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I Tried 5 Store-Bought French Onion Soups & the Best Is Rich & Onion-Packed

The next time you have a longing for this warming, winter meal but no time to make it, try one of these.
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It's hard to imagine a more satisfying meal on a cold night than a piping-hot crock of richly caramelized French onion soup. Even better if it's topped with thick, buttery croutons and gobs of melty Gruyère cheese. This is the kind of warming wintertime meal that can be eaten in satisfied silence, gobsmacked by never-ending cheese pulls and luscious, allium-packed beef broth.

Maybe simmering your own French onion soup isn't in the cards, and it's too blustery to venture to a neighborhood bistro. In that case, you're in luck, because your grocery store has plenty of soup jars to satisfy your cravings. Then again, not all store-bought French onion soups are created equal. Some should be avoided at all costs.

I sampled five store-bought, shelf-stable jars, cans, and packets of French onion soup to see which, if any, lived up to my expectations of a homemade or restaurant-quality soup. For this test, I prepared each soup according to the package instructions.

Some had to be diluted with additional water or broth. One came in a powder form that had to be reconstituted on the stove. And others were ready to enjoy straight from the jar. To keep things uniform, I did not add the traditional croutons or melted cheese to my soups for this test. But, if you're preparing any of these products at home, I strongly recommend completing the dish with a crostini and a generous serving of Gruyère.

Here is how these five store-bought French onion soups ranked in descending order.

Lipton Onion Soup & Dip Mix

lipton onion soup
Lizzy Briskin, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 cup prepared): 20 cal, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (<1 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 0 g protein

This was the only powdered soup mix in the test. It can be turned into a dip by mixing the pouch contents with sour cream or plain yogurt or simmered with water into a soup. For this test, I followed the soup-making instructions.

The look: To make the soup, mix the powder with 4 cups of water and cook it for 10 minutes. After cooking it for the total amount of time, the soup was thin, and the sparse onions floating around were still a bit crunchy like they hadn't been fully reconstituted from their dry state.

The taste: This was the thinnest, least interesting soup I tried. The dominant flavor was saltiness, and the onions were flavorless and still dry and hard in the center. I think it would be better as a dip, but it would need to be made ahead of time to let the onions fully rehydrate.

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Progresso French Onion Soup

progresso french onion
Lizzy Briskin, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 cup): 45 cal, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 690 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 2 g protein

This canned French onion soup is heavy on the broth and high on the salt content. It contains added sugars, possibly to enhance the caramelized flavors, but unfortunately, the taste falls flat.

The look: This soup is almost entirely broth. There are a few spare shreds of thick onion chunks floating around, but nothing close to the thick, veggie-packed soup you'd get at a restaurant. The ingredient list shows that the soup's dark brown color is enhanced with apple juice concentrate and hibiscus juice concentrate.

The taste: Overall, this tastes like a well-seasoned broth. It's definitely on the salty side and has little to no onion flavor. The soup does have a bit more texture and body than most store-bought broths, likely from the added beef fat.

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Campbell's Condensed French Onion Soup

campbells french onion soup
Lizzy Briskin, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (½ cup condensed soup): 70 cal, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein

Campbell's condensed French onion soup is designed to be mixed with an equal amount of water. Add the soup to a pot, and then add a can full of water and heat everything up. This gives you some flexibility with your canned soup; you can add more or less water depending on whether you want a thinner or more concentrated dish. Or you could use broth instead of water for added flavor.

The look: This canned soup contains more onions than Progresso, and they're cut into smaller, more easily spoonable pieces. The onions are deeply caramelized and rusty brown in color, just like the broth, which comes in part from added caramel color.

The taste: This soup tasted less salty than both Progresso's and Lipton's. Though the condensed soup contains more sodium, the other flavors come to the front once it's diluted with water, including savoriness from a surprise ingredient: cheddar cheese.

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Sutter Buttes French Onion Soup

sutter buttes french onion soup
Lizzy Briskin, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 cup): 170 cal, 14 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 4 g protein

This artisan jarred French onion soup has a richer flavor, texture, and nutrition profile than most of the other products I sampled for this test. The higher fat content comes from beef fat and butter, which go a long way to enhance the flavor and texture of every spoonful.

The look: This soup is heavy on the onions and has the deep, rich, almost ruby color of long-simmered beef broth. There are visible fat globs on the top of the cold soup, which disappear when heated.

The taste: I love this soup's deeply caramelized, rich flavors, which don't come from added sugar. The soup has a kick of acidity from brandy, but not quite as much as Williams Sonoma's version below. Sutter Buttes is more on the beefy, meaty side of things flavor-wise.

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Williams Sonoma French Onion Soup Starter

williams sonoma french onion soup
Lizzy Briskin, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 cup): 170 cal, 14 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 4 g protein

I found this jarred French onion soup at the kitchen goods store Williams Sonoma. Though it's called a "soup starter," the contents of the jar do not need to be amended with water or additional broth. Warm the soup with toasted bread and melty cheese for a complete dish.

The look: This soup is jam-packed with thinly sliced caramelized onions. The broth has a natural caramel-brown color and a nice shine and body. When I opened the jar, visible fat had collected at the top, indicating that this product is made with real beef and butter.

The taste: This soup tastes restaurant-quality. It's rich and deeply savory, with acidic pop from brandy and red wine vinegar. The soup has a nicely balanced flavor that's heavy on the alliums with a herby finish from thyme and marjoram. You can also taste and feel the butterfat in the mix, which enhances the almost homemade quality of this jarred soup.

Lizzy Briskin
Lizzy is a trained chef, food writer, and recipe developer for print and digital outlets including Insider, Real Simple, and the Chicago Tribune. Read more about Lizzy