Fabulous French Onion Soup


It sounds fancy and can be found on the menus of classy restaurants everywhere, but French onion soup is actually very easy to make. This classic will warm your heart and soul any time of year, and — even more enticing — it’s cheap to make. All it takes is some patience and perseverance through the tears.

Here’s how to make Fabulous French Onion Soup:

(Serves 4-6)


  • 6-8 medium-size brown onions, peeled and cut into half-inch slices
  • ¼ stick (2 oz) of butter (either salted or unsalted is fine)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 oz Brandy (if you’re legal and you like the stuff)
  • 1 tsp bottled horseradish
  • 32oz (one box) reduced-sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • Garnish: 4-6 slices of day-old, crusty French bread and 4-6 slices of Swiss cheese

Step 1: OK, here’s the deal: Slicing the onions is the most difficult part
of this recipe. Really. I’ve shed my share of tears making it. But don’t despair; in the end, you’ll cry tears of joy. It’s that good. Reward in mind, peel and slice the onions, stacking them in a bowl until we’re ready to cook. Refrigerating the onions for an hour before cutting might help the tear factor.

Step 2: When the tears clear, grab a big ol’ pot that’s at least 8 quarts (like this excellent Le Creuset or even this T-fal from Target) and melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter’s melted, dump in the onions and stir so they’re coated with the butter. Add the dried thyme, salt and pepper. Stir.

Step 3: What’s about to happen is magic. In the next 15 minutes we’re gonna slowly cook the onions, and a process often called “caramelization” will happen. We’re not making candy, but a similar action is at work: The heat is affecting the natural sugars in the onions, totall changing the way they taste and look. Gone are the onions’ bitter, pungent taste, crisp texture and milky appearance; arriving is a sweet, mellow flavor and texture, and an appearance that looks like, well, caramel. Told you it was magic. Cook  uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

(For even more details on this process, plus photos of what it all will look like, see: How to caramelize onions.)

Step 4: After the onions have browned, turn the heat to low and put a lid on your pot. Cook the onions for another 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. I know that sounds like a long time, but just trust me on this. More flavor magic will happen as the onions continue to brown and shed their yummy, now-sweet juice. In the end, that big ol’ pot of onions you had in the beginning will have simmered down to about a quarter the original size.

Step 5: After 40 minutes, add the Brandy if you’re using it and stir, making sure you scrape the bottom of the pot. Add the horseradish and stir that, too. Finally, add the broth, stir, let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer your whole culinary concoction for 20 minutes. All the flavors will be getting intimately close, like a buch of couples on a dance floor.

Step 6: We really could stop here. The soup, as I hope you’ve tasted, is already amazing. But this last step will make you a kitchen rock star. Heat the broiler in your oven or toaster oven, and ladle the soup into oven-proof ceramic crocks (here’s a neat one from IKEA). Place a piece of bread on the soup, and a slice of cheese over that. Heat under the broiler (or bake at 400 degrees F) until the cheese is bubbling. Remove the crock using oven mitts — remember, it’s hot! — and prepare for those tears of joy as you and your loved ones indulge.

Did you try this recipe? Write about your experience, ask questions or share advice in the comments area below.

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