Deep flavor in this hearty main-course soup
Caramelized onions are smooth and mild, yet intensely flavored. And they make every other ingredient they touch taste much better.
They play a starring role in this Caramelized Onion, White Bean, and Tomato Soup. We like to ladle up big bowls of it for a main course, often served with a side of crusty bread. But you could serve smaller portions as a starter.
Even if onions make you cry, these will soothe your tears.
Recipe: Caramelized Onion, White Bean, and Tomato Soup
You probably know the iconic flavor of caramelized onions from French onion soup. But they work equally well when cooked with other ingredients.
The trick to caramelizing onions is time: They require long, slow cooking to develop their dark brown color and intense flavor. They can cook mostly on their own, but you do need to check on them frequently. So it’s best to make this soup on a day when you’ll be doing other things in the kitchen.
We like to use white beans in this soup, but you could substitute another variety if you prefer. And although we think tomatoes add terrific flavor and color, you can skip them if you want and just add more stock (we like to use chicken stock, but you could substitute beef or vegetable).
Prep time for this recipe is about 20 minutes. Caramelizing the onions takes at least 45 minutes (we usually allow an hour). Then the soup will need to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes (this part can be done entirely unattended).
This recipe yields a bit over 2 quarts of soup. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. Or you can freeze them for a month or two.
- ~2 pounds onions (we like to use yellow onions, but any variety will work)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (see Notes)
- ~½ teaspoon sugar (optional, but helps promote browning)
- 2 15-ounce cans white beans
- 4 cups chicken stock (may substitute beef or vegetable stock, or water)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- additional rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)
- Peel the onions. Cut them into halves or quarters through the poles (we like to quarter them, but suit yourself). Then slice the onions very thinly (see Notes).
- Place a heavy soup cooking pot or a large saucepan over medium stovetop heat (use a cooking pot that holds at least 4 quarts). Add the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the sliced onions. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the salt and sugar, then stir to combine. Cover the pot again and cook (stirring the onions every 3 to 5 minutes) until the onions are well browned but not blackened. This process will take at least another 30 minutes, and perhaps as long as 45. Be careful not to burn the onions – if they appear to be scorching, lower the heat.
- Meanwhile, open the cans of beans and pour them into a strainer or colander placed in the kitchen sink. Rinse off the gunk the beans are stored in.
- When the onions are fully caramelized, add the chicken stock, tomatoes, beans, dried thyme, and rosemary sprig(s) to the cooking pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes (preferably 45).
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Ladle up! We like to garnish each bowl with a small sprig of fresh rosemary.
- A mandoline makes slicing onions easier – but mandolines can be scary to use (the blades are very sharp, so wear protective gloves). They’re also a pain to clean. So we usually just slice onions by hand using a sharp knife (it really doesn’t take much longer).
- Two pounds of onions, when thinly sliced, will produce an impressively large heap. But they cook down to very little as you caramelize them.
- It’s not strictly necessary to add sugar in Step 3. But it definitely helps the caramelization process.
- If the onions start to burn as you caramelize them, lowering the heat will help (but stirring them more often will help even more).
- This recipe makes a moderately thick soup. If you want a thinner consistency, add an additional 2 cups or so of stock.
- We like to use chicken stock in this soup, but beef stock works too. Or vegetable. You could also just use water, but the flavor won’t be as good.
- Feel free to vary ingredients in this recipe to suit your taste. You might want to add additional vegetables, for example. We think zucchini would work particularly well in this soup.
- Want extra garnish? A sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese would work well.
- You could also chop a handful of parsley and stir it into the soup right before serving.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Use the Farce
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Layers of flavor in this soup.”
“It’s the onions,” I said. “Layers, they have.”
“Well, Yoda, you came up with an a-peeling recipe,” said Mrs K R. “Know onions, you do.”
High praise from Mrs K R. Tearing up, I am. Must be the onions.
You may also enjoy reading about:
I've been on a soup making roll. Today is actually a little warmer, but by the weekend, this yummy bean soup would hit the spot!
