I'm reading recipes for slow cooker onion soup (and onion soup in general). There seems to be two camps- cook the onions with broth (~8 hours), cook the onions without broth (~6 hours) and add it in for the last leg of cooking (~2 hours)

what differences can be expected with these two techniques?

  • Cook the onions without the broth for 6 hours? – paparazzo Sep 13 at 14:56
  • yes- throw them in a slow cooker on high and wait 6 hours. They have a bit of their own moisture, so it's not quite a 'dry heat' situation – Mohammad Athar Sep 13 at 15:11
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The issue is caramelization-- by cooking onions fairly slowly for a long period of time you can bring out the natural sweetness of the onions and caramelize the natural sugars present in the vegetable. Onion soup (assuming you mean a French onion soup kind of onion soup) starts with caramelized onions and then adds broth, simmers, tops with bread/croutons and cheese, and bakes til bubbly and browned for a delicious soup that is rich, lightly sweet, and sometimes a little salty.

Making onion soup in a slow cooker is usually done for convenience, as the process of caramelizing the onions can be time consuming and requires frequent stirring (so it isn't idle time as with a crock pot or slow cooker). This process is important for the richer, sweeter flavor it imparts to the soup.

The camp that adds onions alone to the pot and cooks for a while before adding broth is attempting to caramelize the onions, albeit in a more hands-off way, which would give a soup that is very close to the traditional method.

The recipes that simply add raw onions and broth immediately are forgoing the depth of flavor provided by caramelizing the onions first-- unless they have indicated that the onions should be caramelized before being added to the slow cooker, there's just no way to replicate that flavor, so soups that start this way will have a less developed (not necessarily weaker-- but probably closer to raw onion than sweet caramelized onion) onion flavor.

Personally, I find the broth-later versions to give a better result, richer and with more flavor.

  • caramelizing and depth sound about right. Thanks! – Mohammad Athar Sep 13 at 17:29

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