French Onion Soup, Meet French Onion Chicken!
As a recipe developer dedicated to sharing epic weeknight meals, the idea of toying around with classic French onion soup to make it a more substantial meal is one that’s been lingering in the back of my mind for a few years.
Now, I LOVE French onion soup, so don’t get me wrong…but its richness oftentimes means I really can’t eat more than a few bites before my palette needs a rest. The perfect solution? Creating an irresistible main dish centered around the cozy + cheesy flavors of the iconic soup: French Onion Chicken!
This dish marries juicy & meltingly tender chicken breasts with cheese & a bold caramelized onion sauce. Chicken makes the dish feel like a complete meal. While, a few other flavor-forward staples like Dijon mustard, thyme, & dry sherry – a nod to Ina Garten & Julia Child’s iconic French onion soup recipes! – take the caramelized onion sauce to new levels reminiscent of your favorite bowl of soup.
As a bonus, making this French onion soup chicken could not be easier since it’s a one-skillet meal. The longest part of this recipe is giving the thinly sliced yellow onions time to caramelize low & slow. It’s an easy & mostly hands-off process, & trust me – every second is worth it as the onions transform into beautifully golden, perfectly sweet caramelized goodness.
French Onion Chicken Recipe Highlights
You’ll be obsessed with this French onion chicken recipe because it’s…
- RICH & CHEESY. All the best elements of French onion soup like gooey melted Gruyère cheese & sweet caramelized onions are perfectly balanced with juicy-tender chicken & a rich sauce. So, so delicious.
- ONE-PAN WONDER. A one-skillet recipe with hardly any hands-on time – just grab 10 simple pantry staples & let the skillet do all the work!
- RESTAURANT-WORTHY! Your kitchen will smell like heaven as you make French onion soup chicken. This recipe is perfect every time & it’s great for restaurant-worthy occasions like girl’s night, date night, & Valentine’s Day.
An easy, cheesy, one-skillet wonder – comfort food at its finest! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make French Onion Chicken Skillet, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
One of the things you’ll love most about this French onion chicken recipe is the fact that the ingredients list is incredibly straightforward. You need 10 simple ingredients, most of which are probably already in your pantry…
- Chicken – While I typically gravitate towards extra-juicy chicken thighs, chicken breasts work really well in this recipe given the richness of the caramelized onion sauce. Of course, if you prefer chicken thighs or already have them on hand, you can still feel free to use them!
- Onions – & a lot of them! Onions are the star ingredient in this dish, so I use 3 large ones. Yellow onions are best here because they are fairly mild with a naturally occurring sweetness ideal for caramelizing.
- Dry sherry – This Spanish fortified wine enhances the flavor of the caramelized onions & helps the sauce come together. If sherry is a new-to-you ingredient, more info is included below!
- Other French onion essentials – Namely dijon mustard, fresh thyme, & beef stock, which infuse rich flavor into the French onion chicken sauce. A little bit of all-purpose flour thickens the sauce just a bit so it’s the perfect texture to complement the caramelized onions.
- Gruyère – Because it’s not French onion without it! Top the caramelized onion chicken with freshly grated gruyère & let it melt in the oven for the signature ooey-gooey French onion finish.
What is sherry? ⇢ Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine, meaning it is a wine that is “fortified” with a distilled spirit (most often brandy). Sherry tastes beautifully sweet-savory & is oftentimes used in classic French onion soup recipes. Its nutty flavor complements the nuttiness of gruyère cheese beautifully & I love how its crispness helps to balance the richness of caramelized onions. It’s a beautiful complement to this recipe!
Sourcing details. ⇢ Sherry is easy to find in the fortified wine section of your favorite wine or liquor store. Choose a dry sherry for making French onion soup chicken. You can look for a “Fine” or “fino” on the label to confirm that it is dry. See the Recipe Notes, below, for substitutions if you need them, but I highly encourage using sherry for the most classic French onion flavor!
How to Caramelize Onions for French Onion Chicken
Caramelizing onions is a delicate process that requires low & slow heat to extract the onion’s beautiful, natural sugars. The carbohydrates in an onion give it a fairly high natural sugar content, which is why onions are the absolute best for caramelizing! Learning how to caramelize onions is a simple way to add incredible flavor to any dish, especially French onion chicken.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
The science behind caramelized onions. ⇢ Caramelized onion chemistry is pretty straightforward! As onions cook, the heat from the pan transforms the sucrose within the cells of the onions into simpler forms of smaller sugars (glucose & fructose) that make the onions much sweeter. As the cells within the onion break down & the onions release some of their natural moisture, they also start to soften. The heat is what causes onions to caramelize into beautiful, lightly browned, sweetened versions of themselves! This takes time though & isn’t something that can be rushed. Burned onions are not caramelized onions. 🙃
The best onions to use for caramelized onions. ⇢ I think the best onions for making caramelized onions are yellow onions, which are what I like to use in this French onion chicken recipe! But the truth is most onions have enough sugars to properly caramelize – red onions, white onions, & shallots can all be caramelized. Extra-sweet varieties like Vidalia onions also work exceptionally well for caramelizing.
