From the palace to the pauper

As the story goes, French onion soup came to be in the kitchen of King Louis XV, on a day that there was nothing but butter, onions, and champagne to be found in the pantry – an early “Chopped” episode, of sorts!  The humble onion, which even peasants had access to, had been elevated to French cuisine.  Whatever its beginnings, I’m glad this soup survived time and distance to end up on my mom’s recipe rotations during my childhood.   Sweet, caramelized onions, savory broth, and a fun crust of cheesy bread to break through…just the sight and smell feel cozy and nostalgic to me!

The secret ingredient

Many recipes call for worcestershire sauce as a savory, umami addition, but the late renown Chef Michel Richard used soy sauce, “because it gives it a meaty flavor.”  Sounds great to me!  Because soy sauce is high in sodium, I don’t call for any salt in this recipe – one study even found that sodium could be reduced by half without compromising flavor if soy sauce was used instead!  Many soy sauces contain gluten, so look for certified gluten free versions if you need to – there are also low sodium versions available.  Kikkoman is available at nearly any grocery store you’d go to, and have versions of both.  Be sure to check out all the other RecipeRedux entries to their contest to see other sneaky ways to use it!


  • 3 large onions, sliced into half rings
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (or butter)
  • 1/3 c red wine
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cups broth of choice (I used a homemade version; look at the sodium on this too as it can be quite high)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or sub 1 tsp dried)
  • 4 slices whole grain bread of choice
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese


Heat the oil or butter in a soup pot over medium high.  Add the onions and cook down, stirring frequently until translucent (about 5-10 minutes) and then reduce heat to low and cook for another 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When caramelized, add the wine, soy sauce, broth, and herbs and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut bread to a size that will fit into the ramekin (regular bowls work too; it just has to be able to go under a broiler) and toast them – drier is better, since you’ll be submerging it into the broth.  Scoop soup into ramekins (remove bay leaf), place bread on top, then layer on mozzarella (other cheeses that melt work well for this too!) and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly in places – putting ramekins on a baking sheet makes transferring to the oven much easier!  Enjoy as a soup course, or as a mini-meal…after all, it contains a vegetable, protein, and whole grain all by itself!

I received a free sample of Kikkoman soy sauce mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Kikkoman and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.