That’s how many ingredients went into this French Onion Soup.
That number in and of itself would be impressive given how flavorful it is. But it’s worth noting that beef broth did not make the list, which means we’ve got a vegetarian version of one of our very favorites.
Better yet, I figured out how to make my slow cooker do all the heavy lifting for me so even though it tastes like it’s been cooking away for half a day (because it is), hands on time is less than 30 minutes.I first started making a no-broth version of french onion soup when I was a vegetarian, finding that the jammy, caramel-y onions lent more than enough flavor to compensate for using water in place of stock. I later learned that this was the way that french peasants would traditionally make this soup. Just onions, water, and wine — a few of my favorite things. I really feel like these french peasants and I would have gotten along famously.
My only beef with this soup (ha, see what I did there?) is that it takes hours — sometimes 4 or 5 — to cook down the onions. And while you aren’t completely tied to the kitchen, you need to be available to kick the onions around with a spoon every once in awhile.
Enter the slow cooker that I bought and used quite a bit when I was working full time and finishing up a graduate program and had no free time whatsoever. Real talk: now that I enjoy a more reasonable schedule, that slow cooker’s been hanging out in a cupboard gathering dust for the past year.
Until this weekend. When it expertly caramelized 5 pounds of yellow onions and allowed me to feel like a kitchen god when I was actually outside hanging with Trudydog, enjoying the first sun we’ve seen since December. It was glorious.
The only caveat for this recipe is that I’ve only ever owned and operated one slow cooker. So the times and temperatures listed below worked really well for me, buuut I suspect it might take a little tinkering depending on the size and power of your slow cooker. You can also scrap the slow cooker and caramelize the onions in a big pot or dutch oven for 4-5 hours on low before proceeding with the water, wine, and vinegar.
- 5 pounds yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 8 thick slices crusty day old bread
- 8 ounces grated gruyere, emmentaler, or swiss cheese
- Peel and slice the onions. Place them inside a slow cooker and drizzle with the butter. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
- After 10 hours, check the onions. They should be golden brown and have given off quite a bit of liquid. Continue to cook on low for another 2-3 hours, leaving the lid a few inches ajar this time, to allow the liquid to cook off.
- Once the onions are a jammy consistency and a deep golden brown color, add the water, red wine, and vinegar. Turn the heat to high and cook for an additional hour, uncovered. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into an oven safe bowl and top each with a slice of bread and an ounce of cheese. Place under a broiler on high for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Watch closely so it doesn't burn.