Onion Soup without Tears Recipe

A twist on a classic onion soup recipe adapted for cry-babies (like me). Caramelized onions, white wine, butter, vegetable stock, and grated cheese.

Onion Soup without Tears

Onion soup recipes are best dusted off on dreary days. Though, after weeks of what seemed like endless rain, we finally saw a break yesterday. The clouds gradually cracked to reveal crystal blue sky and by mid morning the sun was bright overhead and the shadows were strong underfoot. We packed up the car and head north to Point Reyes National Seashore to go on a favorite hike.

We parked the car at the Bear Valley Visitor Center and set out a nine mile walk through forests and along fast-moving streams toward the dramatic cliffs where the continent meets the Pacific in a bubbling cauldron of foam and seawater. To call the journey a hike is a bit misleading, it is more of a stroll - leisurely with no big climbs or descents. Easy, but long. We didn't see many people along the trail eventually realizing that mud, fallen trees, and closed roads must be effective deterrents.

Hiking in Point Reyes: White-spotted tree trunks

It was a perfect day, and exactly what was needed after being inside for weeks. My eyes could stretch out across sprawling meadows and everything was an organic mixed palette of a million shades of green and brown and grey.

Some of the things I saw: tight clusters of tiny mushrooms huddled at the base of tall trees, white horses that seemed to have stepped out of a fairy tale, a tiny bird I've never seen before in California - no bigger than a chubby shallot in size and shape, a violent white foamy high tide, the darkest red ladybug I've ever seen perched on my shoulder, turkey vultures circling hundreds of feet overhead, and a bobcat on the hunt.

Hiking in Point Reyes: White pony tails

Worn-out and tired, we weren't home more than a couple of hours when the clouds closed in overhead and the rain started coming down again. I decided to spend the evening sitting around in front of the fireplace with the new Nigel Slater cookbook. If anyone knows how to cook a good, hearty cold-weather meal it is this U.K.-based favorite. His past books are packed with warm, indulgent curries, hearty soups, and oven-roasted goodness. His new book is signature in this regard, but the format is a bit different.

The Kitchen Diaries captures a years worth of life through recipes. Delicious, everyday fare and the rationale behind them - Nigel Slater captures and communicates the rhythms and logic of his day to day cooking. Some days it is quick and easy throw-it-together approach, other days more thought, planning, and consideration comes into play. The book is a glimpse into the life of an exceptional and approachable home cook and there is plenty to be inspired by here.

As my first foray into this volume I chose his January 11th entry, Onion Soup without Tears. It's a twist on classic onion soup adapted for cry-babies (like me). Slicing a pot full of onions for a soup can be rough going if you are weepy, so in this recipe Nigel has us roast peeled and halved onions, and do some loose slicing after they come out of the oven. The caramelization from the pan adds a beautiful layer of flavor and depth to the soup. Other than the initial roasting of the onions, the rest of the soup comes together in a snap with a short list of ingredients. Finish it off under the broiler topped with flavorful Gruyere and you've got something special to savor on a cold night.

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Onion Soup without Tears Recipe

(hs note: adapted for U.S. measurements)

onions - 4 medium
butter - 1 - 2 tablespoons
a glass of white wine
vegetable stock 6+ cups
a small french loaf
grated Gruyere, Emmental or other good melting cheese - a few generous handfuls

Set the oven to 390 degrees. Peel the onions and cut them in half from tip to root, then lay them in a roasting tin and add the butter, salt and some pepper. Roast until they are tender and soft, and toasted dark brown here and there. You might have to turn them now and again.

Cut the onions into thick segments. Put them in a saucepan with the wine and bring to the boil. Let the wine bubble until it almost disappears (you just want the flavour, not the alcohol), then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about twenty minutes.

Just before you want to serve the soup, make the cheese croutes. Cut the loaf into thin slices and toast lightly on one side under a hot grill (broiler). Turn them over and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Get the soup hot, ladle it into bowls and float the cheese croutes on top. Place the bowls under a hot grill (broiler) and leave until the cheese melts. Eat immediately, whilst the cheese is still stringy and molten.

Enough for 4.

from Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries - reprinted with permission.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Nigel Slater along with Nigella Lawson are currently Britains most prolfic food writers. His recent book, the Kitchen Diaries, is an amazing jaunt through a year of eating. I highly recommend.


Hello Heidi, I love your site. all your plate is so beautiful ! your Onion soup without tears... That's great idea(○^o^○)/☆ I'm gonna try it on this week-end in Japan. (^_-)...☆ wink!


