Sunday, January 17, 2010

French Onion Soup

The rain started today.  Six full days of heavy rain are expected, perfect soup crock weather. In omnivore times, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker made French Onion Soup on a near weekly basis.  It always started with the prior night's crock pot roast juices.  Creating a fabulous French Onion Soup without an animal base has been a challenge.  A small batch was tried last week, using crock Vegetable Stock as the broth component. It was way too sweet and did not have the intense rich flavor of an animal stock.  Today another attempt was made using Vegetable Better than Bouillon and some soy sauce as the broth base.  Do not be intimidated by the length of the instructions below.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to make in a crock.  It is very forgiving.  Start the onions the night before or in the morning.  Even letting the onions sit in the unplugged crock for a few hours or overnight in the fridge won't hurt it.

Most of French Onion Soup fun is the wondrous crusty melty cheese top.  The weekend at Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ's was perfect for taking advantage of their working oven. If you don't have a broiler or oven to finish off the crusted cheese top, add the cheese to the bottom of the bowl, then the crouton, and ladle steaming hot soup on top.   It won't look as spectacular, but it's still a good eat.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  Good enough to write and post about. We had it for a late lunch and everyone ate it all up very quickly with little conversation until their individual two cup soup crocks were empty. My only complaint is that the Vegetable Better than Bouillon has an intense celery seed like flavor and I was not thrilled to end on those bitter notes. It was, however, infinitely better then the version last week.  Any readers who know of a drop dead wonderful substitute for beef broth in vegetarian cooking, please pass on your finds.  I'd love to try them. 


I used a 6 quart crock for this


See and use Caramelized Onion recipe for the base.  The following amounts for this batch of onion base was cooked overnight on low until it reached the color in the picture below:
  • 3 Tbls butter
  • 5 large onions, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled, minced

After the Caramelized Onion base has finished, add to the crock the ingredients below. Cover and cook on high for about on hour:
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (Vegetable Better than Boullion and water)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
After this has enough time to get simmering hot, add:
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • pepper to taste
Cook the soup covered while the broiler is started, and the below items prepared:
  • 3/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 6 slices crusty french bread or 12 large garlic croutons made from single slices of baguette 
Ladle soup into oven safe bowls.  Top with bread slice to fit or two croutons to fit.  Cover with 1/6 the cheese.  Place all bowls on a cookie sheet and place under broiler until the top is brown and melted.  Remove tray from the broiler and using oven mitt place each bowl on a room temperature plate. Serve immediately.


  1. Making a broth using marmite makes a wonderful substitute for beef broth.

  2. Thanks so much! I had heard that, but was a little reluctant to try. Do you have any reccomendations for water to marmite ratios ?

  3. Thanks for posting this - i also recently became a vegetarian and French Onion used to be a stand by for me. I miss it.

    The Better than Bullion company has a fake beef broth as well as a mushroom one. Might work?

  4. Off to find Marmite and Better than Boullion fake beef broth.

  5. The ratio really is to whatever your taste is, but they usually recommend 1 tsp to one cup of broth.

    Also marmite broth has a tendency to be slightly bitter. If you add a pinch of sugar it will offset this bitterness.

  6. Thanks so much for the tips. I will certainly be playing with this as time goes on.

  7. I recently purchased some miso paste and am hoping that a miso, mushroom, onion stock might create a rich flavor. Maybe with a bit of chicken bouquet as well.

  8. Another vote for Marmite, or Vegemite. or similar yeast extracts....
    They work especially well in something like an onion soup.
    Just be careful with any additional salt, they are pretty salty on their own.

    Thanks for the great recipe, I had not considered using the crock pot to cook the onions before starting the soup:)

  9. i may not be the best judge on real beef flavor, its been years, but i always use mushrooms as a flavor base. it works good enough for me in stocks.

  10. Rapunzel makes boullion that is vegan. 2 versions, one with sea salt and herbs, one w/out salt. I use it for everything. Very delish!

  11. Best soup I ever made... had to freeze it before everyone ate it all.... perfect

  12. I think this is what I used to get, and it's on Amazon: Frontier Vegetarian Broth Powder, Beef Flavored. It was a long time ago; I gave up being vegetarian when I got too much flack about raising vegetarian children. They're old enough now that I don't think I'll get the flack any more, so I'm moving back. Love your blog!

  13. I've never tried it, but a friend of mine uses dark miso as a broth for her french onion soup.

  14. Better than boullion "NOT beef broth" is wonderful! I used that for onion soup and everyone loved it without knowing it was vegan! Their NOT chicken is really good too, and also vegan. Mushroom is not.
    Marmite also works very well.

    1. Better than Boullion is my go to broth too! The NOT Beef is perfect for this recipe!

  15. Whenever I make veggie onion soup, I just use soy sauce and red wine to taste. The wine makes it hearty-tasting!! (And goes well with the finished results!!)

  16. isn't bovril vegan now?

  17. Using a dark miso as a broth base is an excellent idea. The flavor definitely compliments the onion.

  18. So I made this today and wooooow is all I can say. This is great. Not only is it easy...but it is amazing! Thanks for the recipe and the crockpot how to. I have tried making this soup the old fashioned way and it is time consuming and not nearly as good as this.

    I also used the better than bouillon veggie stuff and it was amazing, much better than just using regular veggie broth. I didn't have soy sauce and just used a tad of salt, and used a dry red wine as well...seriously this is out of this world! I am inhaling it currently!