Adds depth and subtle acidity to balance the sweetness of the onions. Choose a wine that’s good enough to drink.
- Beef Bone Broth. Compensates for the low-butter content by lending the broth a deep, natural flavor and added richness. Added bonus: it’s packed with protein.
- Beef Stock. Provides additional richly flavored cooking liquid for the onions and herbs to simmer in.
- Baguette. I recommend buying two. One for the cheesy toasted topping and a second of soaking up every last drop of the rich onion broth.
- Gruyère. 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.)
- Sauté the onions with the butter and herbs.
- Add water, cover, seal, and cook on HIGH pressure.
- Uncover and turn the Instant Pot back to sauté. Let simmer and reduce. Add the wine and simmer more.
- Add the bone broth and keep on simmering. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toast the baguette topped with Gruyère under the broiler.
- To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with toasted cheese baguettes. ENJOY!
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.
A glass of good red wine is a perfect partner to French onion soup. A dry red, like Pinot Noir, complements the rich, beefy flavor of this comforting, rustic onion soup. A Merlot or Malbec would also pair nicely.
- 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 the 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.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Instant Pot. From soups, stews, pasta, and more. You’ll love the ease and versatility the Instant Pot brings to your kitchen.
- 12-ounce Ramekins. I love these oven-safe ones for baked soups and miniature Goat Cheese Quiche.
- Sheet Pan. No kitchen should be without a small collection of quality aluminum sheet pans.
This Instant Pot French onion soup may not be the proper “French” way, but it’s certainly a scrumptious means to enjoy a healthy, fast version of this indulgent soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yellow onions are the classic choice for authentic French onion soup. However, you can use a blend of sweet Vidalia onions, red onions, white onions, or even shallots if you’re into experimenting.
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 red 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.
While it’s not traditional, you could certainly try adding chicken or beef to French onion soup. 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 Crock Pot Shredded Chicken right before serving.
Instant Pot French Onion Soup
- 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 or Swiss, white cheddar, fontina, and gouda, while less traditional, are also delicious
- 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!
- 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.
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Soups & Stews
Soups & Stews