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French Onion Soup


French onion soup

We really enjoy a bowl of French onion soup and that is what I made for lunch today.  The photo above was, as they say on TV programmes, “one I made earlier”, in January of this year actually, but it always looks much the same.  So here is how it’s made and it couldn’t be easier.  You don’t need to measure the quantities and there are only four main ingredients (apart from seasoning – salt & pepper):  onions, stock (I make the stock from beef Oxo cubes, but you could use Bovril) a baguette, and gruyere cheese (you can use cheddar but gruyere is better.)

French Onion Soup


Ingredients (this makes sufficient for four people, or two meals for a couple):

A tablespoon of olive or rape seed oil (I use rape seed, which reputedly is healthier)

Three large onions (or six smaller onions)

Beef stock (I use 4 beef Oxo cubes to roughly one and a half pints of boiling water, and if I feel there isn’t sufficient seasoning with this, I add one veggie stock cube, too.)

Salt & pepper to taste

1 medium sized baguette

Gruyere cheese


Using a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil.

Chop the onions (some recipes say slice but I find that long slivers of onion in soup are not the easiest things to eat) and add them to the oil.

Give this mixture a good stir and then pop on the lid and with the heat on its lowest setting, sweat down the onions for 15 minutes.  I use the kitchen timer to make sure I don’t walk away and forget them!  Then check to see they are not burning, stir them, and give them another 15 minutes, check again, and then another 15 minutes, a total of 45 minutes cooking time.  By which time they should be soft and buttery (see below).

Now add the stock, sufficient to cover the onions.  You can always add more stock but you don’t want the onion pieces swimming in a lot of stock; this soup should be quite thick with onions.

Bring the soup to the boil, adjust the seasoning – add salt & pepper as desired – and then turn down the heat and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.  By now the soup has been cooking in total for about 1 hour.

While it is simmering, slice the baguette at an angle and toast lightly on both sides.  When both sides have been done, add slices of gruyere to one side and return to grill the cheese until melted.

As soon as the croutons (i.e. the toasted baguette with the melted cheese on top) are ready, serve the soup into warm bowls and place the croutons on the soup.  I put out a fork with this soup as well as a soup spoon so you have something with which to anchor the crouton while you cut through it with your spoon.  Now all you have to do is enjoy the soup.

For pudding (as we say in Devon, regardless of whether it’s a hot or cold dessert, but it is never referred to as “afters”, that is too, too declasse, ha ha!) I made a very quick fresh fruit salad using melon, blueberries, grapes, pear and banana, and slivers of stem ginger.   I would not have added banana – which tends to go mushy quickly – but I had a banana that was a little soft and it needed eating.  Not only did we have some of this fruit salad for lunch with a little low fat cream, but we will finish it with our supper this evening.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    You are putting me to shame, Margaret….three posts in two days!
    Your French onion soup is on the menu for this week. We were once on holiday where French onion soup was one of the permanent menu offerings and I had it four times in a week! I’ve never made it. Gruyere has been added to my shopping list – may as well do it properly!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I hope the soup cuts the mustard, Eloise! The best French onion soup I’ve ever had was in the refectory restaurant at Exeter Cathedral many years ago, it was good and thick and rich and dark brown, I’ve never managed to get mine quite as good, but it’s still good nonetheless.
      As for three posts in two days, it’s only because I had something to post about: books, correspondence cards, aprons, roses, Dartmoor, and soup! I haven’t a pattern to my posts, I just do them when I think of something.

  2. Love your small bowl, Margaret. I bought a very old one like that from a charity shop as I was fed up with using bowls that were the size of a small mixing bowl, or big dessert dishes, for porridge and soups. I felt that those modern pieces of crockery were beyond ridiculous. Am looking forward to having French Onion soup!! I have been talking with a few French people who say that they usually have soup, or a salad, for dinner.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      There are actually two small bowls on the table, Ratnamurti, stacked, ready for our fruit salad for pudding. They are part of the dinner service I inherited and they are really very pretty, and each plate is just the appropriate size. As you say, many modern pieces of crockery are far too large – how do people fit them into dishwashers, I wonder? Yes, we often have soup or a salad for dinner, too, especially in summer (the salad, I mean.) A good thick soup in winter, with a sprinkling of parmesan or cheddar cheese on top, and some granary bread is a meal in itself.

  3. Oh that does look tasty Margaret, I can see French Onion soup being added to this week’s menu!
    In my opinion there is nothing better than homemade soup, my personal favourite is Broccoli and Stilton which is a regular for us during the winter months together with spicy chicken, a good way to use up the last of a roast bird.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I love broccoli and Stilton soup, Elaine, well, any kind of blue cheese added to broccoli soup is lovely. I usually buy St Agur blue cheese (yes, I know Stilton is the English cheese and I should support the English cheese industry, but St Agur is a little gentler and softer, I just love it. My all-time favourite of blue cheese, though, is Beenleigh blue which is ewes’ milk cheese, absolutely delicious.
      I would love the recipe for spicy chicken soup as that is one I don’t know. What spices do you use, I wonder, with the remnants of the roast bird?

