What’s The Best Cheese for French Onion Soup?

French onion soup is a very popular delicacy the world over. If you’re wondering what kind of cheese goes best with this delicious comfort food, this article will go in depth and give you all the answers.

If you need the answer quickly: Gruyere is the best choice. However, you do have more options than that.

What is the Best Cheese for French Onion Soup?

Traditionally, French onion soup is made with Gruyere cheese.

Gruyere is a slow melting Swiss cheese with a fantastic nutty flavor profile. It’s thick and semi-hard – and unlike most traditional Swiss cheeses it has very little, if any, eye holes.

Depending on the age of the Gruyere, it’ll have a slightly different flavor. Young Gruyere is nutty and salty, while an aged Gruyere will take on a more earthy tone.

This is the best choice for French onion soup because it won’t overpower the flavor of the soup. It’s not the main star of the show. Instead of taking over the soup, it merely brings out the succulent flavor. Adding a gooey creaminess to an already delicious creamy dish.

Can You Substitute Gruyere in French Onion Soup?

If you just can’t find Gruyere at your local supermarket or grocery store, don’t worry! You can use plenty of other cheeses.

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Ideally, you’ll want to stick pretty close to the Swiss cheese family. This will mimic that ideal flavor fairly well. Jarlsberg, Raelette, and Beaufort will all be excellent substitution choices for your French onion soup.

However, if those are also unavailable, you can use mozzarella, gouda, or parmesan. In a pinch, Provolone is also a decent choice.

You can even go vegan with this recipe, and opt for a no-cheese recipe or use a vegan cheese substitute.

Type of Cheese for French Onion Soup

Because the cheese is such an important component for French onion soup, you’re gonna want to find the highest quality you can, regardless of the type of cheese you end up using.

In general, you’re gonna want a cheese that melts well. It needs to have that classic, drool-worthy “cheese pull” when you pull your spoon out of the gooey richness. At the end of the day, you can truly use any hard cheese – these will melt the best. When a hard cheese is melted, they don’t completely liquify which gives you that decadent sought-after cheese pull.

Substitutes for Gruyere in French Onion Soup

If you absolutely have to substitute your Gruyere, you can’t go wrong with another Swiss cheese. This will match the flavor and texture.

If that can’t be managed, you can use any hard cheese that has a good melting texture. The following list will go over a few good choices that shouldn’t be too tough to find.


The first option is a common one: mozzarella. This is a stretched-curd cheese, made fresh daily in many parts of Italy and the United States. It’s traditionally made with buffalo milk, but substitutes in the US usually use cow’s milk.

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With a mild, delicate flavor mozzarella will top a French onion soup nicely.


The second option here will likely do the best: gouda.

This semi-hard cheese hails from the Netherlands, and boasts an aromatic and caramel-like flavor and dense texture. Because it’s a semi-hard cheese, it has an excellent melting texture that will pair nicely with French onion soup.


Another good choice for a Gruyere substitute is parmesan cheese. You’ll definitely want to opt for fresh here, skip those little green containers of parmesan cheese powder you use to sprinkle on top of pizza or pasta.

In the United States, genuine parmigiano-reggiano cheese is tough to find. It’s often an imitation cheese labeled “parmesan”. When in doubt, simply ask the cheesemonger – they’ll be able to tell you if you’re dealing with the real thing or not. However, if all you can find is that imitation, don’t be turned off by it. It’s still a delicious and useful cheese option.

Parmesan is best when grated, and in this situation it’s no different. Shred your parmesan on top of the soup, give it a minute or two to melt and really settle in, then enjoy!


Last, but not least, is Provolone. It’s a semi-hard cheese made in Italy from cow’s milk. 

Being a semi-hard artisan cheese with a delectable nutty and salty flavor, it can seem intimidating to work with. But in truth, Provolone is as easy to use and find as it is delicious and creamy.

Final Thoughts

While traditionally French onion soup is made with Gruyere cheese, you can use any type of cheese you want for this famous comfort food.

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So long as it gets that rich and creamy melting texture, there isn’t a whole lot of ways you can go wrong here. Just grate your cheese on top of your soup and dig in.