French onion soup is a bistro classic! Delicious caramelized onions in a rich broth, topped with gruyere and THE BEST homemade, herby croutons.
This version has one small change that makes it so easy to make at home!
I should tell you right off the bat that this French onion soup is maybe a little different than you're thinking and it's for a good reason!
When you think of French onion soup, you are probably envisioning a crock filled to the brim with soup, topped with a slice of bread and cheese and broiled until it's all hot and melty and bubbly.
Which I think is the normal way to do a French onion soup, but the French restaurant I grew up going to (and still frequent as an adult when I'm in town!) does it with croutons and shredded cheese on the side. Which I think is a far superior method!
No soggy bread! Cheese in every bite! No having to put your soup in an oven-safe dish and broil it!
It's far easier for making at home, plus, the eating experience of having a crouton and cheese in every bite is way better than the alternative, where you eat the bread and cheese that's broiled on top and then they're gone and you're sad. (It's not just me, right??)
And if you want the classic-looking soup, just portion out the soup, top with the croutons and cheese, and broil for 3-5 minutes. Voila!
This soup is ridiculously good. SO MUCH flavor packed in! My kids - who do not share my passion for soup - will even drink the broth.
The most important thing to know about French onion soup is that it cannot be rushed! There is no way around it. It takes time, but it is worth it!
What takes so long is carmelizing the onions which is ESSENTIAL for that deep, richly flavorful broth that we know and love!
Really, French onion soup is basic dish of onions + broth. Basics done right are GOOD.
Good ingredients, and time. That's all you need for a delicious, bistro-style French onion soup.
If you've never caramelized onions, it is easy! There are no tricks - it just takes time.
You'll start them off over medium-high heat just to jump start the process. After 10 minutes, you'll turn the heat to medium-low, add butter, and cook for 30 minutes more. Then, add some sugar (this helps with the caramelization!) and cook 10 minutes more.
Don't be afraid of browning - they should be deeply browned by the time you're done. BUT, if it crosses over into burning, turn the heat down!
This is a really versatile recipe! Here are some ingredients that can be swapped out:
Onions - Yellow onions are my pantry staple, so that is what I use here! You can use a different type, or an assortment.
Wine - Red or white will work, you just want something dry. Don't want alcohol? Omit it and use extra broth instead.
Beef Stock - You can use beef or chicken stock. Just make sure they're ones you like since they're such main players here.
Cheese - Gruyere is the classic, but any good, white melting cheese will work. Swiss or mozzarella are a couple of good options.
Homemade croutons are SO SUPERIOR to the store bought kind, and soup is the perfect thing to put them on!
These ones are covered in French herbs, garlic powder, and salt, and baked until they're perfectly crisp. The perfect crunch to go with this silky soup!
Oh, they're pretty buttery too.
I like my croutons to be just a smidge soft still, so I pull them out after 20 minutes in the oven. If you like yours crunchier, you'll want to bake them for 5-10 minutes more. But remember, croutons get firmer as they cool down!
Making it Ahead
This would be such a good menu item for a luncheon or a soup night... really, any winter entertaining! Every part of this can be made ahead, and the soup gets even BETTER after a night or two in the fridge.
- The soup - Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stove. You can keep it warm on the stove, or transfer to a slow cooker on WARM.
- The croutons - Once they're cooled to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container or a plastic bag and store at room temperature until ready to use. They'll keep for 5 days - though I can't imagine them lasting that long!
- The cheese - Freshly grate the cheese and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Bistro French Onion Soup with Herby Croutons
For the Soup
- 3 pounds yellow onions (about 6 medium onions)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 6 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon sherry (optional)
- 3 springs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- For topping: shredded gruyere, swiss, or mozarella; croutons (recipe follows)
For the Croutons
- 1 (16 ounce) loaf French or Italian bread, cut into bite-size cubes
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
For the Soup
- Slice the onions 1/8-inch thick.Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions, salt, and pepper and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the butter. Cook for 30 minutes more, until onions are deeply brown. Sprinkle with sugar and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Slowly pour in the red wine, scraping any browned bits off the pan with a wooden spoon as you go. Add the beef stock, sherry, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook 30 minutes.Serve with shredded cheese and croutons for topping.
For the Croutons
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.On a large sheet pan, combine the cubed bread, butter, and oil. Toss with a spatula to coat the bread pieces evenly. Add the thyme, oregano, and rosemary and toss again to coat. Spread in an even layer and bake for 10 minutes. Add the salt and garlic powder and toss to coat. Bake for another 10 minutes. If you want croutons that are crisp but still slightly soft, your croutons are done now! If you like them extra firm, bake them for another 5 minutes.Allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 5 days at room temperature.