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The Best French Onion Soup

Feb 3, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose

I’m not sure if I’ll ever make onion soup again, at least not as long as I live a 5 minute walk from Blue Ribbon Bakery and they still make their glorious version.

For starters, chef and baker Sefton Stallard makes some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted and believe me I’ve tasted many a bread around the world! When creating the kitchen for Blue Ribbon Bakery he excavated an ancient wood fired brick oven in the cellar and called in an expert from Europe to restore it to working order.

Seton studied in Paris at the Cordon Bleu and apprenticed in Paris and in Switzerland for several years. He created this onion soup based on his taste memory and, I suspect, improved on it as it’s better than any I tasted even in France.

When cold weather sets in there is little more pleasing than this hot soup filled with caramelized onion and topped with a slice of bread soft and comforting with the juices of the stock, also serving to float an ample island of stretchy/stringy strands of melted gruyère with crunchy golden bits adhering to the edges of the bowl. It satisfies every possible longing--at least while eating it.

Another lovely memory I cherish of perfect French onion soup was in Tasmania when I attended a culinary symposium. The night before the conference the local culinarians prepared a welcome event and instead of serving fancy complex dishes they made a huge cauldron of this soup. It was the perfect solution for feeding a hungry crowd of food professionals and no one could have been happier. It also served to honor the Escoffier mantra: “Faites simple”! My translation: Make it simple but make it right.

The main secret to great French onion soup is caramelizing the onions to a deep and flavorful brown in an ample amount of butter. A good quality stock adds to it’s depth of flavor, good bread as well, and of course the gruyère should be the best you can find. (I get cave aged French gruyère from Murray’s cheese.)

Slowly sautéed onions produce the best flavor and Sefton’s methods of caramelizing the onions takes 4 to 5 hours of frequent stirring (of course he's doing a large quantity) which is fine if you’re a chef and doing other things in the kitchen or have a kitchen slave. If not, I’m including a great shortcut that food writer Lora Brody came up with using a crock pot so that no tending of the onions is necessary and they come out perfectly caramelized as well.

Caramelized Onions

6 to 8 Spanish onions (about 2 1/2 pounds) 3 to 4 inches in diameter, stem and root ends removed, peeled and left whole
4 ounces butter (1 stick)
a 10-ounce can unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

In a slow cooker (crock pot), set on low, place onions, butter, and broth. Cook until the onions are deep golden brown and very soft—12 to 14 hours.

Drain and reserve the broth for the soup. Wrap the onions in plastic wrap and store in a freezer weight zip-seal bag for up to 2 weeks refrigerated, up to a year frozen.

Caramelized Onion Soup (before I met Sefton)

for one
1/2 cup caramelized onion, sliced
1/2 cup cooking liquid
1/2 cup broth
salt and pepper
2-3 slices toasted baguette
sliced and grated gruyère (1/8” thick slice + 1/4 cup grated)

In a small saucepan, combine the onions, cooking liquid and broth and bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into an onion soup bowl. Top with toasted baguette. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until bubbling and golden.

Sefton’s French Onion Soup for a Crowd

6 medium Spanish onions, sliced
8 oz. butter
1 oz. ladle flour (that would be about 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, preferably white, finely ground
2 cups dry white wine or vermouth
12 cups chicken stock (unsalted)
toasted bread
sliced gruyère—about 4 slices for each bowl

Caramelize the onions in butter, on low heat, stirring often for 1 hour or until deeply browned. Add the flour, stir well, and then add the white wine. Reduce it on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer partially covered for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the salt & pepper and adjust according to taste.

Ladle into bowls, top with toasted bread slices, then with the cheese, and place in a preheated 400F oven for 8 minutes. For a crunchy top place under the broiler for a few seconds—just until some of the cheese turns golden brown.


Hi Margie,
We are not sure, but guess around 10 to 12 servings.
We suggest that you make a small batch to check the yield.
Rose & Woody


How many servings does Onion Soup For A Crowd make? I have to make about 20 servings for a church soup supper in 2 days! Help, please!


