Best French Onion Soup Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Nicholas Day



45 Ratings

  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4

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Author Notes

Very lightly adapted from Chad Robertson's brilliant recipe in Tartine Bread. He throws in a tablespoon of duck fat in place of half the butter; if you have it, do it. Also, about the bread: The richness here would pair well with a whole wheat rustic bread, if you have a decent version around. —Nicholas Day

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The Magic French Onion Soup I Moved to Paris For. —The Editors

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 6 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cupheavy cream
  • 2 tablespoonsunsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoonkosher salt
  • 2 cupsdry white wine
  • 2 quartschicken stock
  • 5 ouncesGruyere cheese, grated (a cheddar would work, too)
  • 4 slices of hole-y, country bread
  1. In a large, wide-bottomed pot, combine the onions, cream, butter, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-high heat until the onions soften and the cream reduces to its solids. This should take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your onions and your pot. Then turn the heat up slightly, so the onions and cream bubble at a slow boil, and cook without stirring for about six or seven minutes, until the onions on the bottom are deeply brown. (Depending on your stove, this might mean at medium heat or at high. Don't go overboard: you don't want the onions blackened.) Stir the onions and add a half-cup of wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the burnt and browned bits. Then repeat the process: leave the onions without stirring for another six minutes or so, then deglaze. Repeat until you have used all 2 cups of wine. The onions should now be a rich, dark brown color; they should smell divine.
  2. Add the stock. (Use less if you want more of a stew.) Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Season with salt if needed.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the bread until it is dry and crusty, about 15 minutes. Ladle the soup into either ovenproof bowls or a single large baking dish (if the latter, place it on a baking sheet: it will spill). Fill the bowls or dish to nearly the rim. Float the bread on the soup and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool until it will no longer burn your tongue. Devour.


  • Soup
  • French
  • Onion
  • Lunch

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jeff Winett

  • Jill Eichel Charrabe

  • agamom

  • mjad

  • Bri Lavoie

Recipe by: Nicholas Day

I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

Popular on Food52

61 Reviews

Bernadette February 24, 2023

This was a delicious soup. Reducing the cream to solids was a whole new cooking concept for me-but it worked. Also, caramelizing the onions in this way was totally new too. But, it also worked. It just takes time. It wasn't until I was adding the last cup to 1/2 cup of wine that they actually began to look at all brown. Oh, but the color, and the taste! Amazing! I toasted the bread this way, but then added cheese and melted it on top, and added it to the soup when I was serving. We were eating in shifts. This is definitely a time commitment recipe, but SO worth it.

Bernadette February 24, 2023

I did also add thyme and bay leaf with the stock.

Mary B. February 5, 2023

I was ready to make French Onion Soup, as I have many times over the years. This one intrigued me with the cream. I read all the reviews, ignoring all the ones that complained that it didn’t stick to traditional—no thyme? No beef stock? (so therefore, they didn’t try it). I made it as directed. I did not have duck fat, just the butter. I had 1.5 Qt of chicken stock and 1/2 QT beef stock because that was my pantry. Reading reviews, I wish I had Sherry on hand—even for 1/2 the wine, but I did not. I ALWAYS have dry white wine on hand because that’s what I drink regularly. Cooking the onions really took a good solid hour (through all four phases of the wine deglazing), but I anticipated that as being normal from my previous onion soups. If I don’t have homemade stock in the freezer, I always use low sodium stock for cooking—can always add salt if needed. I thought mine needed a little more salt after the broth had cooked 15 minutes. I think this was spot on, delicious! I don’t think broth matters (chicken, beef, or vegetable). The wine is absolutely necessary, though I will try again with sherry because I love that rich flavor. I haven’t served for guests yet—I always do a trial run, but this will be served at my next dinner party.

Don January 5, 2023

I just read the Food 52 essay on making the best French Onion Soup where they were emphatic that there is only one base.... beef broth and then this recipe is presented with chicken stock and cream. This is a very good recipe (i have made it more than once) , but has little to do with the recent essay on "The best French soup" that arrived in my email today. Might you include a "best beef broth" recipe for this soup too?

cosmiccook February 6, 2023

According to Jacque Pepin, water was traditionally used years ago, as the soup is considered a "rustic" soup one made after a night out or when little was in the pantry. Following Serious Eats suggestions, I make it only w chicken soup now--although I'll JUICE onions for a more intense flavor w this batch coming up!

cosmiccook February 6, 2023

I meant chicken stock

Jeff W. November 14, 2022

My rave review should count doubly, as less than a week ago I had made French Onion Soup for an entree. Why would I make another version so soon? There was something about the directions mentioning that the cream would break down to solids that grabbed me. I was thinking little extra flavor bombs, akin to browning butter. Anyway, last night's dinner was fantastic. I love the flavor of sherry, and used a medium dry iteration to replace the white wine. I do believe it is crucial to add the wine, 1/4 at a time and fully evaporate each of those times.

