Vegetarian French Onion Soup Brings the Paris Café Home

Whenever I look back on my first trip to Paris, I remember the pouring rain we were greeted with on our first day. We got soaked. It’s wasn’t pretty. Oh, and we did a bike tour in the rain.

The rest of the trip would be lovely, with blue skies and mild weather, but April in Paris does bring some wet weather with it.

Naturally, all I wanted was a warm bowl of soup and a mug of hot tea to warm me up. Crepes would have been good too.

To this day, Vegetarian French onion soup still brings me back to that afternoon, when I was soaked, with grumpy kids. It fixed all my worries, as did the hot chocolate for the boys. And yes, I got my crepe on the way back to our vacation rental too.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Making a Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée, as it is called by those who can speak French, which I can not, is not generally vegetarian though. Most French onion soup recipes use beef broth or chicken broth in the recipe. It brings out more flavor, but it also means vegetarians are left out of the joy of caramelized onions in a rich broth smothered in cheese on a cold and rainy day.

When you are making French onion soup at home, it’s simple enough to make your soup vegetarian. Just switch out the meat broth for a vegetable broth. If you fear a less powerful flavor, add some more garlic and a bit more red wine or sherry to make your broth more robust.

There are so many ways to bring out that sweet onion flavor, without a speck of meat involved. Just don’t forget that crispy baguette and cheese on top. It really is the whole reason to have onion soup, right?

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Best Cheese for French Onion Soup

While I love Gruyère, not everyone is a fan. In this recipe, I used a smoked Gruyère, but you can easily use a different cheese. Just remember- the cheese will change the taste of your final soup, and it must melt well under the broiler.

Other great cheeses to try:

  • Comte
  • Beaufort
  • Swiss
  • Jarlsberg
  • Fontina and Parmesan Cheese
  • Raclette

Vegetarian French Onion Soup Recipe

The trick to a really good French onion soup recipe is a mixture of onions, as well as letting those onions slowly caramelize in a cast iron pan. I had two cast iron pans going at once, stirring regularly to make sure the onions got an even cook.

Don’t rush this delicious comfort food that takes you back to rainy days in Paris. Plan to stay in your kitchen for an hour or two. It’s a great time to make a loaf of bread or buns to dip into any leftover broth later in the day.

How to Stop Crying When You Cut Onions

There are a lot of tricks out there that can help minimize the crying that comes along with cutting onions. One is to stick your onions in the freezer. Another is to soak the onions in cold water.

I prefer to wear snowboard or swim googles. My nose gets a bit stuffy, but my eyes don’t burn for the rest of the day.

I also open a window and point a fan at it, so all of the onion fumes go right outside. Even in the dead of winter, I have that fan on and the window open.

Give it a try and let me know if you have any fabulous tricks to cutting onions.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter (you could use olive oil, but the taste won’t be the same)
  • 4 large shallots, 24 small red onions and 8 yellow onions (if you only use one type of onion, plan on 3lbs of yellow onion for this recipe)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine– you can also use a dry sherry but NOT sherry vinegar. You can try red wine AND sherry too. White wine won’t give you as robust a taste.
  • 64oz vegetable stock (for non-vegetarian, you can use chicken stock or beef stock)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon (5ml) cider vinegar
  • 8 bowl-size slices French Baguette, toasted until crisp
  • 2 cups of grated smoked Gruyère cheese (or regular gruyere cheese)
  • Fresh chives, for garnish
Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup Instructions

  1. Slice your onions, shallots and pearl onions into 1/8 inch slices (long and thin).
  2. Using two large cast iron pans, melt your butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions, one half to each pan for optimal caramelized onions.
  4. Stir the onions often, until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very fragrant and a rich golden-brown color (but not super dark and black!). This will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  6. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.
  7. Add wine (divide into two pans) and bring to a simmer, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  8. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a large stock pot.
  10. Add vegetable stock, thyme, garlic and bay leaf; raise heat to medium-high; and bring to a simmer.
  11. Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
  12. Add fish sauce and cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  13. Discard bay leaves. Allow to simmer another 10- 20 minutes.
  14. Preheat broiler and adjust oven rack to top position.
  15. Place your bread slices on a baking sheet and pop in the broiler. Allow to toast for a minute to two until slightly golden brown.
  16. Assemble your French Onion Soup by ladling a small amount of broth into the bottom of 6 soup crocks, then top with half the toasts.
  17. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of toasts, then spoon more soup and on top, almost to the top.
  18. Pop remaining toasts into bowls at an angle, so it is partially submerged.
  19. Top with more cheese.
  20. Place all soup crocks onto a rimmed backing sheet.
  21. Broil until cheese is melted and a nice golden brown.
  22. Serve and enjoy.

Tip for Picky Eaters

My boys hate eating onions. If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of the texture of cooked onions either.

However, if I stick this broth in the blender before assembly in the soup crocks, I get a nice creamy texture without the onion chunks. The taste will be slightly different, but if your kids will eat it, blend away with an emersion blender or in a large blender like this one.

Love it? Pin it for later!

Yield: 6

VEGETARIAN FRENCH ONION SOUP

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Make your own vegetarian French Onion Soup (beef and chicken broth option alternates included) with baked bread and melted cheese. Using a variety of onions and shallots, you will get the perfect caramelized onion for the best soup recipe that is actually easier than you think. You can make this with or without wine, but we highly recommend a red wine. Instapot and crockpot won't get you that deep caramel flavor, so put in the time on this soup recipe.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Additional Time 2 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter (you could use olive oil, but the taste won't be the same)
  • 4 large shallots, 24 small red onions and 8 yellow onions (if you only use one type of onion, plan on 3lbs of yellow onion for this recipe)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine (you can also use a dry sherry but NOT sherry vinegar, or even red wine AND sherry)
  • 64oz vegetable stock (for non-vegetarian, you can use chicken stock or beef stock)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon (5ml) cider vinegar
  • 8 bowl-size slices French Baguette, toasted until crisp
  • 2 cups of grated smoked Gruyère cheese (or regular gruyere cheese)
  • Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Slice your onions, shallots and pearl onions into 1/8 inch slices (long and thin).
  2. Using two large cast iron pans, melt your butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions, one half to each pan for optimal caramelized onions.
  4. Stir the onions often, until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very fragrant and a rich golden-brown color (but not super dark and black!). This will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  6. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.
  7. Add wine (divide into two pans) and bring to a simmer, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  8. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a large stock pot.
  10. Add vegetable stock, thyme, garlic and bay leaf; raise heat to medium-high; and bring to a simmer.
  11. Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
  12. Add fish sauce and cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  13. Discard bay leaves. Allow to simmer another 10- 20 minutes.
  14. Preheat broiler and adjust oven rack to top position.
  15. Place your bread slices on a baking sheet and pop in the broiler. Allow to toast for a minute to two until slightly golden brown.
  16. Assemble your French Onion Soup by ladling a small amount of broth into the bottom of 6 soup crocks, then top with half the toasts.
  17. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top of toasts, then spoon more soup and on top, almost to the top.
  18. Pop remaining toasts into bowls at an angle, so it is partially submerged.
  19. Top with more cheese.
  20. Place all soup crocks onto a rimmed backing sheet.
  21. Broil until cheese is melted and a nice golden brown.
  22. Serve and enjoy.

Notes

TIP FOR PICKY EATERS:

If you can't stand the texture of caramelized onions, stick your onion soup broth in the blender before assembling in the soup crocks. You will get a nice creamy texture without the onion chunks. The taste will be slightly different, but if your kids will eat it, blend away with an emersion blender or in a large blender.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

shares
Scroll to Top