  4. I’ll have to try your recipe as I love onion soup. Great idea cutting the onions into smaller pieces as opposed to those strings which make it more difficult to eat. I prefer no croutons in my soup as I don’t care for mushy bread. Love the cheese on top, though. “Pudding” always make me smile – in the states, we call it dessert. Pudding for us is actually pudding (well, maybe you don’t call it that) – that custard type dessert, which can be several different flavors, my favorite being chocolate pudding.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the correct term over here is “dessert” too, Jeannine, only here in Devon people tend to call it pudding, and the upper classes have generally referred to it as pudding, too. “Sweet” is another name, but that’s what lower classes have called it (or “afters”).
      Oh, I adore chocolate pudding, or syrup pudding, and by syrup I don’t mean maple syrup which I don’t like at all, but golden syrup (perhaps you don’t have that in America?) I also have golden syrup on porridge for breakfast sometimes (“porridge” is I think your oatmeal, i.e. oats mixed with milk or milk and water and heated for breakfast.)
      I hope you will enjoy the onion soup!

      • Might your golden syrup be what we call corn syrup? If not, I don’t know what golden syrup is.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          As far as I’m aware, golden syrup is made from sugar cane or sugar beet, I must try and find out for you, as on the tin it doesn’t mention, only that it’s simply syrup. I don’t think it’s made from corn. Will check this out and add a PS if I find out anything more.

          • You are correct – I just looked it up online. Apparently you can find golden syrup in some places in the US. Learned something new today!

          • Margaret Powling
            Margaret Powling

            Golden syrup is lovely on porridge (made with 100% wholegrain rolled oats – not jumbo oats which I bought by mistake once and they were truly awful – and milk, or a mix of milk and water, half oats to the quantity of milk, cooked for about ten minutes, stirring all the time, served hot.)

  5. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    The onion soup has been made, eaten and enjoyed immensely. The cheese was expensive! There was none on the deli counter so I deliberated whether to pay £5.60 for a pack of Tesco Finest and decided against it thinking that I would use cheddar. Then I passed the reduced goods section and had a peek. What luck, there was a piece of Gruyere marked down to £2.80 and I have enough left over to make Gruyere and tomato filo tarts tomorrow ( recipe on my packet of filo pastry).
    How tastes differ. I love maple syrup but not golden syrup and in my porridge (which I make with almond milk) I only like fruit, not syrup. I am very partial to sponge puddings with custard though more as a winter treat. As for blue cheese, I like a mature Stilton or Shropshire Blue.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, gruyere cheese is expensive, but I think worth the extra money. A few weeks ago, in an economy drive, I bought some cheaper cheddar cheese than we usually buy (a well-known brand which used to be nice but it’s made in such vast quantities I’m sure that quality is suffering) and it was a mistake. It wasn’t any good for cooking with as it had little taste, and it wasn’t nice on crackers either. So I’d rather pay more for good cheese – indeed, for any food – and cut back on things which don’t matter as much (loo rolls and washing up liquid). The gruyere I buy isn’t a huge pack and it’s about £3.50. But you were very lucky to find some for £2.80, that’s a bargain for gruyere. Emmental is similar but doesn’t have that extra flavour that gruyere has.
      Oh, I love Shropshire blue cheese, too! Best of luck with the gruyere and tomato filo tarts, I’m sure they will be delicious.
      I bought some almond milk and am trying it out for the first time. I can’t really tell any difference from cows milk, only it’s paler and looks weaker, but tastes much the same. But so glad you enjoyed the onion soup. This is truly amazing, my onion soup recipe is being tried out around the world, in America, England and Australia!

  6. My favourite blue cheese is a local one, made in Norfolk, called Binham Blue, they stock it in our local farm shop, creamy but full flavoured, delicious and far too good to put into soup 😊
    The chicken soup recipe is simple, sauté a sofrito of carrot, celery and onion, add some finely chopped fresh ginger, a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of ground cumin, the shredded cooked chicken ( I prefer the dark meat as find it has more flavour) and chicken stock. If you want a thicker soup obviously pop some diced potato in as well. Then it’s just simmered until all the veg are tender and blended. It’s a lovely soup for a winters day and very good for anyone with the sniffles!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      That soup sounds lovely, I must try that come winter! I will make a note of it. I think I’d add the diced potato to thicken it, we love thick rib-sticking soups! The blue cheese sounds equally delicious!

  7. Your table settings are always lovely, Margaret.
    I agree with earlier comments about the ‘supervising’ of modern dinner sets. When plates and bowls are larger you tend to have larger meals. Not good for the waistline. We have a plain white dinner set which I have added pieces to – serving platters, etc – and bought the smaller sized bowls for my meals and larger sized for hubbie. He has a physical job, does a lot of exercise and has large appetite. If I eat same as him I can’t do up my pants so smaller bowls for me.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, kind lady, she said! My original dinner service was lovely, but we used it day in, day out, and of course, accidents happened. We only have the dessert plates now and those are chipped, too. It was white, with a little bit of gold leaf decoration (Royal Worcester’s Verona pattern.) We loved it, but it was discontinued the year that we bought it, sadly. Plain white is ideal as it shows all food off to best advantage.

  8. That should have been ‘supersizing’. Spellcheck struck again !

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