Delia Smith French Onion Soup Recipe

Easy Delia Smith French Onion Soup Recipe
Yields: 1 Serving Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 15 Mins Cook Time: 2 Hr 15 Mins Total Time: 2 Hr 30 Mins

Delia Smith French Onion Soup is a classic dish, renowned for its rich and deeply flavored broth, topped with a golden, melted cheese crust. This comforting soup combines caramelized onions with a savory stock, creating a perfect balance of flavors. It’s an excellent choice for both casual family meals and elegant dinner parties.

In this article, I will show you how to make French onion soup following the recipe of Delia Smith, a famous British cook and author. Delia Smith’s recipe is simple and easy to follow, and it produces a wonderful result that will impress your family and friends. I will also share some tips and tricks to make your French onion soup even better, and answer some common questions you might have about this dish.

What is Delia Smith French Onion Soup?

Delia Smith French onion soup is a delicious and comforting soup made with caramelized onions, beef stock, white wine, and Cognac. It is topped with crispy bread croutons and melted cheese and served hot from the oven or grill. It is based on the recipe of Delia Smith, a famous British cook and author, who has simplified and adapted the classic French dish for home cooks.

This recipe serves 4-6 people and takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to prepare.

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Why You Love this Recipe

  • Ease of Preparation: Simple, affordable ingredients readily available in most supermarkets, suitable for all cooking levels.
  • Rich and Balanced Flavor: Offers a delightful combination of sweet caramelized onions, acidic wine, and salty cheese.
  • Hearty and Satisfying: A perfect blend of smooth soup with a crunchy, cheesy topping, offering a pleasing texture contrast.
  • Customizable: Easily adaptable to different onions, cheeses, bread, and herbs, allowing for personal taste preferences.
  • Comforting for Any Occasion: Ideal for cozy, cold days or special celebrations, adding warmth to any meal setting.

What You Need to Make Delia Smith French Onion Soup

To make Delia Smith French onion soup, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1½ lb (700 g) onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz (50 g) butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ level teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 pints (1.2 liters) of good beef stock (see related recipe below)
  • ¼ pint (150 ml) dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)
  • French bread or baguettine, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) diagonal slices
  • 8 oz (225 g) Gruyère, grated

Useful Equipment

You will also need the following equipment:

  • A large, solid baking sheet
  • A large saucepan or casserole
  • A wooden spoon
  • A ladle
  • A tureen or soup bowls
  • A grill

Instructions to Make Delia Smith French Onion Soup

Here is the step-by-step instructions to make Delia Smith French onion soup:

Step 1: Make the Croutons

  • Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
  • Drizzle the olive oil onto the baking sheet, add the crushed garlic, and then, using your hands, spread the oil and garlic all over the baking sheet.
  • Place the bread slices on top of the oil, then turn over each one so that both sides have been lightly coated with the oil.
  • Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crispy and crunchy.

Step 2: Cook the Onions

  • Place the saucepan or casserole on high heat and melt the oil and butter together.
  • When this is very hot, add the onions, garlic, and sugar, and keep turning them from time to time until the edges of the onions have turned dark – this will take about 6 minutes.
  • Then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and leave the onions to cook very slowly for about 30 minutes, by which time the base of the pan will be covered with a rich, nut brown, caramelized film.

Step 3: Add the Stock and Wine

  • After that, pour in the stock and white wine, season with salt and pepper, then stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pan well.
  • As soon as it all comes up to a simmering point, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, then go away and leave it to cook very gently, without a lid, for about 1 hour.

Step 4: Add the Cognac (Optional)

  • If you want to add some extra flavor and warmth to your soup, you can stir in 2 tablespoons of Cognac at this point. This is optional, but it will make your soup more authentic and delicious.

Step 5: Grill the Cheese

  • Warm the tureen or soup bowls in a low oven and pre-heat the grill to its highest setting.
  • Then ladle the hot soup into the tureen or bowls and top with the croutons, allowing them to float on the top of the soup.
  • Now sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place the whole lot under the grill until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

  • Serve the French onion soup immediately, with some extra bread if you like. Be careful, as everything is very hot. Enjoy your delicious and comforting soup!
Delia Smith French Onion Soup
Delia Smith French Onion Soup

What Do I Serve With Delia Smith French Onion Soup?

Delia Smith French onion soup is a hearty and complete meal on its own, but you can also serve it with some of the following accompaniments:

  • Complementing Salad: Choose between a light lettuce and vinaigrette salad or a richer spinach and walnut salad.
  • Wine Pairing: Pair with a glass of red wine like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon to complement the soup’s flavors.
  • Additional Bread Options: Serve with a crusty baguette, hearty sourdough, or soft ciabatta for dipping and scooping.
  • Dessert Suggestions: Finish the meal with a contrasting sweet note, such as a fruit tart, chocolate cake, or crème brûlée.

Easy Delia Smith French Onion Soup Recipe

Pro Tips to Make Perfect Delia Smith French Onion Soup

Here are some pro tips to make perfect Delia Smith French onion soup:

  • Selecting the Stock: Opt for high-quality beef stock to anchor the soup with a rich flavor. Homemade stock is ideal, but if using store-bought, choose one with low sodium and minimal additives to control the overall saltiness.
  • Choosing the Right Wine: Dry white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio are perfect for this soup, as they add brightness without overpowering the onions. Steer clear of sweet or heavily oaked varieties.
  • Cheese Selection: The right cheese is crucial. Gruyère, Emmental, Comté, or Swiss cheese are excellent choices due to their strong flavor and melting properties. Grate the cheese yourself from a block for the best texture and taste.
  • Onion Preparation: Slice the onions thinly and uniformly for consistent cooking. A mandoline or food processor can facilitate this task. Combining different onion types, like yellow, white, and red, can add complexity to the soup’s flavor profile.
  • Caramelization is Key: The caramelization process is vital. Slowly and patiently brown the onions to deepen the soup’s flavor. Avoid frequent stirring to allow the onions to properly caramelize.
  • Perfect Croutons: Thoroughly toast the bread slices so they can support the weight of the cheese. For added flavor, rub the slices with garlic before toasting.
  • Serving: Use ovenproof bowls or a tureen suitable for grilling. This ensures the soup stays hot and allows the cheese to melt evenly. Individual ramekins or crocks also work well.

