Instant Pot French Onion Soup is a restaurant quality soup that can be made in about 30 minutes in your Instant Pot. This authentic French onion soup is based on Julia Child's recipe, and is the ultimate comfort food year round. Be sure to top your soup with a big slice of my Instant Pot French Bread and some freshly grated Gruyere cheese.
Why this recipe works
- Time - converted to the Instant Pot this is made in a fraction of the time of the original recipe in 30 minutes.
- Pantry staples - the ingredients for this recipe are usually found in an everyday kitchen, and can be kept on hand in the cupboard, refrigerator, or freezer.
- Leftovers - unlike when cooking this on the stovetop, the leftovers do not have that leftover alcohol taste and smell the next day. When pressure cooked it seems to retain it's original flavor better and longer. You could totally substitute the beef broth with soup leftovers in my Instant Pot French Dip Sandwich recipe.
- Impressive - whether it's a romantic dinner for two or large dinner party this can be scaled smaller or bigger for your needs. It's also an easy first course that will wow your guests!
Ingredients you will need
Here is a quick snapshot of the ingredients you'll need. Scroll down to the recipe card where you'll find exact measurements.
- Onions - should be cut ¼ to ½-inch wide. Onions that are cut to thin will dissolve when cooked.
- Wine - traditional French onion soup is made with a dry white wine. I prefer to use Pinot Grigio, which is also called Pinot Gris. You can also use a Chardonnay, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc.
- Beef Broth - I use a half and half mixture of beef bone broth and regular beef broth. You can just use one or the other. Bone broth gives the soup a little more depth of flavor.
- Onions - my onion of choice for this are Vidalia Onions. You can also use red or yellow onions instead. You can also mix and match your onions to play with different flavors.
- Broth - if you are running short on beef broth you can fill in the gap with chicken broth or substitute the whole thing. Try using some of my Instant Pot Chicken Bone Broth if you want to substitute for beef.
- Wine - if you don't have a dry white wine or prefer red you can swap out for a dry red wine instead. A Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon should work well.
- Bread - if you don't have a crusty baguette on hand you can use croutons instead. Or, white sandwich bread toasted and cut into squares will work too.
- Cheese - my first choice is Gruyere cheese. But, you can use Swiss, Provolone, Parmesan, or a combination of these.
How to make it
Step 1: Sweating the onions
Cooking the onions properly is key to a successful French onion soup. The onions are cooked in two stages. First, we "sweat" or cook the onions. Second, we caramelize or "brown up" the onions for color and depth of flavor.
Slice the onions to ¼- to ½-inch thick. Turn on the pot to saute mode to melt six tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted turn off saute mode. Add the sliced onions to the pot and toss with the melted butter.
Close the lid, and cook on high pressure for zero (yes, really) minutes then follow with a quick release. The onions will cook during the time the pot comes to pressure.
If your multicooker does not set at zero minutes then set to one minute. Turn off the cooker once it comes to pressure. The onions will cook during the time the pot comes to pressure.
Step 2: Caramelizing the Onions
Next we caramelize the onions. Preheat the Instant Pot on saute mode. The objective is to cook the onions until they are golden brown for a good soup with depth of flavor.
How brown they get is up to you. The darker in color the more bitter the end result of the soup can get. You can experiment to see which is best suited for your palate.
I like to keep it simple with just a little extra butter and a nice dose of salt. Turn the Instant Pot back to saute, add the remaining butter, salt, and pepper to the onions. Some people like to add sugar to help get the onions browner, but this can make the soup to sweet.
Cook the onions for about 10 minutes or until they are as brown as you like. Add the flour, and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the wine, and cook two minutes to reduce a little.
Step 3: Cooking Instructions
Add the beef and bone broth, then salt and pepper to taste. Keep the pressure cooker on saute stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes so everything combines.
Turn off the saute function, and seal the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes then follow with a quick release.
While the soup is cooking slice your bread and place slices on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil on both sides, and broil for a few minutes on each side to lightly toast. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls, top with shredded Gruyere cheese, and set under broiler or air fryer to melt the cheese.
