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The Virginia Housewife’s Onion Soup

onion soup recipe

For those who have followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m in love with historic recipes. I’m particularly fond of Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewifenamely because I am a Virginian Housewife.

The Virginia Housewife is the first cookbook written and published in the US. Published in 1860, it was the first attempt at organizing and standardize the recipes of the time.

I’ve remade Mary’s recipes for chicken pudding (more of a chicken bake), and taken inspiration from her ketchup (catsup) recipes.

I love her recipes because they take you back to an age of unpretentious cooking. My first cookbook was one of Martha Stewart’s entertaining books. Every recipe had expensive, hard-to-find, pompous ingredients. In the 1800’s you could only cook with what you could grow yourself, forage, or barter from your neighbors. It’s the definition of modest cooking.

If you grow your own onions, or would like to, check out my 30 second guide to growing onions.

Mary’s book organized the recipes of her time, which was an improvement over word-of-mouth and in person experience, but they leave a lot still to interpretation.


Her recipe for “onion soup” reads as follows:

Chop up twelve large onions, boil them in three quarts of milk and water

equally mixed, put in a bit of veal or fowl, and a piece of bacon with

pepper and salt. When the onions are boiled to pulp, thicken it with a

large spoonful of butter mixed with one of flour. Take out the meat, and

serve it up with toasted bread cut in small pieces in the soup.

I’ve cut her recipe in half (we’re only feeding two and a half people), skipped the veal or fowl (since it was removed at the end anyway) and added some salt and pepper.

I love how it cooked down without olive oil or butter, so it’s much healthier for people avoiding many added fats. I was also pleasantly surprised by how sweet it was. The little man just devoured it!

sliced onions

sliced onions

Slice six medium-sized onions into rings.


Slice four pieces of bacon into thin strips. I added these raw to the soup, however, hubby thinks it might add a different, crispier texture to the soup. So you have the option to fry these bad boys up before adding them to the soup.

onion soup

Add the onions, bacon, one cup of milk and one cup of chicken broth to a pot. Simmer, covered for 45-60 minutes. You want the onions to cook through and are “boiled to a pulp.” Blend in a blender or with an immersion blender. Serve warm with toasted bread!


  • 6 onions, sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 slices of bacon, sliced thinly


  1. Slice onions into rings
  2. Slice bacon into thing strips
  3. OPTIONAL: fry up bacon
  4. Add onions, bacon, milk, chicken broth and salt and pepper to a soup pot
  5. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, covered, on low
  6. Puree and enjoy!

the virginia housewife's onion soup

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Sandrine | Simple Living in Spain

Saturday 10th of June 2017

I love your take on what makes a good recipe! We live in the middle of nowhere, and I just don't feel like driving to town on a quest for weird and exotic ingredients. This onion soup sounds delicious, so different from the French onion soup we usually make... so I'll definitely make it. Thanks for sharing!