Onion soup has fed the poor since Roman times, but it was the French that transformed this humble soup into something extraordinary by caramelizing the onions and topping it with Gruyere cheese. French Onion Soup is hands down my favorite soup. It’s so flavorful and oh, that melted cheese on top just oozing over the edge of the bowl… makes my mouth water just thinking about it. It’s magical.
In 2004, I went across the pond and spent three weeks in Europe. It was a feast for all my senses and to this day, it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. I can say I ate my share, and yours, of French Onion Soup and Crème Brûlée as we traveled through France. When I returned home, I was dead set on my perfecting French Onion Soup. It took some time, but this one is darn delicious and I would dare say it’s the Ultimate French Onion Soup!
The secret is not rushing any step. Caramelizing the onions and getting that brown, rich color is key. Additionally, this soup needs time to develop and meld the rich flavors of the broth with wine and Cognac.
Tip: Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom and the sides of the pot. A silicone spatula is flexible and doesn’t do the job as well.
In a wide bottom-heavy pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until translucent – about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kosher salt, pepper, granulated sugar, oregano and Worcestershire sauce ans stir more frequently so the onions don’t burn, but caramelize evenly into an even and deep golden walnut color, about an additional 15 minutes.
In a small sauce pan, heat up 2 cups of beef stock. Make a well in the center of the pot and add a Tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pot, for an extra 3-4 minutes just to cook that raw flavor out of the flour. Add two cups of hot beef stock and stir constantly to blend any lumps, scraping the bottom to remove all the brown bits.
Add the remaining beef stock, white wine, Cognac, fresh thyme leaves and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer slow and low for 1 hour. If the liquid reduces too much, you can add a little extra stock or water.
Remove the bay leaf and taste for seasoning. If needed, adjust the salt and pepper. Divide the soup among four ovenproof bowls, add a thick slice/croutons of French bread (toasted or untoasted) and top with Gruyere cheese (can substitute with Jarlsberg or Swiss). Transfer bowls to a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until the cheese melts and begins to brown. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes, garnish and serve. I like to garnish with a simple sprig of thyme.
Note: A broiler can quickly burn your food so don’t walk away during this step. Make sure your ovenproof bowl can sustain the broiler temperature. My lovely ovenproof bowls are not designed for broiler use, so i didn’t push it. I melted the cheese and called it a day.
I’ve been making this soup for so many years now and my family loves this soup. The wine and Cognac truly deepens the rich flavors of the beef stock and just warms you up. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine.
French Onion Soup
The best French Onion Soup I've had outside of France! A deep broth flavor enhanced by wine, cognac and caramelizing of onions.
- 3 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- about 2½ lbs onions, thinly sliced prefer sweet Vidalia and white onion combination
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry ground oregano
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 cups beef stock two 32-ounce containers
- about 5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dry thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ⅓ cup Cognac
- 1 cup dry white wine
- French baguette, cut into ¾ inch slices or croutons optional to toast slices/croutons
- ¾ – 1 lb Gruyere, sliced or grated substitute with Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese
Over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a wide bottom heavy pot. When the butter has melted, add the onions and stir to coat with the butter & olive oil. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 20 minutes depending on the quantity of onions and how wide your pot is.
Add salt, pepper, sugar, oregano and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine well. Allow the onions caramelize about 15 minutes or until they reach an even and deep golden walnut color.
Note: a wooden spoon works best to scrape the pot.
In a sauce pan, heat 2 cups of beef stock.
Make a well in the center of the pot and add 1 Tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle in the flour and cook an additional 3-4 minutes scraping the bottom and stirring constantly. Add 2 cups of hot beef stock and stir constantly to blend well, without lumps.
Add the remaining stock, Cognac, wine, fresh thyme and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for an hour. Taste and reseason, if needed.
Note: If your stock reduced too much, add a little extra stock or water.
Set the oven rack slightly above the midpoint and set the oven temperature to broil.
Divide the soup among your ovenproof bowls. Arrange the French bread on top of the soup and generously top with Gruyere cheese.
Transfer bowls to a cookie sheet and broil in the oven until the cheese melts and begins to brown. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme sprig.
Note: Do not walk away from the oven when broiling. Your dish can quickly burn.
This recipe uses salted beef stock. If you are using unsalted beef stock, increase the amount of salt.