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Quite possibly one of the best French Onion Soup recipes around! Super rich and flavorful with crusty toasted bread and melted Swiss cheese. YUM!

Quite possibly one of the best French Onion Soup recipes around! Super rich and flavorful with crusty toasted bread and melted Swiss cheese. YUM!

Hi all, this is Jack. I don’t typically write the story behind the recipes here on A Family Feast, but today I wanted to be the one to share – in my own words – what inspired today’s recipe for French Onion Soup.

Over 20 years ago, I decided to go back to college at night so I could change my career path from working in food service management to information technology. Food was (and is) my passion – but technology pays the bills a whole lot better!

Quite possibly one of the best French Onion Soup recipes around! Super rich and flavorful with crusty toasted bread and melted Swiss cheese. YUM!

So I started a program going to school at night while continuing to work my full-time job as a food service director. I was nervous about going back to school, but fortunately on my first day I met a great guy named Steve who helped me cope with the incredible amount of hours it took to change careers. (Steve was doing the same – making the change from working as a graphic artist to a career in IT.) Steve and I became friends and outside of school we frequently got together (when time allowed) so we could mountain bike and hike.

Steve is French and one of his favorite meals is French Onion Soup. He was particularly fond of my version – which we’re sharing here today – and Steve asked me to make it often for him and his wife.

Quite possibly one of the best French Onion Soup recipes around! Super rich and flavorful with crusty toasted bread and melted Swiss cheese. YUM!

Steve is a special guy in that he has cystic fibrosis, but he still tries to maintain a normal, active lifestyle – in fact, I think his active lifestyle has helped him stay as healthy as he is! Other than some constant coughing, you would never know he has CF because he doesn’t let it run his life – and even on his worst days, he is tougher than me and can bike circles around anyone!

Steve, I know you’ve been waiting for this French Onion Soup recipe – I wanted to make sure I got it just right! This one’s for you buddy!

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French Onion Soup - A Family Feast

French Onion Soup

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


This is not a quick throw-together soup using canned beef stock. To get the deep beefy flavor just right, you really need to start with a really good beef stock. This recipe is a combination of one that I made early in my food service career and one that I loosely followed from the Culinary Institute of America’s Book of Soups cookbook


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups sliced onion, see note below
  • 3 or 4 parsley stems
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup brandy
  • 6 cups homemade beef stock (see recipe here)
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • French bread
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyère Swiss cheese


  1. To slice the onions, cut off root and stem end then cut in half vertically. Cut each half in half again, cutting vertically so you have four thick slices. Now cut slices, staying with the grain, about ¼ to ½ inch thick.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, melt butter and oil over medium low heat. Add onions and stir once. Do not touch again for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, stir and do not touch again for another 15 minutes.
  4. Move heat to medium and cook 15 or more minutes until onions are nice and browned and caramelized. Watch closely at this point so they do not get too dark or stick to the bottom. Add a little water if they are sticking.
  5. While onions are cooking, place parsley stems, dried thyme leaves, dried tarragon leaves and the bay leaf onto cheese cloth. Wrap tightly and tie with a string. Hold for later.
  6. Add garlic to onions and cook for one minute.
  7. Add brandy and cook to evaporate.
  8. Add stock and herb bag. Cover loosely and simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper as needed.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Place oven proof bowls or crocks into a baking pan and pour hot tap water about half way up outsides of bowls.
  12. Discard herb bag and divide soup between bowls or crocks. (Number of servings depends on size of your bowls or crocks. The finished soup is roughly 8 cups).
  13. Slice French bread into half inch slices and cover the tops of each bowl, overlapping bread slices if needed.
  14. Divide cheese between bowls by covering the tops of the bread.
  15. Place pan with water and soup crocks in oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  16. To get the tops browned and bubbly, place crocks under broiler for a few minutes.
  17. Serve hot and bubbly.

You may also like:

Homemade Beef Stock

Brown (Beef) Stock - A Family Feast


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  • Bonnie wrote:

    In a pinch, a coffee filter can replace cheese cloth! As long as you have some kitchen twine to tie the bundle, you are good to go!

    • Martha wrote:

      Great idea Bonnie!

  • Bonnie wrote:

    I am making this tonight. I didn’t have any brandy, so I am using madeira. I love the process for cooking the onions–it eliminates the need for flour which I have found to make the soup too gummy. I loved the story behind your recipe. I am a believer in carefully and well-crafted food. I think it does far more than fill our bellies. Cheers and Happy 2015.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Bonnie! We hope you love the soup as much as we do! Happy 2015 to you too!

  • stacxey wrote:

    hi. trying to make this now but I have nothing to substitute for cheesecloth at all. What do I do? Can I just add the herbs?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi – Yes – although you’d definitely want to fish out the bay leaf before eating. The other herbs will cook down during the cooking process. Hope that helps!

  • Laura wrote:

    How many onions is eight cups?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Laura – It’s really impossible for us to give you an exact number of onions you’ll need since they vary so much in size. You could get 8 cups of onions out of 6 or 7 very large onions, or you might need 20 very small onions – all depends on what onions you purchase at the store.

  • Lise Ann Tellier-Craig wrote:

    This is by far the best onion soup I’ve ever had. Thanks for the wonderful memories and honorable mention 🙂
    Lise Ann

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Lise Ann! 🙂

  • stephanie wrote:

    I was just thinking about finding a great French onion soup recipe – I shall look no further!! Loved reading this…I wish the two of you would adopt me. 😉 Happy Holidays!

    • Martha wrote:

      LOL Stephanie! 🙂 I hope you enjoy the soup as much as we do!

    • Martha wrote:

      And – Happy Holidays to you too! 🙂

  • amanda @ fake ginger wrote:

    I’ve been dreaming about French onion soup for weeks now. This looks perfect!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Amanda! (I’m hoping my husband makes this soup again very soon!)

  • Melanie | Melanie Makes wrote:

    What an absolutely delicious looking soup!

  • Nicole, RD wrote:

    Jack, love the story and the recipe (WILL be making – I recently made French Onion Grilled Cheese and ever since have been hankering for some soup!). Anyway, I am a food service director and so I especially loved hearing about you following your dream in IT. I love my hospital kitchen, but love being involved in patient care as a dietitian, too. Great to “meet” someone in the “biz” 😉

    • Jack wrote:

      Hey Nicole – Nice to “meet” you too! In my past I was the food service director at Shaughnessey Rehab Hospital in Salem, MA. It was an enormous change to go from a standard kitchen to a dietary kitchen, specifically one that serves ground and pureed meals. However two things that remain the same are food and people and after I got over the shock of how a dietary kitchen is run, I was able to get back to the basic food and people concept and perform my duties. Thanks for writing to us today. Jack

  • Rachel @ Baked by Rachel wrote:

    I’ve had French onion soup on my to-do list for ages. This looks truly amazing!! Gorgeous shots 🙂

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Rachel!

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