What To Serve With French Onion Soup: Barbara’s Menu Suggestions

Here's how I got the idea to write about what to serve with French onion soup in the first place:

A little over a week ago, I organized a dinner party for a couple of our mutual friends; nothing huge, just a small gathering to catch up and see how everyone's doing. I wanted to make something with a homey feel to it, so I decided to go with French onion soup

One of our friends was kind enough to offer to bring something herself – a salad, maybe – so she wanted to know what I plan on cooking. When I told her, I could see it in her eyes – she had no clue what would pair well with my French onion soup. 😛

If you're anything like her, don't worry; today I'm going to let you in on all the secrets of serving French onion soup and, most importantly, what goes well with it – so, keep on reading. 🙂

First Things First: What Is French Onion Soup?

The modern-day origins of this bistro classic known as the French onion soup can be traced back to the 18th century Paris and, as far as bistro food goes, this is probably one of the most delicious examples of their simple, home-style cuisine. 

But when did it become so popular in the United States? 

Well, according to my research, the French onion soup gained its popularity back in the 1960s, when there was an overall growing interest in French cuisine.

I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I do remember that my mom used to make it when I was a child – and taught me how to make it myself when I was old enough – so, I guess there must be some truth in there somewhere. 

And let me tell you something:

It’s surprisingly easy to make – it doesn’t take more than just a couple of ingredients (onions, broth, and butter being the crucial ones) and an hour or two of your time to get that sweet and savory mixture. 

The main ingredient – onions – is vital here and takes the longest to prepare. The secret is in caramelizing them very slowly; in general, it takes about 45 minutes. But if you want to do it, then do it right – don't try to rush the process.

Okay, time to move on; the reason why you're here is to learn what to serve with French onion soup, so here's what you need to know.


Dishes That Pair Well With French Onion Soup

I'm going to let you in on a little secret:

The best way to complement the sweet and savory, with a hint of salty flavor of French onion soup is to pick a dish that brings what's missing from your menu – something sour or bitter. 

So, let's take a closer look at your options:

1. Meat Dishes

  • While I'm aware that the French onion soup can be fairly filling on its own, meaning it could work not only as an appetizer but as a main dish, as well. But try explaining that to my husband – as far as he's concerned, if there's no meat on the table, it doesn't count as a proper meal. So, over the years, I learned that venison stakes pair well with the French onion soup. 

  • However, if you would serve fish with your French onion soup instead, then I certainly recommend giving tuna dishes a try. 
  • Also, if you want to add a hint of bitterness to your meat dish, a little arugula or watercress will go a long way.

2. Sourness Works Just As Well

  • Besides bitterness, the best way to complement the complex flavors of the French onion soup is to add some acidity to the mix.
  • But what's the best way to do that? I'll tell you the same thing I said to my friend:
    There's no way you could go wrong with a classic, crispy green salad, as long as you remember to add a little twist to the standard recipe. 

  • For example, you could experiment with the dressing – lemon juice and capers are an excellent duo, and they'll add the desired amount of acidity (or sourness) to your salad.
    While leafy greens are commonly considered to be bitter (I'll talk a bit more about these in a second), lettuce doesn't fall into that category. Just by using the right ingredients, you can turn it into a perfect, sour companion for your French onion soup.

3. Adding Some Bitterness

  • Since it cleanses your palate, bitterness really suits the distinct, intense onion flavor of the French onion soup.
  • Now, tell me, how well do you know your greens?
    Here's why I'm asking – leafy greens are, as I mentioned earlier, commonly known for their bitterness. The leading two in this category are kale and spinach; you could sauté them and serve them as a side dish.

4. Bread

  • If you want to make your French onion soup super filling, you should try adding bread
  • Everyone likes it, and it's a great way to turn the soup into a main dish, so it's worth giving a shot. Since we have a French theme going on here, a baguette is an excellent choice. 
  • Of course, you could also go for the healthier option – which I always support and advocate for – and choose whole-wheat bread, instead.

Related: Learn To Find The Best 2-Slice & 4-Slice Toaster With Barbara

What About Drinks?

You know how they say the French think of wine as a part of their everyday life? 

Well, if you want to add a genuinely French vibe to your dinner (I know I like to create entire themed menus from time to time), then the wine is unquestionably the way to go. 

It might seem like a counter-intuitive thing to do – pairing liquids with liquids – but trust me, a glass of good, quality wine with your French onion soup will take the entire experience to the next level.

Now, red or white wine? 

To tell you the truth, I tried both and had equally good results – it depends on what kind of broth you used. As usual, beef broth calls for red wine, while chicken broth calls for white – it's as simple as that. 

However, there's one thing you should pay attention to, and that's how the wine's body matches the consistency of your soup. I would recommend a full or medium-bodied wine

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I served Pinot Noir at my dinner party, so it's safe to say that the combination works.


Final Word

If there's one thing I'd like you to keep in mind once you're done reading this article, it's that cooking should be a fun and creative experience. It should be about you discovering which flavors work together and which ones just don't. 

As far as French onion soup goes, "sour" and "bitter" are just vague guidelines, so treat them as such and try to come up with a solution on your own – it's way more fun that way. 

That being said, I sincerely hope this article helped you get a clearer picture of what to serve with French onion soup.

As always, feel free to leave a comment and tell me more about your favorite menu ideas – I'll be more than happy to give them a try.

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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