I am not an expert in food safety, but I store soups all the time, mostly frozen, and for long times! just be sure to cool them fast.


hector, did just that. great soup! was just worried it wont keep well as a leftover. but it did =)!


amy, I would just make the full recipe and enjoy left overs =)


Happy New Year to you too! I just discovered this section of 'SAVORY" and am reading through it. It's great and Rose is truly amazing. And you are amazing in how you help others with our cooking questions. BTW - the Sefton French Onion soup for a crowd. Any ideas how to downsize it to 4 servings?

Will make a trip to the store to get some stuff to make the glace de volaille. Sounds it will rival the demi-glaze being commercially sold!


amy, yes to all. happy new year.

just had 3 over for dinner and made penne with turkey bolognese which had a simplified version of glace de volaille: I boiled the turkey carcass from my thanksgving turkey in the pressure cooker till any meat felt off the bone, then removed the meat (save it for rice soup or turkey bologese!). Then defat and boil another 2 hours, then discard the bones and finelly strain. Then reduce till desired.

My turkey was roasted with several Peruvian spices, so I felt I didn't need to add anything when taking its glace!

I highly recommend Rose's Celebretions, it is just as old as Cake Bible. You will love how Rose writes on this book, very personal sharing of her family celebrations thru the year.


Thanks for your reply, Hector. When you said "glace de volaille is unsalted chicken bullion. Rose's Celebrations", are you referring to another cookbook by Rose and that this is the name of the recipe? The idea of making this is very appealing to me.


glace de volaille is unsalted chicken bullion. Rose's Celebrations. It is worth making and last indefenitelly. I made mine's near 2 years ago and everything I cook tastes unique to my kitchen which makes people ask me what 'secret' spice I am using!

If the recipe calls for water, you can sub with unsalted chicken stock or a high quality lowly salted one! There are so many brands of chicken stock out there that are just poorly made.


Was reading your comment re: French Onion Soup. Please let me know what is: "home made glace de volaille".



was looking for a French Onion soup recipe and stumbled into this one. Sounds great! Except I'm only making it for 2 people. The recipe didn't indicate how many servings. I'd like to make it for at least 4 servings. Any feedback how to reduce this recipe?

Thanks you all.


I love the Crockpot Onions idea, and I do have a Crockpot, and it has been FOREVER since I have had a good French Onion Soup! :-)

I just wish that my two Boys and Hubby would eat something like this, so that I could justify making it! :-(

My Husband, in particular, is so fussy about Onions that he used to have a fit if I would try to order my half of the Pizza with them on it! He would claim that "The taste of the Onions would seep over onto his half", thereby ruining his gourmet dining experience!

That was then, now I make my own Pizza Dough and Pizza. This way, everyone gets what they want - and no one has anything to complain about!

Anyway - I might just try this recipe after all, as my Mom loves French Onion Soup, and I can just bring it over to her house to enjoy!



well then i'm so glad you are starting off with something i know to be wonderful!


Doris Wright
Doris Wright
05/15/2008 05:03 PM

I can't wait to try this Onion Soup, I have wanted some for so long. I'll let you know how I did. I am just learning to cook, I'm 68 year old. I can cook easy stuff but never really tried special things until now.


not that i would have traded in my russian born grandmother but why couldn't she have been born in france?!


Sounds like a wonderful tradition!


05/ 2/2008 09:07 AM

My dear old French granny was a fabulous cook - our family tradition every Christmas Eve was to attend midnight Mass. The best part was our return home around one-thirty on a cold Christmas night to steaming bowls of homemade onion soup, which she had started in the morning. Now I realize that this was the beginning of her long slow caramelization process. She made me a lifelong addict of gruyere cheese, French bread, and especially of onion soup, my absolute three favourite foods. This has been a marvellous blog with lots of good ideas - thanks to all of you who posted here!


anrea, that's a great idea/alternative to the crock pot (that would be 212 to 300F.) in fact whenever something is supposed to simmer on the cook top i always opt to put it in a 300F oven instead. heat is so much more even and no stirring necesary.


