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Beer, cheese and onion soup

Serves 6

A warming soup for the cooler days

This dark onion soup is a good dish for those days when you don't have any beef stock; you can use water instead. Beer, while not essential, adds a savoury character to the sweet nature of the onions. The frying of the onions to get that dark golden but unburnt colour means it's best if you've got quite a bit of time to spend hanging around the stove.


  • 60g (2 1/4oz) butter or lard, or 3 tablespoons oil
  • 8 large onions, very thinly sliced
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) dark beer (but not quite stout)
  • 875ml (30 fl oz / 3 1/2 cups) beef stock or water
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small baguette, cut on an angle into 12 think slices
  • 200g (7oz / 2cups) grated gruyere cheese or other good melting cheese


Heat the butter in a large saucepan over low heat and cook the onion slowly, stirring often, until the onion is soft and turns a lovely golden brown – this could take a while, so allow at least 30 minutes.  I like to add salt as the onion cooks to even up the cooking and help draw out moisture.  As it cooks, add the thyme and bay leaf.  Pour in the beer and stock, add the parsley and pepper and simmer for 1 hour.

To serve, top the baguette slices with the cheese and toast under a preheated grill (broiler) until golden.  Ladle the soup into bowls and float two slices of bread on top, or serve it on the side.