Recipe: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Craft & Design Food & Beverage

In the Kitchen
My teenage son recently demanded that he be taken to the French restaurant down the street because everyone in the family and *all* of his friends had eaten there … everyone we knew, in fact, except him. He wanted an authentic French meal, whatever that means, but he didn’t go for the mussels and pommes frites that I suggested.
His choice was French Onion Soup and butter lettuce salad. I warned him that the beef stock in the soup might be too strong for his mostly vegetarian palate, but he insisted. Not surprisingly, he ate the cheese and bread off the top, finished the salad, and then said he didn’t really like the soup part.
Luckily for him, I got this recipe from my aunt a couple of decades ago, and whipped some up last week when the rains hit Northern California with a vengeance. Cooking sherry or brandy adds a nice bit of flavor to the vegie stock, butter, and onions. Even my finicky 7-year-old ate part of a bowl, because, come on, who doesn’t like melted cheese on toast infused with the essence of onions? And the teenager ate 2 bowls for dinner and another bowl for lunch the next day. Maybe he’ll try mussels someday, too.

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Here’s the recipe and directions after the jump. Note the well-worn look of my own recipe (above, left). It looks like it’s about time to recopy it!

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Vegetarian French Onion Soup
6 yellow onions peeled and thinly sliced
Stick of butter For vegans, use your butter substitute of choice.
6 cups vegetable stock You could also use mushroom stock or water.
1/3 cup cooking sherry or brandy
Salt and pepper to taste I like a lot of pepper.
French bread slices, about half an inch thick
Cheese for melting on top. Provolone, Gruyere, Swiss, and mozzarella are all good choices.

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Throw the onions in and saute until the onions are translucent and soft, about 15 minutes (stir occasionally).
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  1. Once the onions have cooked down, add the broth and sherry. Simmer for half an hour, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. While the soup cooks, toast the slices of bread, and grate or slice the cheese. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Ladle soup into oven safe bowls, leaving about half an inch of space at the top.
  4. Place toasted bread on top of soup, then cover with cheese, either slices or grated.
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  1. Put the bowls into a preheated oven and bake until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. You may want to turn the oven to Broil if the top isn’t brown enough for your tastes. Watch the process closely; I only needed to leave mine under the broiler for about 2 minutes.
  2. Pull the bowls out of the oven. Put potholders or heat pads under them when you serve them on the table, and be sure to warn your guests or family that the bowls are hot!
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  1. A delicious supper is this soup, served with a simple green salad, and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

30 thoughts on “Recipe: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

  1. Jessica Christman says:

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I too was intrigued by the thought of french onion soup for its melted cheese and bread (seriously who can pass up something like that) when I was younger but was soon disappointed by the strong beef flavor. I am mostly vegetarian (aka the world pickiest eater)and I have a strong bond with onions (Mmm could probably just eat an entire onion by itself). =) So I cant wait to try out this recipe!!

  2. Natalie Zee Drieu says:

    I’m drooling over this. I definitely want to try to make this. You make it look so easy!

  3. DK says:

    I was wondering what I was going to make for dinner tonight. Last couple days I’ve kind of run out of ideas. Now I’m off to make this yummy looking soup. Thanks!

  4. Victoria says:

    I’ve learned that when you convert a omnivorous dish to one that’s vegetarian or vegan, you have to do something to compensate for the lack of meat, which contributes a significant amount of flavor. One should never have to equate vegetarian with “bland.”
    I’ve found mushroom broth to be a much more flavorful and complementary substitute for vegetarian French onion soup than vegetable soup. Also — and perhaps not for French onion — but for chicken-based soups a vegetable broth with a mostly garlic base is a great substitute.

  5. Shawn Connally says:

    Good to know, Victoria! After I made this with vegie broth I decided that the next time I made it I would try the mushroom broth. I think it plus the cooking sherry will make it even nicer, yum. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I love french onion soup, as a veggie, I never get to have it. Perfect for this rainy weather!

  7. jenni4488 says:

    I love French Onion and I’m so excited for a vegetarian option. But I’m curious if I can substitute anything for the sherry? (I know most of the alcohol supposedly cooks off, but I would feel better not using it)

  8. Christine McCarthy says:

    I am delighted that you have a vegetarian version of this recipe! And that I can download it, too. Cannot wait to try this. :D

  9. beth says:

    i would highly advise caramelizing the onions before simmering, you’ll get maximum flavor!

  10. Shawn Connally says:

    Oooooooo, that sounds awesome, Beth. How would you go about caramelizing that many onions? I considered letting them saute for longer, but frankly, at some point I had to get food on the table for my hungry family. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. hal says:

    I also just figured out how to make french onion soup!
    As for carmelizing the onions, but pump the heat, and add a bit of olive oil to the butter (increases the smoke point). Add some salt to draw out water. Fry them for a bit, then reduce the heat, and let them simmer, stirring occasionally, for a while (30 min). They should brown fairly evenly. Then add stock, etc.
    Instead of sherry, you can get some more complex flavors by adding a bit of cider vinegar. I also added a bit of sugar.
    I used home baked beer bread (basically, white bread with beer instead of water). I think it was a good match.

  12. Shawn Connally says:

    Jessica, another reader, Hal, suggested adding a bit of cider vinegar. And maybe a bit of sugar. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  13. Just Stoppingby says:

    First my own variation on the standard is Croutons for the bread. So if you have a canned or frozen soup on hand the cheese is the only fresh ingredient you’ll need.
    About broth for those who might want to experiment. Stout beer has creemy nutty quality to it and would even be good for omnivores as well. Oatmeal stouts have a milder mouth feel than a normal stout which can have a bitter tange. For the omnivores stout is the correct beer for beef.

  14. Courtney says:

    I wish I was at your house because I want to eat your soup right now! Next time I’m at the store I’m stocking up on the ingredients. . .

  15. Brookelynn says:

    I would SO eat this!!

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