Normandy French Onion Soup

Recipe Pin
1 hour 25 minutes
4 servings

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The flavors of Normandy French Onion Soup, soupe à l’oignon, are comforting this time of year, made with rich broth, croutons, and cheese!

A perfect cheese pull of melted cheese atop French onion soup.

This Normandy French onion soup recipe is inspired by famed French chef Michel Roux of Le Gavroche, London, a Michelin star establishment serving classic French soups that include French peasant recipes such as this.

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Ah, French onion soup – a timeless classic in the heart of France, known simply as “soupe à l’oignon Gratinée”. That’s French onion soup in French in case you were wondering how the French say it! 

Chef Roux’s soupe à l’oignon is THE FINEST soup I have ever experienced, and it is with great appreciation for him, that I share his genius herein.

While it might be just plain old onion soup in France, imagine transforming this beloved classic into a rich, warming, and sweet deviation that carries the spirit of Normandy. After all, there’s nothing quite like the warm embrace of the world’s best French onion soup on a chilly evening.

Onion soup is a dish perfect for those chilly moments when winter’s icy breath lingers in the air. Known as a regional bistro classic from Normandy stretching to Brittany, this rendition of the soup challenges tradition while preserving its core essence.

This hard cider and onion soup delivers that comforting feeling with a Norman twist to create the best French onion soup imaginable. Harnessing the unique essence of hard cider instead of traditional white wine and blending it with caramelized onions and fresh herbs, it promises an unforgettable dining experience.

A woman tying fresh rosemary, thyme, and a dried bay leaf into a bouquet garni with scissors in the image.
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe!

·         Hard Cider – classic French onion soup employs white wine, but the infusion of hard cider instead provides a distinctive tangy-sweet background, making this classic soup stand out from traditional French onion soup recipes.
·         Familiar ingredients – this version remains true to the heart of the dish with staples like homemade chicken stock, fresh herbs, and cheese.
·         Prepared seasoned croutons – the crowning touch of crispy croutons under a canopy of bubbling, golden cheese takes this dish from delicious to divine. They introduce a savory balance against the sweet undertones of the cider-infused onions.
·         Fresh Herbs Bouquet Garni – fresh rosemary sprig, thyme sprig, and a bay leaf; ensures every spoonful is intensely aromatic and flavorful. I double this in my soup. 
 


Normandy French Onion Soup Ingredients

Homemade French Onion Soup, especially the Normandy version, achieves a sublime balance of sweet and savory with caramelized onions, fresh herbs, and hard cider-infusion. The key lies in careful caramelization and the use of high-quality ingredients.

An image which displays all ingredients for Normandy French Onion Soup recipe.
  • Unsalted butter: Opt for organic, grass-fed varieties for a richer flavor. Found in the dairy section. It can be substituted with olive oil for a lighter version.
  • Large yellow onions: Go for the best onions you can source: fresh, firm onions. Found in the produce section. Shallots can be an alternative for a milder taste.
  • Fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, bay leaves, rosemary): Freshness is vital; find them in the produce aisle. Dried herbs can be used, but reduce the quantity by half.
  • Hard cider: Any brand works, but dryer versions yield the best results. Located in the alcoholic beverages aisle. Apple brandy may be substituted in equal measure.
  • All-purpose flour: Standard flour works best, found in the baking section. Gluten-free alternatives like almond flour can be substituted.
  • Chicken stock: Homemade is unbeatable in flavor. If store-bought, go for a low-sodium, organic option. Located in the soups and broths section. Homemade beef broth may be substituted.
  • Kosher salt & black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper and coarse salt are recommended. Found in the spice aisle.
  • Croutons: While baguette slices are the traditional topping, seasoned croutons add both immediate flavor AND are convenient to use. Use any flavored store brand you enjoy. Locate them near salad toppings. Slices of baguette, toasted, may be substituted if you’re a French onion purist 😉 
  • Heavy cream: Organic and full-fat versions bring out the best taste. Please find it in the dairy section. Coconut cream is a dairy-free alternative.
  • Grated Beemster or grated gruyère cheese: These cheeses melt beautifully. Found in the cheese section. Emmental can be a substitute.
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See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.


