This Instant Pot French Onion Soup is loaded with buttery caramelized onions, a rich and flavorful broth, ooey-gooey, melty cheese and homemade crispy croutons!
French onion soup might just be my favorite soup. The broth is rich and flavorful, the cheese is hot and gooey, and the bread is baked right in. What’s not to love?! This instant pot french onion soup is no exception. You’re gonna love it.
PSST – instead of bread, we’re using homemade croutons and it’s life changing.
What is the difference between english onion soup and french onion soup?
Although French onion and English onion soup are relatively similar, there are a couple of key differences:
- Onions. French onion soup can use one type of onion but usually uses a combination of sweet onions and red onions. English onion soup always uses a combination of onions which tends to also include shallots and leeks.
- Broth. French onion soup uses beef broth as the base while English onion soup can use any type of broth.
- Flavor. French onion soup has a slightly sweeter flavor from the addition of sherry or wine while English onion has a tangier, saltier flavor from the Worcestershire sauce. Today’s French onion soup *does* contain Worcestershire sauce to balance out the sweetness from the wine.
- Cheese. French onion soup uses richer, creamier cheeses such as gruyere while English onion usually uses cheddar for a sharper, tangier flavor.
My secret ingredients for making this the best french onion soup? Homemade croutons and THREE cheeses!
- Unsalted Butter and Olive Oil – butter adds a warm, deep flavor and produces a much more “caramelized” onion while the higher smoking point in oil prevents the onions from burning.
- Red Onions and Sweet Onions – you can use one or the other if necessary, but the combination of the two is great. Sweet onions add a mellow, sweet flavor and red onions provide a deeper, tangier taste.
- Brown Sugar – helps the caramelization process and brings out the onions natural sweetness.
- Salt and Black Pepper – enhances the flavor of the soup and adds a touch of heat.
- Minced Garlic – provides a subtle nuttiness.
- Red Wine – used to de-glaze the instant pot after caramelizing the onions. De-glazing with wine not only helps to avoid a BURN notice, but also adds depth of flavor. If avoiding alcohol is necessary, replace with grape juice or additional broth.
- Beef Broth – provides a rich, hearty, flavorful base for the soup. Chicken broth or even vegetable broth can be used, but the flavor won’t be quite as robust.
- Worcestershire Sauce – adds an additional umami, yet tangy flavor to add even more depth of flavor.
- Bay Leaves – adds a light, earthy flavor which prevents the soup from being too rich and heavy. Don’t forget to remove before serving!
- Balsamic Vinegar – adds tanginess and sweetness to balance out the rich flavor of the broth and cheeses.
- Croutons – use my homemade croutons (it only takes 10 minutes to prep) for the best flavor and texture, but if necessary, you can absolutely use the classic sliced baguette or french bread instead.
- Parmesan/Romano/Asiago Cheese, Provolone Cheese, and Shredded Gruyere – I love using this combination of cheeses for a variety of different flavors. The parmesan/romano/asiago cheese blend adds nuttiness, the provolone cheese gives a mild smoky flavor, and the gruyere gives a sweet, salty creaminess.
How to make
This instant pot French onion soup really couldn’t be easier to make and dirties just one dish!
- Hit SAUTE on your instant pot then, once it reads HOT, melt butter and oil together. Add in onions, brown sugar, salt, and pepper and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the garlic in the last 30 seconds.
- Deglaze the pot with red wine, scraping up any brown bites, then stir in beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Cover and lock the lid and cook on HIGH for 10 minutes.
- Allow a natural release for 10 minutes, flip the valve to release any remaining pressure, then remove the bay leaves and stir in balsamic vinegar.
- Place 4 oven safe bowls onto a rimmed baking sheet then fill each bowl evenly with soup.
- Top each bowl evenly with the croutons, parmesan blend, provolone, and gruyere.
- Broil in the oven for 1-5 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly then serve and enjoy!
What onions are best for french onion soup?
I use a combination of sweet onions and red onions for this French onion soup recipe. The sweet onions add a mellow sweetness while the red onion contrasts that with a deeper, tangier flavor.
I highly recommend using both for a super well rounded and delicious soup!
Can you make instant pot french onion soup on the stove?
Absolutely! If you don’t have an instant pot, check out my stovetop French onion soup recipe instead.
- Add meat. Try adding bacon by cooking 6 slices of it directly in the instant pot, removing and crumbling it, then using the grease to caramelize the onion instead of the butter/oil.
- Make it vegetarian. Swap the beef broth out for veggie broth instead.
- Try other cheese. Swiss cheese would also be delicious.
What to serve with french onion soup
I love to serve my French onion soup topped with some crunchy homemade croutons. It can be served as a main dish or as a side dish next to an entree! Here are some pairing ideas:
- Baked Salmon
- Roast Chicken
- Garlic Bread
- Pear, Blue Cheese, Candied Pecan Salad
How to store
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can freeze for up to 6 months but I would do so without the cheese on top since cheese doesn’t freeze well.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then microwave or warm on the stove until heated through.
Instant Pot French Onion Soup
Equipment for this recipe
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large red onions thinly sliced
- 3 large sweet onions thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup red wine can replace with grape juice or more broth
- 1 (32 oz) carton beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 batch homemade croutons
- 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan/romano/asiago blend
- 4-8 slices provolone cheese
- 1 cup shredded gruyere I recommend an apple smoked variety for the best flavor
- Hit SAUTE on your 6 quart Instant Pot.
- Once it reads HOT, melt butter and oil together.
- Add in onions, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Cook, stirring regularly for 30 minutes. The Instant Pot may turn off, simply hit SAUTE again.
- Stir in garlic in the last 30 seconds.
- Deglaze with red wine, scraping any brown bits off the bottom to avoid a BURN notice, then hit CANCEL.
- Stir in beef broth, Worcestershire, and bay leaves.
- Cover and lock the lid - make sure the pressure valve is pointed towards SEALING.
- Cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes.
- Allow the Instant Pot to naturally release for 10 minutes, before flipping the valve to release any remaining pressure.
- Remove the bay leaves, stir in balsamic vinegar, then taste and re-season, if necessary.
- Place 4 oven safe bowls on a rimmed baking sheet, then fill each bowl evenly with the soup.
- Top each bowl with the croutons, parmesan blend, provolone, then gruyere.*
- Broil in the oven for 1-5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.