Variations of Delia Smith French Onion Soup

You can make some variations of Delia Smith’s French onion soup by changing some of the ingredients or adding some extras.

Here are some ideas:

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Adaptation: Swap beef stock with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version. For a vegan option, use vegan cheese or nutritional yeast, and substitute butter with vegan butter or olive oil.
  • Mushroom Infusion: Incorporate sliced mushrooms like button, cremini, or shiitake into the onions for an earthy twist. Mushroom stock can also replace beef stock for added depth.
  • Thyme-Infused Soup: Introduce fresh or dried thyme to the onion mix for a herby note. A sprinkle of thyme over the cheese before grilling adds an aromatic touch.
  • Beer-Based Soup: Experiment with a dark beer, such as stout or porter, in place of white wine for a unique malty flavor. Pair it with a beer-friendly cheese like cheddar or blue cheese.

How do I store Delia Smith French Onion Soup Leftovers?

If you have any leftovers of Delia Smith French onion soup, you can store them in the following ways:

  • Refrigeration Method: Place any leftover soup in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Store croutons and cheese separately to maintain their texture. Wrap them in a ziplock bag or cling film for freshness.
  • Freezing Option: For longer storage, pour the soup into a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Ensure there’s room for the soup to expand as it freezes. Mark the container with the date for future reference. It’s best to consume within 3 months. Avoid freezing croutons and cheese as they may become soggy or lose flavor.

How do I reheat Delia Smith French Onion Soup Leftovers?

If you want to reheat Delia Smith French onion soup leftovers, you can do it in the following ways:

  • Stovetop Reheating: For thawed or refrigerated soup, warm it in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating. If the soup seems too thick, gently mix in a bit of water or additional stock to reach the desired consistency.
  • Microwave Method: Place the thawed soup in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute to prevent hot spots. If necessary, thin the soup with a little water or stock.
  • Oven/Grill for Serving: If you’re preparing to serve, create a fresh topping. Toast new bread slices and grate fresh cheese. Follow the original recipe steps for adding croutons and cheese to the soup. Heat the soup in ovenproof bowls or a tureen. Bake or grill until the cheese topping is delightfully melted and bubbly, creating that signature French Onion Soup experience.


Can I make this soup ahead of time, and how should I store it?

Yes, French Onion Soup can be made ahead of time. After cooking, allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it on the stove over medium heat before serving. It’s a great make-ahead dish for convenient meal planning.

How do I prevent the onions from burning or sticking to the pan?

To prevent the onions from burning or sticking to the pan, make sure you use a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or casserole, and enough oil and butter to coat the onions. Also, keep the heat high at the beginning, and then low and gentle for the rest of the cooking time. Stir the onions occasionally, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits.

How do I make the soup thicker or thinner?

To make the soup thicker or thinner, you can adjust the amount of stock and wine you use. If you want a thicker soup, use less stock and wine, or simmer the soup for longer to reduce the liquid. If you want a thinner soup, use more stock and wine, or add some water or stock to the soup before serving.

How do I make the cheese topping more or less cheesy?

To make the cheese topping more or less cheesy, you can adjust the amount and type of cheese you use. If you want a more cheesy topping, use more cheese, or a cheese that has a stronger flavor, such as blue cheese or cheddar cheese. If you want a less cheesy topping, use less cheese, or a cheese that has a milder flavor, such as mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese.

How do I make the soup gluten-free or dairy-free?

To make the soup gluten-free or dairy-free, you can make some substitutions for the ingredients that contain gluten or dairy. For gluten-free soup, use gluten-free bread or crackers for the croutons, and gluten-free stock for the broth. For dairy-free soup, use dairy-free butter or oil for the onions, and dairy-free cheese or no cheese for the topping.

What type of onions are best for Delia Smith’s French Onion Soup?

For Delia Smith’s French Onion Soup, it’s recommended to use yellow onions. These onions provide the perfect balance of sweetness and flavor, essential for the soup’s classic taste.

Is it necessary to use wine in the recipe, and what are the alternatives if I prefer not to use alcohol?

While wine adds depth to the soup’s flavor, it’s not mandatory. If you prefer a non-alcoholic version, you can substitute it with additional beef or vegetable broth. This alteration will still yield a delicious soup, though the taste will be slightly different.

How long should I caramelize the onions for the best flavor?

Caramelizing the onions is a key step in this recipe. It typically takes about 30-40 minutes. The onions should be cooked slowly over low heat until they are golden brown and sweet. Patience during this process is crucial for developing the soup’s rich flavor.

Final Words

Delia Smith French onion soup is a classic and comforting dish that you can easily make at home with simple ingredients. It features caramelized onions, beef stock, white wine, and Cognac, topped with crispy bread croutons and melted cheese. It is a satisfying and delicious meal that will warm you up and impress your guests. Follow the step-by-step guide and the tips and tricks to make the perfect French onion soup every time. Enjoy!

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