Feel like a big bowl of Panera Bread's famous soup, but want to save some cash? Try our Panera bistro French onion soup copycat version. It's full of sweet, dark caramelized onions and a savory beef broth topped with crispy focaccia croutons and melted Gruyère cheese.
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This French classic uses common pantry staples that are easy to find at any major grocery store in the U.S. The only two items you might not normally have in your pantry are the sherry vinegar, which is used in the tomato gastrique, and the beef stock.
- Oil: We used extra virgin olive oil for the homemade black pepper focaccia croutons. None is used in the soup.
- Butter: We used salted butter to caramelize the onions, but feel free to use unsalted or vegan butter if you have dietary restrictions.
- Vegetables: We used yellow onions because they provide the best flavor, but if you're in a pinch use white onions.
- Flour: We used all-purpose flour to make the roux, but switch it to King Arthur multi-purpose gluten free flour if needed.
- Wine: We used cooking sherry. If needed, feel free to use only beef stock, but it will change the flavor profile.
- Dried Spices: We used thyme, sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Herbs: We used 1 fresh bay leaf, but if you want, you can also use a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Condiments: Worcestershire sauce and reduced sodium soy sauce were used, but the soy sauce can be replace with coconut aminos if you can't tolerate soy.
- Stock: We used reduced sodium beef stock, but switch to vegetable stock if you're vegan or vegetarian.
- Acid: We used sherry vinegar in the tomato gastrique, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to brighten the soup.
- Bread: We used Panera black pepper focaccia to make the croutons. In the photo shoot, we also used Panera's French baguettes for dipping.
- Sweetener: We used white granulated sugar for the caramelize onions and the tomato gastrique. Feel free to use the sweetener of our choice.
- Cheese: We used finely grated Gruyère cheese because it melts well and that's what Panera uses.
What is in Panera Bistro French Onion Soup?
Panera describes this long-time fan favorite as "sweet onions in a savory broth with a sherry wine vinegar gastrique and sea salts, topped with gruyere and housemade black pepper focaccia croutons."
Why did they discontinue this soup?
Panera temporarily removed this popular soup from its menu to make room for two seasonal soups, turkey chili and autumn squash, but they brought it back in February 2020 because of the huge fan outcry on social media.
Is Panera's soup good for you?
One cup of their bistro French onion soup has 190 calories, 21g carbs, 8g fat, 10g sugar, and 6.2g protein.
For a one cup serving size, our copycat version has 256 calories, 42.1g carbs, 7.2g fat, 24.3g sugar, and 6.2g protein. For more nutritional information, please scroll to the end of the recipe card.
Is French onion soup vegetarian?
Traditionally, this soup is made with 100% beef stock. Panera uses 100% chicken stock. If you'd like this vegetarian, you would have to use vegetable stock and vegan Worcestershire sauce.
How to Make
Gather all your ingredients. Peel and chop the yellow onions, then measure out the rest of the ingredients.
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the onions. Sprinkle on the salt to help draw the moisture out. Stir occasionally during the first 10 minutes with a large wooden spoon. When the onions are cooking, make the tomato gastrique. (See the recipe card for instructions.)
Continue cooking the onions. Sprinkle on the sugar to help with the caramelization. At this stage, constantly stir the onions for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook for another 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with sherry by scraping the browned bits off the bottom with a large wooden turner. Make the roux by sprinkling on the flour and cooking for two minutes to cook out the raw taste.
Deglaze the pan a second time, this time with 1 to 2 cups of beef stock. This will get all the browned bits off the bottom of the Dutch oven and will help build the flavor for the broth.
Pour in the rest of the beef broth.
Add the dried spices, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, then stir.
Add the tomato gastrique and stir it in so it dissolves in the soup. (The gastrique should be thick like molasses.) Cover the Dutch oven and bring the soup to a boil. Uncover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low and let the soup simmer for at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours if you're not in a hurry. Taste and adjust any seasonings, if necessary.