Hi Liz, warmer here a bit today too, and definitely tomorrow. But we'll be craving soup again by this weekend, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love a good onion soup and your variation looks great. What a good idea to slice the onions with a mandoline. Guten Appetit!
Hi Gerlinde, mandolines are great for slicing thinly, but they do kind of scare me. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It is amazing how much a couple pounds of onions will reduce down to after caramelizing them. I always try to make an extra large batch because they are so good on/in everything. This soup is definitely a winner
I love soup the whole year round. This one looks so tasty and flavourful with caramelized onions. A great idea of using mandoline to slice the onions, John.
Hi Dahn, caramelizing does tend to make onion disappear, doesn't it? So much good flavor is left, though! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Angie, we like soup throughout the year, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Recently I bought a 12 pack of white beans, though they appear to be a little smaller than the ones in your soup. Mine are definitely destined for lots of soup with similar flavors to yours.
be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Mae, those are cannellini beans, and I find they're sometimes a bit larger than great northern beans (seems to depend on the brand, though). We're stocking up on beans, too, because soup. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I want this now
My kind of soup. Hearty, filling, and so comforting.
Hi R, you do! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, really, really comforting. We reheated some frozen last night, and it was excellent. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh yes! All my favorite ingredients in one bowl! I'm getting teary just thinking about it! I can never be without onions!
Hi Abbe, bet you ARE getting teary just thinking about it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Caramelized onions are my favorite! And you're right, it requires patience - and it is oh, so worth it! Your soup sounds delicious!
Hi Laura, good things come to them that wait. Or something like that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Those caramelized onions are making us drool! Just the list of ingredients is making us hungry. This is one nourishing and warming soup. Taking your heed on the mandolin warning. Back in the day we had a whole cooking series on how to make recipes with just 9 fingers after a severe mandolin incident. LOL
Hi Bobbi, caramelized onions always make us drool! We love 'em. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I bookmarked this for later. It's still a little warm for hearty soups here.
Being born in Northern Europe into basically meat-and-potatoes cooking with not many spices on the agenda caramelized onions were one of the few ingredients which could really provide taste ! Tho' I do not remember quite as long or slow cooking times :) ! Having spent most of my life among spice abundance and keeping away from fats as much as I can . . . perchance French onion soup and this unctuous one of yours are not on menus as much, especially with our temperatures rising . . . but it looks moreish indeed . . . perhaps before summer really strikes . . .
Mmmmmm, that’s no starter in this house! Fabulous ingredients, fabulous soup. I haven’t ever thought to use caramelized onions in a soup. They’re usually hanging out with brats! Great idea!
Hi Anne, it'll probably be another month or so until soup weather arrives for you. Until then, you can dream. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eha, we like soup in warm weather, too, but probably not this one. :-) The nice thing about taking a long time to slowly caramelize onions is they seem to develop a deeper flavor. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, oh yeah, caramelized onions and brats are a terrific pairing! :-) Thanks for the comment.
YAYm it's soup time! A hearty and delicious looking soup John. Love the caramelization of the onions. I bet that adds a tone of flavor!
Hi MJ, we LOVE soup time. :-) And yeah, the onions are wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
Caramelized onions in the soup looks totally tempting, so comforting meal for the cold nights. I too prefer to cut onions by hand, you do have much grip over the onions. I'm going to bookmark this recipe, thanks!
Hi Aarthi, this really is quite tempting. :-) Thanks for the comment.
ah yes caramelised onions are a gift from the gods. sooooo delicious! this sounds delightfully comforting and tasty KR. hubby won't let me use the mandoline in his sight, but he does chop up stuff for me. A bit warm for soup here ...
There is nothing better than homemade soup, looks so yummy and comforting!
The caramelized onions must give this soup irresistible flavor! They take a little time but are so worth it!
What a terrific soup! I love caramelized onions!
