Snowed In! Famous Barr's French Onion Soup Recipe

Famous Barr's french onion soup is renowned in St. Louis, and for good reason. My parents' generation would line up at the old department store's restaurant just to get a bowl after a day of window shopping. My generation has grown up hearing about the soup, and I was lucky enough to have a mom with the recipe and the patience to make it. Mama BaCon sent me this recipe years ago, and I love making it as much as I love eating it--your house smells so amazing as the onions simmer in pure sweet butter for 1 1/2 hours (yeeessss!!!).

My craving for Famous Barr's french onion soup was so strong this weekend that Mr. Luz went out in 17 inches of snow to pick up the necessities for the recipe. (Truth be told, we were out of beer and wine and the Saints were playing that night, so he had to go out anyway.) After he'd dug the truck out of the alley and mentally prepared to slide his way to the Safeway, Mr. Luz peeked his head in the front door and asked "What do you need for the recipe?" My reply-"Cheese, bread, 5 lbs. of onions, and 7 large cans of beef stock." This is truly the stuff of dreams, people.

I'll post the recipe exactly as it was originally published, with my tips and comments at the end (I've read that the St. Louis Post Dispatch published the recipe some time ago, but Mama BaCon got a copy when she bought these adorable Scandinavian-inspired soup crocks from the department store before it closed.)

This is what 5 lbs. of onions, peeled & sliced, looks like before the 90 minute saute in butter
This is what 5 lbs. of onions looks like after a 90 minute saute in butter. Nom. Nom. Nom.
Famous Barr's French Onion Soup Recipe:

5 lbs onions, unpeeled
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. paprika
1 bay leaf
7 (16 oz.) cans beef broth, divided
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour or instant flour
Caramel coloring (optional) or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
2 tsp. salt
French baguettes (optional)
Swiss cheese (optional) or gruyere cheese (optional)

1. Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor.
2. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. 4. Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
5. Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth.
6. Stir into boiling soup.
7. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours.
8. Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top.
9. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls.
10. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
11. Leftover soup can be frozen.This recipe makes about 1 gallon of soup.

Tips and Tricks:
  • I have to split my recipe into two pots to add the correct amount of broth. After the 2 hour simmer, I can usually put them back together.
  • I increase the salt a bit, and add some cayenne pepper and extra black pepper for the tiniest bit of zip.
  • Don't skip or skimp on the paprika. Besides the caramelized onions, it's what makes this recipe.
  • This recipe says that the cheese and bread are optional. They are NOT optional.
  • Rather than putting the whole bowl of soup under the broiler, I make cheese toast in the broiler or toaster oven to float on top. No burnt paws that way.
  • I also slice the edges of the french bread pieces so that you can easily separate one bite of cheese bread with your spoon. If you don't slice the edges, you can sit there hacking away at the chewy french bread crust with an ineffectual lil' spoon forever.
  • "Kitchen Bouquet"...tee hee.


  1. WOW, this looks like an amazing recipe! I will most definitely have to try it! It was great running into you both. I realized I gave you the wrong link. *blank face* ooops. The link is or if it's more convenient, I followed you and you can find me there or you can click the link here. Ohhhh, maybe we can do a collaboration for Mardi Gras?! Lessaiz les bon temps rouler!

  2. i had the displeasure of making french onion soup a month ago... even the bread and stock was from scratch. it was a 3 day process. i swore up & down that if i ever had to make th soup again, i would forgo as much of the from scratch process as possible.