Tracy October 22, 2021

"This is the best french onion soup I have ever had", that 's what my guests said. I did substitute "Black Butte Porter" for white wine, and it was pretty fantastic. (even with cream!)

Alison April 6, 2021

I love this soup. The cream part freaked me out the first time, because its cream. But its awesome, I'm making it tonight for at least the 8th time.

Jill E. January 9, 2021

Such a good soup- easy to make, great flavor- no need for mustard, cognac, flour, even thyme. Kept my liquids closer to 1.5 qt, maybe less, and used vegan “stock”- water, plus tj’s vegan powder. Delicious!

foodie2811 October 18, 2020

This is amazing!!! I absolutely love this soup. This will be my go to French Onion Soup recipe! Thank you!!!

agamom May 10, 2020

The process of cooking the onions with the wine feels like making risotto! About an hour start to finish for the onions but it was restful and easy. I love the simplicity of the ingredients and yet we were missing both white wine and chicken broth. Had to substitute red wine and beef broth - the red made it a bit sweet but the beef broth was not a problem. Added a bay leaf, a dash or two of thyme (only had dried) and it was delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe! We will make it again!

mjad April 24, 2020

I just made this soup and it was absolutely the best French onion soup I’ve ever had. Added a bit of vermouth with the wine and mixed beef and
chicken broth. We skipped the bread and just broiled a ton of comte’ cheese on top Soooo good 👍👍

gideon B. October 28, 2019

made this as written yesterday. tastes really, really good. Thank you for sharing it with the masses! Only complaint is about the recipe time's as written. It took a LOT longer than 30 minutes to get to the point of being able to start browning the onions

cosmiccook September 15, 2019

Kind of sounds like soubise/

crsinbos September 15, 2019

Where’s the thyme? If not gruyere then emmental, not cheddar. Just my thoughts, but will have an open mind and try this. Will only follow up if my gut reactions are wrong.

Bri L. April 23, 2019

Aaaaargh....cream????? In french onion soup???? Mon Dieu! Non!!!! Stick to the classic—caramelize your onions in butter until deeply browned, add a splash of red wine, or cognac (small splash) and good beef stock, some fresh thyme, simmer until wonderful. Top with a slice of toasted baguette and grated gruyère. Broil. If you sub a less expensive cheese you can eat this as a student (even sub bovril for the stock, the onions will forgive) me through many a canadian winter.

Karen L. May 6, 2019

My French grandmother used beef stock too.. not chicken, and yes, cream? Mais non! Bri L. has the right idea :)

jeanne C. May 6, 2019

I was surprised at the crème as well! I use beef and chicken stock but add a table spoon of tomato paste and use crème Sherry. All else the same...I use Provolone cheese. Devine.

Jp9 August 22, 2016

Sitting in NYC on a balmy August night dreaming of a snowstorm, a major transit breakdown and this gorgeous soup. And there is no way to go but Gruyere, nutty, granular, OMG. Thank you for this and for all the great, informative (my stove would annihilate the onions if I had it over medium) comments!

cosmiccook February 19, 2016
This is a must read article that explains how to make french onion soup
Just tried Kenji's method and worked great. Did add garlic, spices and herbs.

blinkythebear February 18, 2015

Just made this! Milk is a great alternative if you don't have cream. 2 quarts of stock is too much i feel, 1.5 quarts will do the trick for a deeper flavour. addition of brown sugar during the softening of onion really brings out the caremelization process + a few dregs of worcestershire sauce really enhances the flavour. A definite must make!!

Douglas B. January 22, 2015

this is the third time I have made this recipe. I had some pomegranate juice, butter , vodka sauce I had made last week so I substituted this for the wine and it added a delightfully sweet layer to this already perfect soup.

Dena January 14, 2015

I don't prepare duck at home and wouldn't have any duck fat laying around. I do have bacon drippings I save for other rich recipes. I wonder if that would work instead. I bet it would add great flavor and who doesn't love bacon!

cosmiccook September 15, 2019

I've done the bacon fat before--but I like butter for this the best.

Robert April 20, 2020

Not sure where you live, but, I can buy duck fat at my local grocery store. I know you can buy it at many of the on-line gourmet stores. It's a staple in my kitchen.

