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Onion Soup

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

If you are familiar with French onion soup, you might like this English variant. Both versions rely on dairy combined with onions to carry the flavor, but the English recipe uses an egg yolk liaison and a splash of vinegar to add richness and depth.

18th Century

Take half a pound of butter, put it into a stew pan on the fire, let it all melt, and boil it till it has done making any noise; then have ready ten or a dozen middling onions peeled and cut small, throw them into the butter, and let them fry a quarter of an hour; then shake in a little flour, and stir them round; shake your pan and let them do a few minutes longer; then pour in a quart or three pints of boiling water, stir them round; take a good piece of upper crust, the stalest bread you have, about as big as the top of a penny loaf cut small, and throw it in. Season with salt to your palate. Let it boil ten minutes stirring it often; then take it off the fire, and have ready the yolks of two eggs beat fine , with half a spoonful of vinegar; mix some of the soup with them, then stir it into your soup, and mix it well, and pour it into your dish. This is a delicious dish.

— Glasse, Hannah. “The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy”

21st Century


  • ½ lb. butter
  • 8 small onions (2” diameter)
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • salt to taste


  1. Peel and chop the onions in a ¼ inch dice. Boil the water in a medium stew pan. Put the butter into a large stew pan (4 quart size is good) over a medium high heat.
  2. Let the butter sizzle a little without burning. Add your onions and cook them for about 15 minutes until translucent. Stir in the flour and thoroughly incorporate it into the onions.
  3. Cook about another 5 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir it well. Add in your bread crumbs and blend everything thoroughly.
  4. Season with the salt to your taste. Let it cook another 10 minutes or so.
  5. In a small bowl whisk up the egg yolks with the vinegar.
  6. Temper the eggs to prevent them from scrambling by adding a couple big spoonfuls of soup to the yolks very slowing while stirring. Then, very slowly add that mixture to the rest of the soup while stirring and blending it well.
  7. Once the egg mixture has been absorbed and the soup is smooth, it is ready to be dished.

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