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French Onion Soup

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hr 40 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 55 min
French Onion Soup in a cocotte with melted gruyere cheese and caramelized onions.

Oh-la-la, do we love French onion soup. Decadent spoonfuls of caramelized onions, soul-soothing broth, and a melty mass of cheese make this the perfect recipe for a date night in.

Oh-La-La We Love French Onion Soup

What is French onion soup? Sacré bleu! If you’re not yet familiar with this classic French soup we implore you to drop everything (except the knife—don’t drop the knife) and get cooking. When it comes to decadent comfort food, French onion soup is unrivaled, with its heaping spoonfuls of rich, caramelized onions, soul-soothing broth, all topped with a bubbly puddle of melted, nutty Swiss cheese on top. Our easy French onion soup recipe is such an indulgent favorite we keep in regular rotation.

yellow onions and thyme on a counter for making French Onion Soup
onions in a broth for French Onion Soup in a pot
onions in a broth for French Onion Soup in a pot

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. Don’t mistake our quantities for a misprint. The onions cook down a ton as they caramelize, so you’ll need more than you think.
  • Beef stock. We keep a Costco-sized jar of Better Than Bouillon’s organic beef stock in our fridge at all times, mostly so we can make onion soup anytime the craving strikes.
  • Gruyère or Comté cheese. And lots of it! Not only are these famous Swiss cheeses nutty and rich, they’re the very best melting cheeses in the whole world. Now is not the time to be shy (... or to count calories).
  • Fresh + dried herbs. Thyme, garlic, and a 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.
French Onion Soup with gruyere cheese and bread
two coquets filled with French Onion Soup covered in shredded gruyere cheese on a baking sheet
a coquets filled with French Onion Soup covered in shredded gruyere cheese on a baking sheet
two coquets filled with French Onion Soup covered in melted gruyere cheese on a baking sheet

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. We even spied Jude Law there once (no joke). What sets this recipe apart from all others? A few things. Here are a few things to know to ensure that your French onion soup turns out perfect every time:

  • Don’t rush the onions. Allowing them to fully caramelize is part of what gives our homemade French onion soup loads and 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. For an in-depth look at how to caramelize onions, check out our post.
  • 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, if you aren’t twisting your spoon repeatedly to catch that cheese pull from falling on your lap, then something has gone terribly wrong with your French onion soup and it has no place at your dinner table.
French Onion Soup in a coquette with melted gruyere cheese

Say Cheese

What kind of cheese is on French onion soup? Nutty, aged Alpine-style cheeses like Gruyère or Comté are classic toppers for their unapologetic saltiness and gooey meltability. 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.

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.
  • Bottle of French vino. Either a Sancerre or Chablis would be amazing here. 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.
French Onion Soup in a cocotte with melted gruyere cheese and caramelized onions.
two bowls of French Onion Soup with spoons and bread

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 and always be at the ready:

  • Medium-sized Dutch oven. We love our Staub 6-quart, but any heavy-bottomed pot will do.
  • Box Grater. Like this Cuisinart one. This recipe calls for a lot of grated cheese, so you’ll want a grater that makes the job a little less of a pain (literally).
  • 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 coquettes to your kitchenware collection.

Soup for Supper!

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!

  • Garlic Soup. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. Seriously, give it a go. Just don’t make it for a first date.
  • Lasagna Soup. Calling it soup makes it healthy, right?
  • Vegetable Curry Soup. Curry and spice and all that’s nice. Oh, and it’s vegan, too.
two bowls of French Onion Soup with spoons and bread
A bowl of French Onion Soup with spoon and bread

Soup’s On

Show us your ooey-gooey, French onion soup goodness! Snap a photo and tag us on instagram @themodernproper and #themodernproper.

French Onion Soup

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hr 40 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 55 min

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup +1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 Medium onions, sliced in 1/4 inch rings
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 4 sprigs Fresh thyme
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Freshly ground pepper (more if desired)
  • 3/4 cup Dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc)
  • 6 cups Beef stock
  • 1/2 cup Port (or 1/4 cup cognac)
  • 6 Slices crusty bread cut 3/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups Grated gruyere or comte

Method

  1. Warm the oil over medium heat in a medium sized dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot with a lid. Reduce heat to medium/low, add onions and cover for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook the onions, stirring often, until a nice golden brown color is achieved. The caramelization process should take about 30 minutes, don’t rush it.
  2. Once the onions are caramelized add butter, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 10 more minutes.
  3. Increase heat to high and add wine. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add stock, bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf.
  5. Swirl in port, or cognac depending on which flavor you like more.
  6. Preheat broiler.
  7. Divide soup into 6 oven proof ramekins, or oven proof bowls. Top each serving with a slice of bread and 1/3 cup grated cheese.
  8. Place under broiler until cheese is bubbling and, about 3-5 minutes. Garnish with some parsley or thyme, serve hot.

*If you are making this for two, freeze the remaining broth for future use.