A glass bowl filled with cheese flavored croutons.

Substitutions and Variations

Remember, substitutions can alter the flavor, texture, and sometimes even the cooking time of the original recipe. Always be prepared to adjust other ingredients or the cooking process as necessary when using substitutions.

  • Olive oil or ghee – both offer a different flavor and dietary consideration in lieu of unsalted butter. For a variation using unsalted butter, infuse it with garlic for added depth of flavor.
  • Red onions or white onions – may be substituted for yellow onions. For a variation using yellow onions, mix in sliced shallots or leeks for a more complex flavor.
  • White wine or beer – though each will alter the flavor of the dish, they can replace the hard cider efficiently. For a variation using hard cider, opt for a hard pear cider. It yields a slightly different fruity note.
  • Cornstarch or arrowroot powder – for gluten-free alternatives, though you’ll need less, typically half the amount. Use whole wheat flour in lieu of all-purpose for a more rustic texture. I’ve eaten this soup using whole wheat flour and it was fabulous!
  • Vegetable stock, beef stock, or bone broth – any of these may be substituted for chicken stock. For a more umami punch, consider adding a splash of soy sauce or miso paste.
  • Pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, or white pepper – easily replace Kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Toasted bread cubes or toasted baguette slices – in keeping with the purist version of onion soup, either of these replace prepared croutons. As a variation for plain or herb-prepared croutons, opt for stronger flavors such as garlic or cheese.
  • Full-fat coconut milk or half-and-half – both work equally as well as heavy cream if you prefer not to use. A dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt for a tangy twist.
  • Swiss cheese, Emmental, or a mild cheddar – any of these cheeses make great stand-ins for Beemster or Gruyere. A mix of mozzarella and parmesan for a melty and flavorful top can also work.

A Buying Guide for Onions

Braids of Pink onions used to make onion soup hanging out to dry.

If striving to replicate the authentic taste of the Normandy French Onion Soup, the quality of the onion matters. The Pink Roscoff onion is the traditional onion of choice, NOT to be confused with red onions. Celebrated for its color and unparalleled taste, this onion, native to Brittany, France can sometimes be found in US grocery stores. However, their availability is often limited. To compensate for this rarity and strike a balance between acidity and sugar, this version of soup introduces hard cider to elevate regular sweet yellow onions. But whether you’re using the hard-to-find Pink Roscoff or the common yellow onion, the essence lies in the caramelization and infusion with cider. To achieve onion greatness, slice onions thinly.

What Is the Best Hard Cider to Purchase?

When choosing a hard cider, consider the dryness level. Drier ciders offer a less sweet, more balanced flavor profile suitable for soups.

First, I’ll say that a few of my friends ferment homemade cider. If you’ve got it, use it.

In the case of store-bought, read the label and maybe even sample a few to find your favorite. ALWAYS cook with a wine, beer, or cider you would happily drink.

A black field with a pink circle, the letter 'J' and an olive branch signifying the logo for the blog Not Entirely Average.

Tip: Tie the Bouquet Garni to the Pot Handle!

Using kitchen twine makes it easier to remove your bouquet garni later, ensuring no stray leaves in your soup. Tying the herb bundle to the pot handle ensures you will not have to fish for the ensemble amidst steaming hot onions and broth!


A red Dutch oven with a Bouquet garni tied with kitchen twine to the pot handle.

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This recipe has not been tested with other substitutions or variations. If you replace or add any ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below!


A red Dutch oven filled with onion soup.

Can French Onion Soup Be Made Ahead?

YES! This is what’s lovely about this soup aside from tasting so fantastic.

The whole method can be assembled, stopping before adding croutons, cheese, and cream. Place it directly into the refrigerator in the Dutch oven, covered.

The recipe can be made ahead by up to two days. GENTLY reheat in the Dutch oven, uncovered, before continuing with the addition of croutons, cheese, and cream.

Step By Step Instructions

A black field with a pink circle, the letter 'J' and an olive branch signifying the logo for the blog Not Entirely Average.

Tip: Broiling Requires Close Attention!

You’ve spent a bunch of time getting to this point in the recipe – walking away and not monitoring the broil is the difference between a perfect golden top and burnt cheese!


