French Onion Soup, the Scorched Way

February 25, 2013
4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Very lightly adapted from Chad Robertson's brilliant recipe in Tartine Bread. He throws in a tablespoon of duck fat in place of half the butter; if you have it, do it. Also, about the bread: The richness here would pair well with a whole wheat rustic bread, if you have a decent version around. —Nicholas Day

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The Magic French Onion Soup I Moved to Paris For. —The Editors

  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4, robustly
  • 6 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (a cheddar would work, too)
  • 4 slices of hole-y, country bread
In This Recipe
  1. In a large, wide-bottomed pot, combine the onions, cream, butter, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-high heat until the onions soften and the cream reduces to its solids. This should take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your onions and your pot. Then turn the heat up slightly, so the onions and cream bubble at a slow boil, and cook without stirring for about six or seven minutes, until the onions on the bottom are deeply brown. (Depending on your stove, this might mean at medium heat or at high. Don't go overboard: you don't want the onions blackened.) Stir the onions and add a half-cup of wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the burnt and browned bits. Then repeat the process: leave the onions without stirring for another six minutes or so, then deglaze. Repeat until you have used all 2 cups of wine. The onions should now be a rich, dark brown color; they should smell divine.
  2. Add the stock. (Use less if you want more of a stew.) Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Season with salt if needed.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the bread until it is dry and crusty, about 15 minutes. Ladle the soup into either ovenproof bowls or a single large baking dish (if the latter, place it on a baking sheet: it will spill). Fill the bowls or dish to nearly the rim. Float the bread on the soup and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool until it will no longer burn your tongue. Devour.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jill Eichel Charrabe
    Jill Eichel Charrabe
  • agamom
  • mjad
  • Bri Lavoie
    Bri Lavoie
  • Dena
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

54 Reviews

Tracy October 22, 2021
"This is the best french onion soup I have ever had", that 's what my guests said. I did substitute "Black Butte Porter" for white wine, and it was pretty fantastic. (even with cream!)
Alison April 6, 2021
I love this soup. The cream part freaked me out the first time, because its cream. But its awesome, I'm making it tonight for at least the 8th time.
Jill E. January 9, 2021
Such a good soup- easy to make, great flavor- no need for mustard, cognac, flour, even thyme. Kept my liquids closer to 1.5 qt, maybe less, and used vegan “stock”- water, plus tj’s vegan powder. Delicious!
foodie2811 October 18, 2020
This is amazing!!! I absolutely love this soup. This will be my go to French Onion Soup recipe! Thank you!!!
agamom May 10, 2020
The process of cooking the onions with the wine feels like making risotto! About an hour start to finish for the onions but it was restful and easy. I love the simplicity of the ingredients and yet we were missing both white wine and chicken broth. Had to substitute red wine and beef broth - the red made it a bit sweet but the beef broth was not a problem. Added a bay leaf, a dash or two of thyme (only had dried) and it was delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe! We will make it again!
mjad April 24, 2020
I just made this soup and it was absolutely the best French onion soup I’ve ever had. Added a bit of vermouth with the wine and mixed beef and
chicken broth. We skipped the bread and just broiled a ton of comte’ cheese on top Soooo good 👍👍
gideon B. October 28, 2019
made this as written yesterday. tastes really, really good. Thank you for sharing it with the masses! Only complaint is about the recipe time's as written. It took a LOT longer than 30 minutes to get to the point of being able to start browning the onions
cosmiccook September 15, 2019
Kind of sounds like soubise/
crsinbos September 15, 2019
Where’s the thyme? If not gruyere then emmental, not cheddar. Just my thoughts, but will have an open mind and try this. Will only follow up if my gut reactions are wrong.
Bri L. April 23, 2019
Aaaaargh....cream????? In french onion soup???? Mon Dieu! Non!!!! Stick to the classic—caramelize your onions in butter until deeply browned, add a splash of red wine, or cognac (small splash) and good beef stock, some fresh thyme, simmer until wonderful. Top with a slice of toasted baguette and grated gruyère. Broil. If you sub a less expensive cheese you can eat this as a student (even sub bovril for the stock, the onions will forgive) me through many a canadian winter.
Karen L. May 6, 2019
My French grandmother used beef stock too.. not chicken, and yes, cream? Mais non! Bri L. has the right idea :)

