French Onion Soup, the Scorched Way

February 25, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

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. 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.

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Reviews (42) Questions (0)

42 Reviews

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!
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!
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?
GordonW March 24, 2013
This made for a nice, rich dinner soup. The caramelization of the cream really adds a depth of flavor and complexity that I don't typically get from french onion soup. Is a classic version? Definitely not. However, its lineage is clear. I call it a solid variant.
J.B. March 18, 2013
Made this today - no questions but comments, YES. Final product was quite delicious, but WHY the radical deviation from the "norm?" I do think the final result is much more RICH(?) than other classical French Onions Soups. Still why re-work the classical so much? I'm attempting to thik objectively here, maybe one can share what was the inspiration, an overabundance of cream?
EatsMeetsWest March 15, 2013
One question: How long might this recipe take to make? I know that depends on the range of heat you're cooking with and a bunch of other cooking factors, but on average, does anyone known how long I should set aside to cook this scrumptious soup? :)
fhp March 5, 2013
OH! OH! Sounds like a recipe for disaster. My acid-reflux husband just saw me eyeballing this one and said "don't you dare."
housepanther March 3, 2013
And now, the heartburn and belched-up blackened soup. It gets worse and worse...
GordonW March 24, 2013
I guess you're saying you didn't like it ;)
housepanther March 3, 2013
Oh, and it also took half an hour, three SOS pads, and a pile of Comet to get the burnt muck off the bottom of my All Clad soup pot. What a mess. All this for onion soup? Nah.
housepanther March 3, 2013
I made this tonight, and while it was interesting, I wouldn't make it again. The flavors were much too burnt and unappealingly aggressive. I agree with some other posters as well that the instructions are confusing. I started out halfway through step 1 with the "heat on high," but it was WAY too high for the result desired. A slow boil on medium was much more rational; if I'd left it on high, I'd have ended up with a burnt, smoky mess and a visit from the local firefighters. I like my French onion soup with a gentler touch and layered flavors; this version punched me right in the solar plexus. Maybe this is your thing, but it's not mine. After filling six one-cup ramekins with soup, floating the browned bread, sprinkling the Gruyere, and baking, I was left with half a pot of the stuff, which went down the Disposal. An experiment that, for me, did not resound.
Author Comment
Nicholas D. March 3, 2013
It's definitely not to all tastes. This is also one of these cases where high and medium aren't adequate descriptors: for my stove, I really do have to have it pretty much on high, but for yours you clearly don't. I just tweaked the recipe to make that obvious.
beezledog March 3, 2013
Step !. "Then turn the heat to high, 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" When you say "high heat"...but also "slow boil" me "slow boil" means to simmer..which would not require "high heat" but something much lower. It seems that a high heat would cause a rolling boil and burn the onions and I missing something..? Thank you...I really want to try this lovely recipe.
Author Comment
Nicholas D. March 3, 2013
Thanks for spotting this -- I just tweaked the recipe.
bgavin March 3, 2013
Two thoughts on this awesome recipe. One is that onion soup from turkey stock tastes *just* like beef stock. And it gives you a plan for the weekend after Thanksgiving. And, two, I make my croutons and cheese thingies independently of the soup. Meaning, I toast the bread, add the cheese, broil it and only then do I plop that cheesy monstrosity into the soup. Easier and less messy.
Sigita March 3, 2013
mouth is watering just looking at the photo......and my husband just brought some gruyere back from Switzerland....