RECIPE: Plant-Based Caramelized Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts



Serves 6

French-style onion soup is a comfort food that can be remade without the traditional beef stock. It’s easier, healthier — and perfect for a fall or winter night. This lighter version is flavored with parmesan rinds, diced butternut squash, and a light layer of cheese melted on a sliced baguette. 


1 tablespoon butter 

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 medium onions, thinly sliced into half moons

2 garlic cloves, minced 

1 small or medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into small 1/2-inch cubes (2 to 2 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup port wine (or any leftover wine will work)

6 cups water

2 parmesan rinds

1 baguette

1/3 cup parmesan reggiano cheese

1 1/2 cups fontina cheese (or substitute a nice gruyere cheese), shredded

Salt and pepper


  1. In a thick-bottomed soup pot, heat butter and 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté onions, first on medium-high heat, and then lowered as the onions start to reduce and lose their liquid and eventually become golden brown and caramelized (sweet tasting and no longer crunchy), about 20 to 25 minutes. Keep stirring and scraping often to keep the onions from sticking and incorporating the brown bits that form on the bottom of the pot. You might need a bit more oil as you cook. Stir in the garlic and squash and sauté another 5 to 7 minutes, and then deglaze with the port wine.
  2. Add water and parmesan rinds and bring to a boil. Lower heat, partially cover, and simmer until squash is cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the rinds and season soup with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the bread into 1/4-inch slices. Brush one side with olive oil and bake for about 8 or 9 minutes until lightly crusty. Remove and set aside. When ready to eat, heat the soup. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, and top the bread with a layer of parmesan and then as much cheese as fits on top. Bake the bread in a 350°F oven until the cheese is melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and add one or two bread/cheese rounds into each bowl.

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Catherine Walthers
Catherine Walthers
Catherine Walthers, Bluedot’s food editor, is a Martha’s Vineyard-based writer, culinary instructor, and private chef. A former journalist, she is the author of 4 cookbooks, including Kale, Glorious Kale, Soups + Sides, and Raising the Salad Bar. She wrote an environmental guidebook called A Greener Boston published by Chronicle Books in 1992. Follow her on Instagram @catherine_walthers.

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