Even though the weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, it’s still soup weather in my book! I am 100% a summer girl- can not STAND the cold- but I’ve still got some winter recipes to enjoy, so spring, let’s just hold on a second, k?
One recipe I’m definitely not ready to stop making is this French Onion Soup. French Onion is hands down my favorite soup of all time- it’s sweet and hearty, yet also feels sort of light since it’s really just broth, onions, and tons of flavor! That’s really the beauty of this dish, simple ingredients come together to create such a delicious end result.
It might be the fact that I always get it at French cafes or steakhouses (both perfect date night spots) but I think this soup is not only perfect for a cozy night in by the fire, but also for an appetizer as part of an elegant Valentine’s Day dinner. Because let’s be honest, nothing says “keeper” like someone who still loves you with cheese strings dripping from your chin and breath that smells like onions 😂😉 (Just stash a box of breath mints nearby, you’ll be FINE!)
Let’s be honest, the best part of French Onion Soup is the cheesy toast on top that strings and stretches oh-so-gracefully over your face with each bite. Ok, maybe not so much that last part, but cheesy bread is hard to turn down. Which is why for this recipe, I typically turn vegetarian and just use regular cheese, but for those that want to stay 100% vegan, I recommend the vegan mozzarella I used in my to-die-for Hot Caprese Dip. (You could probably half the recipe though unless you want a lot of leftovers). I just love the way the crunchy bread softens in the soup, absorbing all the delicious flavor of the broth!
Caramelized onions are an amazing addition to any and nearly all recipes, so to have a dish made entirely out of them, as is French Onion Soup, makes me one happy girl. Over the years as I’ve stir fried onions, I’m always going for caramelization, yet my patience is limited. And let me tell you, patience is an absolute MUST for a successful French Onion Soup. The onions must be cooked low and slooooooow. They should basically become mush, and then start to turn golden brown.
Onions are not just an ingredient to add for great flavor, they’re one of the top foods you can eat for great health. Onions contain polyphenols, basically a type of antioxidant, that in onions also serve as prebiotics. You’ve probably hear of probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut, but prebiotics are what feed the good bacteria in your gut once it’s there. Gut health is important for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, weight management, mental health, mood regulation, and for maintaining a strong immune system.
Additionally, onions are one of the top food sources of chromium, a trace mineral that promotes the body’s ability to respond to insulin. Insulin resistance often leads to diabetes, and is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Luckily, one of the most prevalent antioxidants in onions is quercetin. Quercetin helps to prevent heart disease by preventing atherosclerosis, the narrowing and hardening of arteries. This powerful antioxidant, in conjunction with flavonoids also found in onions, help to block the cancer causing properties of some carcinogens, in addition to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
I hope you enjoy my rendition of French Onion Soup, let me know what you think in the comments! Happy Valentine’s Day!
French Onion Soup
Serves 6-8, depending on serving a cup or bowl
¼ cup olive oil
5 medium sized yellow onions, thinly slice (~10 cups once sliced)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp stevia
2 tsp sea salt
4-5 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic
1 cup good red wine*
8 cups veggie broth
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
Cheese of choice- muenster, parmesan, gruyere, or a combination!**
Ciabatta or French bread loaf
In a large soup pan or Dutch oven, heat oil, add onions, and stir to coat. Add the bay leaves, cover and reduce heat to medium. Allow to cook 15 minutes. Sprinkle stevia and sea salt all over the veggies (to help caramelize) then add the thyme and garlic- stir to evenly distribute. Continue cooking now, uncovered, over medium-low* heat until onions are very soft and golden brown, stirring every couple minutes (40-50 minutes). Note: If your onions start burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat immediately! You want these to cook slowly and fully develop their flavor. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and allow to cook until mostly absorbed (5-10 minutes). Discard the thyme and bay leaves. Add the broth and pepper. Allow to simmer until ready to serve-which can be up to a several hours if you have the time, as the flavor will only continue to develop. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
To serve: Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350F. Slice bread of choice into about 1-inch thick slices. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and allow to toast until golden. Then, heavily sprinkle cheese all over the slices (be sure you’re using parchment for easy clean up!) and bake until the cheese is melted. Ladle soup into each bowl, and place 1-3 cheesy breads on top. Garnish with thyme and green onions, and enjoy! (If using oven proof ramekins, you can place toasted bread on top of the soup, then sprinkle the cheese, then pop the entire dish in the oven, allowing the cheese to melt over the sides.
*The wine you choose should a wine you would also enjoy drinking. I’ve made this before with a wine I had lying around and “wanted to get rid of” and it was DISGUSTING! Wine provides a delicious depth of flavor to the soup, so if you don’t like the taste of the wine, you’re likely to not like the taste of the soup.
**This recipe is vegetarian and easily made vegan if you use vegan cheese for your topping. You’re welcome to buy the shredded varieties sold at the store, however, I’ve never been a big fan or those options. For vegan cheese, I recommend my homemade mozzarella, as linked above. The cheese can be made 2-3 days in advance. Note: It won’t get as “melty” as regular cheese, so simply let it warm up when toasting with the bread.