French Onion Soup ~ the way Julia made it, sort of…

I recently went to Santa Barbara and had lunch with my mother and daughter at a lovely little French restaurant on State Street.

I ordered the French Onion Soup, which I haven’t had or made in a long time, and it made me think how deplorable that was. I adore French Onion Soup and everything about it: the beefy broth, the glorious caramelized onions, and of course, the incredibly tasty, melty Swiss cheese on the crispy, crusty, soup-soaked bread! What’s not to love?

So as I often do, when I came home, it went on the “to-make” list. And I made it. And it was awesome.

As the title suggests, I didn’t follow Julia Child’s recipe to the letter. Although Julia claims if you don’t use homemade beef stock, you may as well buy onion soup, I say you’re still better off making the onion soup and using whatever stock you have on hand, as long as it’s good quality. I also don’t like fighting with full-sized pieces of French bread covered in cheese, floating in my soup, so I suggest bite-sized toasted pieces of bread instead…they are much more manageable.

This is not a five minute soup, so just be prepared to caramelize some onions for a good 45 minutes or so. The rest of the soup making process is easy, and the results are truly worth the time and effort.

French Onion Soup (almost like Julia’s)

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

serves 6-8


  • 1 1/2 lbs or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions (do not use sweet)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 quarts (64 oz) beef stock (or water with beef bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp cognac or brandy (optional, Julia’s recipe has 3 tbsp, but I prefer less)
  • French, Italian or rustic loaf bread, cut into bite sized croutons, toasted
  • 1 to 2 cups of grated, real Swiss Cheese (Julia used Swiss or Parmesan) I used Gruyere

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, put the butter and oil and add the sliced onions.

Cook slowly, with the lid on, for about 15 minutes.

Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium, add the salt and sugar,

and stir often for about 40 minutes (mine took 45),

until the onions are a deep golden brown.

Add the flour and continue to cook and stir for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the stock/water/bouillon and wine/vermouth.

Add salt and pepper to taste and return to the cooktop, and simmer for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

Just before the soup is ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the soup is ready, add the brandy/cognac, if using and check for seasoning;

ladle it into ovenproof bowls, and top with the cubes of toasted bread.

Now, don’t go and ruin the soup by using cheap cheese!

Use the best, real Gruyere from Switzerland, please.

Sprinkle the cheese on top of the toast, as desired. I like everything in moderation (the cheese on the bowl in the photo above, from the restaurant in Santa Barbara was a bit too much for me) so this might be a wimpy amount of cheese for you; if so, add more.

Repeat to make about 6 bowls, then place them on a tray and put into the center of the oven for about 15 minutes.

Reset the oven to broil (grill) and move the tray of bowls closer to the top to get a nice golden color on the cheese, which should be watched carefully as it can burn quickly.

Serve immediately.

As I said…well worth the effort!

LA Living…

flowers in a fountain.


26 Responses

  1. wrote on

    Looks wonderful, I love French Onion Soup and it’s been a long time since I’ve had it. I agree about the bread, torn in bte size pieces is so much more manageable. I would use whatever good stock I had on hand. I rarely if ever make beef stock homemade.

    • wrote on

      Isn’t it funny how we don’t make things we love for ages, then realize there’s just no reason for it? Hope you make it soon!

  2. wrote on

    Mmmm! I just made Julia’s French Onion soup too! So very good … bless her little heart! Yours looks wonderful!

  3. wrote on

    Christina, this is amazing! French Onion Soup is my all time favorite. I love the flavor and the cheese with the bread is just like heaven. The textures and the flavors are like a party in your mouth. I used to use swiss as well, but I love the Gruyere. It does take longer to cook but as you said it is worth every drop. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Seeing flowers around the fountain are lovely to see. Hope we see flowers soon, it has just been cold here. But soon things will turn around. Have a blessed weekend…Dottie :).

    • wrote on

      Thanks Dottie, and it looks like there’s some hope for your springtime! Wishing you warm days and flowers ahead! CC ;)

  4. wrote on

    Your soup looks even better than restaurant soup! I am sure it also tasted better!

  5. wrote on

    Oh, I just LOVE good onion soup! Sadly this is a house with an onion lover and an onion not-so-lover, so I have to keep my passion for the days when I see it on resturant menus!

    • wrote on

      Oh, that is a sad state of affairs! However, I know that your house is constantly filled with other delectable dishes, so it could be worse! ;)

  6. wrote on

    Christina – don’t tell Julia, but I do like your version better. The crouton idea is wonderful! Can’t wait to try it! ~ David

  7. wrote on

    Christina – i have a similar recipe (not julia either) i’ve used for years – the bite-sized croutons are a marvelous idea – now you’ve made me want good onion soup! i have not ordered in a restaurant in… well the same years… because as you said, once you’ve made it yourself the ones “out” just don’t cut it. I look forward to trying your recipe as well (although i am partial to the one i have – sorry) – thanks for inspiring people to MAKE THIS SOUP!

  8. susie

    wrote on

    Just made this tonight, followed your recipe exactly, and without question its the best french onion soup ive made. Have made french onion soup using other recipes (crockpot)….nothing compares to this…..keys are a heavy pot (fontignac is what i have), slow low cook, and of course vermouth and brandy. My dear dad loves french onion soup, so i am very glad for this recipe. Thank you !!!

    • wrote on

      Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know how much you liked the soup, Susie! Love to hear it, and am so glad you’ll be making it for your dad as I’m sure he’ll enjoy it as much as you do! :) CC

  9. wrote on

    thanks for the memories – have made in a while – hubby took me to a little French bistro in the Georgetown area of DC when we first met for my first French Onion Soup and I fell in love. He will be thrilled with this. Thanks

    • wrote on

      So glad you found the recipe, Nancy! As a matter of fact, my son attends Georgetown University and I LOVE the area! Let me know how it turns out. :) CC

  10. wrote on

    Your soup looks positively divine! I thought the amount of cheese you used on top was perfect. I become suspect when I order FOS in a restaurant and the cheese is dripping over the sides and spreading across the under-plate like so much lava. I often wonder what it is they are trying to hide by overwhelming me with cheese. Yours is perfect!

    • wrote on

      Haha, Shane! Yes, that’s a good analogy with the volcano erupting. I think too many foods are “overdone” in the US, for example, the amount of toppings and cheese on most pizzas boggles my mind. Glad you like my version of FOS! :)

  11. Adrianna Kheat

    wrote on

    OMG Christina!!! You made me look sooooo good AGAIN! I made this soup for dinner this evening and my husband was very very impressed!! He is a very happy man I must tell you! The soup turned out fabulous! I can’t even believe I was able to produce something so good! It was delicious!! I used the Gruyere cheese that you recommended and I also used beef broth (and added a beef cube on top of it as I like it stronger). It turned out perfect!!! This recipe is a keeper! Thank you so much!!!

    • wrote on

      Oh that makes me soooo happy, Adrianna! I love to hear it and so glad you love the recipe, but Julia has to take the credit on this one; she was an amazing chef, for sure. :) CC

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