Remove from the heat and add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Serve the bistro French onion soup in individual bowls topped with homemade black pepper focaccia croutons (see recipe notes) and finely grated gruyere cheese. Panera bread also serves this soup with your choice of their famous French baguette, kettle chips, or sliced apple.
- Need this vegan? Use vegan butter, vegetable stock, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and vegan cheese.
- Need this gluten free? Use King Arthur multi-purpose gluten free flour instead of all purpose.
- Need this soy free? Omit the soy sauce and use coconut aminos.
- Can't find Gruyère? Swap it out for a mixture of freshly grated parmesan and Asiago cheese.
- To minimize tears when cutting onions, peel the onions, slice in half, cover with foil, and refrigerate to cool them before chopping.
- Make the tomato gastrique ahead of time or during the first 10 minutes of caramelizing the onions.
- Make your own croutons. Cube the focaccia, drizzle on oil, and sprinkle on salt. Bake 13 minutes at 400F.
Looking for other Panera Bread copycat soup recipes?
- Black Bean Soup
- Creamy Tomato Soup
- 10 Vegetable Soup
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Turkey Chili
- Summer Corn Chowder
- Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
- Autumn Squash
- Broccoli Cheddar
- Baked Potato Soup
Craving Panera bakery copycat recipes?
- Tomato Basil Bread
- Cinnamon Crunch Bagels
- Kitchen Sink Cookies
- Lemon Drop Cookies
- Chocolate Chipper Cookies
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Panera Bistro French Onion Soup Copycat
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 10 cups yellow onion, chopped
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sherry
- 8 cups reduced sodium beef broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ⅓ cup tomato gastrique, see notes
- 1 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Finishing & Garnish
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 ¼ cups black pepper focaccia croutons
- 1 cup Gruyère cheese, finely grated
- Melt the butter over medium high heat, then add the chopped onion and sprinkle on the salt to help draw out the water from the onions. Cook and stir the onions occasionally for the first 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the sugar and continue cooking the onions on medium high for another 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another 5 minutes, or until caramelized.
- Pour the sugar and water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, then stir to dissolve the sugar. When bubbles start to form, reduce the heat to just above medium and watch for it to change color to a medium caramel, then remove it from the heat and slowly whisk in the vinegar. Be careful not to burn yourself, as the mixture is hotter than boiling water. Whisk in the tomato paste until smooth. Return to the heat and reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for one to two minutes to thicken the sauce. Pour it into a small bowl; the sauce will thicken to a molasses-like consistency as it cools.
- Increase the heat to medium high, then pour in ½ cup of sherry. Using a wooden turner, scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the brown bits off. This will give the soup more flavor.
- Sprinkle on ¼ cup of flour and cook it for 2 minutes while constantly stirring. The roux will help thicken the soup.
- Pour in 1 to 2 cups of beef stock to deglaze the pan, so the bottom of the soup pot is clean and all that extra flavor is added to the soup.
- Pour in the rest of the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Add the bay leaf, dried spices, and tomato gastrique. (If the tomato gastrique has hardened, microwave it for 20 seconds and stir.) Stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for at least 20 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, taste and adjust spices, if necessary.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Top each bowl with the croutons and grated Gruyère cheese. If desired, serve the soup in ovenproof bowls and put under the broiler for 2 minutes to melt the cheese. Make it let Panera Bread and serve this soup with chunk of Panera's French baguette, kettle chips, or apple slices.
- Tomato Gastrique: You'll need ½ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, ¼ cup cooking sherry vinegar, and 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste. Leftovers can be stored covered in the fridge for up to two weeks. Make the gastrique while the onions are in the first ten minutes of cooking.
- Black Pepper Focaccia Croutons: Cut a 7-inch round Panera Bread loaf into cubes, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 400 F for 13 minutes, stirring half way through the cooking time. Make the croutons while the soup is simmering.
- Want less tears? Peel and cut the onions in half, cover with foil and refrigerate to cool them before slicing.