Genius Recipes

Jacques Pépin's Genius Cheese Soufflé Skips the Fussiest Step

Happy 84th birthday, dear Jacques!

December 18, 2019

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Kate Buckens.

Have you heard the one about Jacques Pépin’s mom and the cheese soufflé? With a recipe and story this good—and with Pépin’s career teaching us all how to cook reaching a sixth decade—chances are you have.

But you may have missed the very simplest way it can fit into your life.

As the story goes, when his mother was newly married at seventeen, she made her first soufflés without separating and whipping the eggs, thereby discovering you don’t need to. The eggs still rise, a golden dome still forms, your spoon still slides into airy custard, again and again. It isn't quite as cloud-like, but some might argue it's even better.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

In all the delight at this origin tale and the comforting prospect of a cheesy pouf without any egg-whipping anxiety, what you may not have noticed is that this also means the soufflé’s base is sturdier and can be made well in advance. In the video above, Pépin points out you can’t leave a traditional soufflé much more than an hour, but this one you can make several hours or a day ahead.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I had no idea Jacques Pépin was still alive, what a great video, I wish I could pop it into my old recipe book alongside his recipe! ;)”
— Limely

Even, Pépin joked,“A year ahead! Five years ahead!”

In further departure from tradition, Pépin likes to make this soufflé in a shallow gratin dish instead of the traditional high-sided ramekin, for more crusty surface area, so everyone can have a little of the best part.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

But you can also divvy this out into individual molds, and, in one version he shared with the Washington Post, you can customize them. Add in whatever toppings you like—he’s layered in wilted Swiss chard or fresh corn and chile; his daughter Claudine has added cooked zucchini or cauliflower and cut back on the cheese (“Cover your ears!” she told her dad).

As for how and when to serve it (besides absolutely any time you’re in the mood for cheese), Claudine writes at the Jacques Pépin Foundation that in their family, “We usually serve it as a first course, but we love it for brunch and meatless dinners as well.”

A green salad and a bottle of white wine are all you need—you have the grand soufflé and the storytelling covered.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to Food52er Kay Smith for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Hope Reborchick
    Hope Reborchick
  • DianeKirkland
  • Wendy
  • Diana
  • FrugalCat
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Hope R. February 24, 2021
Will make soon
DianeKirkland December 27, 2020
It made me very sad that the comment rated as "top" mentioned that the poster thought Jacques Pepin was dead. How can that make anyone feel good? If he sees it, it will hurt especially considering the recent loss of his wife.

Please THINK.
Limely December 27, 2020
I left my comment a full year ago, before covid madness, and for the record, it was meant to praise Monsieur Pépin for giving my family a lovely food tradition that I enjoyed as a child, giving me beautiful memories of eating together with my family before my parents divorced and my family crumbled. I can still taste that soufflé, and enjoy it to this day as I eat it with my own little family.

My comment was not meant as an insult; I am not someone who dabbles regularly in the foodie world, nor do I even watch cooking shows these days. Perhaps I should have omitted to say that I did not realize Monsieur Pépin was alive, but it was meant in excitement for the realization that he is alive and well, and was made a full year ago. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of his wife and would send my condolences if I could. I would also edit my prior comment if I couldn't, but for some reason Food52 does not allow this.
Wendy December 18, 2020
Loved this video!
Diana August 1, 2020
Jacques Pepin's cheese souffle that was his mother's recipe looks very easy to make. My question is what size gratin dish did he use. I know he said 5 cups but what would the dimensions be? I would like to have the exact measurements .

SandraH August 1, 2020
When I’m not sure of the volume a dish I have might hold, I’ll test how many cups/litres of water I can pour into it to check if big enough (or maybe too big) for the size of dish the recipe calls for. Hope this may help.
Marsha S. August 1, 2020
I do the same...especially after my husband told me to do it!!!!!Sometimes the simple solution is right in front of us and we don't see's called common sense! LOL!

