“Seductive” might not be a word readily associated with soup, but it couldn’t be more apt for French onion soup—the luscious bowlful of velvety caramelized onions enveloped by a rich beef broth and topped with bread and melted cheese. It’s really no wonder that French onion soup is so popular among Simply Recipes readers. In fact, this French Onion Soup is the most requested soup recipe on the website. It’s gotten 18 million clicks since it was first published on May 18, 2009.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I spent far too many years of my life assuming that French onion soup was something I could only order from a bistro—not a recipe I could make at home, at least not very well. This easy and delicious French Onion Soup recipe proved me so very wrong. It’s a recipe that delivers, as millions of cooks and I can attest.
Despite the depth of flavor, there really aren’t that many ingredients—and none of them are as fancy as you might assume goes into this soup. There are onions, of course, olive oil and butter, beef broth, Vermouth or white wine, bay leaf and thyme, sugar, salt and pepper, bread and cheese—all basically staples.
The steps are simple: slice the onions from root to stem, cook them for a long time in olive oil, and then butter, add some sugar, pour in the broth and herbs, and let it simmer. Finally, you’ll toast baguette slices in the oven, melt cheese on top, and place them on top of the soup bowls.
2 Tips for Slicing and Cooking the Onions
1. Sharpen your knife: Managing the tears while slicing onions is probably the hardest part of this recipe. (One piece of advice before you get going on the onions: sharpen your knife. I did this the last time I made this soup and couldn’t have been happier. The cleaner and quicker slicing wasn’t just more efficient. It also limited my exposure to those tear-inducing onion fumes!)
2. Caramelize the onions: Cooking the onions may feel like a lot of time, but it’s not attentive stirring—go do chores and stir whenever you walk by. Stirring them constantly will make them caramelize more slowly, so you don’t have to watch them closely on the stove. Just don’t leave them unattended too long, or they run the risk of burning. The slow cooking builds wonderful flavor and is well worth it.
The One Ingredient That Makes All the Difference
The advice in the recipe is simple, too—and worth heeding. “Much of the success of this soup depends on the stock that you are using, and stock varies tremendously in its taste. Depending on your stock, you may need to bump up the flavor with some beef bouillon (we recommend Better Than Bouillon brand),” the recipe advises.
Taste the stock before adding it to the pot, and make sure you like it. If you feel it could use more depth, some commenters have added a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, which is especially helpful if you’ve omitted the wine. If you’re happy with the flavor of the stock, you’ll be melting over the final results—just like the cheese on top of the baguette.