French onion soup has been the downfall of many-a-vegetarian. It’s one of those things that lots of folks don’t really think about upon converting to a meatless lifestyle. I’ve dined at restaurants several times with veggie friends who ordered French onion soup without realizing the stuff is typically made with beef broth. It’s always a huge bummer when they find out it is.
I was pretty proud of myself when I created a vegetarian French onion soup a few years back. It wasn’t really difficult or anything – I pretty much just swapped beef broth for vegetable broth, but it still felt like a big victory. I could feed all of those vegetarian friends who longed for their old favorite.
Creating a vegan version is another story, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The problem lies in the fact that traditional French onion soup is topped with big melted cheese covered crouton, which is not quite as simple to replicate as beef broth. I figured I had two options:
(1) Omit the big cheesy crouton. Easy enough. I didn’t want to do that though. I want to create vegan foods that are have at least as much good stuff as the original version, and preferably more.
(2) Create a vegan big cheesy crouton. Tough, but probably doable, with lots of trial and error. Probably would require some unusual ingredients, which, in my experience, most people don’t feel like hunting down.
It wasn’t until recently that a third option dawned on me. I could replace the big cheesy crouton with something better. What could be better than a big cheesy crouton though? Pie!
I’d been wanting to do a vegan pot pie recipe anyway. This seemed like the perfect fit. Where you’d normally find bread and melted cheese, your French onion soup will now have a layer of flaky olive oil pastry. I also added in some seitan, mainly to add protein and balance out what otherwise seemed like a carb-heavy meal. I know seitan is a bit touchy for some, so I’ve included alternatives in the recipe. However you end up making this, you’ll have a nice little pie full of comfort with lots of holiday dinner potential.
- 2 lbs. yellow onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 16 oz. seitan*, cut into very thin strips (about 4 cups)
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (could sub all purpose)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 7 tbsp. olive oil (1 tablespoon less than ½ cup)
- 4-6 tbsp. cold water
- Place onions, olive oil, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Flip a few times to coat onions with oil. Place over medium-low heat. Allow to cook, uncovered for about 30-45 minutes, flipping occasionally, until onions are brown and caramelized.
- Push onions off to the side of pot, making a space in the center. Raise heat to medium and add seitan strips. Sauté until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
- Add flour, a bit at a time, stirring constantly, until seitan and onions are coated.
- Add wine and stir well. Raise heat to medium-high. Allow to simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
- Add broth. Stir a few times and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until broth has thickened to a gravy-like consistency.
- Stir flour and salt together in medium bowl. Stir olive oil and ¼ cup water together in separate bowl. Pour over dry ingredients and mix with a fork, adding a bit more water at a time, until dough holds together.
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Divide French onion filling among 4 to 6 ramekins**.
- Sprinkle work surface and rolling pin with flour. Divide pastry dough into 4 to 6 portions (depending on the number of ramekins). Roll each into a circle about 1 inch wider than ramekin. Place over ramekin and fold over sides. Poke a few holes in the top. Repeat with remaining dough and ramekins.
- Bake until tops are browned, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
**I used 5.5 inch, 16 oz. ramekins, which yielded 4 pot pies. Use smaller ramekins to get 5 or 6 pot pies.