French Onion Soup

I love love love French Onion Soup. It is cheap (ish) to make, has complex flavours, and anything topped with cheese is often a winner in my books. Kale doesn’t like French Onion soup, despite trying it repeatedly, so when I make this I am often making it for Ross and I. (Kale gets broth and then a hard boiled egg.) This is a great recipe to use up a lot of onions so if you see a good deal on onions, snap them up. Try not to scrimp on your broth either, as it is what gives it complex flavour.

I make this soup as a bit of a mashup between two recipes. One is from a random soup cookbook called (imaginatively) “Soups” that my mom bought off a travelling sales person who came to her office probably 15 years ago, and the other is from Simply Recipes. I love Elise’s recipes, they are generally not fussy, and it seems she and I have similar tastes in delicious meals. I have been accessing and using her recipes for ages, and this one is a keeper.

This is as good a time as any to make a note about re-publishing recipes you find on the internet. I purposely will credit a website if I specifically used one, and I often make comments about what I’ve changed. It is poor practise to simply copy and paste and I encourage you to share recipes but make them your own and credit where you found them. Don’t forget to say why the recipe is special to you! 

French Onion Soup

(adapted from Simply Recipes and an old book I can’t find a link to).

This makes a pretty big batch: I got three, three-person meals from it. if you have oven-safe individual bowls you can use that’s the best for serving, but if not, you need some sort of oven safe dish to put soup into to bake cheese onto.


  • 2 pounds of onions, peeled and sliced thin. If you have a mandolin, this is where you get to use it. Tip, if you’re using a mandolin, don’t cut the onions in half, leave them whole or they tend to slide around and not cut as nicely. I used smaller onions than normal and it took forever to peel and slice them all, so consider larger onions. Do this before you start cooking, otherwise your butter and oil will be heated up before you can put the onions on.
  • At least four litres of beef broth. Homemade if you can, and if you can’t spring for the good organic stuff. I found I used a bit more than four litres.
  • A big blorb of butter, and a glug of oil. Yes, these are scientific measurements, I swear.
  • Some garlic cloves. Use your judgement on how much you normally like.
  • Dry Sherry. Elise from Simply Recipes uses vermouth. I had sherry so that’s what I used.
  • Fresh thyme or if you don’t have any, dried thyme.
  • a few bay leaves.
  • Pepper, and possibly salt if your broth is lower sodium.
  • Gruyere or mozzarella in a pinch, grated, about 1/3 cup per serving.
  • French bread, a bit stale if you have it, a thick slice per serving.


  1. In a very large, thick bottomed pot, melt the butter and add the oil at about medium, to medium high.
  2. Toss in all the onions, and stir them up as much as you can so that they are all a bit covered in oil and are well separated. Cook them till they are soft, which is probably about 15 minutes. Mine cooked faster, at about 10. Depends a lot on how thick your onions are sliced.
  3. Once they are all soft and transparent, turn up the heat a bit and start caramelizing them. This means you need to stir often and watch them close to see if they are close to burning. You want them to be a lovely dark colour, and this could take upwards of another 30 minutes. Elise recommends adding a bit of sugar to help with caramelization and I haven’t ever tried that, but you could.
  4. When they are done to your liking, add the sherry (or vermouth) and let it bubble up for a few seconds, and if there are any burned on bits, use the sherry to help scrape it off the sides. Add the broth and the herbs and let the whole thing come up to a simmer. When it does, lower the heat. Take out the bay leaf.
  5. Cook at a simmer for about 30 minutes, maybe less, maybe more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It is at this point that if you are freezing it, you should stop, turn it off, let it cool enough to go into your containers. When you’re ready to eat it, you will:

  1. Ladle some into the oven safe containers and add a thick slice of French bread. Sprinkle with grated cheese and pop in an oven to broil. I usually warm the soup up and then portion it into servings and broil in the oven. It means one more pot and one more dish, but also means I don’t have to lift up the cheesy/bready mat to check the temperature of the soup underneath.

This recipe was a part of the #FilltheFreezerDay, a dedicated day where I filled my deep freeze in preparation for the winter. 

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