Skip to content

Easy French onion soup recipe

For those who stayed out all night drinking would then go to Les Halles for the onion soup, known as a remedy for their hangover.
French Onion Soup Recipe | Michele Bogle
French Onion Soup Recipe | Michele Bogle

Vesak Day is the most sacred day of the year for millions of Buddhists worldwide. It was on the Day of Vesak, two and a half millennia ago, that the Buddha was born and celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar. This year in Canada, it falls on May 5.

Festivals that include spectacular floats, elaborate pandals, stunning displays of flowers, structures and statues covered with lights can be found at temples and along city streets where Buddhism is observed.

Vesak Day Festival float |
Vesak Day Festival float |

As part of this month's series of soups enjoyed while observing a religious holiday, French onion soup seemed an appropriate and delicious choice for Vesak Day.

Buddhists usually follow a lacto-vegetarian diet, meaning they consume dairy products but exclude eggs, poultry, fish, and meat from their cuisine, with some exceptions.

French onion soup is rumoured to have been invented by King Louis XV late one night at his hunting lodge when he was very hungry and found only onions, butter, and champagne in the pantry. Little did he know that he would use the three ingredients to create a soup that would have universal appeal.

French onion soup, in its simplest form with butter, onions, broth and wine, has been enjoyed since the twelfth century in France, where it became common for breakfast and lunch. For those who stayed out all night drinking would then go to Les Halles for the onion soup, known as a remedy for their hangover.

Onion Soup served in Les Halles Market | CPA Bastille 91
Onion Soup served in Les Halles Market | CPA Bastille 91

A tradition that began at the world's largest food market in Paris, Les Halles, founded in 1135 by King Philippe-Auguste, opened daily from dusk to dawn.

"Basic onion soup – beef jus, broth, onions, and bread, is a food of the people that's been around for a long time," explains José Dufour, manager of the Pied de Cochon. "The soup was really very cheap; it was the soup of the poor."

In the restaurants surrounding Les Halles, – the Poule au Pot, Chez Baratte, and the Pied de Cochon is where this soup gained its acclaim only after adding one of its key elements, the gratinée. A dish then named Gratinée des Halles.

This recipe uses vegetable broth to accommodate the dietary needs of Buddhists celebrating Vesak Day. There is no compromise on taste; rather, you'll find a more robust flavour profile with the red wine and additional spices added. This recipe will become a favourite.

French onion soup recipe



Large stockpot, medium saucepan, mixing spoon, measuring cup, whisk, 4 French onion soup bowls, parchment paper, baking sheet, paring knife, cutting board, grater


4 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 large onions, thinly sliced, then halved

1 tsp sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried thyme

8 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

¾ cup dry red wine

3 Tbsp flour

¾ tsp fresh ground black pepper

4 to 6 slices French bread, cut into ½ inch thickness

1½ to 2 cups Gruyère cheese, grated


Step 1

Melt butter over medium-low heat in a stockpot. Mix in onions and sugar. Allow the onions to caramelize to a golden brown for approximately 30 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning both the sugar and onions. Adjust heat if onions are browning too quickly.

Step 2

Add the garlic and thyme, stirring the mixture frequently for a minute.

Step 3

Increase the heat to medium and stir in the wine. Before the ingredients boil, return the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes or until the wine evaporates.

Step 4

In a measuring cup, whisk the flour into the broth until smooth and without lumps, then add the broth and bay leaves to the pot. Increase the heat to medium just before the mixture boils, then reduce to medium-low and cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Step 5

Preheat the oven to broil. Cover the baking sheet with parchment paper. Ladle soup into bowls just before the top. Place a slice of bread above the liquid in each bowl. Carefully cover the bread with more soup. 

Divide the cheese between the 4 to 6 bowls and sprinkle it on top of the bread. Avoid going to the edge of each bowl with the cheese to avoid excessive spillage while broiling. 

Broil for 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately and enjoy!