  1. Begin by tying a bouquet garni with kitchen twine, leaving about a 10-inch ‘tail’ on one end of the twine. The tail will be used to connect the bouquet garni to the handle of the Dutch oven. Use fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and however many dried bay leaves your heart tells you.

2. Thinly slice two Pink Roscoff or sweet yellow onions using a sharp kitchen knife. I first like to halve the onions before slicing to give myself a flat side to brace for sturdy and safe slicing. Thin slices cook faster than thicker slices, but making a few thicker cuts means finding that brilliant meaty hunk later in the soup!

3. Once your onions are sliced, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat when the butter becomes foamy and lightly brown the butter.

4. Set the heat to medium. Add in those thinly sliced yellow onions. Give them a stir to coat them with the butter.

5. As they sizzle and dance in the butter, stir occasionally, letting them achieve a golden hue over 6-8 minutes.

6. This image is meant to use as a gauge for onions that are halfway to being softened.

7. This image is meant to use as a gauge for onions that are softened, very lightly caramelized, and ready to be used for soup.

8. Tie the aromatic bundle of herbs to the Dutch oven handle so the herbs will be easy to remove when the time comes. Use a wooden spoon to gently poke and submerge the herbs in the onions.

9. Follow the aromatics with the entire bottle of hard cider. Allow the ingredients to come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let them simmer together for about 8 to 10 minutes before setting them aside.

10. Use the time to grate some hard cheeses freshly. I am using a combination of Beemster, Gruyere, and Parmesan. Use whatever hard cheese resonates with your eaters. Since each soup bowl is broiled separately, you can customize the cheese type for each one.

11. In a separate 2.75-quart Dutch oven or medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then whisk in the ¼ cup all-purpose flour.

12. This flour-butter mixture or roux should be stirred continuously to achieve a deep caramel color. This image is meant to use as a gauge for how the roux will look initially.

13. As the roux cooks, it cooks out the smell and taste of raw flour, something we do not want in our finished product. This image is meant to use as a gauge for a roux that is about halfway toasted.

14. Deep caramel color achieved! This image is meant to use as a gauge for a fully toasted roux. Its appearance should be that of a square of caramel candy and its aroma nutty and pleasant.

15. Slowly whisk in the 2 ¾ cups chicken stock. Let this mixture boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer until slightly reduced, around 15 minutes.

16. It’s time to unite our two mixtures. Remove the bouquet garni reserving a single bay leaf. Pour the onion and cider blend into the stock.

17. Add the reserved bay leaf to the rich soup broth. Give everything a good stir.

18. I also take the opportunity to add in a rind of hard cheese to impart some INCREDIBLE flavor. See my tip above for reasons to hang onto those hard rinds of cheese.

19. Allow these flavors to intermingle and get to know each other for 15 minutes. Don’t forget to bid farewell to our herb bundle all but for one bay leaf and season the soup with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

20. Measure out a handful of packaged croutons. I like to stick with a cheese or herb flavored pre-packaged crouton, but you may use whatever you have on hand. Do not be afraid to make your own if you haven’t any in the pantry.

21. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set each soup crock on the sheet pan. Adjust the top rack in your oven so it is about 6-inches from the broiler element. Set the broiler to high. With your soup ready, ladle it into individual crocks. Almost to the top, but not quite. You need room for croutons and cheese AND expansion in the oven as the croutons puff and the cheese melts.

22. Top each with croutons. The amount to use is really whatever your heart tells you. The croutons will add texture and flavor, so be mindful of using too few or too many. I use about twice the amount that you are seeing in this image.

23. Lightly layer on the grated hard cheeses, covering the croutons and the soup on all sides. If you have a couple of gaps, do not fret.

24. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of heavy cream over the cheese for a creamy finish. No need to stir. This may seem lavish, but it makes the soup.

25. Place the prepared cookie sheet with your soups on the top rack under the broiler. MONITOR! Broil them until the tops are golden, and the soup beneath is bubbly, about 2 minutes.

26. Remove the sheet pan with the soups from the oven. Allow the soups to stand for 5 minutes before using oven mitts to place each bowl on a plate lined with a napkin or paper towel to avoid the bowl sliding. THE BOWLS WILL BE HOT.

