A deliciously savory soup loaded with caramelized onions, flavored-boosted with stout and topped with cheesy toast points, Guinness Onion Soup is the perfect appetizer soup or a light entree with a green salad.
Onion soup might not sound like something that’s fit for the winding down of winter, but I actually think it’s perfect timing. And not just because there’s a healthy dose of Guinness, to embrace St. Patrick’s Day next week.
French onion soup has its cozy charms, for sure. But its lure — let’s be honest — is that thick cap of aged cheese atop a crusty slab of French bread in a roomy, single-serve, oven-safe crock. All shoved under the broiler until melty.
But, I don’t have roomy, single-serve, oven-safe crocks. And I’m the weirdo who doesn’t really care to futz with strings of melted cheese that pull off the soup and go everywhere except where I want them to be (e.g., in my mouth). It’s true: I struggle with pools of melted cheese, lol.
Or maybe I’m just an onion soup purist, because I’m a huge fan of this ^^^ straight up caramelized onion soup, in a normal bowl that hasn’t been molten-heated by the oven. The soup gets some unexpected depth from a big pour of Guinness, which cooks down to rich goodness.
Speaking of … let’s talk about those caramelized onions for a sec. They make or break this soup, truly they do. And the key is this: No matter that certain fancy magazines and over-eager food writers might claim otherwise, you cannot caramelize onions in 15 minutes.
You can absolutely brown onions in 15 minutes, but what you’re looking at there is a form of burning. The edges of each onion piece will be brown, the interiors white or yellow, translucent, undercooked. IOW, not caramelized.
Caramelized onions are sweet and jammy and monochrome. One taste, and you’ll believe you’d be just as happy spreading them on a bagel with bacon and cream cheese as you would transforming them into soup.
But here’s the thing: Caramelized onions take 45 minutes. 60 minutes. Sometimes even more, depending on how juicy the onions were at the start. Drawing out the natural sugars of an onion requires slowly cooking off the liquids within at a fairly low temperature. Patience, Grasshopper.
So, while the onions are doing their slo-mo caramelizing thing, you’re free to direct your attention elsewhere.
And yes, sure, okay, I’ll admit: I do like bread in my soup. Bite-sized croutons. Not a slab of hard, crusty baguette, but spoon-manageable little toast points. And, yes, a little melty cheese on those toasty bits is a thing of beauty. Sharp Irish cheddar for me, thank you, just a little. But not scorched in the soup. Just placed on top, ready to eat. Plenty of time to bake them up while the onions cook.
And that’s my idea of the perfect onion soup. I enjoy this recipe as an appetizer soup, alongside a light meal or a big green salad.
Oh, and I don’t know if you can tell in the photos, but I topped my cheesy toast points with big pinches of my quick-and-easy frizzled shallots, for a nice little cripsy crunch.
Guinness Onion Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 2 large onions sliced into quarter moons
- 1 large shallot thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup Guinness
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon beef
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cheese toast points
- 1 baguette sliced into 2" diamonds or triangles
- 4 ounces grated Irish Cheddar Cheese
For the soup:
- Heat the fats in a 4 qt Dutch oven over medium until melted and shimmering.
- Add the onions and shallots and stir thoroughly, mixing up from the bottom so all of the rings get a touch of the oil.
- Stir the onions frequently, using a spatula to lift up from the bottom to ensure everything's moving around. After 10 minutes, the onions should be softening and glossy.
- Reduce heat to low/medium. Sprinkle the onions with a big pinch of sugar.
- Continue cooking. At 30 minutes, they should be yellowing, but not really darkening, and reduced in volume by half. Note that the onions should take on color evenly: if any edges are starting to brown, reduce heat, and stir more frequently.
- As you reach the hour mark, you'll notice that the onions will begin sticking to the pan as the last of their moisture evaporates away. Stir frequently - caramelization will begin in earnest, and you should notice a more rapid darkening.
- When the onions are nice and evenly golden brown*, top with a pinch of salt pour in the Guinness. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer to cook off the alcohol (or, if you're brave, flambe it).
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until they thicken slightly, then pour in the broth along with the Better than Bouillon and dried thyme.
- Increase heat to bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Taste, and add salt and pepper as desired.
For the cheesy toast points**:
- While the onions are cooking, turn on the broiler to low, and position the top rack about 6 inches away from the heating elements.
- Place the toast points on a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Top each point with a big pinch of grated cheese.
- Broil until the cheese is melted. Remove and set aside.
- Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Add a big pinch of grated cheese to the center of the bowls, and then top with however many toast points will fit into the bowl.
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