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Vegetarian French Onion Soup Recipe

Why should meat-eaters have all the fun? Fall is here and that means the weather is perfect to cuddle up with this Vegetarian French Onion Soup! Grab a bowl and a blanket and let’s watch the rain fall on colorful leaves that litter the ground.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

What is better than a bowl of rich, savory soup topped with gobs of cheese and a crusty piece of garlic bread? The fact that you can have all of that and still be vegetarian! In this recipe, we take all the umami we can muster and pair it with the sweet complexity of caramelized onions and to-die-for cheesiness. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now, but the heavy rainfall we got this week was just the kick I needed to get to it! Be warned, however, this recipe makes a lot of soup. I ended up sharing half of it with my neighbor and still having a quart of soup leftover!

Vegetarian French Onion Ingredients

Onions: Get ready to cry because this recipe calls for 3 pounds of sliced onions.

Olive Oil: I like to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it’s better for you, but butter would also taste delicious in this recipe. Use 3-4 tablespoons of your preferred fat.

Garlic: I used about 5 cloves of garlic, minced.

White Wine: Deglazing the pot with white wine ensures that you get all of that flavor you worked so long to develop. I used a little more than half of a cup. See the notes for some non-alcholic alternatives to this!

Vegetable Stock: Make sure that you get veggie stock instead of broth so that you get the most flavor possible out of what will become the base for this soup. Here I’m using 6 cups.

Vegetable Bouillon: I decided to up the ante with half of a teaspoon of bouillon

Soy Sauce: Many french onion soup recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, but that contains anchovies. For the vegetarian version, I decided to substitute soy sauce to replicate that rich umami flavor. However, keep in mind that soy sauce is a lot saltier than Worcestershire sauce, so you should definitely taste as you go before adding additional salt. 

Bay leaves: I used two bay leaves for this recipe.

Thyme: You could absolutely use fresh thyme for this recipe (two sprigs should do the trick), but I didn’t have any on hand so I used dried thyme

Sage: Again, use fresh herbs if you have access, but I used dried. For both the thyme and sage I recommend adding them to taste.

Black and White Pepper: I used a mix of black and white pepper to taste.

(Optional) Flour: If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add up to three tablespoons of flour to thicken the final product. 

For Serving: French bread and shredded white cheese. I couldn’t find any gruyere at my local grocery store, but that is the traditional cheese served. Instead, I used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan. This ended up being a little too salty for me but to each their own!

How to Make Vegetarian French Onion Soup

  1. First, slice three pounds of yellow onions. This is a lot of onions, so get ready to cry, or invest in some eye protection. See the notes for some tips on slicing onions.
  2. Once you have all of the onions sliced, heat 3 tablespoons of your choice of fat in a large stockpot. I recommend using a dutch oven, but if you don’t have one that’s okay, any large stockpot will work. 
  3. Add all of the onions, and toss in the fat. I ended up needing an additional tablespoon of olive oil to get all of the onions coated. 
  4. Caramelize the onions over medium-low heat. This will take some time, so you might as well get comfortable. It took me around half of an hour to get the onions to the depth of color that I was looking for. I wanted the onions to not only be brown but to go past that to the stage where they get a little jammy and are super fragrant and soft. You want to ensure that you’re stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking and burning. If you get a little bit of sticky-burnage, don’t fret! That’s why we deglaze it in step 6.
  5. Once the onions have reached the desired amount of caramelization, add in 5 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring as you go. If you prefer a thicker soup, now would be a great time to add the flour. I added two tablespoons, but you can add as many as you’d like. Some things to consider would be how much you can add before it starts getting clumpy, as well as making sure that you saute it a little longer so that you can’t taste raw flour in the final soup.
  6. Add in the white wine (or non-alcoholic substitute) to deglaze the pan. As you add the liquid, scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up all of the caramelized goodness clinging there.
  7. Once you’re content with the deglaze, add the veggie stock, soy sauce, and herbs and stir together. To add the bouillon, I simply took ¼ of a teaspoon and swirled it directly into the soup. Increase the heat to medium and allow to come to a simmer for 15 minutes or longer. Remember, if you simmer uncovered, the flavors will intensify, but so will the salinity. 
  8. While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven. Typically I would broil at this stage, but my oven-safe bowl is only good up to 450F so that’s where I set the oven. Next, cut the bread into 2-inch slices. I chose to make garlic bread by adding some olive oil and garlic salt, but you could just as easily add some cheese to the bread as well. 
  9. When the soup is done, add it to an oven-safe dish. Top the soup with cheese and arrange it on the tray with the bread. Put the baking sheet with soup and bread in the oven for just a few minutes. I wasn’t able to get my cheese crispy, but I did get a nice thick layer of melty cheese! You definitely want to keep an eye on this, however, since the bread can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute! 
  10. Allow to cool slightly, and serve with warm garlic bread! Enjoy your Vegetarian French Onion Soup!
Vegetarian French onion soup with a crusty piece of garlic bread and a thick layer of melty cheese on top.
A close up of the melty layer of cheese atop the vegetarian French onion soup.