A perfect cheese pull of melted cheese atop French onion soup.

27. Just look at that cheese pull!!! Garnish with fresh herbs if desired. Serve and watch the faces of your eaters light up in delight.

How to Serve Normandy French Onion Soup

Normandy French Onion Soup, with its rich flavors from caramelized onions, herbs, and the distinct taste of hard cider, should be served with consideration to enhance the experience, which is as much about the ambiance and presentation as it is about the delectable taste. Here are a few tips on how to serve it:

  • Temperature – Serve the soup piping hot. The heat not only ensures that the flavors are at their peak but also helps to melt the cheese on top, giving it a gooey texture that’s essential for the full French onion soup experience.
  • Dishware – Traditionally, French onion soup is served in individual oven-proof crocks or bowls. This allows for the broiling of the cheese-topped croutons directly in the bowl, ensuring each serving gets a generous helping of both soup and toppings.
  • Presentation – The golden, bubbling cheese should be the highlight. If you’ve broiled the cheese on top, it will have a slight crust, which is visually appealing. Garnishing with a little fresh parsley or thyme can add a pop of color.
  • Accompaniments – While the soup is filling on its own, it’s traditionally paired with:
    • A slice of baguette or crusty bread on the side. The bread can be used to soak up the last delicious drops from the bowl.
    • A salad with a light vinaigrette dressing can balance out the richness of the soup.
    • Since we’re looking at a Normandy variation, consider pairing the soup with a glass of dry cider or a crisp white wine.
  • Serving Order – If the soup is part of a multi-course meal:
    • Begin with a light appetizer, perhaps a salad or a light pâté.
    • Serve the Normandy French Onion Soup as the main course or a substantial starter.
    • Finish with a light dessert, perhaps a fruit tart or crème brûlée.
  • Etiquette – Provide both a soup spoon and a smaller fork (for any onions or croutons that need a bit of help). Ensure napkins are available, as the cheese can be stringy and messy – but that’s part of the fun!
A spoon pulling cheese from a hot soup crock of onion soup.

If You Have Hard Cheese Ends…

A pile of cheese rinds leftover from hard cheeses like Parmesan and Gruyere.

Hard cheese ends, particularly from cheeses like Parmesan or Gruyère, are culinary goldmines and should never be discarded hastily. The ends of these cheeses are packed with intense flavors that have developed over time. They can be a secret weapon in the kitchen to boost the taste of various dishes. While they might be too hard to grate or shave for direct consumption, these ends have other uses that can elevate many recipes. Dropping a Parmesan or Gruyère rind into a simmering pot of soup or stew infuses the dish with a subtle depth of flavor. Discard the softened rind before serving, much like you would a bay leaf.

Storage Instructions

  • Store leftover soup in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • For freezing, skip the crouton and cheese toppings. Freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove, adding toppings when serving.

Jenny’s Recipe Pro Tips

  • While hard cider is a unique addition, if you’re enjoying your soup, pairing it with a balanced wine doesn’t break with all tradition and provides a delightful taste journey.
  • If you ever manage to get your hands on Pink Roscoff onions, savor the opportunity and use them in this recipe for a more authentic taste.
  • When caramelizing onions, ensure consistent stirring to avoid burning them.

Recipe FAQs

Is This Soup Recipe Gluten-free?

Not as written. Swap all-purpose flour with a gluten-free alternative and ensure your stock is gluten-free.

Can I Use the Pink Roscoff Onions for a More Authentic Taste?

Absolutely! The Pink Roscoff onion, native to Brittany, France, is celebrated for its unique taste and color. If available, it’ll surely enhance the soup’s flavor profile.

Can I Use Regular Apple Cider Instead of Hard Apple Cider?

While regular apple cider or apple juice can be used, using either will result in a sweeter profile. Consider reducing the quantity and adjusting seasoning.

More French-Inspired Recipes You’ll Love

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Recipe

A soup crock filled with hot onion soup and topped with melted Gruyere cheese and fresh thyme.

