French Onion “Pho” Soup

A remarkably flavorful caramelized onion and beef soup simmered with fragrant Vietnamese spices, topped with crusty French bread, and bubbling cheese.

Why This Works

The foundation of Vietnamese pho and French onion soup is a rich beef bone broth making this combination harmonious. The caramelized onions work as a natural sweetener replacing the need to add in rock sugar which is typically added to sweeten pho while the Vietnamese spices subtly add another dimension of comforting flavor


  • The key to a perfect onion soup is the caramelization of the onions. Cook the onions down until they achieve a deep dark brown color which will take at least one hour to achieve.
    • If the onions are not cooked thoroughly, they will yield a soup that looks and tastes bland.
    • Burned will yield soup that tastes unpleasantly bitter. If you accidentally burn the batch, discard it and restart!
  • This is a meal that is meant to be enjoyed piping hot. Although a blow torch is convenient, broiling in an oven is the best method because this also heats up both the soup and vessel.
  • White pepper is traditionally used in classic Soupe A L’oignon Gratinee recipes but I find that it brings out an unpleasant funk. I recommend using black pepper.
A remarkably flavorful caramelized onion and beef soup simmered with fragrant Vietnamese spices, topped with crusty French bread, and bubbling cheese.

French Onion “Pho” Soup

French Onion “Pho” Soup
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine French, Vietnamese
Servings 6 Bowls


  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2.5 lbs (5) yellow Spanish onions, trimmed, peeled, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled, julienned
  • 375 ml white wine
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 sachet pho spices
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp grated black pepper
  • 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into 12 ½-inch slices
  • 1 lb gruyere, emmenthal, or comte cheese, grated


  • Soup | Set a dutch oven or pot over high heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once the fat glistens, add in the onions and garlic and reduce to low heat. Cook for 60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Crank up the heat to medium for the last few minutes of cooking. Continue to sauté the aromatics until it reaches a deep mahogany color. (Option 2, fill the slow cooker with the sliced onions, add butter, olive oil. Stir until the onions are evenly coated.Cover with lid and cook on HIGH for at least 6 hours.) Deglaze the pot with wine, scraping off the browned bits with a spatula. Add broth, spices, salt, sugar, and pepper. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Assemble | 15 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, turn the oven on broil. Spoon the soup into the ramekins leaving about 2 inches from the top. Slice the baguette to fit the ramekins. Stack on top of the soup and top with grated cheese. Broil on the center rack until the cheese looks bubbling and brown, 2-3 minutes. ~ You may also toast the baguette separately on a lined baking sheet until golden brown. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until lightly brown and bubbling, 2-3 minutes.
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