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April 17, 2023

French Onion Soup

Oh là là, we love French onion soup! Caramelized onions, a rich broth, and delightfully melty cheese atop a slice of baguette make this an all-time favorite soup recipe.


  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Soup
a bowl of homemade french onion soup topped with warm, bubbly Gruyère cheese
Photography by Gayle McLeod

French Onion Soup: A Regal Legacy

What is French onion soup? If you’re not yet familiar with this classic French soup we implore you to drop everything but your knife, and get to chopping some onions. When it comes to decadent comfort food, French onion soup is unrivaled, with its heaping spoonfuls of rich, caramelized onions, soul-soothing broth, all nestled under a bubbly puddle of melted, nutty Swiss cheese. Thought to be descended from the kitchen of King Louis XV, our easy French onion soup recipe is such an indulgent favorite we keep it in regular rotation.

olive oil, butter, spices, wine, beef stock, port, baguette and Gruyère cheese bowls to make french onion soup

French Onion Soup Ingredients

In our delicious take on this French bistro classic, we look to the simplest of ingredients to yield the most incredibly rich and decadent flavors. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Yellow onions. You’ll need four medium onions, which might be more than you think you need, because they cook down as they caramelize.

  • Beef stock. We keep a Costco-sized jar of Better Than Bouillon’s organic beef stock in our fridge at all times, and it comes in especially handy for building the rich umami flavor of French onion soup.

  • Gruyère or Comté cheese. And lots of it! Not only are these well-known Swiss cheeses nutty and rich, they’re the very best melting cheeses in the whole world. Now is not the time to be shy!

  • Fresh + dried herbs. Thyme, garlic, and bay leaf do the bulk of the seasoning in this simple soup.

  • White wine and Port (or Cognac). That’s right, our French onion soup gets a double dose of booze.

sliced onions being caramelized in olive oil in a pot for french onion soup
caramelized onions in a pot to use to make homemade french onion soup
butter, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and pepper being added to a pot of caramelized onions for french onion soup
wine being poured into a pot with butter, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper and caramelized onions

How to Make French Onion Soup

This French onion soup recipe is inspired by one of our favorite restaurants in New York, Balthazar. Cozy red banquettes and a bustling bistro vibe make it a perennial favorite. It’s a wonderful spot for watching the world go by, celebrity sightings, and French onion soup. What sets this recipe apart from all others? A few things. Here are our tips to ensure that your French onion soup turns out perfect every time:

  • Don’t rush the onions. Give yourself time to fully caramelize the onions (at least forty minutes) because this is what gives our homemade French onion soup loads of flavor. They should be completely softened, and a nice dark brown. And don’t be afraid if they start to stick to the bottom as they brown—simply scrape up what bits you can and the rest will come up as soon as you add the broth. You can also check out our instructions for how to caramelize onions, if you’re feeling unsure.

  • Use the best-quality ingredients you can. Since our recipe relies on precious few ingredients, use the best you have access to. We’re talking big, juicy onions that make your eyes water, grass-fed butter (which we reserve for the most special of occasions, like this one), the freshest herbs you can find, and wine you’re more than happy to drink on its own.

  • Don’t skimp on the cheese. While some recipes opt for simply adding a cheesy piece of toast atop a bowl of slow-simmered onions, that definitely isn't the case here. In our opinion, you should be twisting your spoon repeatedly to catch that cheese pull from falling into your lap.

  • Have a baguette around that’s a little past its prime? Perfect! This is a great use for day-old bread, because it won’t fall apart as easily as fresh bread once submerged in the soup. Slice up that day-old baguette to use as a delicious cheese raft!

beef stock, wine, butter, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper and caramelized onions being stirred in a pot

Say Cheese

What kind of cheese is on French onion soup? Nutty, aged Alpine-style cheese, like Gruyère or Comté, are both good cheese for melting. That said, we know not everyone always has a block of fancy French cheese on hand. In a pinch, for French onion soup cheese, you could swap in a super-melty grocery store Swiss, or the fondue-favorite Emmentaler works well here, too. Whatever it is, you’ll be happy to have to use your teeth to scrape it from your soup spoon. Yum!