Normandy French Onion Soup

Jenny DeRemer
Rich and warming, Normandy French Onion Soup is a dish to make while winter's icy breath is still in the air.
5 from 6 votes
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Stand Post-Broil 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American, French, Southern
Servings 4 servings
Calories 286 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 2 medium Pink Roscoff or yellow onions thinly sliced; if able to source Pink Roscoff onions use them for a more authentic taste
  • 8 fresh sprigs thyme
  • 4 fresh sprigs parsley
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 fresh sprig rosemary
  • 1 bottle hard cider any brand or homemade
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¾ cups chicken broth or stock homemade if you have available
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • prepared croutons any flavored store brand crouton that you enjoy
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • cup grated Beemster or Gruyere cheese or additional to taste if desired

Instructions
 

  • Tie a bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves with kitchen twine, leaving about a 10-inch 'tail' on one end of the string. Set aside. Thinly slice two onions. Also set aside.
  • Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 4 or 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat when the butter becomes foamy. Lightly brown the butter, add the onion slices, then stir well to coat. Stir occasionally, letting them achieve a golden hue over 6-8 minutes.
  • The onions are ready for the soup when softened and lightly caramelized. Using the long 'tail,' tie the aromatic bundle of herbs to the Dutch oven handle so the herbs will be easy to remove later. Use a wooden spoon to submerge the herbs in the onions. Pour the entire bottle of hard cider over the onions and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Finely grate some hard cheese. Use what resonates with your eaters. I am using a mix of Beemster, Gruyere, and Parmesan. Set aside. Measure out a handful of prepared croutons. Also set aside.
  • The remaining 2 tablespoons of butter await its turn in a separate medium saucepan. Melt it over medium heat, then whisk in the ¼ cup all-purpose flour. This flour-butter mixture or roux should be stirred continuously to achieve a deep caramel color. As the roux cooks, it cooks out the smell and taste of raw flour. The final appearance should be deeply caramel in color and the aroma nutty and pleasant. Slowly whisk in the 2 ¾ cups chicken stock. Let this mixture boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer until slightly reduced, around 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bouquet garni, reserving a single bay leaf. Pour the onion and cider blend into the stock. Add the reserved bay leaf and stir well. If using a rind of hard cheese to impart flavor, add it now. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set each soup crock on the sheet pan. Adjust your oven rack so it is about 6 inches from the broiler element. Set the broiler to high. Ladle soup into the crocks almost to the top, but not quite. Top each with croutons and cheese. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of heavy cream over the cheese.
  • Place the prepared cookie sheet with your soups on the top rack under the broiler. MONITOR! Broil them until the tops are golden, and the soup beneath is bubbly, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove the sheet pan with the soups from the oven. Allow the soups to stand for 5 minutes before using oven mitts to place each bowl on a plate lined with a napkin or paper towel to avoid the bowl sliding. THE BOWLS WILL BE HOT. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired and serve.

Notes

Storage Instructions
  • Store leftover soup in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • For freezing, skip the crouton and cheese toppings. Freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge, reheat on the stove, and add toppings when serving.

The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.

Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 286kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 6gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 687mgPotassium: 168mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 983IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 162mgIron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




10 Comments

  1. Oh my… this recipe just screams comfort food.
    Thank you for sharing your Normandy French Onion Soup recipe at Create, Bake, Grow & Gather party this week. I’m delighted to be featuring it at tonight’s party and pinning too.
    Hugs,
    Kerryanne5 stars

  2. This looks so good! My grandma loves French Onion soup so I might have to give this a try. Thank you so much for sharing with us at the SSPS #296. I hope you have an amazing weekend.
    – Maria @ Krafty Planner5 stars

  3. This sounds fantastic! I love French onion soup, I can virtually taste this.
    Visiting today from SSPS 296 #48,49&50

  4. French onion is one of my favorite soups!! Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Hope your week is going great.

    1. Helen, You’re a gem! I honestly believe this is among the TOP % RECIPES on this site, and I cannot get enough of it. I swear I have been poised to assemble a small batch since back in June, haha! x – Jenny

  5. I adore French Onion soup and it’s one of my favorite things in Fall~ yours looks divine and so brilliant to tie the herb bundle to the pot handle!