What Is the Best Cheese for French Onion Soup? + Alternatives
If we are to talk about classic soups, it’s hard to beat French onion for its delicious combination of sweet and savory flavors. But what about the cheese? Finding the best cheese for French onion soup can be daunting since there are so many options! Still, everyone has their favorite that they claim is the best — and so do I. But even though my favorite may not be your favorite, there are always some other types of cheese that make great alternatives.
As you can guess, in the following article, I’ll explore the various types of cheese that you can use in French onion soup and give you my top picks for bringing out the best flavor in your recipe. I’ll also discuss some cheeses that are definitely not worth considering when making a delicious bowl of French onion soup. So, if you want to up your soup game, keep reading!
What Kind of Cheese to Use for French Onion Soup?
When it comes to making a delicious bowl of French onion soup, the right cheese matters, but with so many types of cheese on the market, it can be challenging to decide which is best. Here’s a quick guide to help you find the perfect cheese for your next French onion soup bowl.
First and foremost, Gruyere is typically considered the best option for French onion soup. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is known for its meltability. Of course, there are also numerous substitutes for Gruyere; what’s important is for them to grate and melt well, be creamy, and not overpower the taste of onions.
No matter which type you choose, the proper melting technique is key to achieving the perfect balance between stringy and clumpy consistency. All these cheeses pack their own unique flavors that will bring your French onion soup to the next level!
Provolone is one of French onion soup’s most commonly used cheeses due to its creamy texture and mild flavor. It’s relatively mild, so it won’t overpower the other flavors of the soup while also adding excellent depth and richness. Plus, provolone melts quickly and evenly, giving your soup a nice stringy texture that can really bring out its flavor.
It’s also my ever-favorite cheese to use for the occasion. It really makes a bowl of soup even more delicious.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to use too much provolone – a small amount can add a lot of flavor and richness to your soup! So just be sure not to add too much – about 1/4 cup should do the trick nicely.
One of my absolute favorite cheeses for this soup is mozzarella.
Not only does it melt beautifully and give the dish a creamy consistency, but it also has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with the onions, broth, and seasonings. Plus, it adds an extra layer of richness without overpowering any other flavors.
It’s best to use freshly grated mozzarella, but you can undoubtedly use pre-grated if that’s what you have on hand. And if you want to give your soup an extra flavor boost, try adding some parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese as well.
Monterey Jack could be the perfect candidate for your soup if you’re looking for cheese with a mild and creamy flavor. This type of cheese has a mild, slightly salty flavor accompanied by a somewhat tangy sharpness from the lactic acid in the cheese. It will also melt very quickly, making it perfect for creating an indulgent, creamy soup.
Another great thing about Monterey Jack is that it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other cheese types, so you can get a lot of flavor for your dollar! And because it’s so mild in taste, it won’t overpower the other flavors of your soup.
So if you’re looking for a good all-rounder cheese to add to your French onion soup that is both tasty and budget-friendly, Monterey Jack should definitely be on your list.
Fontina is a semi-hard Italian cheese with a rich flavor that adds a unique depth to French onion soup. It’s a cheese that melts easily, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture. The soup’s flavor becomes even more robust and savory when this cheese is used. Since Fontina has a slightly fruity taste, it pairs perfectly with fruits like apples or pears to add accents of sweetness to the mix.
It may be challenging to find Fontina at some grocery stores, so you may need to visit specialty stores to get your hands on some. I like it so much that I would really go the extra mile for it!
Still, a word of caution: because it melts so easily, you’ll want to use Fontina towards the end of the cooking process; otherwise, it can dissolve fully in the soup.
Another best cheese option for French onion soup is definitely Beaufort. Beaufort is an Alpine cheese, which makes it perfect for soup because of its dense texture, creamy mouthfeel, and slightly sweet flavor. It’s also very high in fat content, so your soup will be creamy while still keeping its velvety texture, and that slightly nutty taste compliments all the flavors of the onion soup beautifully.
