Vegan French onion soup is a plant-based spin on the French classic, complete with with crusty bread and melted cheese.
In traditional French onion soup, the non-vegan ingredient is beef broth, but we work around that by using dark miso or a veggie bouillon base. Just a tablespoon or two of these flavor-packed products gives the soup a robust broth, and eliminates the need for further salting.
Miso: A traditional Asian food, miso is fermented soybean paste with a pleasantly pungent and salty flavor. there are many varieties, including hatcho and mugi (the darker varieties) and mellow white miso. For this soup, the darker varieties are best, but if you have mellow white miso on hand, the soup won’t suffer at all!
Veggie bouillon base: This concentrated flavor starter comes in small jars as a paste, actually not too different than miso in consistency. One of the popular brands is Better Than Bouillon, which you can find in natural foods stores or well-stocked supermarkets.
The onions: This uses a lot of onion, so get ready to shed some tears and keep some tissues handy. Ordinary yellow onions work fine for this soup, but if you have other varieties on hand, or want to mix, by all means. See some options in our Guide to Common Onion Varieties.
The bread and cheese portion: Traditionally, the entire bowl, with the bread and cheese topping it, goes into the oven. This necessitates oven-proof crocks, oven mitts, and good balance. But I figured, the soup is already hot; why not just bake the bread and cheese, and pop it on top of the soup in whatever kind of bowls you own? Much simpler.
Recipe adapted from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 medium yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup dry red wine (optional but highly recommended
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons dark miso or vegan bouillon base (such as Better Than Bouillon), to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Long narrow French or Italian bread, as needed
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella-style vegan cheese shreds, or as needed
- Finely chopped fresh parsley or other herb for garnish
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until golden. Add the garlic and continue to sauté slowly until the onions are lightly and evenly browned, stirring frequently, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Pour the water over the onions and give them a good stir. Then add the optional wine and mustard. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- If using miso, dissolve it in a little warm water in a cup to make it pourable. Add to the soup to taste. Or, if using bouillon base, add to the soup to taste. Season with pepper.
- While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 375º F.
- Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slices on a slight diagonal, allowing 2 slices per serving. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until dry and crisp, turning the slices over once about halfway through the baking time.
- Sprinkle the baked bread slices with a generous amount of cheese, and return to the oven until melted.
- Ladle the soup out shallow bowls. Arrange 2 slices of the bread with melted cheese on top. If your bowls aren’t wide enough to accommodate both slices, add one at a time; add the second when the first one has been eaten.
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Here are more delectable vegan soups & stews.