French Onion Soup

03 Nov

(serves 6-8 )
It is amazing that something as simple as onions can make such a fantastic soup. All this thanks to that someone ages ago who discovered that the sugar in onions caramelizes when it is slow cooked in oil, bringing out the onion’s hidden natural sweetness.
This is a really labour intensive and time consuming soup, but it’s well worth the effort. You can serve it as is, or oven-baked with a cheese topping.


  1. Oxtail (2 big pieces)
  2. Onions (4)
  3. Butter (50g)
  4. Bay Leaves
  5. Thyme
  6. Garlic (4 cloves)
  7. Oxo Beef Cubes (2)
  8. Port

Optional Ingredients

  1. Gruyere Cheese (100g )
  2. French Baguette (1 short)
  3. Flour (2T)
  4. Miso (2t)
  1. Start by making your stock. Into 5 cups of boiling water, add your ox tail, 4 bay leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 1T thyme. Add 2 oxo cubes as well, but mash these in a bowl with a bit of hot soup first to ensure they dissolve. 
  2. Boil for at least two hours and then strain and retain just the liquid. Add 2t sugar and 2t miso (or 2t salt if you don’t have miso).
  3. While the stock is boiling, slice your onions into rings. Using a heavy non stick pan, fry the onions in a quater block of butter under low heat for about forty minutes. The onions will caramelize into a golden brown.
  4. Deglaze the pan with some of the stock and then empty the pan’s contents into your stock pot.
  5. Simmer for a further hour (you’ll need to stir occasionally as it sticks to the bottom) and then season with a generous amount of black pepper, 2T (or more) of port and add additional salt to taste.
  6. For best results, allow to cool and reheat before serving.

Baked Option (you’ll need ramekins)

  1. Have your onion soup refrigerated. This stops the bread from soaking through before the cheese browns.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF).
  3. Medium grate your Guyere.
  4. Slice six pieces of your french loaf diagonally so they just fit across the remekins and toast  them a bit (again to stop the soup fom soaking through too fast)
  5. Pour your cold onion soup into your remekins, filling only 3/4 of the way up. Put a piece of bread on top of soup and then heap cheese on till it covers both the bread and any gaps.
  6. Bake till cheese melts and begins to brown, about twenty minutes. Serve immediately.


  • If you want to use flour, sprinkle in 2T of flour 3 minutes before the onions are done frying, and deglaze slowly while stirring. This is a trade off. The flour will bind away some of the oil that would otherwise film on your soup and give it a bit more body. However, you no longer have a clear soup. I do it both ways, depending on what else I am serving during the meal.
  • Isn’t Miso Japanese? What’s it doing in a French soup? Trust me, Miso goes really well with onions. If you have never used it before, check out my post on Miso Paste.
  • Why aren’t I using French wine? I prefer port because it’s fortified and it brings out the sweetness of the onions.
  • If you can’t find Gruyere, either Raclette or Emmental are good alternatives. For further details, refer to my Cheese Page.

Posted by on November 3, 2009 in French, Recipe, Soups


Tags: , , , , ,

3 responses to “French Onion Soup

  1. ChristineCanCook

    November 3, 2009 at 2:25 am

    This looks lovely. Funny enough, I too made French onion soup for dinner last night. it was lacking… depth… I’m not really sure what which was why I couldn’t fix it. Either way, it was fine but not perfect. It was pretty though. And yours looks stunning!

    • kobayash1

      November 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

      Thanks for ‘dropping by’ Christine. Everyone’s recipe on the onion part is pretty much the same, so I think the difference lies in the stock? I find that the gelatin from the oxtail helps a lot for the depth. I usually stew the meat in a red wine reduction with some vegetables so it doesn’t go to waste.

      • ChristineCanCook

        November 3, 2009 at 10:14 pm

        Probably… either way, I don’t think I’m an onion soup kind of gal. Maybe I’ll try again one day…


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