Oh wow, I wasn't hungry at all until I saw that soup...the melty cheese...;-)


After starting it off on the stovetop, I use my cast iron pot in my oven at 100-150C. The onions after 5 hours are looking spectacular.
This is also my favourite way of cooking big batches of chili as it doesn't catch on the bottom and burn (with occasional stirring)


Great timing Rose, I've had a taste for onion soup but haven't gotten around to preparing it. After reading all about it I'm going to dive in the "onion soup pool" and make some. It's so nice when someone gives you a boot so you get up and move it! LOL I'm like the others I can just about taste it looking at the picture and reading your description. Thanks again for all the great food news.


Thanks for sharing the recipe. A must try and i will.


oh my! did you happen to see my rendition of their pie i named canyon pie in the pie and pastry bible? great place!


I've been pursuing the best French Onion Soup for years. You can call me crazy but for me so far, in my opinion, was at the restaurant at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon. Pure bliss.


We don't have a crock pot but we have lots of onions -- we grew a bunch last summer. Some of them are starting to sprout. Now I know what to do with them -- caramelize and freeze! Thanks for the idea, Hector!

P.S. -- we also grow a lot of garlic, and some of it is now sprouting too. Any suggestions for using it up? Does roasted garlic freeze well?

P.S. -- I usually take the "green" parts out of sprouting garlic -- they tend to taste bitter. Possibly true of onions too, I don't know for sure.


Uhhhhhhhh - gruyère and onions? I've died and gone to heaven!... I can't wait to whip up a batch!

PS - can't wait to try the crock-pot onions too.


anything borrowed from t. keller would be golden!


Good Onion soup is a nearly perfect food....the problem rests with "good"....most taste like dish water. My recipe is very similar to this one although, not owning a crock pot, I find that I can get great results using a parchment lid, a very low simmer and, yes some stirring time. It is worth the effort. I use a beef stock recipe that I borrowed from Thom Keller and Comte cheese instead of the gruyere....add a small dash of sherry vinegar and you have heaven....


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
02/ 4/2008 09:26 AM

It's been awhile since a photograph has made my mouth water like this one does. One of my favorites, thanks for the recipe!

The onion soups I've had in France have never had the cheese. Was this an American addition? Or perhaps the regions where I've had onion soup they didn't use cheese (and didn't know what they were missing).


Matthew, Rose's recipe and photo are beautiful, isn't it?

I don't have a slow cooker, but maybe one of my large enamel cast iron dutch ovens on a simmer heat will do. I often caramelize onions over many hours with residual oven heat, too.

I can't wait to try Rose's recipe!

Regarding soy, specifically soy sauce, as a flavor enhancer; I've been working on my mothers soy sauce recipe and found out that naturally brewed soy sauce (from fermented soy beans and wheat) is a natural flavor enhancer for ALL foods. Use the type of soy sauce that hasn't been flavored or colored with caramel nor molasses. YES, my Mom put soy sauce everywhere, about 1/2 teaspoon. This type of sauce sauce is also good for your health. The type that is not naturally brewed, containing hydrolyzed soy protein, is suspected to be carcinogenic!


That made me laugh Hector--pork in a vegetarian soup! I don't think it would be vegetarian anymore :) You do raise a good point, though. It is really tough to make a great vegetarian French onion soup. I experimented for a while and finally discovered that a little bit of two soy products made all the difference. A bit of soy sauce and a bit of dark miso paste added the body and richness that was missing without being identifiable. I've served it to several "carnivores" and they never know the difference! Of course it also helps to have great caramelized onions, homemade broth, and wine! I love the tip about using a crock pot too--great idea.


I have a sack of white onions caramelized for hours. They sit frozen in individual ice tray cubes. When I want French onion soup, I take a few cubes, add a few pieces of home made glace de volaille, water, and magic.

I use the same caramelized onion cubes for recipes calling onions for the trinity (carrot, celery, onions).

Another take on good clear soup (I categorize French onion soup as clear soup, broth is clear, not starchy), is to add some pork broth, made from pork bones or meat, finely strained and de-fatted. Pork adds a nice flavor to soup, as my Mom always did for all her soups, even vegetarian ones!


Onion soup is my favorite food on the planet. I've always used the recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" I'm definietly going to try the crock pot...what a great idea!



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