French Onion Soup is easy to make from scratch at home with just following a few basic rules. Everything you need to know about onions, broth, bread, cheese, and cooking vessels to make the perfect, steaming bowl of French onion soup at home.
Make steaming bowls of rich broth filled caramelized onions topped with a cheesy topping just like restaurants!
Here is everything you need to know about onions, broth base, bread, cheese, and cooking vessels to make the perfect bowl of French onion soup at home.
A true French Onion Soup does not use onions that have simply been sweated in some butter. I would call that some kind of cheater soup. Will it work? Sure, but so would a can of condensed soup.
To get the best flavor use caramelized onions. It will truly be the best time investment you can make with this recipe.
Yellow Onions – Good Choice
Yellow Onions are the most basic cooking onion. There was a time when yellow onions were your only affordable choice in a supermarket. Yellow onions are perfect for caramelizing onion because they are fairly inexpensive and readily available.
White Onions – Good Choice
White onions are readily available in stores. They tend to have a bit more of a bite when eating them raw.
They will mellow out with cooking and will be fine used in this soup.
I use white onions and yellow onions interchangeably when cooking. I generally buy whichever onions look the best in the bin.
Red Onions – OK Choice
While red onions can be used but they will turn the broth a weird color. I usually reserve red onions for salads and sandwiches.
Sweet Onions – Just Say No
Sweet onions are the best option when eating raw. They also tend to be the most expensive out of all the onions.
Sugar content varies in sweet onions so I find it best to use them in a recipe that calls for raw onions, like macaroni salad.
Using sweet onions in this recipe may or may not affect the sweetness level of the finished product.
Wouldn’t it be disappointing to spend hours cooking dinner only to find out the onions were too sweet? This is why I just don’t do it.
Beef Broth Substitute
Homemade beef stock, chicken broth, and even vegetable broth can be successfully used in this recipe.
Use a combination of broths. That’s what I do in my wonton soup!
I start with canned broth just because that is what I normally have on hand. Homemade would be super delicious if you have any.
For the best results, use apple cider. NOT apple cider vinegar. 3/4 of a cup of vinegar will produce a very tart soup.
Using a substitute for apple cider is going to alter the outcome of this recipe. I have only tested this recipe using apple cider. I have not used any substitutions.
Unsweetened apple juice can be used as a substitute in a pinch.
Regular apple juice is pretty sweet compared to apple cider so you will need to add some acid back into the soup. Try adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, vinegar, or apple cider vinegar when adding sweetened apple juice.
A sturdy French baguette works the best for me.
There are 2 ways you can use a baguette in this recipe.
Slice the bread into 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick slices.
Toast one side of the bread under a broiler until just past golden brown but not burnt.
Depending on the size of the bowl I add 2 to 3 pieces of bread to the bowls.
I put the toasted side down when making this soup.
It keeps the bread from getting too soggy too soon. I leave one side untoasted so that it isn’t hard if the broth doesn’t get a chance to saturate the bread completely.
Alternatively, you can cut the baguettes into 1-inch cubes and bake in a 400 degree F oven, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes until toasted and add them to the bowls of soup.
I prefer the sliced bread method. It takes less effort.
Not surprising, a French Cheese, Gruyere, is the traditional choice.
I love using it in my soup, but I find I get better results when I use half shredded Gruyere and half shredded mozzarella cheese.
If you want cheese that is hanging over the edges of the bowl, you are going to need some kind of sliced cheese.
Mozzarella, Swiss or a combination of the two would be my choice for draping over the sides of a bowl.
Best Cooking Vessel
An electric skillet is the best way I have found to make French onion soup.
I can keep an even heat, keep the soup warm while I prep everything else, and most importantly I keep the top of the stove clear so I have a place to put the bowls of soup after removing them from the oven!
This can be made on the stovetop in a large saucepan or stockpot. Just keep an eye on the heat, you don’t want it too hot or too cool.
Can I Make This Without Soup Crocks?
Yes, you can and we have photos to show it is possible!
Unless you are going to make French onion soup once a month I wouldn’t spend the money nor the storage space for some bowls you might use occasionally. I use Pyrex oven-safe bowls.
I haven’t had any bowls break yet, but you still need to use your best judgment.
Do place the bowls of soup onto a baking sheet or tucked inside of a cake pan. It will catch any overflow that may happen and if a bowl does break it won’t be all over the floor of the oven.
If you want to make this vegan by using vegetable stock. A good bit of the flavor will come from the caramelized onions anyway.
To keep it vegan, be sure to use all olive oil or replace the butter called for in this recipe with a vegan alternative. I have seen vegan mozzarella cheese and that could be used.
Most bread is vegan by nature, read the ingredients though before choosing bread to feed to your vegan friends.
Gluten-Free Beef Broth – Some commercial beef broths contain hydrolyzed wheat gluten. Check the ingredients before buying one.
Swanson is said to be gluten-free and the ingredients do not list wheat gluten as an additive.
Skip the flour when making this soup gluten-free.
In order to add a bit more body mix about a teaspoon was cornstarch with ¼ cup of water and add to the hot soup.
Bring it to a boil to get the full thickening power of the cornstarch.
If you want a thicker soup, use another teaspoon of cornstarch.
Gluten-Free Bread – everyone has their own favorite version of gluten-free bread. There are a few options at Whole Foods and Sprouts for French rolls and baguettes.
Make sure that gluten-free options are well toasted and wait until the very last minute to add to the soup and top with cheese.
Don’t let this version sit for long.
It is also possible to toast the gluten-free bread then top with cheese and pop it back in the oven. Set this cheesy “crouton” on top of the hot onion soup in the bowl.
More Classic Soup Recipes from Pear Tree Kitchen
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French Onion Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large onions sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 3/4 cup apple cider DO NOT USE VINEGAR, apple cider is found near the apple juice in stores
- 1 can Campbells condensed beef consommé or beef broth
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 teaspoons beef base optional – suggest using it if not using homemade beef stock
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 6 1- inch Baguette slices more may be required if baguette is thin
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese about 4 ounces
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese about 4 ounces
- Heat olive oil and butter in electric skillet set to 200 Degrees f.
- Add onions and cover, cook for 20 minutes.
- Stir, Cook for an additional 20 minutes covered.
- Stir, remove cover and cook another 20 minutes.
- As onions begin to brown stir every 5 to 10 minutes until all the onions are golden brown. Depending on how many onions being used, this could take up to 2 hours.
- Add apple cider and simmer until apple cider has evaporated.
- Add 1 tablespoon flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups water, beef broth, beef base, if using and thyme.
- Continue simmering soup for at least 30 minutes.
- While soup is simmering, slice baguette into ½ inch slices and place under a broiler and broil until light brown, set aside.
- Mix mozzarella cheese and gruyere cheese together and set aside.
- When soup is done, ladle into oven safe bowls.
- Add toasted bread slices, toasted side down onto the soup.
- Add the cheese to the top of the bread and place into a 400°F oven and bake until the cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately.
- Beef broth and base can be substituted with homemade broth, chicken broth, and vegetable broth.
- DO NOT USE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR as a substitute for apple cider. Unsweetened apple juice can be used or apple juice with about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar added can be used instead.