Notes:

  • To slice onions efficiently for this recipe, I like to cut the onion in half from root to stem. Next cut off the root and stem areas of the onion; this makes the onion really easy to peel. Once peeled, you can simply slice the onion (again making sure you’re slicing from root to stem).
  • For a non-alcoholic substitute for the white wine, you could use some white grape juice mixed with a little bit of lemon juice, or simply add the stock in a little at the time and scrape the bottom.
Yield: 8 servings

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Why should meat-eaters have all the fun? Fall is here and that means the weather is perfect to cuddle up with this Vegetarian French Onion Soup! Grab a bowl and a blanket and let’s watch the rain fall on colorful leaves that litter the ground.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3lb Yellow onions
  • 4T olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 cups veggie stock
  • 1/4 t veggie bouillon
  • soy sauce to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sage and Thyme to taste
  • Black and white pepper to taste
  • 3T flour (optional)
  • French bread
  • Shredded white cheese

Instructions

  1. First, slice three pounds of yellow onions. This is a lot of onions, so get ready to cry, or invest in some eye protection. See the notes for some tips on slicing onions.
  2. Once you have all of the onions sliced, heat 3 tablespoons of your choice of fat in a large stockpot. I recommend using a dutch oven, but if you don’t have one that’s okay, any large stockpot will work. 
  3. Add all of the onions, and toss in the fat. I ended up needing an additional tablespoon of olive oil to get all of the onions coated. 
  4. Caramelize the onions over medium-low heat. This will take some time, so you might as well get comfortable. It took me around half of an hour to get the onions to the depth of color that I was looking for. I wanted the onions to not only be brown but to go past that to the stage where they get a little jammy and are super fragrant and soft. You want to ensure that you’re stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking and burning. If you get a little bit of sticky-burnage, don’t fret! That’s why we deglaze it in step 6.
  5. Once the onions have reached the desired amount of caramelization, add in 5 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring as you go. If you prefer a thicker soup, now would be a great time to add the flour. I added two tablespoons, but you can add as many as you’d like. Some things to consider would be how much you can add before it starts getting clumpy, as well as making sure that you saute it a little longer so that you can’t taste raw flour in the final soup.
  6. Add in the white wine (or non-alcoholic substitute) to deglaze the pan. As you add the liquid, scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up all of the caramelized goodness clinging there.
  7. Once you’re content with the deglaze, add the veggie stock, soy sauce, and herbs and stir together. To add the bouillon, I simply took ¼ of a teaspoon and swirled it directly into the soup. Increase the heat to medium and allow to come to a simmer for 15 minutes or longer. Remember, if you simmer uncovered, the flavors will intensify, but so will the salinity. 
  8. While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven. Typically I would broil at this stage, but my oven-safe bowl is only good up to 450F so that’s where I set the oven. Next, cut the bread into 2-inch slices. I chose to make garlic bread by adding some olive oil and garlic salt, but you could just as easily add some cheese to the bread as well. 
  9. When the soup is done, add it to an oven-safe dish. Top the soup with cheese and arrange it on the tray with the bread. Put the baking sheet with soup and bread in the oven for just a few minutes. I wasn’t able to get my cheese crispy, but I did get a nice thick layer of melty cheese! You definitely want to keep an eye on this, however, since the bread can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute! 
  10.  Allow to cool slightly, and serve with warm garlic bread! Enjoy.

Notes

  • To slice onions efficiently for this recipe, I like to cut the onion in half from root to stem. Next cut off the root and stem areas of the onion; this makes the onion really easy to peel. Once peeled, you can simply slice the onion (again making sure you’re slicing from root to stem).
  • For a non-alcoholic substitute for the white wine, you could use some white grape juice mixed with a little bit of lemon juice, or simply add the stock in a little at the time and scrape the bottom. 

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