Be sure to slice the onions just before you start cooking. Onions absorb odors so be sure not to leave them out on the counter or in the fridge.
To help with the browning process of the onions you can add some sugar or about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for the sauteeing step. Keep in mind though adding baking soda may turn the onions a green-yellow color with an off-putting taste. It can also make them mushy.
Caramelizing onions can produce wildly varying results. Just remember you will want your onions to be golden to golden brown. It is not necessary to get a dark mahogany color as this can produce a bitter result.
Yes. Swap out the beef broth for vegetable or mushroom broth instead. Use red wine for a "beefier" flavor instead of white wine.
Yes, the wine can be omitted. Either leave it out all together of substitute with additional beef broth.
Yes, we do this to get a Maillard reaction. This basically means we want the onions to go through a complex series of chemical reactions which happen to make a party in your belly. It's what gives a browned food, like caramelized onions their special flavor and color.
English onion soups can be made with a variety of broths, and may also call for some Worcestershire sauce. The English variety also incorporates a variety of onions which an include shallots and leeks. However, French soups are made with beef broth and the addition of some alcohol like sherry, cognac, or wine. They are often made with one type of onion, and the onions are caramelized.
Place your serving bowls on a baking sheet. Place a slice of toasted baguette into each one, Ladle the soup into each bowl, and top with cheese. Add a little grated onion for a little something extra. Broil in the oven for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Storage & Reheating
The soup seems to keep fresher and closer to original taste after cooking in a pressure cooker versus on the stovetop or oven. Cool the soup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store the cheese and croutons separately.
To freeze, put in to a freezer storage bag or container. Store frozen for up to 6 months. Freeze first in ice cube trays or silicon mold trays then place in plastic freezer bags for long term storage.
To reheat, place in a microwave safe bowl then cook until heated through. Melt cheese in soup, and add bread. Or, place the soup in oven safe bowls then add bread and cheese to melt in oven or air fryer.
More soup recipes
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Easy Instant Pot French Onion Soup
"Sweating" the Onions
- 5 large onions sliced ¼ to ½-inch
- 6 tbsp butter unsalted
Caramelizing the Onions
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter unsalted
Prepping the Soup
- 3 tbsp flour
- ½ cup white wine optional, may omit then replace with additional broth
- 4 cups beef broth I used half and half beef bone broth and unsalted beef broth
- 4 cups beef bone broth
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Finishing the Soup
- 8 slices French or other crusty bread
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese shredded
"Sweating" the Onions
- Melt the butter from this ingredient group in the Instant Pot, and then add the sliced onions. Turn off the saute function, and seal lid. Cook on high pressure for 0 minutes then follow with a quick release. Can also cook for 1 minute on high pressure and then turn off when pressure is reached for a quick release.
Caramelizing the Onions
- Turn the Instant Pot to saute. Add the remaining butter, and salt. Cook for about ten minutes or until the onions have turned golden or golden brown. Note you can add a ¼ teaspoon of sugar if desired to help with browning.
Prepping the Soup
- Leave pressure cooker on saute, and stir in flour. Cook for a couple of minutes so that the flour does not leave behind a doughy taste in the soup. Add the wine, and cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.
- Add the beef stock. Salt and pepper to taste. Seal lid on Instant Pot and cook on high (normal) pressure for 8 minutes then follow with a quick release.
- While the soup is cooking, brush the sliced bread with olive oil, place on baking sheet, and broil for a few minutes to toast.
Finishing the Soup
- Put your ramekins or bowls on a baking sheet. Place on a baking sheet. Put one slice of baguette in each bowl, ladle in soup, and top with cheese. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is melted, and slightly browned.
- Serve immediately, or store remaining soup for up to three days in an airtight container.
- Caramelizing onions can produce wildly varying results. Just remember you will want your onions to be golden to golden brown. It is not necessary to get a dark mahogany color as this can produce a bitter result.
This recipe was adapted for the Instant Pot from the cookbook by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One.
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