Aside from adding Beaufort to your soup as it is (which is delicious enough!), you can also take it up a notch by grating Beaufort over top of your soup for added texture and a beautiful presentation. The rich flavor of this cheese will give your French onion soup an extra dimension that you will never be able to replicate with any other type of cheese!
Regarding cheese and soups, there’s no denying that Swiss is a classic. Aged Swiss cheese has an undeniably nutty, complex flavor, so it’s the perfect addition to French onion soup. The flavor subtly complements the earthy sweetness of caramelized onions.
Plus, because of its melting properties, Swiss makes for the perfect topping for a French onion soup that looks as good as it tastes. When melted just right, you get those beautiful strings of cheese that will make people want to dive into your soup.
If you want something more pungent and bold but still creamy like Swiss, I particularly like Jarlsberg — it’s a great Swiss alternative with a flavorful, nutty kick that won’t fail to hit the spot.
Raclette is a Swiss semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that is becoming increasingly popular and can be a delicious addition to your French onion soup, especially due to its orange-brown rind. Raclette has a buttery taste that pairs perfectly with the caramelized onions in soups. It’s also very mild and has a slightly sweet flavor, which gives it a little added depth of flavor.
When melting, the raclette becomes creamy, making it ideal for creating an alluring texture. Additionally, the raclette typically comes in big blocks, which makes it suitable for shredding and adding to your soup. And since raclette is not too salty or assertive, it won’t overpower the other flavors in your French onion soup.
Raclette can be hard to find, depending on where you live, but if you come across it, definitely give it a try!
Gouda is a cheese with a mild, nutty flavor and a dense texture. It’s often used in French onion soup as it adds complexity without being overpowering. The best Gouda to use for French onion soup is one that has been aged for at least one year. The aging process adds a more sharp yet buttery flavor to the cheese, intensifying when it melts.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Gouda for your French onion soup, consider aged cheddar since it has a sharp, tangy flavor and a firmer texture than Gouda.
Parmesan cheese is often the default for French onion soup, and it’s easy to see why: its sharp, nutty flavor and grainy texture make it a fan favorite. Add some Parmesan shavings to your French onion soup, and you’ll have an instant flavor boost!
But if you’re looking for something a bit different, there are several other options. Since Parmesan has a unique flavor that can be overwhelming, if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other cheeses that will do the job.
Although cheese might be classic, there are some alternatives if you want to switch things up and still have a delicious soup. Here are a few ideas on how to turn up the flavor in your French onion soup without cheese:
- Boursin is a garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese that can be used as an alternative to grated cheese in French onion soup. You can also find it in different flavors so you can choose the one that best fits your taste.
- Soy cheese is an excellent substitute for vegan or dairy-free diets because it melts just like regular cheese, without the animal byproduct. Plus, you can get it in different varieties like cheddar, mozzarella, and even cream cheese!
- Nutritional yeast is a complete protein packed with B vitamins, minerals, and fiber that’s amazing for soups or sauces. You can add it to the soup for a nutty and savory flavor boost.
- If you want to skip the dairy altogether, dairy-free yogurt cream sauce is a light but flavorful replacement to add creamy texture without the pungent flavor of the cheese. If you make your own version at home, choose oat or almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
What Types of Cheese Should NOT Be Used in French Onion Soup?
When it comes to making the perfect French onion soup, you should avoid a few types of cheese.
First, avoid soft cheese. While the melting quality of soft cheese would work really great in this dish, the flavor of soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert is too delicate for soup and won’t stand up to the intense flavors of onion and broth.
Second, steer clear of aged cheese, like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano. These hard cheeses may have a strong and tangy flavor on their own, but they don’t melt as easily as others do and may become crumbly once they hit hot liquid.
Lastly, you should also avoid pungent cheese like blue cheese or Gorgonzola that have too much of a kick — these types can break down when heated, and their bold flavors will overpower the entire dish.
By choosing the right type of cheese for French onion soup, you can craft a savory and delicious dish that will surely please any palate!