Are you looking for a perfect French onion soup recipe without wine, sherry or any other kind of alcohol? Or do you not have any oven-safe bowls but still want the same delicious results? That’s where I come in.
There are few things in this world more satisfying than a steaming bowl of French onion soup. This simple yet incredibly flavourful soup traditionally consists of gently and deeply caramelized onions deglazed with a dry white wine, sherry or vermouth and then simmered with beef or rich chicken stock. Topped with a crouton and loaded with Gruyere cheese, an oven-safe crock is then placed under the broiler to give you a gooey, cheesy and hearty meal that will warm even the coldest of days.
Regardless of your reasons, there are many people who want to make a delicious, classic French onion soup without alcohol of any kind. French onion soup recipes can also seem unattainable because they always seem to require that you have special oven-safe bowls or crocks so you can do the traditionally melting of the cheese on top of the crouton. However, these aren’t necessary at all! In fact, I don’t have these bowls and I’ve developed a great way to make French onion soup without crocks or other oven-safe bowls.
As one of the most fundamentally simple recipes out there, all you need to do to make an absolutely delicious French onion soup recipe without wine or sherry is be patient and set aside enough time to get this soup right. Much like my risotto recipe, there is nothing the is inherently difficult about this, it’s simply time-consuming. And the time you spend making it is time very much well spent!
French Onion Soup Recipe Without Wine
At its core, French onion soup is a delicate marriage between deeply caramelized onions simmered in a rich broth — typically homemade beef stock, but chicken stock is also very commonly used. To add to this gorgeous simplicity, it’s then usually topped with a toasty, crusty crouton and then some melted Gruyere cheese. The result is a molten wonderland of deep and comforting flavours that is completely delicious.
To get these results at home, you need to be patient, but you don’t need to be particularly skilled — much like when making a sweet caramel. The main thing you need to make sure of is that you don’t keep your flame too high on the stove and that the broth you use is flavourful and of the highest quality.
Because of the few ingredients in the soup, you do need each component to really hold it’s own. I go into detail about how to properly caramelise onions in my caramelised onions recipe and its the same process used in my onion dip recipe.
Start off by preparing your onions — you will need a lot of them! It will seem like too many at first, but you will be surprised by how much they shrink down as they cook. Also, it’s onion soup so you’re obviously going to need a lot of the main ingredient.
I recommend using plain yellow onions in this recipe as they give the most consistent flavour. Prepare them by first slicing the top end off near the flower. Turn it so the flat side is facing down and the root end is facing up, and cut it in half through the root end. Then, remove the peel from both halves of the onion.
Now, I recommend removing the root end core of the onion so that the slices fall apart a little bit more easily. Do this by cutting a “v” shape in the root to remove the core. Now all you need to do is cut the onion in think slices moving from pole to pole.
To save your eyes, it’s best to ensure that your knife is razor-sharp, this will ensure that fewer of the enzymes that cause you to cry are released into the air. If you’re a contact lense-wearer, I recommend popping those in your eyes, too. You will thank me later.
Once you’ve prepped your onions, it’s time to head over to the stovetop and to start caramelizing. I know there are lots of tips and tricks out there to caramelize onions quickly, however, I don’t recommend taking any shortcuts here. You will likely end up with inferior-tasting onions that don’t have quite the right texture. If you want to make this French onion soup recipe without sherry or wine or any other kind of alcohol, then you need to make sure you allow yourself the right amount of time to do it right.
Melt your butter in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-low heat until it’s foamy. Add in your onions and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to coat in the butter. Add a generous pinch of salt here to encourage the onions to release their moisture more readily.
Continue cooking the onions, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, shrink and release a bit of moisture, ensuring that you keep the heat on medium-low to low.
You don’t want any browning or burning on the onions at all — the goal of caramelization is to fundamentally change the onions and have them take on an even, consistent colour and texture, not superficially brown the onions in the first fifteen minutes.
After about ten minutes, the onions will have turned pale, softened significantly and will have lost about half of their volume. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently but not necessarily constantly, until they reach a deep, even golden brown colour. This will take at least 45 minutes and closer to an hour, if not more.