3 small oven proof bowls of french onion soup being topped with sliced baguette and Gruyère cheese
3 small oven proof bowls of french onion soup topped with sliced baguette and melted, bubbly Gruyère cheese

What to Serve with French Onion Soup

This easy homemade French onion soup recipe is wholesome, hearty, and an entrée unto itself. Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of caramelized onions + soothing broth + melty cheese. Because of that, it’s super easy to turn our homemade French onion soup into a multi-course meal with a few quick additions, like:

  • Simple side salad. Both our Butter Lettuce Salad and Easy Fennel Salad would be a divine addition.

  • Fresh crusty baguette. Or, break out the butter for our ultra-decadent Garlic Bread.

  • Is it possible to have too much melted cheese? If you’re in our camp, you might also want to check out our Croque Monsieur recipe.

  • Keep it classically bistro with Chicken Paillard or Steak Frites.

  • Bottle of French wine. Sancerre or Chablis–this is the best wine to use in French onion soup. Since the soup itself calls for a healthy glug of white wine, plan to open something you’d be happy to drink on its own, but that doesn’t break the bank.

a bowl of homemade french onion soup topped with warm, bubbly Gruyère cheese with a spoon scooping out a bite
a bowl of homemade french onion soup topped with warm, bubbly Gruyère cheese

Tools To Make The Best French Onion Soup

Our classic French onion soup recipe is one you’ll revisit for years to come (you’re welcome!). Keep these tools within arms reach to always be ready:

  • Medium-sized Dutch oven. We love our Staub 6-quart, but any heavy-bottomed pot will do.

  • Box Grater. Like this Cuisinart one. We’re grateful that this recipe calls for a lot of grated cheese, but that also means you’ll want a grater that makes the job as easy as possible.

  • Oven-proof serving bowls. The deliciousness of this soup exists in direct relation to the melty mass of cheese on top, which you can’t achieve without broiling each bowl. A perfect excuse to add these cocottes to your kitchenware collection.

Soup for Supper? Mais Oui!

With winter’s chill upon us, we’re keeping cozy by slurping up all the soup in our recipe arsenal. Curl up to these frost-busting favorites and stay warm, friends!

If You Can Put Your Spoon Down, Snap A Picture

We know that you’ll want to dig in as soon as the cheese has melted, but if you can snap a quick photo of your French onion soup, tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Bon appétite!

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French Onion Soup

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 40 min
  • Calories: 489


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 4 medium yellow onions, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rings
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¾ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • ½ cup port or ¼ cup cognac
  • 1 demi baguette, cut into ¾-inch thick slices
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère or Comté


  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes more.

  2. Add the butter, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

  3. Increase the heat to high and stir in the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, until the liquid is reduced by about half, 3-5 minutes.

  4. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened, and the soup has slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf and stir in the port or cognac.

  5. Turn the oven on to broil with a rack in the center position. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

  6. Arrange individual ovenproof coquettes or ramekins on the prepared baking sheet. Ladle soup into coquettes, and top with bread slices. Sprinkle each coquette generously with Gruyère. Watching carefully, broil, until cheese melts and browns, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with additional thyme, if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories489
  • Protein20 g
  • Carbohydrates29 g
  • Total Fat29 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol52 mg
  • sodium2043 mg
  • Total Sugars6 g

French Onion Soup

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Anna

    Can this be made ahead of time?

    you could make the soup ahead of time but we'd save the bread/cheese broiling step for just before serving.

  • Anna

    Can't wait to make this! Do you think mushroom broth would be the best sub for beef broth?

    That would work fine, as would chicken broth. Hope you enjoy!

  • Mary

    any cheese substitute ideas for us lactose-intolerant?

    You could omit cheese if needed. Hope you enjoy Mary Ann!

  • Jennifer

    Can this be made gluten free? How?

    This is a gluten free recipe as long as you don't serve the bread with it. Hope you enjoy Jennifer!

  • Gene

    What is the best size of ramekins for individual servering of soup - french onion soup?

    We used 8 oz ones in the photos but you could always go bigger like a 10 oz set if you want a larger serving. Hope you enjoy Gene!

  • jenn

    This is the best soup! Broiling the cheese on top was next level, I never would have thought to do that! Thanks for the recipe!

    We love the broiled cheese! MMMM, glad you liked it!