I am terrified of mandolin so still havent bought one LOL. Soup looks so comforting, perfect for a cold day. Its a rainy day over here so perfect one to make for dinner :)
Hi Sherry, you're past soup weather. But it'll get cold again, so keep this in mind. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalia, we really enjoy soup at this time of the year, and this is a good one. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelly, the onions in this are marvelous. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, who doesn't like caramelized onions?! And they're wonderful in soup. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nammi, we have a really nice one and do use it, but I'm always super, super cautious. They really are scary. Thanks for the comment.
Oh Yum! I've been on a soup kick for the past month now and yours looks so delicious! And I bet those caramelized onions bring it over the top! Will definitely have to try it but I'll save the mandolin for hubby! :)
Hi CD, definitely a good idea to let hubby handle the mandoline. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a great fall soup! Those big white beans look delicious.
This looks so comforting, John, and perfect for our (finally) upcoming cool weather. The nicest thing about this is we usually have all the ingredients on hand!
Hi Lisa, those white beans were wonderful. As was the whole dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, this was kind of designed as a pantry dish. I have a feeling we'll be continuing to do a lot of those over the next few months. Thanks for the comment.
That is a recipe to try for sure, with cold weather coming. Here it was 85 F today so not a warm soup day, but it won’t be long now. The recipe looks like it could easily be cut in half – I cook only for 1 serving now.
Hi Vagabonde, you probably could quine easily cut this in half. It does freeze well, though, so you could always freeze some for later. :-) Thanks for the comment.
A delicious looking soup!
Hi Balvinder, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Onions cooked like this are worth the tears and the time! GREG
Hi Greg, they definitely are! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Caramelized onion sounds amazing in this soup...I love all kind of soup and this one just looks so tasty...thanks for sharing the recipe John.
Have a fantastic weekend!
With the weather starting to cool little by little, I was just thinking that soup/stew weather was around the corner. As usual, you are ahead of the tide changing. ;)
Hi Juliana, it's a nice, comforting dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, we're always ahead of the tide when it comes to soup! We love the stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This one is definitely a winner. I love caramelized onions and they marry really well with legumes of all kinds. Sounds like pure comfort.
Hi Frank, it is pure comfort. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Definitely soup weather. Made a creamy minestrone which will post up tomorrow. Will have to try this one, too!
Hi Debra, I'll never turn down minestrone! A great soup. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love soup like this! It was raining all day yesterday and today its so cold. I need something warm and cozy for dinner tonight. I think I’ll give this a try!
Hi Rahul, this is perfect for rainy weather -- nice and warming. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Caramelized onions are right up there for me. Along with chocolate -- that's how much I love them. Totally agree, they make everything they touch even better. Perfect with the crusty bread. I'm in! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, best onions ever. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm impressed John, you've managed to combine my three favorite soups into one. I love onion soup, tomato is a winter got-to and bean soup anytime. I do think the "Force" was with you on this one...
Hi Ron, the Force moves in mysterious ways, doesn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Caramelized onions are wonderful, I usually like to make a bunch and freeze in snack-sized ziplock baggies to add to soups, stews and even gravies. ATK recommended adding a pinch of baking soda to help speed up the caramelization process, but it really turns the onions a horrible colour, I suppose sugar would be better but I still like letting nature do her thing and caramelize without additives!
Hi Eva, good idea to freeze the onions! Haven't done that -- should try it. Thanks for the comment.
With the temps finally dipping here in AZ, your loaded tomato soup is sounding really amazing. So cozy and delicious!
Hi Heidi, lotta flavor in this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love the sound of a hearty soup with layers of flavour! I bet the caramelised onions are absolutely delicious. I've never had the patience to make them but you've convinced me to have a go. I am totally drooling over this recipe - it sounds so so good, especially for this cold snap we're having!
Hi Katerina, the onions basically caramelize on their own, but they do need to be watched so they don't burn. Worth it, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love such soups
Hi Izaa, we do too! SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Nice and simple, looks very warming and comforting
Hi Raymund, it's very comforting. Very. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This soup sound yummy. I love French onion soup, so this would be perfect for me. Such great comfort food.
Hi Dawn, this really is wonderful comfort food. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Post a Comment