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Jun 8, 2011 10:56 PM

Vegetarian French onion soup?

Does anyone have a terrific recipe for vegetarian (not vegan!) French onion soup? I love great onion soup with lots of stringy cheese...but I must be able to prepare a vegetarian version for my other half. Can anyone help?

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  1. Not exactly a recipe, but I'd probably just take my favorite FO soup recipe and substitute homemade vegetable stock for the beef stock. The trick will be to get the vegetable stock as dark and savory as possible. I'd brown the vegetables and include some mushrooms in the mirepoix. A splash of soy sauce might help as well.

    Roughly, I would make stock using:
    1 medium onion
    2 carrots
    1 celery stalk
    A couple cloves of garlic
    Tablespoon or three of tomato paste

    6 ounces button mushrooms

    2 medium tomatoes
    Herbs - parsley, thyme, bay leaf, whatever you want
    6 cups water

    Soy sauce to taste - maybe about a tablespoon

    Chop the first set of ingredients and then brown thoroughly spread out on a sheet pan in a 375 deg oven, the tomato paste spread over the mirepoix. Brown the mushrooms on the stovetop in a little oil. Add the other ingredients up to and including the water. Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes. Add soy sauce to taste.

    After that, just cook FO soup however you normally would.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee

      I made a vegan version once that started with a stock made from dried mushrooms. I used the reconstituted mushrooms later for something else. I then added every kind of onion I could get my hands on, including garlic, then seasoned with miso paste for the umami factor. It was excellent. I don't see why you couldn't do the same (use a small amount of dark barley miso and taste until you like the flavour -- I used quite a bit, but it was to replace the saltiness from the cheeses), but melt Emmenthal and Gruyere over a crouton in crocks of the veg-based onion soup.

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        Miso is a good idea - wish I'd thought of that. As are dried mushrooms. That said, I wouldn't make a straight mushroom stock because I don't think that would mimic the flavor of beef stock as well as a more general brown veg stock with mushrooms added.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          I went with the mushroom base because it went well with the miso paste. In my experience, vegetable stocks can be a bit cloying, and with all those already sweet onions, I was afraid that the whole thing would be sweet, rather than savory. Vegetable stock would certainly work, though it would affect my choice of alcohol to add.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            I make a veggie stock with portobello mushrooms, tamari soy sauce, and just a little bit of tomato paste as the umami factors. It comes out great--not too "mushroomy" and it works great for French onion soup. Definitely roast all the ingredients first and add a little white wine--it helps bring out more flavor, like the wine in a pasta sauce.

        2. re: cowboyardee

          I'm with cowboy. I'd just take my favorite onion soup recipe and use vegetable stock, though it might be nice to add some thinly sliced mushrooms which were browned first--that would add some "meatiness."

        3. add a little marmite instead of using beef stock.

          1. I cheated and used the meatless beef flavored Better Than Bouillon (no MSG and not super salty, great umami). I added some sherry, a Guinness and rosemary (besides the usual suspects). It was awesome.

            My house stunk like onions for days: I suggest chopping them outside if possible.

            5 Replies
            1. re: invinotheresverde

              Sorry to break it to you, but the autolyzed yeast extract in better than bouillon essentially contains large amounts of msg (or at least sodium and glutamate).

              Hydrolyzed soy protein is also a concentrated source of msg, and it's in some of their bases.

              I don't have anything against msg, btw. Just pointing out that BTB is absolutely loaded with the stuff.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                I forgot to add "added". My bizzle.

                "Better than Bouillon Vegetarian Bases are Vegan certified. No MSG added, contain 1/3 less sodium than other bouillons, are Fat Free, Non-irradiated, GMO Free, Dairy Free-lactose / Whey / caseinate free"

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Their claim is misleading. Adding autolyzed yeast extract and then claiming "no added msg" is a lot like claiming "no added salt" while adding a bunch of soy sauce. The glutamate is the main reason yeast extract is added. It's as close to an outright lie as the company can legally get away with.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Those shizers! No wonder it tastes so good! ;)

              2. re: invinotheresverde

                I can attest to her house stinking like onions. My clothes (even bra and underwear!) smelled like onions after leaving.

                But the soup was delicious and totally worth the incredible stink.

              3. Here's a kosher version that might work for you:


                1. The miso idea is used in this NYT recipe that you might try next time: