In one hour (not the typical two or more), you are sitting down to a delicious instant pot French onion soup.
Expect rich broth and sweet caramelized onions, topped with toasted bread and melted cheese. Heavenly comfort fare!
For some reason, I’ve been craving French onion soup lately. Maybe the coming of Fall. As always, there are tons of recipes out there. I looked at various methods – stove top, slow cooker and instant pot – and settled on trying a recipe in the instant pot. Mostly for the quicker turn around time and less hands on time.
I narrowed my research to 4 highly rated and best French onion soup recipes and [obsessively] took bits and tips from each. I added a small tip of my own with the bread part.
The recipe is organized into 6 steps with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. So if this is your first time making homemade French onion soup, don’t worry, it will be great. I’ve had a 12-ounce bowl every day for the last 3 days and I’m still loving it.
Tips for making instant pot onion soup
- This is a key component of the soup, so you want to get the best broth you can. It’s a good idea to taste it before using. The one I bought tasted almost like water, so I immediately switched to a concentrated undiluted beef broth in a can that use regularly (Campbell’s) and added a little less than a can of water for each can I used. I combined beef broth and chicken broth.
- You can use all beef broth or a combination of beef and chicken broth.
- If you can’t find good beef broth, use all good quality chicken broth. Try googling “best beef broths on the market” to source one where you live. Obvsiously, homemade broth is best if you want to take the time to make it.
- You can use yellow onions (traditional) or sweet onions (milder). We’ve included a few tips on how to reduce tears cutting onions in our article Onions: The Bare Essentials.
- There is no need to slice the onions thinly. They will still be very soft (partly disintegrated) after pressure cooking them.
Caramelizing the Onions
- Using a pinch of baking soda speeds up the caramelization process (it’s a science thing).
- If you don’t have any baking soda, use a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
- I found using whole slices of bread more challenging to eat with a spoon especially if you leave the crusts on. So I now cut the toasted bread into cubes – much easier!
Tailor To Your Taste
A few variations and substitutions to try.
- Broth – use beef, chicken or a combination.
- Cheese – I prefer Gruyere, but other good options are Beemster, Provolone, Swiss, Parmesan or a combination of these.
- Flavors – Try adding a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or fish sauce to add depth to the soup. If you prefer a French onion soup recipe without wine, just substitute the wine with extra broth.
- Garnish – French onion soup includes bread and cheese on top. You can bake or broil the soup in a bowl for this last step. Or even make cheese toast separately and top the soup with it before serving. Add some fresh thyme leaves or chives on top just before serving for a pretty finish.
- Vegetarian version – use vegetable broth. Mushroom broth is even better. Find the richest broth you can.
- Use the slicer blade on a food processor to slice the onions.
- Buy shredded cheese.
- The soup can be made up to a week ahead and kept in a sealed container in the fridge. Reheat in a microwave or pot. Then add toasted bread and cheese and broil (or bake).
Other hearty soups you might enjoy
- vegetable barley soup
- root vegetable soup with barley
- red lentil soup recipe with vegetables
- ground beef vegetable soup recipe
- chicken lemon orzo soup Thai-style
How to make onion soup in an instant pot
Instant Pot French Onion Soup
- Instant Pot - I use a 6 quart pot.
- 3 pounds yellow onions (sweet onions ok too)
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter butter adds richness but neutral oil can be used instead
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda - quickens caramelization process (not baking powder!)
- 2 teaspoon minced garlic about 2 cloves
Broth and Seasonings
- 1/4 cup red wine (or dry sherry or dry white wine) optional but adds good flavor
- 8 cups good quality beef broth Note 1
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste depends on saltiness of broth
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- slices or cubes of french baguette (about 2 slices per person/bowl)
- 4 ounce grated/shredded Gruyere cheese Note 2
- SLICE ONIONS: Set Instant Pot to SAUTE HIGH or MORE. Peel and slice onions by hand (1/2 inch is fine - no need to slice thinly). See tips for no-tears slicing in Onions: The Bare Essentials. Alternatively, use a shortcut and slice onions in food processor with a slicing blade (adjusted to thick slice if possible).
- SAUTE ONIONS: Add butter, onions and baking soda to instant pot which will now be hot. Saute to "sweat" the onions and release juices for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last minute, add minced garlic. Select OFF.
- PRESSURE COOK ONIONS: Select PRESSURE OR MANUAL - HIGH. Place lid on instant pot and turn vent knob to "sealed". Select 14 minutes (it will take about 5 minutes to come to pressure before the time starts to count down). When cooking is complete and IP beeps, use Quick (instant) Release Method. You will have a lot of liquid with the onions.
- CARAMELIZE ONIONS: To speed up final caramelization, pour most of liquid (about a cup) onto a cup and set aside to add later. Select SAUTE function on High/More. Caramelize onions, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until golden brown and most of liquid is evaporated. Add wine and cook off for 1 minute. If more body in soup is desired, stir in a tablespoon of flour for 1-2 minutes.
- ADD LIQUIDS AND SEASONINGS: Add broth(s), reserved onion liquid and all seasonings (Worcestershire, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf). Cook onion soup for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- MAKE CHEESE-TOAST TOPPING and BROIL: While soup is cooking, toast bread slices or cubes until golden brown. You can toast slices then cut in cubes if preferred. Set oven or toaster oven to Broil. Ladle soup into oven proof bowls. Add bread slices/cubes to cover top of soup. Top with grated cheese. Place bowls on a pan (in case of dripping). Broil 6 inches from heat for about 3-4 minutes or until cheese is browned. Note 3. Serve immediately.
- Broth: You can use all beef broth or a combination of beef and chicken broth. If you can't find good beef broth, use all good quality chicken broth. Find the best quality beef broth or beef bone broth you can. It's best to taste it. The one I bought tasted almost like water, so I switched to a concentrated undiluted beef broth I like (Campbell's in a can) and added a little less than a can of water. Most broths come in a box.
- Cheese: I love the onion soup with Gruyere cheese. Other good options are Beemster, Provolone, Swiss, Parmesan or a combination of these.
- Bake instead of broil: You can also bake the onion soup with bread and cheese at 45oF for 6-8 minutes or until cheese is browned.
- Make Ahead: Soup can be made up to a week ahead and kept in a sealed container in the fridge. Reheat in microwave or pot. Then add toasted bread and cheese and broil (or bake).