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Famous Barr’s French Onion Soup


  • 5lbs onions, unpeeled
  • 1⁄2cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1⁄2teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2tablespoons paprika
  • 1bay leaf
  • 7(16 ounce) cans beef broth, divided (recommended Swanson's)
  • 1cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 3⁄4cup all-purpose flour (such as Wondra) or 3⁄4 cup instant flour (such as Wondra)
  • caramel coloring (optional) or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
  • 2teaspoons salt
  • French baguette (optional)
  • swiss cheese (optional) or gruyere cheese (optional)


  • Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor.
  • Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • (The long cooking time makes the onions mellow and sweet.) Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently.
  • Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  • Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth.
  • Stir into boiling soup.
  • Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours.
  • Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top.
  • If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls.
  • Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
  • Leftover soup can be frozen.


  • Chef Annie Z

    Came home from a weekend away, after 6 hours in the car, thinking what could I make for dinner? Something easy and good, but somewhat light. I thought of this soup and starting making it at 6:30, then I saw the directions say that it takes over 4 hours to prepare. I cut that down to a little over an hour. I have an induction cook top and got the onions going at a higher temp, while stirring constantly. I added a little brown sugar to sweeten them, they caramelized nicely, then I added the salt, pepper and paprika along with the flour – cooked while stirring for a bit, then added the broth and wine. Simmer for 30 min. Toasted some french bread in the broiler with olive oil and a little garlic. Served with mozzarella cheese & parmesan cheese over the toasted bread – broiled. Delicious!

  • Tebo

    I finally got around to making this and kick myself for not doing so sooner. This is just a fabulous French Onion soup. The only “drawback” is processing the onions. Believe it or not, I put on swim goggles processing them!!! Maybe I just had extra potent onions??? But once that was done the rest was just a matter of time and the results were outstanding. I have several frozen lumps of French Onion soup to enjoy for some time to come (like tonight). Thank you for posting this one Bill. I usually don’t say I’ll do this one again but. . . . I’ll do this one again.

  • grammyof3

    High praise from 8 of my Valentine’s Day Dinner guests who all wanted the recipe! I stored it overnight in the crock pot that I used to simmer it for 2 extra hours the day that I served it. To avoid having to handle oven hot servings, I took the advice of another reviewer and broiled gruyere cheese onto toasted french bread. Then I put the bread on top of each half filled bowl and spooned hot soup on top until each bowl was full. So easy and so pretty for a formal dinner. Simply fabulous without wine or coloring!

  • Salesgirl

    I had the time so cooked the onions for about three hours before adding broth. Very nice flavor and appearance. Will make this my new standard recipe. Thank you!

  • Wei-Li Eastlake

    The French Onion soup recipe is one of the most popular dish served at the Famous Barr (also part of the May Dept store group) restaurants found in St.Louis. Based on my travels to the various countries including Europe, Asia and US, this version of French Onion soup is one of the best I’ve had. My husband who is from London just loves this recipe. It is robust and hearty in beef and onion flavour and quite thick so you can enjoy this as a meal in itself (you might say it’s great comfort food). Be sure to use the broiler until the cheese bubbles and turns golden brown over the French bread. Tip: Try to use the fresh French bread which is a bit chewy in texture. Bon Appetit.

  • FrenchBunny

    This was excellent soup. Totally forgot to take a pic of it though. But I will next time I have it. I used sweet vidalia onions. I also had put in about 2 Tbs. of Worchestire sauce instead of Kitchen Bouquet and did not put any salt in it. I did use the wine but I think I would like to try sherry the next time. I find it adds a little different taste. The house smells so good when this is simmering. I chose to go with gruyere cheese. Personally I find this is the perfect cheese for this soup. Delicious flavor of sweet onions and a fantastic broth. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe Bill it was much appreciated.

  • Kermit in Huntsville

    Fantastic! The best French Onion soup I have ever made. It was thick, rich, beautiful colour and the flavour was outstanding. I have deleted all other recipes saved to try…………this is the ONLY one I will ever make from now on. I would not change a thing, why mess with perfection. Thank you so much my Husband could not stop raving. I can’t wait to make this for company.

  • rexngar

    I have been making this soup for over 20 years and have never found another recipe that even comes close. It is time consuming but the results are amazing. The only thing that I do differently is, instead of mixing the flour with a can of broth, I add the flour to the paprika, salt and papper and make a roux by adding the mix to the tenderized onions. You need to stir constantly because you don’t want the mixture to scorch or brown, but you do want to cook it long enough to get the flour taste to disappear. The roux takes about 10-20 minutes of stirring to get all the flour incorporated with the onion liquid. After the roux is ready, slowly start adding your liquid, stirring all the time. The result is a smooth, rich texture. No lumps and no flour taste. If it is too thick for your liking, add another can of broth.

    If you’re really ambitious…make your own stock! You will notice the difference. No “can” taste, more flavor and healthier too! Enjoy!

  • Chris from Kansas

    Wow, this is some rich french onion soup! I could only eat a little at a time, but the flavor was really great. I think next time I will thicken it less as it almost seemed like gravy. Very good! Thanks for posting.

  • Carole Whitmore

    Wish I could give it more than 5 stars. Live on the East Coast now and can’t find a restaurant that can compare to this. I remember going to St.Louis for Weekends with my parents. Famous Bar For lunch was a definite. Always ordered the French Onion Soup. We would stay at the Mayfair Hotel and always had the Mayfair Salad with dinner. I know have the recipe for Mayfair Dressing. This just completes it for me.