Lazy Vegetarian Recipes #4: British Onion Soup

I got paranoid that I’d run out of onions during the Christmas period.

While I am a Big Fan of onions, there’s really no sensible reason for the number of onions I bought, or the places I put them.

I found onions in on the preserves shelf, next to the preserves shelf, in the saucepan cupboard (inside the saucepans??), and in a crate of beer…?

This was more onions than I could normally use before they went off. So. I needed to cook something that would use a lot of onions.

I decided to make onion soup. I had never made onion soup before.

I asked for recipes and was directed to a lot of recipes for French Onion Soup. I’d never actually had that and was surprised to learn that it requires both bread and cheese. These would make the meal a bit more calorific than I was after, and to be honest, I didn’t really want them. So I took the French Onion recipes as a base line for how you turned onions into something soup-like, and made my own.

I’m calling it British Onion Soup. It’s like French Onion Soup only with less cheese and bread, and it’s goddamn delicious!

British Onion Soup

Makes 4-5 portions.

Takes 2-3 hours.

(I’m not estimating the price on these things anymore, partly because prices change over time, partly because it was different when I very poor and saying my meals were cheap, and partly because I don’t know how to estimate the cost of spices I already have in.)

You Will Need

  • 5 large onions (doesn’t matter what colour)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 3 Vegetarian Beef Oxo Cubes (probably other stock cubes would be fine, but I had these in and I do think the simulated beef flavour was ideal)
  • Some red wine vinegar (actual red wine would also work, but this is what I had)
  • 1 litre of water
  • A teaspoon of thyme
  • Some pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • A tablespoon of flour


Chop each onion in half and then slice it horizontally, so you get long thin semi-circles.

Heat a saucepan to a medium-high heat.

Add a generous splash of olive oil to the saucepan and progressively add the onions as you slice them.

Keep an eye on your onions. You want them to brown, so it’s good to keep the heat reasonably high. It’s OK if they burn a little as you can scrape that off the bottom and it’ll add to the flavour, but as with anything you don’t want it to burn so much that you can’t scrape it off.

It’s good to use a hard-edged spatula rather than a spoon for scraping-off-the-bottom reasons.

Chop the garlic as you like. It’s always good to crush garlic, but it’s all gonna get simmered for quite a while, so the flavour will spread anyway.

Add the garlic to the saucepan.

When the onions have been reasonably browned, add the red wine vinegar. I did not measure this. I used maybe a cup, as Americans say? I think if I had actual red wine I would have used a glass of that, but I didn’t want it to be too vinegary.

Boil a litre of water and mix 3 Oxo cubes with the water to create stock. (I did this in three goes as my measuring device didn’t go up to a litre.)

Add the stock, thyme, and pepper.

Add the flour – the recipes I read for French Onion Soup added this directly, but that made for lumps that were then annoying to mix in. I would treat this like cornflour: mix with a little cold water before you add it to the hot mixture. Then it shouldn’t clump.

Simmer until it looks more like soup than onions in brown water, stirring every now and then.

You can taste to see if you want to add anything else, but be aware that the flavour will intensify as it reduces and as you mix in any onion that browns off the bottom of the pot. I added salt early on (even though I almost never do that) and I realised later that it really didn’t need it – there was plenty in the Oxo cubes.


This has a high-ish salt content because of the stock cubes, but the only fat is the oil.

Onions are one of the richest sources of flavinoids, and antioxidant that may help prevent cancer. Flavinoids are also anti-inflammatory. The garlic is also great for this.

They’re also rich in fibre and promote gut health. They’re also a source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

A soup with other vegetables would bring a wider source of vitamins, but this is very tasty and a good way to use up onions if you need to!