Perfect French Onion Soup

by Julie Cohn

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I know it’s a bit bold to call this French onion soup perfect, especially when there are so many other wonderful recipes out there, but this one truly is perfect. Sweet onions caramelized in butter and brown sugar until they are soft and extra sweet, then bathed in savory beef stock with fresh herbs and finished with buttered French bread and a melted Gruyere cheese topping.  This perfect French Onion Soup has a few tricks up its proverbial sleeve, and it is those tricks that make all the difference…brandy and sweet onions go divine together, just saying! 

Perfect French Onion Soup

My husband is a sucker for a good soup.  I don’t know if it’s because of the warm cozy feeling of soup, the flavor combination of vegetables and broth, or just an excuse to eat a meal in a bowl.  On a cold day, soup is the perfect body warmer and this Perfect French onion soup is a gourmet meal in a flash!

Whatever the case, I am happy to oblige, as I love soup too.  He is especially a fan of this homemade Perfect French Onion Soup.  Not only is the broth rich and flavorful, but it is topped with what is essentially a swiss grilled cheese sandwich — soup and sandwich in one luxurious soup!  This traditional soup recipe takes only 45 minutes to whip into perfection, so prepare this for someone you love pronto, they will adore it (and you)!

Key Ingredients

  • Sweet Onions: Try to use Vidalia onions if you can, but any sweet onion will work in a pinch.  
  • Beef Stock: Make homemade stock if you have the time but a nice store-bought organic broth (such as Pacific Foods) is fine too.  
  • Brandy:  Use the good stuff, you will thank me later.  
  • French Bread:  Sometimes I make my own, sometimes I get store-bought.  If you are making this as part of a larger meal, save time and get store-bought.  
  • Gruyere Cheese:  Gruyere is a specific type of Swiss cheese that melts easily.  If you can’t find Gruyere, use an imported Swiss cheese.  

Perfect French Onion Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour


  • 5-6 Large Sweet Onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Carrot, peeled and finely chopped (About 1/4 c)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 c. Brandy
  • 6 c. Beef or Veal Stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Whole Bay Leaf
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 4-5 Slices of French bread, 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 2 Tbsp Melted butter
  • 2/3 c. Grated Gruyere cheese


Heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted.  Add the onions, carrots, and garlic, and saute for five minutes until soft.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the onions and caramelize for 2-3 minutes.  Add the brandy and stir into the onion mixture.  Simmer about 5 minutes until the brandy is almost absorbed into the onions.  Add the beef stock, thyme, and bay leaf.  Simmer for 30 minutes on medium.

While the soup is simmering, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter both sides of the French bread slices.  Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about five minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.  When the soup is finished, set four soup crocks on the baking sheet.  Remove the bay leaf from the soup and ladle the soup in each crock, about 3/4 of the way full.  Add a slice of buttered French bread to each crock, then sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan and Gruyere cheese.  Place in the oven for 3-4 minutes, until the Gruyere melts, then serve immediately.

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