Note! ⇢ The onions in this French onion chicken recipe don’t reach what epicureans would probably consider “true” caramelization. Making caramelized onions can take up to 90 minutes & there’s not always that much time to spare when you’re whipping up a weeknight meal. In the interest of time, I’ve found a few ways to speed up the making of caramelized onions for French onion chicken without sacrificing any of that beautiful caramelly sweetness.
- Slice the onions into uniform thin pieces, which creates more surface area & allows the onions to have more contact with the pan & caramelize faster.
- Use other complementary ingredients like Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, & dry sherry, which help carry the onion’s rich flavor into the sauce so it tastes like they caramelized for hours!
How to Make French Onion Chicken
Despite a longer cooking time, the beauty of this recipe is that it’s actually quite hands-off! You can sit back & relax as the chicken browns, the onions caramelize, & the French onion-inspired sauce gently simmers. Prep some pantry staple ingredients & let the skillet do all the work!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Sear the chicken breasts. Melt some butter in an oven-safe skillet & season chicken generously. Add the chicken to the skillet to brown each side for just a few minutes. Why? ⇢ This quick sear adds so much rich flavor to the meat through a process called the Maillard reaction. A beautiful brown chicken is a sign of extra-delicious flavor! Set the chicken aside once browned.
Caramelize the onions. Add thinly sliced yellow onion to the same skillet used for the chicken & soften over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Low heat is essential here because it gives the onions time to slowly caramelize. Once softened, season with a little salt & continue to cook for 20-30 minutes. This is where the caramelization will really start to take place. Tip! ⇢ This step is all about patience. Pour yourself a glass of wine & relax as time takes over. As the onions caramelize, stir them more frequently to prevent burning. Keep that heat fairly low & adjust as you see fit to avoid burning.
Build the caramelized onion sauce. The caramelized onion chicken sauce is where the French onion soup-inspired flavors come into play. Start by deglazing the skillet with the sherry wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that will release from the bottom of the pan as the wine hits, & simmer until completely reduced. Why? ⇢ The alcohol in the sherry burns off as the liquid evaporates, leaving behind sherry’s amazing crisp, nutty flavors to enhance the caramelized onions. From there, simply thicken the caramelized onion sauce with a bit of flour, then add Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, & beef stock to the skillet for extra boosts of flavor.
Assemble, bake, & broil. Add the browned chicken breasts back into the skillet, nestling them in the French onion sauce, then top with grated Gruyère & transfer to the oven. The chicken will be fully cooked in about 15-20 minutes. Optional finishing touch! ⇢ Pop the skillet under the broiler to add a nice toasty golden brown finish to the cheese & the chicken. This only takes a few minutes, so keep a close eye on the chicken as it broils to prevent burning.
What to Serve with French Onion Chicken
Once the cheese reaches ooey-gooey, melty perfection & the caramelized onion sauce is bubbling, you’ll know the French onion soup chicken is ready to serve. While it’s so incredibly delicious all on its own, a simple side or two never hurts! 😉
I love serving French onion chicken alongside cheesy baguette toasts. They totally complete the French onion soup vibe & they’re super simple to throw together. Easy Cheesy Baguette Toasts ⇢ Lightly drizzle 4-8 thick-cut slices of baguette or your favorite bread with olive oil & toast under the broiler for a few minutes. Rub the toasted bread with a clove of garlic & top with a little extra gruyere & pop back under the broiler until melted & lightly browned. Pure & simple goodness! Check the Recipes Notes, below, for step-by-step instructions.
More Perfect Pairings
Another great way to serve this French onion chicken is atop a pile of comforting carbs. You can’t go wrong with mashed potatoes or egg noodles to help soak up the caramelized onion sauce. A side of gnocchi or cauliflower gnocchi would be fabulous too!
I also love to have a simple green salad alongside a boldly flavored main dish. In this case, its freshness balances the richness of French onion chicken beautifully. Dress your favorite salad greens with PWWB’s All-Purpose Vinaigrette – its bright & tangy flavor will be a perfect match for all that delicious caramelized onion chicken!
