French onion soup is a hearty meal in itself, with bold flavors and rich ingredients.
When choosing a cheese to add to this wholesome soup, it’s essential to choose flavors that complement and not compete with the flavors of the soup.
So, here are some of the best cheese varieties to melt on top of the soup or used to add to bread or croutons.
Which Cheese Is Best for French Onion Soup?
Melted cheese adds a luscious and delicious flourish to French onion soup.
Crispy hot croutons with melted cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich can also be a wonderful addition to this dish.
However, cheese has strong flavors, and not all varieties complement the bold flavors of the soup.
So, here are the varieties that will best complement French soup.
Classic French onion soup is incomplete without melted Gruyere on the crouton.
Gruyere transforms even the simplest French onion soup recipe into one of bistro quality.
Although you can substitute Gruyere with other types of cheese, it’s impossible to replicate the rich nuttiness and melty quality of this cheese.
Gruyere is a firm yellow Swiss cheese that has been aged for six months or more.
It’s made from cow’s milk and has tiny holes on the surface.
This cheese is very appealing as a topping for various dishes because it changes into a rich and creamy, gooey fondue when heated.
It spreads easily and creates a beautiful coating for the underlying ingredients while also adding delicious earthy flavors to the dish.
Provolone is an excellent choice for French onion soup because of its beautiful texture and rich flavors.
This aged Italian cheese is made from stretched curd, and it has good pull quality.
The complex earthy and buttery flavor with nutty tones works well with the main ingredients like beef and onion in French soup.
Provolone is creamy, and adding it makes the soup more indulgent.
When melted, it develops a stretchy quality that adds an exciting texture to the soup.
Provolone develops sharper flavors when it ages.
The older the Provolone cheese is, the better it tastes with French onion soup.
3. Swiss Cheese
The flavors of Swiss cheese resemble Gruyere which is the classic choice for traditional French onion soup recipes.
Hence, it will also work well as a topping or crouton coating for the soup.
However, Swiss cheese isn’t as melty as Gruyere and doesn’t add the same creaminess to the soup.
The flavors of Swiss cheese will slightly differ by age and variety.
However, most varieties have several common characteristics.
Swiss cheese is generally sharp, slightly sweet, and nutty.
It will mostly have holes on the surface from the fermentation process.
This cheese is generally drier than other varieties, and you can crumble, grate, or add shavings of it to the soup.
Depending on your flavor and texture preferences, you can choose between soft and hard Swiss cheese varieties.
You can also mix more than one variety of Swiss cheese to create a complex flavor for the crouton topping.
Fontina cheese has a subtle buttery and nutty aroma that beautifully complements the bold and rich flavors of beef broth and caramelized onions in French onion soup.
Hence, it’s a great addition to the soup.
This cheese also melts well, making it good for fondue and cheesy dips.
This is an added benefit of using fontina cheese for French onion soup.
When you use it as a topping for the soup and warm it, fontina forms an incredibly lush and creamy coating over the crouton layer.
Fontina cheese is semi-soft and derived from cow’s milk.
It has a pale yellow or white color. The longer you leave this cheese to mature, the more sharpness it develops.
So, if you use mature fontina cheese in your onion soup, it will add a distinct pungency and delicious nutty flavor to the dish.
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Mozzarella cheese is a very versatile soft Italian cheese that goes well with most dishes because of its mellow flavors and stringy texture.
Mozzarella doesn’t have strong or pungent flavors.
Hence, it works well with most ingredients.
It heats well and spreads out, forming a uniform stringy coating over the base.
Hence, this cheese is widely chosen as a topping for pizzas and pasta bakes.
The same property also makes it an attractive choice for pastrami and the crouton topping of French onion soup.
The saltiness and subtle creamy flavor of mozzarella don’t compete with the strong and rich flavors of beef broth or caramelized onions.
It will instead add a delicate creaminess and enhance the visual appeal of this dish.
One factor to remember is that mozzarella is a moist cheese, and soft mozzarella can be very runny.
Adding fresh mozzarella that was stored in water can make your soup very watery.
To avoid this issue, it’s best to use grated or refrigerated mozzarella as the topping for French onion soup.
6. Monterey Jack
Monterey Jack is a delicious American cheese with mild but distinct flavors.
This semi-hard cheese is made from cow’s milk. The main flavors of this cheese are saltiness and tanginess.
Neither are overpowering, and these flavors mellow when mixed with other ingredients.
Monterey Jack has good melting properties and a good amount of moisture.
So, it doesn’t dry out but adds a lush creaminess when added to a dish.
Monterey Jack is widely used as a topping for soups because it allows the star ingredients of the dish to shine through.
You can add it to French onion soup or use it in a grilled sandwich to have with your soup.
Flavored and spicy versions of Monterey Jack cheese are also available.
You can consider using these with your French onion soup if you want to infuse more flavor and spice into your dish.
Parmesan cheese isn’t a typical choice for French onion soup.
However, it’s a good cheese to add to the soup, especially if you’re mixing different types of cheese to create a complex cheesy garnish.
Even a small dusting of Parmesan can elevate the flavor of the dish.
Parmesan is a hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk.
It’s an aged cheese that has been cured for at least a year to achieve its distinct flavor and unique texture.
This cheese is usually grated, or its shavings are added to different dishes. It’s not easy to slice or crumble.
Parmesan has a delicious nutty and fruity flavor that makes it a good addition to pasta, soups, and other traditional European dishes.
It’s a staple in Italian cooking, where it’s an indispensable component of pasta, risotto, and soup recipes.
The flavors of this cheese complement the meaty richness of French onion soup, making it a good addition to the recipe.
Jarlsberg is a semi-soft cheese made from partly skimmed cow’s milk.
It has a mild, nutty flavor that resembles Gouda and Emmental cheese.
However, it’s milder and somewhat sweeter than either of them.
Since the flavors are somewhat similar to Swiss cheese, it’s a good addition to French onion soup.
Like Swiss cheese, Jarlsberg also has tiny holes that develop during the fermentation process of the cheese.
This cheese is good for eating on its own.
It’s also widely served on cheese platters with fruits and crackers.
Jarlsberg cheese melts well, making it a good choice for sandwiches, pizza, and pasta.
You can use it alone or with other types of cheese for the crouton topping of a French onion soup.
This cheese will melt beautifully and form a creamy garnish that makes French onion soup more indulgent.