The Instant Pot turns classic, elegant French onion soup into a homemade, restaurant-quality appetizer or entrée that’s perfect for holidays and special occasions. It has all the depth of flavor you’d expect, from the rich, savory broth, the caramelized onions, the toasted French bread, and the full-bodied Gruyère cheese. Best of all, it’s quicker and easier than a stovetop version!
🧅 What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Classic French onion soup is full of deep flavor, and this Instant Pot version is no different. It’s earthy, nutty, and a little bit sweet, with the natural flavors of the caramelized onions balanced by the savoriness of the beef broth. Crusty French bread and a layer of creamy Gruyère cheese round everything out beautifully, making the entire dish incredibly satisfying. It’s truly restaurant-quality, and it’s done all in the comfort of your own kitchen.
- The traditional soup is a bit of a time commitment, but the Instant Pot cuts that cook time down significantly. Plus, other than the broiling at the end, the whole recipe is done right in the Instant Pot. That means cooking’s a breeze and clean up’s even easier.
- If you want, you can prepare your soup earlier in the day, and keep it in the Instant Pot using the “warm” setting. When it’s time for dinner, ladle the soup into ramekins, top it with French bread and cheese, and broil the topping right before serving. Perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other occasion when you need to tackle as much as you can as early as you can.
👩🏼🍳 Chef’s Tips
- Adding a little sugar to the Instant Pot won’t make your French onion soup taste overly sweet, so don’t worry about that! It actually speeds up the caramelization process by drawing out the onions’ natural moisture. To help things along even more, once you stir in the salt and sugar, cover the Instant Pot with the large lid from your pots and pans. Leave the lid off once you add the red wine, since that needs to evaporate.
- Be careful with the broiler. For one thing, it’ll make the ramekins and the baking sheet super hot, so handle with care. Mainly, though, you don’t want to burn the French bread or the Gruyère, which can happen in a matter of seconds if you’re not watching closely. Our Instant Pot French onion soup only needed about 60-70 seconds under the broiler for perfect doneness. Watch yours closely and if you’re unsure, err on the side of “underdone”.
- Be sure to deglaze the Instant Pot well after caramelizing the onions. That means scrape the bottom of the insert with your wooden spoon or spatula. If you don’t, you may have onions or garlic stuck to the bottom of the insert. Then, once you start the Manual High Pressure function, you’re very likely to get a burn notice on the Instant Pot.
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- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 3 pounds yellow onions peeled, sliced into ¼-inch thick slices
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pinch sugar white or brown
- 1 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- ½ cup dry red wine cabernet, merlot, etc.; or ½ cup low-sodium beef broth
- 8 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 6 slices French bread each slice approximately 1-inch thick
- 1 cup shredded fresh Gruyère see Notes
- 6-quart Instant Pot or similar pressure cooker
- Large wooden spoon or silicone spatula
- 6 ramekins 8- to 12-ounce capacity; or similar oven-safe bowls
- baking sheet
- Set Instant Pot to Sauté function, Normal mode. Add ¼ cup unsalted butter to Instant Pot and stir occasionally until butter has melted completely.
- Once butter has melted, add 3 pounds yellow onions (sliced), 3 cloves garlic (minced), 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf to Instant Pot. Sauté aromatics, stirring often, 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, sprinkle 1 pinch sugar and 1 teaspoon salt over aromatics. Stir to incorporate. Continue sautéing, stirring frequently, 15 to 20 minutes or until onions have caramelized.
- Once onions have caramelized, pour ½ cup dry red wine into Instant Pot. Stir to incorporate wine, making sure to scrape up any browned bits of garlic or onion that may have stuck to bottom of Instant Pot insert. Simmer ingredients 10 minutes or until majority of red wine has evaporated.
- Add 8 cups low-sodium beef broth to Instant Pot and stir to incorporate.
- Secure lid on Instant Pot with vent in Sealing position. Set Instant Pot to Manual High Pressure with 5 minute cook time. Instant Pot will pressurize, then cook time will begin.
- Toward end of cook time, preheat broiler on High. Position oven racks as needed so ramekins will sit 6 to 10 inches below heating element. Place ramekins on baking sheet and set aside.
- When 5-minute cook time ends, immediately Quick Release internal pressure, then carefully remove lid. Use caution – any escaping steam will be extremely hot.
- Taste soup and adjust salt if needed. Transfer soup from Instant Pot into ramekins, dividing soup evenly between each ramekin. Remove and discard bay leaf.
- Tear 1 slice French bread into large pieces. Top 1 ramekin of soup with pieces of French bread, letting bread rest on top of soup. Repeat until all 6 slices French bread have been placed on top of all 6 ramekins. Divide 1 cup shredded fresh Gruyère into 6 equal portions and sprinkle one portion on top of each layer of bread.
- Place baking sheet under preheated broiler. Broil soup 1 to 2 minutes or until Gruyère is melted and bubbly, and French bread is golden brown.
- When soup is ready, carefully remove baking sheet from oven. Let ramekins stand 2 to 3 minutes then serve immediately while soup is hot.
- Sugar: The sugar isn’t enough to taste, so don’t worry – your soup won’t be sweet. It’s just enough to help speed up the caramelization process.
- Cheese: Gruyère is recommended, but you can replace it with Swiss, white cheddar, or provolone if you prefer them.
- Make it Vegetarian: Use vegetable stock instead of beef broth.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.