The Very BEST Baked French Onion Soup
This rich broth-based Classic French Onion Soup recipe is topped with a cheesy crust that you will guard with your spoon…or knife. No sharing allowed. Hearty and comforting, this easy onion soup makes a regular appearance on our table.
Are you wondering why I stated “Baked” in the title? It has nothing to do with eating French Onion Soup while baked, I assure you. BUT, I learned a lesson once when I ordered a Classic French Onion Soup at a restaurant. I assumed all versions were the same and all versions came with a thick, crusty topping of melted, gooey cheese.
I assumed they all had a dark, beefy broth. I assumed they were all following the same recipe all over the globe and why would someone ever deviate from perfection. I assumed…incorrectly.
At some restaurants….if their French Onion Soup is not baked….it is not topped with cheese and stuffed under the broiler. That version is missing the most defining part of the soup for me. HOW can someone skip cheese? Doesn’t the entire population live to put cheese on everything every single chance they get? Doesn’t everyone like melty, gooey cheese?
You can imagine my confusion when I ordered this soup at a restaurant one day and the cheese was MISSING! I may or may not have looked at the waitress like she had six heads while trying to figure out if she had gotten my order wrong. Nope, she did her job perfectly and brought me the exact soup I ordered.
I ate it, wallowing in my disappointment, weeping a little inside that it was missing my favorite part. It was still fantastic, the buttery onions were perfectly caramelized and the broth was deeply flavored. It could have been the best French Onion Soup recipe ever but I could only focus on the fact that the cheese was missing.
So, the moral of the story is….if you order this soup in a restaurant and it doesn’t state that it is baked….ask. Ask if it’s blanketed with a thick layer of cheese and baked in the oven to an oozey goodness that makes it difficult to eat….because that’s what makes it amazing.
Or you can make it at home. Which is what I did. I’m of the mindset that if you want something done right…..do it yourself. And so the very BEST BAKED French Onion Soup recipe was born. It’s fairly simple to make at home and it’s very similar to the French Onion Soup Julia Child’s once made which totally makes it a classic French onion soup recipe just because of that.
French Onion Soup is super easy to make at home and so impressive to share with guests. It does take a while to cook the onions down but you can do this in advance and then store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. Don’t become all impatient and shorten the cooking time on the onions. You want a deep caramel color before you add the liquids. This gives the broth that rich flavor that’s so prominent in the restaurant versions I’ve had.
What’s in French Onion Soup?
This easy French Onion Soup recipe starts with just the simplest of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make the BEST French Onion Soup ever:
- olive oil
- red wine (optional)
- beef stock
- bay leaves
- gruyere cheese (or other sharp Swiss cheese)
- baguette slices, toasted
If you’re not into using alcohol in your recipes, you can totally make this French Onion Soup recipe without the wine and it will still be fantastic. I just like to deglaze my pan with it to scrape up all those flavorful brown bits and it adds a great depth of flavor to the soup.
What is the traditional cheese for French Onion Soup?
I’m a big fan of Gruyere cheese and, as I’ve heard, it’s the go-to cheese for topping French Onion Soup in most restaurants. It’s rich, smooth, buttery and melts so easily….it’s also the key to getting that golden brown, bubbling crust that’s so iconic with Baked French Onion Soup.
If you’re not a fan of gruyere or Swiss cheese, you could use a mild cheddar, provolone or another mildly sharp cheese in it’s place.
How do you make the best French Onion Soup from scratch?
Making French Onion Soup from scratch is really easy to do. Follow these simple instructions for French Onion Soup perfection:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted and starting to bubble. Add the onions to the pot and cook until softened stirring occasionally.
Add the salt, pepper and sugar stirring to combine and continue cooking until the onions are a deep caramel color, approximately 45-50 minutes. Stir in the thyme and red wine.
Continue cooking until the red wine has evaporated and then add the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle the soup into four oven-safe crocks or bowls. Top each bowl with one slice of baguette and 1/2 cup of cheese. Broil the soup under the broiler on low until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.
What is the best onion for French Onion Soup?
All onions would work well but my favorite onion for making French Onion Soup is the Vidalia or other sweet onion. The sugars in the onion help the caramelization process along and really deeps the flavor lending a sorta sweet/savory thing going on that’s superbly splendid in this soup.
I use the same onions for this Caramelized Onion recipe….which is essentially the base for this easy French Onion Soup. If you can’t find Vidalia onions or other sweet onions, you can use a combination of yellow and red onions to get the rich, sweet flavor and deep, golden color.
How do you cut onions for French Onion Soup?
I like to thinly slice my onions for this French Onion Soup. Not too thick, not too thin. Too thick and they’ll take FOREVER to cook down and caramelize. Too thin and they’ll all apart and disintegrate in the soup leaving you with….well, just onion soup without the actual onions. 🙂
Bonus points for the freezability of this soup. AND if you really want to…you can skip the cheese. I won’t mind. That’s more cheese for me.
What can you serve with French Onion Soup?
Because this Classic French Onion soup is already pretty hearty, I like to serve my soup with a side that’s a little lighter. Here are my favorite sides to serve with French Onion Soup making it a full main course meal:
- Loaded Iceberg Wedge Salad
- A light green salad with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
- Thousand Island with a quick garden salad.
- Barbecue Chicken Cobb Salad with Avocado Ranch
- Quick Citrus Spinach Salad
- Bourbon Roasted Pear Salad
Looking for a few more easy and hearty soup recipes? Try these READER FAVORITES!
- Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup is simple and outstanding!
- A family favorite…Classic Vegetable Soup.
- Quick and easy Creamy Tuscan Chicken Tortellini Soup.
- Easy Broccoli Cheddar Soup is simple and amazing.
- Creamy Chicken Soup with Artichokes and Mushrooms…..on repeat for years.
Note: This recipe was originally published on January 29,2014. It was updated with improved recipe tips and photos on January 6, 2018.
Baked French Onion Soup
- 4 large vidalia onions sliced into 1/2 inch rings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup dry red wine I used Cabernet
- 6 cups low sodium beef stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 baguette sliced into 1/2 inch slices (you will need 4)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn over. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
- In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted and starting to bubble. Add the onions to the pot and cook until softened stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper and sugar stirring to combine and continue cooking until the onions are a deep caramel color, approximately 45-50 minutes. Stir in the thyme and red wine. Continue cooking until the red wine has evaporated and then add the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle the soup into four oven-safe crocks or bowls. Top each bowl with one slice of baguette and 1/2 cup of cheese. Broil the soup under the broiler on low until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.
- Note: The soup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Heat the soup over low heat and then follow the directions for serving. (beginning with Ladle the soup...)