I've been wanting to make french onion soup for a couple weeks now and was pleasantly surprised to see it as the featured recipe this week. Last night I meshed Heidi's recipe and the recipe from the link Heidi recommended. I used Heidi's ingredients and measurements but carmelized the onions the way the other recipe suggested. It came out so warm & tasty. Thank you!


it appears we have made the same soup around the same time! I always find amazing when it happens between food bloggers to cook similar or even the same thing without even knowing it. I was just browsing from food blog to food blog and here you have it. I made it two days ago and posted it today. Just amazing! Well done, yours looks super delicious too! :))


Hi Heidi!! I love your blog..And your pics are very very beautiful... A kiss from Italy..;-)


Though I got home later and hungrier than anticipated, I made a version of this soup tonight: caramelized the onions in the pot for speed and added a package of re-hydrated porcini mushrooms to enrich the vegetable broth. What's not to love? Even my husband, who doesn't like soup, declared it delicious. Thank you for the inspiration!


I love most of your receipes. U R doing a terrific job to all your readers. Thanks. Keep your good work going forward. Wishing you the BEST. M


dear heidi - this site has become one of my favorites! thanks so much. fyi - i was watching america's test kitchen over the holidays and they made what looked like a very yummy french onion soup using red onions because of their sweetness. they also used beef broth combined with chicken to cut the yucky beef broth flavor. this version sounds great too and i hope to try it soon.


I enjoy his book immensly. I didn't try out this recipe yet, but fell in love with his September 19 one - which I tried out myself. Such a source of inspiration! Onion soup though might be just the answer to the rainy Belgian weather ...


Rachel, I use yellow onions. They are sweeter and have less edge than white onions. They brown up and caramelize beautifully. Olivia, I think a lot really depends on the stock you use. The vegetable stock I used was a bit "green" for this kind of a soup (note to self for next time) - but it was still delicious. The cheese crisped up on top but stayed oozy underneath with the bread...delicious. I'ts been a while since I've had a classic bistro onion soup - they typically make it with deep, dark, beef broth, so I skip it. For those of you who are interested in a more classic approach, have a look at Molly's how-to on the Fine Cooking site. http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/pages/c00137.asp


I just wanted to add that "Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries" is a real treasure of a book. It is very personal and I am enjoying it imensely.


what kind of onions are best to use? never made onion soup before....


I'm in dreary, gray Columbus, Ohio right now. This soup will be perfect for a day like today. Thanks for sharing. I've never heard of Nigel before today, so I will be sure to pick up a book or two from him. Thanks!


Hey atleast the rain broke! (We are in the midst of a snowsotrm - its not all that bad really). Lovely shots of your hike. Will be giving the onion soup a try, just made a huge chicken broth and then chicken n dumplins yesterday. Soups really helps beat back the cold and sometimes I crave onions (I know, wierd) so this would be great! Thanks for sharing the recipe! Nika ____________ http://nikas-culinaria.blogspot.com


I got The Kitchen Diaries over Christmas and also made this soup - wonderful stuff! Love the photos of trees.

Norfolk Dumpling

I came across this site recently, and I’m very pleased (and completely hooked…). The soup and “hike” sound wonderful. Good job Heidi, I sure am going to try this soup sometime this week. Yummy...


this is gonna be really yummy


Vegetarian French onion soups are so rare and this is so simple! How do you think it compares to the more traditional bistro version?


Great shots, Heidi. I used to love hiking up around the north bay. Ah, the good ol' days....


That soup looks wonderful. I have never made French Onion soup, just might give this a try. Love your photos.


I prefer a more traditional and flavorfull french onion soup take about 5 lbs of yellow onions cut in half lengthwise peal slice thin take a heavy pot add a touch of salt to the bottom heat til smoking drop in your onions cook till well carmelized add about 6 ounces of cream sherry cook just a minute add light chicken stock to cover add cracked pepper to taste fill crockery bowls with soup leaving 1 inch head space top with croutons made from multigrain bread which is lightly toasted top with blue cheese and provalone broil till cheese is brown and bubbly serve with an appertif of cream sherry




Having spent some wonderful weekends in that area when I was living in the bay area, I was able to smell the smells and hear the sounds of your hike. What I would give to be there right now. Lovely to see how you appreciate such and precious and tender area. How lovely that I found your web sight. Lucky me!


What a wonderful idea. I'm going to try this soon. Your hike sounded wonderful. I was totally jealous. Keep up the good work Heidi you are fantastic. I'm having our apple brie pancakes in the morning.


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