Douglas B. December 14, 2014

Perfection !!! the best tasting onion soup I have ever had

Best French Onion Soup Recipe on Food52 (2024)


How do you deepen the flavor of French onion soup? ›

A few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf elevate the soup even more, but I take it a step further, adding a splash of fish sauce for complexity and depth—don't worry, it won't taste fishy—and a hit of cider vinegar to balance some of that oniony sweetness.

What is the difference between onion soup and French onion soup? ›

What is the Difference Between Onion Soup and French Onion Soup? French onion soup is always made with beef stock. Other onion soups can be made with chicken, vegetable, or beef stock. Additionally, French onion soup typically contains wine or sherry, which isn't typical or necessary in other onion soups.

Why do you put baking soda in French onion soup? ›

The caramelized onions for this soup cook more quickly due to a pinch of baking soda but still have that deep, slow-cooked flavor. Topping the soup with hot, cheesy toasts prepared while the soup simmers, eliminates the need to bake the soup in specialty French onion soup bowls.

How do you make French onion soup not bland? ›

The next time you're mixing up a pot of French onion soup, toss in a few bay leaves to upgrade the flavor a little more. The bold flavors can complement the taste of the soup and make for a more flavorful dish.

How do you doctor up canned French onion soup? ›

Infusing the soup with a richer taste is as easy as quickly sauteing crushed garlic before pouring the soup in. Some soft, buttery garlic sauteed in earthy olive oil is the perfect addition to enrich canned French onion soup.

Why do you add flour to French onion soup? ›

Onion soup, at its very essence, is nothing more than onions and water boiled together. Period, done, finished, everything added from that point on is pure opinion. Caramelizing the onions brings out sugars, and makes a more luxurious silky and sweet soup, adding flour gently thickens and provides body.

What broth is French onion soup made of? ›

This soup traditionally is made with beef stock, though sometimes a good beef stock can be hard to come by and expensive to make. If you use boxed stock, taste it first! If you don't like the taste, don't use it. (If you cook a lot of beef or beef roasts, save the scraps and freeze them to make a stock with later.)

Why is my French onion soup too sweet? ›

Onions are very sweet, especially when they're cooked down, and that is the main purpose of onion soup. The sweetness can be balanced by adding some dry wine or vinegar. Taste as you go and don't overdo it. A little salt will balance it too, but don't forget that the grated cheese you will top it with is salty.

Does it matter how you cut onions for French onion soup? ›

For French onion soup, it is best to slice the onions into thin, even slices. This will allow them to cook evenly and caramelize properly. You can achieve this by cutting the onion in half, placing the flat side down, and slicing it widthwise into thin slices.

Why do you put lemon juice in soup? ›

But as the publication explains, lemon juice adds more than just tartness. For chicken soup in particular, lemon juice balances out the more rich and savory flavors, adding an overall brightness to the taste.

Why is my French onion soup sour? ›

It might be because of the stock or that you used onions that has sour flavor such as white onions.

How do you thicken French onion soup? ›

If you want to thicken your French onion soup, you can add a bit of flour. Combine a couple of tablespoons of flour with a teaspoon of salt and whisk in about a quarter cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened.

Why are my onions not browning for French onion soup? ›

A few reasons could be that you sliced them too thick or too thin. You haven't cooked them long enough. Your heat isn't at the right temp, use between medium and medium-low.

Is French onion soup for the poor? ›

The story behind this famous soup

In ancient times, Romans saw it as a dish for the poor. This is due to the fact that onion cultivation was accessible to all, especially to peasants.

How do you keep cheese from sinking in French onion soup? ›

French Onion Soup Tips

Serve the French Onion Soup immediately after broiling to enjoy the gooey, melted cheese at its best. The longer the soup sits, the more likely the cheese may start to sink. Make-Ahead. You can make the soup broth ahead of time and wait to top them with the bread and cheese when ready to enjoy.

How do you make soup taste stronger? ›

Use fresh vegetables, high-quality meats or broth, and fresh herbs to add depth of flavor. Add acidity: A squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a dash of vinegar, or a splash of wine can brighten the flavors of a soup and make it taste more complex.

What spices add depth to soup? ›

Herbs and sources add flavor, aroma, and intensity to the soup broth. You can pick fresh or dried herbs like basil for tomato-based soups or fresh parsley for clear broths. You may also add more spices like turmeric, ground ginger, ground paprika, or nutmeg for a touch of spice and color to your soup broth.


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