Creamy Chicken Soup With Caramelized Onions. Photo by Rey Lopez for The Washington Post

I’d been going through a dry spell, lacking in kitchen inspiration and feeling a bit blue, when it hit me: What I wanted was comfort food. I was itching for a creamy soup (with actual cream in it!), but I wanted it to be as familiar and easy to make as chicken soup with the charm of a bubbling bowl of cheese-laden French onion. That’s how this creamy chicken soup was born.

It gets its base flavor from caramelized onions, but if you’re imagining that you’ll have to stand over the stove for an hour, stirring sliced onions, you can squash that dreaded thought. I’ve worked in a bit of a cheat for coaxing caramelized flavor out of deeply browned onions.

What you do is start with diced rather than sliced onions – the extra surface area helps them caramelize faster. Then, you cook them over relatively high heat – medium-high. As soon as they start to turn dark brown, you add a splash of wine. Keep cooking and stirring, allowing the now-boiling liquid to soften the onions and, within minutes, evaporate. The sugar in the wine, which is now absorbed by the onions, will encourage the allium to caramelize further. Add another splash of wine to repeat the process, and you’ll end up with onions the color of mahogany; soft, shiny and sweet.

Chicken broth and a potato, cut into cubes, stretch those onions into a soup. Pureed potato gives the soup body, and a small amount of cream adds richness. Then, chicken, sauteed and pulled into bite-size pieces, gets stirred in.

The final touch is a handful of shredded gruyere cheese. It rounds out the flavors and adds a sharp funk. As you take a bite, thin, melty strands of cheese will follow each spoonful, reminiscent of a bowl of French onion. But without the hours-long cook time and stint under a broiler.

I don’t like to pick favorites when it comes to recipes, but I’ve been making this on repeat – especially on cold, gloomy days when the sun sets too early. It’s become a welcome respite from whatever the day has thrown my way.


Creamy Chicken Soup With Caramelized Onions

2 servings (makes a generous 4 cups)

This rich and creamy soup leans on caramelized onions and gruyere cheese for flavor, potatoes for body and just a little bit of heavy cream for silkiness. The onions caramelize more quickly because they’re diced, rather than sliced. A sprinkling of chives before serving brings the onion flavor forward.

Instead of the chicken breast, feel free to use any cooked or leftover chicken you may have, such as rotisserie.

To make this soup vegetarian, omit the chicken and use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock. Along with the potatoes, add a 15-ounce can of (drained and rinsed) cannellini or navy beans.

To make this soup vegan, follow the instructions to make it vegetarian and also omit the cream and cheese. Add 2 teaspoons of white miso before pureeing the soup.


No wine around? Use water plus a tablespoon of apple cider or white wine vinegar. Or, use more broth.

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (8 to 10 ounces), patted dry
1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
Freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small (6 ounces) yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc, divided
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably no-salt-added
1 large Yukon Gold potato (12 ounces), peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Gruyère cheese
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

Lightly season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Lay the chicken into the pan so that it falls away from you, and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn over, and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more, or until cooked through with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board.

Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown and stick to the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Add a splash of the wine and stir up any brown bits. Continue cooking until the onions turn dark brown, about 4 minutes more. Add the remaining wine and, again, stir up any browned bits. Add the broth and potatoes, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using your fingers, pull the chicken into bite-size pieces.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove the pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup on high speed until mostly smooth. (Or, using a standing blender, puree the soup in batches. Don’t overblend or it may become gluey.) Stir in the pulled chicken and cream. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper, bearing in mind that the cheese will also add saltiness. Just before serving, stir in the cheese.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the chives and more pepper, if desired, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving (2 cups) | Calories: 691; Total Fat: 40 g; Saturated Fat: 13 g; Cholesterol: 150 mg; Sodium: 540 mg; Carbohydrates: 39 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 7 g; Protein: 38 g

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