George Washington’s Onion Soup

February 17, 2017

This delicious onion soup is a modern adaptation from an 18th century original, obtained from Mt. Vernon’s (George Washington’s estate) collection of recipes. According to it’s website, the recipe was created by Nancy Crump, a culinary historian, for the book Dining with the Washington’s. We’ve included our own revisions to the recipe below. 

President’s Day isn’t typically known for it’s food fanfare, like so many other national holidays are. So, you might not think to plan a holiday-specific menu for the long weekend. After digging through some of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s favorite foods, you might want to change your outlook on your President’s Day eats. Those men, whose day we celebrate, ate pretty well. The best part about it, some of those dishes that likely took hours to make are now pretty simple with their modern day revisions. Like this one. George Washington’s favorite onion soup is reminiscent of a slightly thicker French Onion Soup and takes less than 30 minutes to whip together.

I cut the recipe in half when I made it, but after my first bowl, I wished I’d made the whole thing. It was delicious. The balsamic vinegar gives it just a touch of sweetened punch that leaves your mouth immediately wanting to lick the entire bowl clean. And maybe I did.
George Washington onion soup


George and Martha Washington were well known for entertaining and feeding thousands of guests over the years at Mt. Vernon. Some of the more popular recipes they dished up can be found on Mt. Vernon’s website. While cherries often come to mind when we think of George Washington, there was a lot more to his palate. He was known for preferring simple meals over elaborate ones, and was particularly fond of fish, fruits and nuts. He would apparently buy hazelnuts by the barrel. His love for nuts, and cracking them in his mouth, left him with only one natural tooth according to the Smithsonian Institute.



1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter*
2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (7 to 8 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 cups Basic Beef Stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice bread, toasted and diced**
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Ground black pepper


*You may use olive oil in place of the butter, for a healthier, lower cholesterol dish.

**We used sour dough bread for an extra dimension of flavor



  1. Melt the butter (or olive oil) in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onions, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until they are soft and caramelized. Stir often to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Add the flour, stirring to coat the onions, and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. While onions are cooking, combine the water and stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the onions are ready, mix them into the hot stock, stirring until well combined.
  3. Pour a little of the hot stock into the skillet and stir, scraping up any onion particles that remain. Pour the stock into the stock and onions, and add the salt.
  4. Stir in the diced toast, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Combine the egg yolks and vinegar. Gradually blend 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolk-and-vinegar mixture, stirring constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Stir the mixture into the soup, and simmer for several minutes until the soup thickens just slightly, stirring constantly. Again, do not let the soup boil, or the egg yolks will curdle.
  6. Season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary, and serve hot.
  7. This soup pairs perfectly with Abraham Lincoln’s favorite corn muffins. You can find the recipe here.

Author: Andrea

Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.

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