Again, please don’t be tempted to increase the heat to move the process along more quickly, this will just burn the onions and ruin your whole soup. If they are sticking to the bottom and browning too quickly at some point, don’t be afraid to deglaze the pan with a splash of water here and there. This really shouldn’t be necessary if you’re keeping your heat low enough, however.
Once your onions have reached the desired stage, it’s time to deglaze your pan. This is where you would typically add an alcohol like a wine, dry sherry or dry vermouth. However, as this is a French onion soup recipe without sherry or the like, I’ve devised a tasty substitute.
In a measuring cup, mix together 60 millilitres (1/4 cup) of chicken or homemade beef stock along with 30 millilitres (2 tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar. Adding vinegar here give a bit of a touch of acidity without adding wine (I use it in my parsnip and leek soup recipe and my leek and potato soup, too!) Pour over the onions, stir and simmer until it’s essentially burned off. If you aren’t really looking for a French onion soup recipe without wine or alcohol, then I recommend using 120 millilitres of a dry sherry at this stage.
Now, pour over 1.5 litres of a good, rich, preferably homemade chicken stock. Most french onion soup recipes call for beef broth but I only recommend using beef stock if you have homemade beef stock on hand.
Storebought beef stocks tend to have additives and flavour enhancers that don’t taste very good and as it is such a key player in this soup, you need to make sure you have the most richly-flavoured stock possible.
That’s why I urge you to buy the highest-quality chicken stock possible, as well, if you don’t have any homemade on hand. But really, just use homemade stock. It’s a great thing to keep on hand — I make a batch every month or so and freeze it for use whenever I need it!
Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for about twenty to thirty minutes so that the flavours have enough time to meld and blend and get really delicious and flavourful. Make sure to taste and adjust for seasoning periodically, adding more salt and pepper necessary.
French Onion Soup Without Oven-Safe Bowls
Now it comes to serving your French onion soup! If you don’t have crocks or oven-safe bowls, you can still get all of the melty, cheesy goodness as you would without it!
All you need to do is lightly toast a few slices of crusty bread. Top them with shredded Gruyere cheese and move them under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cut the toasts in half.
Ladle a small amount of soup into a bowl, top with half of a cheese toast and then fill the bowl with more soup. Top with the other toast half an enjoy!
- 80g (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1kg (2 pounds) yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
- 1.5 litres plus 60ml (6 cups plus 1/4 cup) chicken stock*
- 100g (3.5 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated
- 4 slices crusty bread
- Over medium-low heat, melt the butter until it is foamy. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and stir to coat. Keeping the heat low, continue to cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they've broken down, caramelized and have turned a deep golden brown colour. This will take at least 45 minutes to one hour, if not more. Don't be tempted to increase the heat, they will caramelize, it will just take time.
- In a large measuring cup, mix the apple cider vinegar with 60ml (1/4 cup) of chicken stock. Pour over the onions, scraping up any sticky browned bits of the bottom of the pan. Allow to simmer until mostly evaporated.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and pour over remaining 1.5 litres of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Ladle a small amount into oven-safe bowls and top with half a slice of toasted bread and a light sprinkling of cheese. Fill the bowls and top the other half of slice. Top with cheese and transfer to the broiler until melted, gooey and lightly browned.
- Alternatively, top slices of bread with grated cheese and transfer to the broiler until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Cut the toasts in half. Ladle a small amount of soup into bowls, put one half of your cheese toasts on top of the soup, and fill the bowl, topping with the other half. Serve immediately.
*Homemade chicken stock is your best bet, but if you don't have any, use a high-quality storebought low-sodium chicken stock instead. This recipe is also very good with homemade beef stock, but do not use storebought beef stock as there are commonly a number of additives that can lend a funky flavour to the finished product.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 448Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 363mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 4gSugar: 14gProtein: 14g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
As you can see, all you need to make an incredibly French onion soup recipe is a bit of patience and time. There is no need for special bowls or even any type of alcohol to get French brasserie-level results in your own home kitchen!
Are you looking for a French onion soup recipe without wine or sherry? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!