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Cooking with Vegetables
French Onion Soup Made with Red Wine And Brandy

French Onion Soup Made with Red Wine And Brandy

Don’t you just love winter? I mean the amount of comforting food you can indulge in should be totally illegal. Of course, there is nothing more comforting than a decent bowl of soup! But a French Onion Soup?? Man Oh Man…. it is the epiphany of winter comfort food!

This dish is all about caramelized onions, red wine, brandy, topped with melted cheese and crusty bread. Need I say more…

For some reason lately I have just been craving onions… AND NOOO I am NOT pregnant! Onions actually have amazing health benefits which we will discuss another time.

In fact, French aristocrats were known to enjoy French onion soup. Legend has it that the soup was invented by King Louis XV. While on a hunting trip, King Louis XV was extremely starving that the only food he could find were onions, butter, and champagne. I mean… really Champagne!! Anywho, the King cooked these three ingredients and made the first ever French onion soup. There’s no doubt this soup was fit for a King as it was a real hit in the palace!  

In spite of the fact that I have no idea what to make of this piece of useless information, French onion soup is referred to as ‘drunkards’ soup’ because it is said to be very effective at masking the smell of drunk drinkers when consumed…

Guys I promise this is not the reason for me eating onions lately! 🤣

What I love about making this French Onion Soup is that not only is it hearty and delicious but it is super cheap to make.

What Are the Best Onions For French Onion Soup?

variety of onions for making french onion soup

Traditionally French Onion Soup is made from yellow onions, but the choice is entirely up to you. Sweet onions will give you a more sweeter flavour and brown onions will add an extra layer of depth. You can also use red onions if you like, your soup will have a red tinge.

Heck there is no shame either if you want to mix it up and use a combination of different onions.

Be daring and adventurous!

Recipe Calls For Brandy Do I Have to Use It?

Nobody is forcing you to do anything! But come on lets face it. If you want to impress don’t skip this step. It does magic to the soup by adding an extra layer of flavor and what us wine folks like to say complexity!

After all… it is all about the FINAL TOUCH!

If you really don’t want to use Brandy you can use either one of these alternatives: sherry, dry vermouth, Port, Cape Tawny, Cape Vintage, Madeira, or Marsala wine.

Should you be opting for a complete booze free french onion soup you can replace the brandy with apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar even a little balsamic can do the trick.

Must I use beef or chicken stock for French Onion Soup?

Traditionally French Onion Soup is made with Beef Stock. If you have the time and you can make your own bone broth / beef stock from scratch that would be ideal. But you can use a Knorr beef stock pot, or beef cubes. Beef stock gives this soup a richness and meaty flavour to the soup.

If you want a lighter version you can use chicken stock along with the white wine.

For those who don’t eat meat – you can use a vegan friendly veggie stock. I like to use the Garlic and Herb stock cube.

Best choice of Herbs for French Onion Soup?

bowl of selected french herbs for making french onion soup

Keep it simple. A few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf is perfect. If you are looking to make your french onion soup rich you can add a sprig or two of rosemary and few juniper berries. At the end if you feel something is missing – grate some fresh nutmeg! I promise you it does the trick every time.

What cheese to use for French Onion Soup?

If you want to go authentic – you will have to reach deep in your pocket for a piece of Gruyere or Swiss Cheese. Alternatively you can use Parmesan.  Other options include: grated mature cheddar cheese, mozzarella, or cumin infused boerenkaas.  

Should I use red or white wine for French Onion Soup?

wine display of red and white wine a great selection for French Onion Soup

RULE OF THUMB: if you can’t drink it, then DON’T use it!

Once again you really can’t go wrong with either. It all depends what kind of soup you are looking for.

If you are looking for lighter soup with more more fruitiness, maybe a summer or spring version, then I would recommend a white wine. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, or even Semillon would all be excellent choices.

Are you looking for more deep, robust and hearty flavours, especially for a cold and wet Cape Winter I will without a doubt go with a red wine.

Remember not to use an extremely big, bold and tannin-laden red wine. Soup that tastes bitter and chalky might be the result of this.   

My perfect choice for the French Onion Soup was Van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.

A saying in MBKitchen is if it’s an enjoyable and easy drinking wine, then it will be a lovely easy cooking wine!

Remember the main purpose of adding wine is to enhance and intensify both the aroma and flavour of the food not overwhelm or mask it.

Van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine caught my attention because it offers excellent value for money. Although it’s of excellent quality, it’s rather affordable, especially if you’re on a tight budget. In addition, you don’t have to feel guilty when you use almost the entire bottle for cooking purposes. (one for the pot and three for me! 🤣🤣)

The Van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon is an oak matured and fruity red wine.

It has a medium body with good structure, when used in cooking it does not overpower the other flavours or soup but definately gives it more weight and rustic flavours. Good acidity levels one reminding me of balsamic vinegar.

Although this wine is oaked, the oak doesn’t overwhelm the wine, in fact it is quite smooth with soft tannins and the reason for this is because the wine when through Malolactic fermentation

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon is quiet fruit driven so you get notes of blackcurrants, blackberry, plums, and cherries. It is not your typical “jammy” type of wine, rather it has more earthy notes like tobacco, and chocolate. 

Van Loveren wines are widely available from all major retailers and wine stores, as well as online at www.vanloveren.co.za.

Okay so I have blabbed enough – lets get cooking!

French Onion Soup with Red Wine & Brandy

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of French Onion Soup! Using the simplest of ingredients this soup packs a punch of flavour!
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Cooking with Wine, French Onion Soup, French Onion Soup With Red Wine, Onion Soup, Soup made with Brandy, Soup made with red wine
Servings: 6 people
Author: My Boozy Kitchen


  • 1 Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker


  • 60 grams Butter Don't be afraid to use a good knob of butter. I promise we won't judge besides butter always makes everything taste better!
  • 6 Large onions Halved and then thinly sliced.
  • 10 ml crushed garlic about 2 teaspoons
  • 5 Sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 5 ml Smoked Paprika Yes I know – not conventional but trust me on this!!
  • 10 ml Herbs de Provence (dried)
  • 1 cup Dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 60 ml Copper potstilled Brandy or Cognac
  • 5 cups Good quality beef stock or bone broth
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 long baguette cut sliced and toasted
  • 100 grams Freshly grated Gruyère cheese or Swiss Alternatively you can use white mature cheddar, gouda or mozzarella


  • Using an InstaPot – Press Saute Mode.
  • Start by melting the butter. Add onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add smoked paprika, herbs, sugar, salt and pepper; cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until onions are golden brown.
  • Add wine and brandy; cook and stir 5 minute to allow the alcohol to cook off.
  • Stir in broth; mix well.
  • Secure lid and move pressure release valve to Sealing position. Press Manual or Pressure Cook; cook at high pressure for 20 minutes.
  • When cooking is complete, press Cancel and use quick release.
  • For and extra kick – stir in an additional 30ml of brandy once the cooking process is complete. Remove the soup from the heat. Or select the Keep Warm option on your Instapot until you are ready to serve.
  • Preheat oven at 200°C
  • Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the toast on the prepared sheet. Top with cheese and bake in oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
  • To Serve: Pour soup into bowl, top with the crouton and serve hot.


If you don’t have an instant pot you can use a heavy-based saucepan. Follow the instructions as above but instead of pressure cooking the onions you let it gently simmer on the stove top for 40minutes.

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