Craving a steaming bowl of Panera Bread’s renowned soup without breaking the bank? Give our rendition of Panera’s bistro-style French onion soup a try. It features luscious, caramelized onions, a savory beef broth, crispy focaccia croutons, and a generous layer of melted Gruyère cheese.
Table of Contents
This French classic relies on pantry staples that are easily found in major grocery stores across the U.S. You’ll need:
- Oil: We recommend extra virgin olive oil for the homemade black pepper focaccia croutons, while the soup itself doesn’t require any oil.
- Butter: Salted butter is used to caramelize the onions, but feel free to use unsalted or vegan butter if needed.
- Vegetables: Yellow onions offer the best flavor, but you can use white onions if necessary.
- Flour: All-purpose flour works for the roux, but you can substitute it with King Arthur multi-purpose gluten-free flour if needed.
- Wine: Cooking sherry adds depth to the soup, but if necessary, you can omit it and rely solely on beef stock (though the flavor will differ).
- Dried Spices: Our recipe includes thyme, sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Herbs: Opt for a fresh bay leaf, although a few sprigs of fresh thyme work too.
- Condiments: Worcestershire sauce and reduced sodium soy sauce add complexity, but if you can’t consume soy, replace it with coconut aminos.
- Stock: Reduced sodium beef stock is our choice, but switch to vegetable stock if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
- Acid: Sherry vinegar is used in the tomato gastrique, while freshly squeezed lemon juice brightens up the soup.
- Bread: Panera black pepper focaccia is the ideal choice for making croutons, and you can also serve the soup with their French baguettes for dipping.
- Sweetener: White granulated sugar is used to caramelize the onions and make the tomato gastrique. You can choose your preferred sweetener.
- Cheese: Finely grated Gruyère cheese melts beautifully and is the cheese of choice at Panera.
See the recipe card for detailed ingredient quantities.
If you have dietary restrictions, we’ve got you covered with these variations:
- Vegan Version: Use vegan butter, vegetable stock, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and vegan cheese alternatives.
- Gluten-Free Version: Substitute all-purpose flour with King Arthur multi-purpose gluten-free flour.
- Soy-Free Version: Omit the soy sauce and use coconut aminos instead.
- Cheese Substitute: If Gruyère cheese isn’t available, replace it with a blend of freshly grated Parmesan and Asiago cheese.
What is in Panera Bistro French Onion Soup?
Panera describes this beloved soup as a blend of sweet onions simmered in a savory broth, complemented by a sherry wine vinegar gastrique and sea salts. It’s topped off with melted Gruyère cheese and housemade black pepper focaccia croutons.
Why was this soup discontinued?
Panera temporarily took this popular soup off its menu to introduce two seasonal soups: turkey chili and autumn squash. However, due to overwhelming demand on social media, they brought back French onion soup in February 2020.
Is Panera’s soup a healthy choice?
A one-cup serving of Panera’s bistro French onion soup contains 190 calories, 21g of carbs, 8g of fat, 10g of sugar, and 6.2g of protein. Our copycat version has 256 calories, 42.1g of carbs, 7.2g of fat, 24.3g of sugar, and 6.2g of protein per one-cup serving. For more nutritional details, refer to the end of the recipe card.
Is French onion soup vegetarian?
Traditionally, this soup is made with beef stock, while Panera uses chicken stock. If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can substitute vegetable stock and vegan Worcestershire sauce.
How to Make
Start by gathering all the necessary ingredients. Peel and chop the yellow onions, then measure out the remaining items.
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the onions. Sprinkle some salt on them to draw out moisture. Stir occasionally during the first 10 minutes using a large wooden spoon. While the onions cook, prepare the tomato gastrique (see recipe card for instructions).
Continue cooking the onions and sprinkle them with sugar to aid caramelization. At this stage, stir constantly for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pan by adding sherry and scraping off the browned bits with a large wooden turner. Create a roux by sprinkling flour and cooking for two minutes to remove the raw taste.
Deglaze the pan once again, this time with 1 to 2 cups of beef stock. This step helps build flavor and releases any bits stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Now pour in the remaining beef broth and add the dried spices, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Give everything a good stir.
Add the tomato gastrique to the soup and dissolve it completely. The gastrique should have a thick, molasses-like consistency. Cover the Dutch oven and bring the soup to a boil. Then, uncover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the soup to simmer for at least 20 minutes (or up to 2 hours for a more intense flavor). Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Remove the soup from heat and squeeze in the lemon juice.
Serve the bistro French onion soup in individual bowls, garnishing each with homemade black pepper focaccia croutons (see recipe notes) and finely grated Gruyère cheese. Panera Bread also offers their famous French baguettes, kettle chips, or sliced apple as accompaniments.
Panera serves this delightful soup with the choice of a sourdough bread bowl for an additional charge, a bag of kettle chips, a slice of baguette, or an apple. You can also pair it with a slice of crusty bread, a side salad, or fresh fruit.
If you’re looking for other Panera soup recipes, be sure to try our copycat versions of Panera’s baked potato soup, autumn squash soup, chicken noodle soup, chicken and wild rice soup, and turkey chili.
To complete your meal, indulge in one of our 8 delightful Panera copycat dessert recipes.
- To minimize onion-induced tears, chill the onions after peeling, slice them in half, cover them in foil, and refrigerate before chopping.
- Prepare the tomato gastrique in advance or during the first 10 minutes of caramelizing the onions.
- Make your own croutons by cubing the focaccia, drizzling oil over it, and sprinkling on a little salt. Bake the cubes at 400F for 13 minutes.
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Find the complete recipe down below.