Recipe: The Non-French French Onion Soup

“I love French onion soup” is an understatement. I am typically not a creature of habit. I like to mix it up a little. I do, however, make French onion soup at least once a month. I cannot live without French onion soup. My husband loves it. My neighbors love it. My parents and grandparents love it and my kiddos have loved it from a very young age, we’re talking before they even crawled.

A little history for you: The French did not create French onion soup. We learned this while in Paris, sitting along the Seine at a little bistro without a name. I pondered what to order since I was new to the French language and could only understand a few words like cheese: fromage, ham: jambon and beurre: butter. And while eating these three things at once–also known as the croque monsieur–is delightful, it is rather an indulgence and heavy eating.

Seine river eating

How’s that for a tangent! Okay, back to the French onion soup. The waiter at our bistro tells us, “Americans created this soup because they came to France poor but wanting culture. Onions were cheap since they were easily grown and considered a peasant food. They are not filling as one would expect so the Americans added their stale bread.” Ugh! My heart sank a little at that moment. My love for the French culture, food, people, scenery, architecture, etc will never change–especially the food part, but French onion soup NOT French? Well, that sucks. HA!


Perhaps our waiter was bitter and just didn’t care for my red hair. Or perhaps his grandfather was the creator and just tired of him taking credit. Maybe the French government won’t allow their citizens to tell the truth? Well whatever the truth is, I wasn’t there for it and cannot tell you how it happened, but I can tell you how to make it!

Eiffel View
View from bistro

You will need:

  • 5 large onions – sweet vidalia are best but any will do, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp butter, room temp
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 96 oz good beef broth (3 boxes) – don’t skimp
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or champagne

In a stock pot begin to melt butter on medium heat and add the onions and salt. You want to add the salt at the beginning because it helps draw out the juices from the onions, this is a good thing. Stir the onions often, you are trying to sweat the onions, meaning you want them transparent, and uneven cooking isn’t good food. After about 15-20 minutes add the garlic and pepper. Be careful here…only allow the garlic to cook for 30 seconds. Garlic can burn easily and you just spent 20 minutes babying onions, nobody wants to start over just because garlic burned. IMG_3247

Ok, now add your liquids. Bring stock pot to a boil and then cover it with a lid. Turn heat to medium low, and allow to cook for a minimum of 6 hours. You may use a crock pot if you wish, I prefer my dutch oven — allows for even cooking– see the theme?

IMG_3248Here’s a cheat: I throw in my cheese stubs that were leftover from Parmesan, Pecorino, and/or Gruyere ( about 1 oz each) right before placing the lid. The cheeses melt into the soup adding depth of flavors and salty nibs. Who doesn’t love finding an unsuspected salty nib?!

I am not a fan of soggy bread so my family omits that part of the recipe. If you like the soggy bread, by all means, add what you wish. We do, however, LOVE gruyere cheese…any cheese for that matter! We add about 1/4 cup of grated cheeses to each of our soups before eating and “taking it to the face!”

This recipe will yield about 6-8 servings. I hope my love for this simplistic dish becomes a staple for you and your family too.

*Featured photos courtesy of cookthink

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