Classic French soup originated – surprise, surprise – in 18th century France. It’s now known and loved the world over.
It is simple to cook and comforting but lavish at the same time. The soup is perfect for a warming family dinner in winter yet smart enough for a dinner party starter.
Balancing flavors in your cooking takes practice and patience. When all 5 taste elements of salty, sweet, sour, umami, and bitter are in perfect balance, the dish will be perfectly flavored.
We’ll focus here on the principles of balancing sweetness. You can do this by slightly increasing 3 elements: saltiness, bitterness, and sourness.
To balance your sweet soup, a touch more salt can make all the difference. Be careful, though. Too much, and this will ruin your soup. Sourness or acidity is key, and this, plus a touch of bitterness, will come from your wine or vinegar and the herbs.
The soup contains onions (always caramelized) with a rich meat stock, herbs (usually thyme and bay), and white wine. It is served with a piece of bread and melted cheese on top of it.
Despite its deceptively simple list of ingredients, it can be not easy to balance the flavors, and many people complain that theirs is just too sweet.
The caramelized onions, butter for frying them in, and wine all lend sweetness to the dish. If you’re having problems with your French onion soup being too sweet, read on, and we’ll help you fix the problem.
Why Is My French Onion Soup Too Sweet?
The reason French onion soup tends towards sweetness is that most of the ingredients contain sugar. Onions, wine, and even butter all contain sugars, so the trick is to choose varieties that are less sweet.
1. Do not use a sweet onion variety
Remember that caramelizing the onions enhances their sweetness. However, you cannot omit this step because it’s vital for the flavor and character of the dish.
Be sure not to use a sweet onion variety like Vidalia. Ordinary yellow onions are best to help you keep the sweetness in check.
2. Use acidic ingredients to balance the sweetness
Acidic ingredients help balance out the sweetness of the onions and butter. You can add a spoonful of lemon or lime juice at the end of cooking.
This will balance out the sweetness but will add a new flavor to the soup. If you want to avoid this, rather use wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar based on your taste.
You can also use sherry, but use a dry one and add it only at the end of the cooking time.
Check that your wine variety isn’t a sweet one, such as late harvest. Go for a citrusy, acidic chardonnay or sauvignon blanc instead.
3. Use salt
Surprisingly, adding a touch more salt will also reduce the sweetness of the soup. Be careful, though!
4. Check Your Stock
Some brands of boxed stock are very sweet. It’s always best to make your own broth for a rich depth of flavor. You can control the sweetness and salt content, too, if you make your own.
When making the stock, you can also add a touch of bitterness with herbs such as thyme and rosemary. This will help balance the sweetness later.
Don’t despair if your first batch of French onion soup is too sweet. You can always use it as a base for another type of soup like beefy vegetable soup.
Alternatively, use it as a stock for a casserole instead of throwing it away. Keep trying because this soup is worth getting right. It’s a classic that every cook should have under their hat. Your family and guests will love it.
We hope our tips have been helpful. Bon appetit!