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Classic French Onion Soup

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Serves 6-8

This ultimate version of the bistro classic is made with homemade beef broth and caramelized onions. Aged Gruyère is key to getting the traditional bubbling crust of cheese; it's rich, smooth, and melts easily.

Watch a video for step-by-step instructions on how to make this soup.

  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for the baking sheet
  • 4 medium-large yellow onions (about 2 lb.), thinly sliced (8 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 small baguette (1/2 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 quarts Roasted Beef Broth or lower-salt canned beef or chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère

Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and season with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Reduce the heat to low. Press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely, cover the pot with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally (you will have to lift the foil), until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring often, until very deeply browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the croûtes (baguette toasts), position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer. Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

Add the broth and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Put 6 to 8 broilerproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. Put 2 or 3 croûtes in each bowl and ladle the hot soup on top. Sprinkle  with the cheese and broil until the top is browned and bubbly, 2 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Tips

The soup and croûtes can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store the soup in the refrigerator and the croûtes in an airtight container at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

Start with a Mixed Green Salad with Red-Wine & Dijon Vinaigrette and serve another French classic, Dorie Greenspan's Tarte Tatin, for dessert.

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is not a very good recipe for such a classic soup. missing a lot of seasoning as well as red wineto give more body

The onions need a more time to brown up. But you need to make sure you do it gently, as to not break them up and to not burn them. I noticed that they do not put any flour on the onions once they are browned? Traditional Onion Soup recipes have you put a couple of tablespoons of flour on the onions after they have browned. You cook it for two minutes. Then add your liquid. This helps to bring the fat to the surface while it is simmering, so you can skim the surface of the foam. I find that beef broth is not enough flavor for the broth. Every recipe I have looked up has added something different to bring up the flavor of the beef broth. My solution is beef consomme. I just really love the richness of the flavor. I use half and half in my soup. You can also finish the soup with a little brandy.

Perfect recipe and delicious however if you want to bring it up a notch, add a nice dry white wine, I add about 1 cup) to taste and enjoy!!!

The flavor is delicious - definitely a 5-star flavor. I agree with the other comments however about the cooking time. It was much longer than advertised, even with putting the heat up just a tad higher. Worth the wait? Yes, definitely. I had to use a boxed beef broth for lack of a homemade stock, and so I made up for it by using some chopped fresh thyme a few seconds before adding the beef broth, and then adding a little red wine vinegar at the end to give the broth a little "zip". I was able to use sweet onions instead of regular yellow ones, and I don't think this was responsible for my long cook time. I used a 5qt dutch oven. Since it was just me at the table, I used the toaster to make a couple of croutons from the ends of a loaf of sourdough bread. But my croutons were still very good. I will make this again, but leave more time (like an extra 30 minutes or so of onion cooking).

Very good. The onions did not brown as quickly as described in the recipe, which is why I am only giving 4 stars. When I increased the heat, they burned on the bottom of the pot. However, in the end the flavor was excellent. Using the roasted beef broth really makes a difference.

This recipe was terrific just as written. Of course, as cooks, we all need to use our senses to observe what's happening with our ingredients. My onions caramelized very nicely. I kept the heat up higher during the first 15 minutes of cooking and they caramelized well, then I lowered the heat for the rest of the cooking time. In fact, I didn't even need the full 40-50 minutes before adding the stock. Wonderful. Thanks!

Good basic recipe, but a few essential ingredients are missing. Add a minced garlic clove toward the end of the onion cooking step, add about 1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh), and 1/2 cup dry red wine or 1/4 cup cognac. Don't worry too much about the onions caramelizing - they'll be good even if they don't brown because it's the long cooking period that enriches the flavor. If your broth isn't robust enough (taste it), add 1 tsp soy sauce to boost flavor.

Carmelize the Onions is the trick. Put 8-10 onions in a crock pot with a few tablespoons of olive oil in the morning before you go to work. Set on low, and they'll be great when you get home.

love your recipe...especially the beef broth ...long process , but worth it instead of canned etc....for the carmelized onions..(read the reviews, not browning)..I prefer the method Carmelized Onion Sweet Rewards for Slow Cooking in your Apr/May 2005 , those are perfect!

I decided to do a taste test. To their recipe I added 1/4 cup of sherry to one batch and 1/4 cup of cognac to the other. I found the sherry batch too sweet and the cognac batch full bodied tasting and much more yummy. Although, if you are like my husband who has a sweet tooth, he preferred the sherry batch. I would have given this recipe 5 stars but I couldn't get the onions to caramelize. Next time, I will brown the onions in smaller batches and add it to the pot. TIP: My mother does up large batches of caramelized onions and garlic in the oven. She tosses the sliced onions and peeled garlic in oil and spreads them on cookie sheets and into a 400 degree oven, stirring occasionally until browned. She then freezes it in small portions to have on hand to add to her soups and stews.

very similar to another recipe I have, which includes a 1/2 cup of ruby port. A comment about the onions----caramelizing onions, shallots, leeks etc is really about patience. One needs to keep the heat on low, and stir frequently. A lid on your pan is just as good as the foil, and less messy. If time is an issue, caramelize the onions the night before, and just let them take as long as needed to get to that creamy texture---and, when you can, use SWEET onions, such as Vidalia or Maui's instead of regular brown onions. yum

I don't know why,but onions for this recipe cook and brown best if the onions are cut from stem to root,and not crosswise.They do not "fall apart" even after prolonged cooking. With this caveat in mind,this recipe seems perfect. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

I had trouble with this recipe - there was so much liquid in the onions after the first 40 min that I couldn't get them caramelized without the onions turning to mush - it just took too long to cook off the liquid, even with the heat up. I drained the onions finally to get them dry enough to caramelize some, but never really got there, and unfortunately onions were cooked to oblivion. I was using a not-too-deep wide pot. Next time I'll try it without the foil. Probably good recipe otherwise.

This my very first try making french onion soup. It turned out very well. My husband likes it & he loves FOS. He thinks he might like a different cheese than the gruyere - just his personal take on it & the only reason for 4 not 5 stars. I had homemade beef broth made with real beef bones. Yum! Yes it took a longer for the onions to caramelize for me too. I also turned up the heat a little. I like that the recipe told you 4 onions or 8 cups. It helped to know that. I made half a recipe in case it wasn't a winner - easy to make for 2 people. I will definitely make this again! Full recipe next time. This is better than most restaurant versions we have had. Truly a classic, easy to make & worth thime time it takes.

This is absolutely divine French Onion Soup - as good as any I have had throughout the country, including the French Pastry Shoppe in Santa Fe (which I've always thought was the best.) I used a combination of Wolfgang Puck Beef Broth and low sodium chicken broth and had a rich, tasty broth - but not too bold. I, too, had to cook the onions longer to caramelize as well as turn up the heat a bit. Neighbors and husband raved. Daphne McLeod

This one is delicious! I made it and all my guests thought it was fabulous and each asked for the recipe. Perfect combination of ingredients. It did take longer for the onions to carmelize than indicated in the recipe.

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