I can’t wait for you to try this One-Skillet French Onion Chicken! It’s easy, cheesy comfort food perfection & I know you’ll love it as much as we do! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
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One-Skillet Chicken Dinners
One-Skillet French Onion Chicken
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: serves 4
- Category: Main Dishes
- Method: Skillet, Stovetop
- Cuisine: French-Inspired, American
This One-Skillet French Onion Chicken recipe offers a hearty twist on the beloved French soup. Meltingly tender chicken breasts nestle in a French onion soup-inspired caramelized onion sauce. The juicy caramelized onion chicken is then topped with cheese & baked to melty perfection.
So rich in flavor yet so easy to make – perfect for date night, winter entertaining, or whenever you crave the iconic cozy flavor of French onion soup!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (see Recipe Notes, below)
- 3–4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry sherry (see Recipe Notes, below)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (roughly 8–10 sprigs or substitute with a generous pinch of dried thyme)
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock
- 3 ounces gruyère cheese, freshly grated
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, ensuring one rack is positioned in the center of the oven & a second rack is positioned directly under the broiler. Gather & prep all ingredients according to Ingredients List, above.
- Sear the chicken: Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Once the butter is melted, place the chicken in the skillet, browning for 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the seared chicken to a plate (it will not be cooked through at this point – totally fine & expected!) & set aside.
- Soften the onions: If needed, add another 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the same skillet used to sear the chicken. Reduce heat to medium-low. Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions, stirring to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes until softened & browned. (The onions shouldn’t require too much attention at this point!)
- Caramelize the onions: Once softened, season the onions with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, stirring to combine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until until tender, fragrant, & deeply browned, 20-30 minutes more. Helpful hints: Be sure to adjust heat as needed to allow the onions to caramelize slowly & prevent burning. The closer the onions get to reaching caramelization, the more often you will want to stir to promote even browning & prevent burning.
- Build the caramelized onion sauce: Once caramelized, deglaze the skillet. Slowly pour in the sherry wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits formed on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the sherry to a simmer, then simmer 4-5 minutes or until reduced completely. Add the flour, Dijon mustard, & thyme to the skillet, stirring to coat the onions, then add in the beef stock. Bring to a simmer.
- Finish the French onion chicken: Nestle the browned chicken from Step 2 into the caramelized onion sauce. Spoon some of the onion sauce over top the chicken breasts, then sprinkle the grated cheese over top. Transfer the skillet to the center rack of the preheated oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Optional: Finish under the broiler: For a toasty golden brown finish, transfer the skillet to the oven rack under the broiler & turn the broiler on high. Broil 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is as browned as you’d like – be sure to keep a close eye on the chicken as it broils to prevent burning.
- Serve: Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Allow to cool slightly, then serve with cheesy toasts (see Recipe Notes, below), mashed potatoes, or a simple green salad. Enjoy!
- Simple add-on ⇢ Cheesy Baguette Toasts: For a simple, French onion-inspired finishing touch, serve your chicken with broiled cheesy toasts. Lightly drizzle 4-8 thick-cut slices of baguette or your favorite bread with olive oil. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 2-3 minutes, until toasty but not burnt. Rub each piece of toasted bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Place the bread back on the baking sheet & top with 2-4 ounces grated gruyère (or cheese of choice). Broil 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted & lightly browned – be sure to keep a close eye on the toasts as they broil to prevent burning.
- Ingredient Notes:
- Chicken breasts vs thighs: You can use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this French onion chicken skillet. While I typically gravitate towards thighs (they’re so much more flavorful & juicier!), I am partial to chicken breasts for this particular recipe.
- Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine, meaning it is a wine that is “fortified” with a distilled spirit, most often fortified with brandy. While sherry ranges in style, you will want to use dry sherry (often labeled “Fine” or “fino“) for this recipe. Dry sherry is often used in French onion soup (just take a look at Julia Childs’ & Ina Garten’s iconic recipes!), as its nutty flavor complements the nuttiness of gruyère cheese & its crispness helps cut through the rich flavor of the caramelly onions. You should be able to find dry sherry easily in the fortified wine section at your favorite wine or liquor shop. If you cannot find dry sherry, you can substitute with dry vermouth or dry, unoaked white wine for this recipe. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with extra beef stock.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover French onion chicken will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Simply reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this French onion chicken skillet comes from prepping the onions. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight into cooking during the week. Simply peel & thinly slice 2 large yellow onions. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (>10 minutes active)
Keywords: French onion chicken, chicken dinner recipes, date night recipes
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
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This recipe was amazing! The instructions were easy to follow and the substitution suggestions for the sherry in the recipe notes was really appreciated, as I only had vermouth on hand. This recipe was a huge hit and will definitely be repeated!!
Thanks Kaitlyn! So glad you enjoyed & that the substitutions were helpful – we love this one too!! Thank you for dropping a comment!
The flavors in French onion chicken are great and the educational notes, along with clear instructions made this a fun dinner treat! The meal came together more easily than I expected too🤗
We’ll enjoy this meal again!!