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The History of Onion Soup – The History of French Onion Soup

A Delicious Guide to the History of Onion Soup

Onion soup developed simultaneously in different countries. This vegetable grows easily in many types of soil and is available all over the world, so onion has been a staple in many international recipes for a long time.

Old fashioned onion soup recipes consisted of little more than onions and some type of broth or seasoned water and a lot of modern onion soup recipes have not changed all that much. Of course, we have more technology these days and we have access to crockpot recipes, microwave recipes and more, while our ancestors had to be content with a soup pot and a flame.

How French Onion Soup was Created

According to legend, the first French onion soup was developed by King Louis XV of France. He wanted a snack late one evening but only had butter, onions, and champagne in his hunting lodge pantry.

According to the tale, he combined these ingredients and created the first French onion soup. Nobody knows for sure whether or not this tale is true but it is a nice story.

Modern French Onion Soup

The onions in modern French onion soup recipe are caramelized slowly until the sugars come out and become golden brown. You can caramelize onions in half an hour but a lot of chefs like to do it slowly and bring out the more complex flavors. Cognac is often added to the onion soup in the final stages of cooking.

There are variations in the classic French soup recipe including the use of water or vegetable broth for vegetarians or using a vegan cheese instead of Gruyere for vegans. Some chefs like to brown tails or necks to render the fat for sautéing the onions. This adds a rich, meaty flavor to the French onion soup recipe.

The History of French Onion Soup

The act of combining ingredients in a big pot to make a simple meal is as old as cooking itself. Soups evolved thousands of years ago according to local tastes and available ingredients. Italian minestrone, French onion, Spanish gazpacho, Chinese Won Ton, and Russian borscht are all types of soup, which are famous all over the world but very different in flavor and style.

Soup is easy to digest and has been prescribed for invalids for many years. This word restaurant derives from the word “restoratifs” and this word means soup, consommé, bouillon, or broth. The first menu items served in public restaurants in eighteenth century Paris were “restoratifs” and this, of course, included onion soup.

Advancement in science has taken soups to other levels, including canned, dehydrated, microwaveable, and portable type soups. Colonial travelers favored “pocket soup” which could be rehydrated with the addition of hot water. Dehydrated and canned soups were available in the 1800s and these would supply home pantries, cowboy chuck wagons, covered wagon trains and the military.

Despite the hype for portable, canned, and dehydrated soups, the favorite soup recipes are still those made simply and with fresh ingredients. You cannot compare the slightly stale taste of a powdered soup brought back to life with hot water and a freshly made steaming bowl of French onion soup with a rich homemade beef broth and a melted cheese topping.

Dehydrated and canned soups might be handy but they certainly lack the freshness of flavor that you can achieve with a homemade French onion soup recipe.

French onion soup is a great recipe for making at home because it is so easy but what about the first onion soup recipes? How did the humble onion become an ingredient in one of the world’s most famous soup dishes?

The First Onion Soup Recipes

Onion soup dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman times and modern French soup is a descendant of medieval soup recipes. Onion soup recipes are found in old English cookbooks and in colonial American cookbooks.

Onions have been popular for hundreds of years. They were considered poor people’s food for a long time because they were cheap and easy to grow. Onions can be fried, boiled, and baked and they are also nutritious. This is what made them popular in the first place and what keeps them popular today.

How French Onion Soup Evolved

A typical onion soup recipe from the mid seventeenth century would have involved cutting onions thinly, frying them with butter, and then boiling them in water with bread and capers. This soup would have been served with vinegar.

In the nineteenth century, flour, salt, and pepper were added to the recipe and grated cheese featured as a garnish for French onion soup recipes in the early 1900s.

French onion soup has come a long way since those days and modern onion soup features juicy caramelized onions in beef broth with croutons and a broiled Gruyere cheese topping. Modern onion soup recipes are popular with children and adults and there are a lot of different onion soup recipes so if you are following a special diet you can still enjoy this tasty dish.


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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hello there, I'm Christine. Welcome to my blog where you will find a comprehensive collection of soup recipes for every season, occasion and palate. There are hundreds of soup recipes for you to try out, those which warm you up during the cooler months, and even chilled soups and dessert soups if you want to try something new.

Try making your next soup in the pressure cooker or crockpot, or prepare it in the conventional way. Choose from classics such as potato and leek soup, beef broth, French onion soup, or chicken noodle soup, or investigate a more unusual dish, like our cabbage bean soup or one of the Chinese soup recipes.

In addition to soups, broths and chowders, I have collected stew recipes, along with low-calorie, low-carb and heart-healthy options, so you can make soups which are nutritious and good for you, as well as fresh-tasting and delicious. Here at Amazing Soup Recipes, there are recipes for every taste, many of which are really quick and easy to make.

Thanks for visiting,