jeanne C. May 6, 2019
I was surprised at the crème as well! I use beef and chicken stock but add a table spoon of tomato paste and use crème Sherry. All else the same...I use Provolone cheese. Devine.
Jp9 August 22, 2016
Sitting in NYC on a balmy August night dreaming of a snowstorm, a major transit breakdown and this gorgeous soup. And there is no way to go but Gruyere, nutty, granular, OMG. Thank you for this and for all the great, informative (my stove would annihilate the onions if I had it over medium) comments!
cosmiccook February 19, 2016
This is a must read article that explains how to make french onion soup
Just tried Kenji's method and worked great. Did add garlic, spices and herbs.
blinkythebear February 18, 2015
Just made this! Milk is a great alternative if you don't have cream. 2 quarts of stock is too much i feel, 1.5 quarts will do the trick for a deeper flavour. addition of brown sugar during the softening of onion really brings out the caremelization process + a few dregs of worcestershire sauce really enhances the flavour. A definite must make!!
Douglas B. January 22, 2015
this is the third time I have made this recipe. I had some pomegranate juice, butter , vodka sauce I had made last week so I substituted this for the wine and it added a delightfully sweet layer to this already perfect soup.
Dena January 14, 2015
I don't prepare duck at home and wouldn't have any duck fat laying around. I do have bacon drippings I save for other rich recipes. I wonder if that would work instead. I bet it would add great flavor and who doesn't love bacon!
cosmiccook September 15, 2019
I've done the bacon fat before--but I like butter for this the best.
Robert April 20, 2020
Not sure where you live, but, I can buy duck fat at my local grocery store. I know you can buy it at many of the on-line gourmet stores. It's a staple in my kitchen.
Douglas B. December 14, 2014
Perfection !!! the best tasting onion soup I have ever had
Jeannie E. December 8, 2014
Epic Fail... But it was still edible. I am usually a careful cook, but I made so many errors trying to make this recipe that it was a good lesson in humility! First mistake... I used some very large onions I had bought at our local Farmer's Market that had been labeled "Storage Onions" ...they were sweet onions! Second mistake...I used a variety of chicken broth that I had never tried before...and I did not look at my 'Go To' source for food product reviews until after I added it...only to find out it was NOT RECOMMENDED! Third mistake...I inadvertently bought Half and Half instead of Heavy Cream AND DID NOT NOTICE! Lastly, I used Cheddar instead of Gruyere...and that simply was not to my taste. The problems my errors caused were that the onions gave up buckets of liquid, and took FOREVER TO BROWN, and the Half and Half separated. Somehow the soup tasted okay...but I can't wait to make it the RIGHT way!
cosmiccook September 15, 2019
According to Serious Eats and others, it takes a good hour + to correctly caramelize onions.
Ashley M. March 3, 2014
Made this last night. We're taking a 10-day vacation to Europe this week and I had a ginormous bag of onions that needed to go! For lack of cream I used 3/4cup whole milk with 1/3cup butter and the end result was still super yummy! Although, I was missing that familiar hint of darkness (maybe I didn't let my onions caramelize enough), so I added in 2tsp better than buillion beef to round it out. Also, we topped it with fresh granted Kerrygold Irish Whiskey Cheddar cheese instead of the Gruyere and it was great! Overall, love the recipe, and will definitely make it again! (My boyfriend says he likes this version better than the traditional french onion soups)
Kiersten December 28, 2013
Where can I purchase the bowls in the picture?
mouth January 3, 2015
Sorry, not sure. Williams-Sonoma has bowls this color with handles though. The handles are not too large and they do not get hot! That makes them a keeper for me. You do have to buy them 4 at a time. During the Christmas holidays they also sell these in a red color. Go to and check them out. I bought a set for friends and they love them... hope this helps you.
Dina M. October 9, 2013
could you use vegetable broth? would it be a recipe killer?