FrugalCat January 16, 2020
I cut the recipe in half and also used cheddar cheese. A winner. So great to make a souffle without the egg white whipping nonsense!
Michael B. January 13, 2020
Jeanean- I’d keep the cheese as is and add crab they say you are not supposed sea food and cheese but you know we do all the time I think it would be great with a cup of crab

I have made this several times and it’s too good not to make my wife wants me to toss in veggies too

This recipe works with cheddar as well but gruyere is better to my taste

Let us know when you try it
mudd January 17, 2020
You’re correct, just add some crab. Where I am, Maryland, they do warm crab dips/spreads with cheddar , etc. Just not my favorite thing. However love with parm, Romano! Even Jacques puts parm on linguini with clam sauce.
Jeanean January 12, 2020
I would like to make a crab soufflé using this recipe. I would appreciate any thoughts about amounts of both crab and cheese if I were to make this version. None of the crab soufflé recipes I’ve seen use any cheese other than Parmesan. Thanks in advance.
Mary A. December 26, 2019
Thrilled not to have to beat egg whites! I made this as written. Used a round ceramic souffle dish. It was perfect and perfectly delicious. Will make again...and again. Thank you Jacques.
Kiernan M. December 20, 2019
Claudine sounds like she's the WORST.
TXExpatInBKK December 25, 2019
Wow, I'm not sure why you felt the need to go to the effort to type that. Or what it has to do with the recipe.
Tara M. December 25, 2019
Some people have a sense of humor, TXEcpat...
Tara M. December 25, 2019
Because anyone who would put cauliflower in a perfectly good cheese soufflé, is a monster, that’s why.
TXExpatInBKK December 25, 2019
I see, well... Merry Christmas.
Marsha S. December 19, 2019
Will this souffle work in a 2 quart oval corning ware vessel? I don't have anything that is 5 cups!
mudd December 19, 2019
Think that would be too big. I don’t know if it can be multiplied 1.5 times. Look at the link in the article to the Washington post version. The pan doesn’t need to be oval. Do you have Pyrex or Corning squares that would hold about 6 cups?
mudd December 19, 2019
BTW-the reason Jacques makes it in an oval rather than round is that you get more cheesy surface kind of almost crust in an oval than a circular soufflé dish
Marsha S. December 19, 2019
I will check..makes sense to check with water volume..thank you!
Limely December 19, 2019
I grew up eating this soufflé! My Dad made it probably yearly or more, and I can definitely vouch for its deliciousness. I had no idea Jacques Pépin was still alive, what a great video, I wish I could pop it into my old recipe book alongside his recipe! ;)
mudd December 19, 2019
The gratin baking dish used here is by Staub. Any idea of the size? The Staubs I’ve seen on line are way larger than 6 cups. (Looking for an incentive for my other to gift one in cherry or met blue!)
mudd December 19, 2019
Ok, I found the smaller one here in food 52 shop! But not in cherry or mer.
Jade D. December 18, 2019
Happy Birthday Chef Pepin! I’m so excited to try this recipe. You are always an inspiration! I have a question. Could you also make these as individual servings in ramekins? And would that change the cooking time?
mudd December 18, 2019
In the intro to this, there is a link to the Washington Post article on a variation of this recipe that is baked in individual dishes
Jeanette F. December 18, 2019
This wondeful recipe ran in my local paper many years ago and has been a favorite, in regular rotation. Since it is not a true souffle, we call it Souffless at my house. Depending upon what I have on hand, I sometimes replace the Gruyère with a sharp, aged cheddar.
Joanne H. December 18, 2019
When you say you can make this ahead a day, do you cook it first? Or, do you prepare the souffle ingredients, refrigerate, then the next day place all in the pan and bake? Thank you!
JP December 18, 2019
See step 2 of recipe: "Pour into the buttered gratin dish and cook immediately, or set aside until ready to cook. If setting aside for a few hours, the soufflé can remain outside at room temperature. If assembling a day ahead, refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before baking."
Joanne H. December 18, 2019
Thank you JP, this will be part of our Christmas dinner this year. Good to know I can prepare earlier in the day then pop in the oven. Merry Christmas!
JP December 18, 2019
Merry Christmas to you too Joanne. I hope your Christmas dinner is a hit!

Michael B. December 18, 2019
Totally awesome thank you 🙏 so much. Can’t wait to try bon appetit
Carol-Ann D. December 18, 2019
Heart. Throb. Still, after all these years. Oh, and one fabulous chef. Bon anniversarie, chef.
Karista December 18, 2019
One of my favorite Food52 cooking videos yet! I have the biggest chef crush on Jacque. Happy Birthday Chef!
Elycooks December 18, 2019
just adorable!
SandraH December 18, 2019
Happy Birthday Jacques! I love watching you cook and your recipes are wonderful! 🎂👏❤️