Caramelized onions simmered with herbs and red wine go into this savory vegan French onion soup that’s served with toasty croutons topped with gooey cashew cheese.
There was a time when I thought this couldn’t be done, or at least it couldn’t be done well and without the use of store-bought vegan cheese, which I try to reserve for those occasions when I’m totally desperate. Anyhow, my ignorance resulted in a pie recipe, so maybe it’s a good thing? Usually things that cause pie are good.
Years later I’ve learned a bit about vegan cheese and I was able to come up with a homemade solution that actually works!
I actually tried out a bunch of variations on this recipe and I think what I came up with is the best vegan French onion soup ever.
See, initially I thought I’d do something totally different with the cheese. When I made this lasagna I was pretty impressed at how well the bechamel sauce browned on top but stayed gooey and creamy underneath, and I thought I could make a version of that that worked pretty convincingly as a vegan cheese.
But when I got down to it I had doubts, so I did a side by side smackdown comparison of the bechamel versus vegan cheese with tapioca starch. The tapioca won, big time. And by tweaking the recipe a bit I was able to come up with a cheese that browned nicely but had just the right level of gooeyness. See how good it looks? It tastes just as good!
I’ve also perfected my basic onion soup recipe: even though the whole cheese thing held me back for a while, I have been making basic cheese-free onion soup here and there, and the recipe has improved and evolved over time. My old recipe used white wine (which is great in a pinch), but red gives it that robustness you thought you could only get in onion soup made with beef broth. Soy sauce intensifies the flavor.
Oh and as for the onions, I recommend caramelizing the heck out of them. I sometimes cheat and crank the burner up to medium (which cuts the cook-time down by half or more), but keeping it in the low to medium low range will give you some intensely savory caramely flavor. It’s so worth it.
Vegan French Onion Soup
Caramelized onions simmered with herbs and red wine go into this savory vegan French onion soup that's served with toasty croutons topped with gooey cashew cheese.
For the Soup
- 1/4 cup olive oil or vegan butter
- 2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon organic granulated sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Cashew Cheese
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours and drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4-8 slices French bread or baguette
Begin making the soup by placing the onions, olive oil, and sugar into a large skillet or pot and setting it over medium-low heat. Toss the onions to coat them with oil and allow them to cook until they become very soft and caramelized, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Sauté for about 1 minute, until very fragrant.
Stir in the wine, thyme, and bay leaves. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat and allow it to cook until the wine is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and allow the mixture to continue cooking until most of the wine has cooked off, about 3 minutes more, stirring frequently.
Stir in the broth and soy sauce. Raise the heat and bring everything to a simmer. Allow it to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the soup simmers, make the cheese. Place the water, cashews, tapioca starch, miso paste, lemon juice, and salt into a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and place it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to cook at a low simmer until it become thick and stretchy and begins to pull away from the sides of the pot, about 5 minutes.
When the soup has finished simmering, remove it from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat the broiler.
Place the bread slices under the broiler and broil on each side until toasted, watching them closely to avoid burning. Remove the bread slices but leave the broiler on.
Divide the soup it among oven-safe bowls or crocks. Slather the bread slices with a thick layer of the cashew cheese and set them on top of each soup bowl. You can dollop some extra cheese on top if you have it. Lightly brush or spray the cheese with a bit of olive oil, then place the bowls under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown, watching closely to avoid burning.
If you're using a large blending device you may want to double the cheese portion of the recipe and freeze half for later.