French Onion Soup

Mixed onions

Mixed onions

By Cat, December 2010 (Image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

I’d never had this soup until I moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1970 for graduate school. There was a wonderful French restaurant there that served this soup every day, and it was SOOOOOO good! Flavorful, oniony broth with a slice of French bread (baguette) floating on top and drenched with melted cheese. Mmmmm. 

French Onion Soup

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Anne Willan. What makes this soup special is caramelized onions, homemade beef broth, and aged Gruyere cheese melted over croutons (or slice of baguette) on top.

The soup and croutons can be made up to 2 days ahead; store soup in fridge, and croutons in an airtight container at room temperature.

I use my own homemade beef stock, but the recipe for Roasted Beef Broth (2) at Fine Cooking sounds delicious too, made specially for this soup.

This makes a lot of soup; I cut the recipe in half and freeze half of that (just the soup, not the bread and cheese).

Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese. It is becoming more common in American grocery stores, but if you cannot find it, you can substitute any of the Swiss cheeses, including Swiss and Emmentaler, but also fontina, Gouda or Jarlsberg can be used (3). Of these, my favorite is Emmentaler.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) homemade beef stock or roasted beef broth (2)
  • 1 small baguette (8 oz), cut into ½ inch slices (see French Baguette Mini Loaves or Le Pain Ordinaire)
  • 2 lb yellow onions, sliced thinly (8 cups)
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • ¼ cup butter, plus more for baking sheet
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1 tsp Rapadura or white cane sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Equipment
  • Soup pot, with lid
  • Lid that fits inside pot OR baking parchment and aluminum foil
  • Rimmed baking sheets
  • Broiler-proof soup bowls or crocks



  1. First, make the broth and the baguette if you don’t have some on hand. See French Baguette Mini Loaves or French Baguette: Idea Recipes (not adapted or tested).
  2. Slice the onions and grate the cheese
  3. Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat. Stir in onion slices; season with 1 tsp salt & a few grinds of pepper. Reduce heat to low and cover the pot (see Equipment, right, on how to cover). Cook, stirring occasionally (you’ll have to lift the inside cover), until onions are very soft but not falling apart, 40 – 50 minutes. Remove lid, raise heat to medium high and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring, until very deeply browned, 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the croutons: position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet and arrange baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer. Bake until bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once. 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Add broth and bay leaf to caramelized onions; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Discard bay leaf and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper.

To serve:

  • Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high.
  • Put broiler-proof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet; put 2 – 3 croutons in each bowl, and ladle the hot soup on top. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until the top is browned and bubbly, 2 – 5 minutes. Serve immediately


  1. French Onion Soup from Fine Cooking (, originally by Anne Willan
  2. Roasted Beef Broth from Fine Cooking (, by Anne Willan

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