Just as I’m a huge fan of many French dishes (particularly the peasant food from the south), I’ve also always loved the very classic French Onion Soup, or “Soupe a l’Oignon”, as the French say it. My mom made it at home a couple times but we mostly enjoyed it at some of the great restaurants where I grew up eating out with my parents.
When I began to eat a halal diet I experimented with a variety of quality grape juices that would be a suitable alternative for the red wine used in the traditional recipe. What I have found so far is that a high quality grape juice not-from-concentrate that has a dark color and sweet taste works best for this dish—and there’s no need to miss the wine. The grape flavor is present, but none of the alcohol is.
There are people who will inevitably ask about the alcohol burn-off rate during cooking. What I have found is that most scientists will agree that alcohol never completely burns off during the cooking process, which is why I choose not to start with alcohol at all, especially since I wouldn’t buy it to begin with and keep it in my house for any particular reason. Therefore, it’s also a great recipe for people who are struggling with addiction and desire to keep away from alcohol in all forms.
One other note: many chefs disregard the idea of substituting wine with juice because they say it’ll make a dish too sweet. Their answer is often to just leave out the wine and/or add chicken broth or water. I believe all these suggestions overlook the idea of the flavor profile we’re after here- in this case, it’s the grape- completely halal in it’s original state, so that’s what I’m after here. Of course if you’d rather not use the juice, that’s fine, too. In my opinion, it’s a lot more fun to cook and taste in the end by doing it with my recipe tweaks here.
Here are some of the basic ingredients I used in the dish: yellow onions (of course) because they cook more softly than white or red onions, concord grape juice (make sure it is gelatin-free), and whole wheat flour.
If you only have all-purpose flour, just use that. You’ll also need butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.
And French bread and gruyére cheese for the top of the soup- that makes ALL the difference, so please don’t skip that step!
The onions need to be slowly cooked for at least 20 minutes. Some classic recipes go even longer than this, but for the amount of onions I’ve included here, that just isn’t necessary.
You have to keep an eye on them carefully so they don’t burn. Once you add the flour, you can add a little of the juice to give it some moisture and allow the smooth blending and incorporation to take place. Essentially, you are making a roux to create thickness in the soup.
Next, you’ll add the concord grape juice. Another note about the juice. Apple juice will not be a good substitute for the grape juice here, and I don’t like it with white grape juice but that is closer than apple.
It looks quite deep in color, but the final result will not be so bright, so don’t worry. Besides, it’s only 1/2 cup of juice.
Next is the beef broth or water if you don’t have that. Lamb broth is too strong for this soup and chicken is too light and changes the flavor, in my opinion, which is why I prefer the alternatives. Beef broth is nice and rich and adds just the right depth of flavor in combination with the other ingredients.
You’ll let that cook for about 15-20 minutes. In the last few minutes, cut your bread fairly thick (1 inch is good) and put the bread under the broiler or in a toaster oven with a couple tablespoons of grated gruyére cheese on top. I don’t like my cheese cooked so much to the point of almost burning it, but if you like it that way, just keep an eye on the toasted bread and cheese and bake/broil it a little longer than I did.
Ladle the soup into bowls and place two pieces of bread into each bowl. Guests can ladle the soup over the bread or eat separately, but most people like to submerge the bread deep into the soup and break up the bread with a spoon, eating it all together.
Oh, yum, yum, yum. I may just have to make this again really soon before spring is here again and I have no excuse to warm up to a nice bowl of piping hot onion soup like this.
Enjoy- Bismillah and Bon Appetit!
For more information about halal substitutes in cooking, see my chart here.
For more information about halal cheese, see my post here.
- • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- • 2 tablespoons olive oil
- • 4 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
- • 2 tablespoons sea salt
- • 2 tablespoon flour
- • 1/2 cup concord grape juice not from concentrate
- • 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar
- • 4 cups beef broth (or water)
- • Freshly grated Gruyére cheese
- • ½ loaf French bread
- In a 4-1/2 quart Dutch oven, melt the butter. When the butter begins to froth, add the olive oil. Once the oil is warmed, add the onions and salt. Lower the heat to slowly cook the onions until they are both softened and browned, about 15 minutes. Sir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.
- Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon or whisk to incorporate and thicken the ingredients.
- Gently pour in the grape juice and add the sugar. Mix well then add the broth.
- Increase the heat and bring everything to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- During the last five minutes of cooking, prepare the bread. Cut the loaf into six 1-inch pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Grate cheese on top of each piece of bread and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until melted and browned.
- Ladle soup into bowl and place bread pieces on the top. Dunk the bread slightly into the soup and serve hot.
- I don't like my cheese cooked so much to the point of almost burning it, but if you like it that way, just keep an eye on the toasted bread and cheese and bake/broil it a little longer than I did.