French Onion Soup - The Flexible Chef by Nealy Fisher

Flexible French Onion Soup

Your quick & easy rules for a classic & cozy meal

French onion soup used to sound really scary to me. I like to think I know how to cook pretty darn well and heck, I was still afraid.

But as with most things in life, we must first master the rules, and once we do, creativity can flow. Besides, how could I be so intimidated by a soup filled with rich, caramelized onions, topped with crusted-to-perfection bread and ooey gooey cheese? I mean, that’s pretty much heaven in a bowl.

And so, I took a chapter from my own book (no pun intended!) and agreed to be flexible. So much so, my French onion soup ended up on TV!

It’s when we’re #flexibleandfabulous that we can embrace breaking the rules a little. Because not only do we take the time to first understand the proper technique, but we develop the confidence needed to play. And that is the key to becoming more chef-like in and out of the kitchen!

Best of all, you most likely have a good majority of these ingredients in your kitchen! Now… by that I’m not saying you need to use your emergency bottle of white, but I’m willing to bet you have some onions and butter! 😉

So here you go, the quick rules for a French onion soup that will soon prove to be a game-changer for mixing up your weekly meal planning. For more inspiration, read my Flexibility For Fall Foods: 8 Swaps For A Healthier Bite.

Make sure to watch the video below so you don’t miss any steps!

Flexible French Onion Soup Recipe

My flexible French onion soup

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 4


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and (very!) thinly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • French bread cut into 8 to 12 1/2-inch slices 
  • 1.5 cups grated Gruyère, cheddar, or mozzarella cheese


  1. First, and you guessed it, you’re going to need a whole lot of onions. And you must slice them super thin.

  2. Next, you need a whole lot of butter and around 40 minutes to sauté the onions in the butter until they look magical and golden. That’s the hardest part – waiting for your onions. Patience is key!

  3. Then, all you do is thicken your buttery onions with a touch of flour and add your liquid of choice and boil. Then comes the signature bread and cheesy top. And don’t worry, I’ve given you several flexible ways below to get that particularly cheesy top depending on how much time and effort you want to spend. It’s so worth the effort and while it requires some more TLC than a traditional soup, I know the reward will pay off!

Recipe Notes

Nail it

Melt butter and oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper. Cover lid for 5 minutes to let the onions soften. 

Remove the lid, lower heat, add the garlic, and continue cooking for about 30-45 minutes. 

Once your onions turn a deep caramelized golden brown, add flour, stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Traditional French onion soup calls for beef broth, but I use veggie broth. Use whichever you prefer!

Continue cooking for another 20 or so minutes to allow all the flavors to come together. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste.

Flip it

At this point you have a few options for the cheesy topping, so choose yours, flexibly:

The first, simpler option, is to arrange your bread slices on top of the soup pot, top them with cheese and place in the oven under the broiler to melt and brown. This option is great if you don’t have a lot of time and plan to serve a crowd, messy family style!

However, if you’re feeling fancy, you could ladle the soup into individual oven-proof bowls or ramekins (if you have them), and top each with their own individual bread slice and cheese and broil similarly. This option makes for a really fun presentation – just make sure you have a plate or soup dish to place your hot bowl on when you remove it from the oven.

If you’re hoping to cut the bread out altogether, simply sprinkle cheese directly on top of the soup and let it melt. You won’t get a super cheesy top but it still tastes just as delicious! 

Enjoy it

Now that you have the ‘rules’ down, you’re ready to zig and zag this recipe until it’s uniquely yours!

Want my 10-step guide to becoming a flexible chef? Grab a copy of my cookbook, Food You Want: For the Life You Crave, and get cooking!

Stay Flexible, 


Easy French Onion Soup - The Flexible Chef by Nealy Fisher

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