Basic French Onion Soup

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

Any onion can make a great soup; I prefer whites because they hold their texture better. The real secret is to take the time to caramelize the onions slowly. Make a double batch and freeze the extra—it lends itself to interesting additions and accompaniments. This soup originated at Les Halles, the huge original food market in Paris. It was a workingman’s soup with rich sweet flavors and bubbling fat cheese to fill the stomach and take the chill off.


  • 4 quarts peeled and sliced onions (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup light-bodied white wine
  • 7 cups homemade chicken stock or your favorite canned broth
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • cup good cognac or brandy (optional)


In a Heavy soup pot over low heat, slowly sauté the onions, garlic, and thyme with the butter and olive oil until they are deep golden brown. Stir regularly to make sure they don’t burn. This may take 20 to 30 minutes or more, but be patient—the results are worth it!

Add the wine, stock, and bay leaves and simmer partially covered for another 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and add the cognac, if using.

Ladle into warm bowls and top with a toasted croûte and about cup of cheese. Place the bowls under a hot broiler for a minute or less to melt and lightly brown the cheese. Dig in.


French bread croûtes (toasted slices), one per serving, grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese, or a mixture (2 to 3 cups for 6 to 8 servings)