Not very pretty, but very tasty French onion soup

Not very pretty, but very tasty French onion soup

OK, secret here: the cheapest dish you can make that is healthy, low calorie, and low fat is soup. I have so many soups in my repertoire, from butternut squash and apple (I make it without the cheese topping and it’s delicious), turkey chili, classic tomato soup, curried pea soup,  and the great summer hit peach and tomato gazpacho.

French onion soup, with the melted cheese topping, isn’t exactly low fat or calorie, but it is a great dish for these cold winter days. Like most soup, it does take time to make, but the reward is how cheap you can make it for. And, it’s so hearty it can be a whole meal for me, maybe with a side of salad.

I have to admit, I found this recipe harder to make than I expected. The onions took forever to caramelize, and I had to speed up the process by turning up the heat to make it in less than two hours. But, the results were still very tasty.

And, if anyone has any tips to get onions to caramelize in less than an hour and a half without turning the heat up, I’m all ears.

Budget: $10, makes about 4-6 servings, $1.66-$2.50 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.


  • 4 tbs unsalted butter (pantry)

    6 onions, 6 cloves of garlic sliced

    6 onions, 6 cloves of garlic sliced

  • 6 onions ($1.50 – bought a 3 lbs bag of onions from Harris Teeter, which makes it a lot cheaper)
  • 6 garlic cloves (pantry)
  • .5 cup dry white wine ($7.50 for the bottle, about $1 for the serving)
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock ($2 for 4 cups with my VIC card, $1.50 for serving)
  • 3 cups beef stock ($2.5o for 4 cups with my VIC card, $1.80 for serving)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (pantry)
  • dried herbs of your choosing, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano (pantry)
  • salt and pepper to taste (pantry)
  • about 4 slices of bread ($4 for a loaf, about $1 for serving)
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese ($2.75 for 6 oz – $1.80 for serving – I bought already shredded because it was cheaper, but it also has an anti-caking agent as an ingredient which I’m not fond of, but I’m on a budget – buying it sliced or whole would be more expensive)
  • .5 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about $3.50 for 6 oz,  about $1.15 for .5 cup/2oz)

Total: $9.75 without pantry items butter, garlic, herbs, Dijon mustard, dried herbs, salt and pepper. (Woo hoo, under budget!)


  • Slice onions, medium thickness. (Yes, my eyes watered up, but it was worth it.) Slice garlic cloves.
  • Melt butter in a large pot, over medium heat (you could do this in a pan and then transfer to a pot, but it’s easier
    Caramelized onions, finally

    Caramelized onions, finally

    to just do it in a pot). Add onions and garlic, sauteing over low to medium heat, until caramelized. Stir from time to time, add more fat if necessary (if bottom of pan starts to burn) – I found I needed to do this more than once. This will take a while. It ended up taking me an hour and a half, so BE PATIENT, waiting is worth it.

    • Note: if you grow impatient, it’s not the end of the world if you turn the heat up. Just keep a close eye on it and stir often once onions start to brown.
  • After onion/garlic mixture is caramelized, add white wine to deglaze the pan, stir to get up all of the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer until wine is reduced, about 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken, beef broth, Dijon mustard. Add whatever spices you want. Simmer 2o minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • If you don’t want to eat immediately, store soup until ready to eat and then follow these steps. If you want to eat immediately: preheat broiler or use toaster oven. Toast bread and then add mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese to top, return to broiler. (The recipe tells you to do this with the soup in a bowl, but when I did the bread got very soggy even after toasting it).
  • Ladle soup into a bowl, put bread with cheese on top.
  • Eat!