Published: December 8, 2015

    Three Tasty French Soups to Warm your Winter, Plus Broth!

    The French know nothing compares to a hot bowl of soup and fresh bread on a chilly winter’s day, and their soups — whether chucky or pureed — always incorporate incredibly fresh ingredients.

    Vegetable broth makes up the base of many French soups but not the stale, tasteless canned varieties. For a truly great soup, you have to make your own broth using filtered water to bring out and highlight the vegetables’ flavors. Fortunately, this is much easier than it sounds, so before we dive into the soups, here’s a recipe for a great-tasting vegetable broth:

    Vegetable Broth

    This broth makes 4 cups but can easily be doubled for recipes such as the French Onion Soup we’ve included below.


    • 10 cups filtered water
    • 1 medium onion, unpeeled and studded with 4 cloves
    • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
    • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and slightly bruised
    • 2 leeks, trimmed and cut into chunks
    • 2 medium new red potatoes, halved
    • 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
    • 2 ribs of celery with leaves, cut into large chunks
    • 8 mushrooms, halved
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 sprigs fresh dill
    • 8 black peppercorns
    • 8 sprigs fresh parsley
    • 1 tsp. coarse salt


    Add water and all ingredients into a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Adjust seasonings to taste, and simmer another 30 minutes. Strain the broth, discarding the bay leaf. Vegetables can be retained to eat or pureed for thickening soups or sauces. Let cool to room temperature. Broth can be refrigerated for four days or frozen.

    French Lentil Soup

    Thick, filling, and flavorful, serve this soup with chunks of fresh bread torn right from the loaf.


    • 2 TB. extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups chopped onions
    • 1 cup chopped celery stalks
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 4 cups vegetable broth made with filtered water
    • 1¼ cups lentils, rinsed and drained
    • 1 (14½-oz.) can diced tomatoes in juice
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Balsamic vinegar, to taste


    Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Sauté for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown.

    Add the vegetable broth, lentils, and diced tomatoes with juice to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

    Scoop 2 cups of the soup (mostly the solid parts) into a blender and puree. Return puree to the soup, thinning with more vegetable juice if necessary. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

    Butternut Squash Soup

    With fall’s harvest of squashes easily available, early winter’s a wonderful time to make this butternut squash-based delight.

    • 2 TB. butter
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
    • 1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
    • ½ tsp. cumin
    • ¼ tsp. black pepper
    • 1 (2-lb.) butternut squash, diced into ½-inch cubes
    • 1 large potato, peeled and diced in ½-inch cubes
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 2 TB. tomato paste
    • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
    • cup heavy cream
    • Salt, to taste


    Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat (a Dutch oven works perfectly). Add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

    Add the squash and potato, stirring to combine with the vegetable mixture. Now add the stock, tomato paste, and lemon juice. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the veggies are just tender.

    Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, and then puree in small batches. Place the smooth soup back on the heat and stir in the cream, seasoning with salt and pepper. Warm through and serve.

    French Onion Soup

    This classic recipe calls for double the vegetable base, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll also need eight 10–12 ounce heatproof bowls. This soup can be made up to two days in advance.


    • 4 TB. unsalted butter
    • 6 large onions, thinly sliced
    • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • Sea salt and pepper
    • ½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
    • 1 TB. white wine vinegar
    • 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 8 cups vegetable stock
    • 8 slices ¼” thick French bread, toasted
    • 8 oz. sliced Conte cheese or Gruyère

    In a large heavy pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, shallots, and garlic with a seasoning of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and a dark brown. This will take 60–70 minutes.

    Add the wine or vermouth with the vinegar, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 3 minutes, until slightly reduced. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add to the pot with the vegetable broth. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat again, and simmer until reduced to 8 cups. This will take 35–40 minutes.

    Discard the herb bundle and preheat the oven to 460 degrees. Place the ovenproof bowls in a large-rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills. Pour in the soup and top with bread and cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbling and golden brown, about 6–8 minutes.