Deliciously succulent, these French onion meatballs are brimming with the flavors we love in classic French onion soup. My French onion meatballs recipe features juicy beef meatballs seasoned with thyme in a rich, beefy onion sauce kissed with sherry, plus a finishing sprinkle of Gruyere and mozzarella cheeses melted to gooey perfection!
Tender, Juicy Meatballs with a French Onion Twist
One of my favorite things to do when it comes to creating recipes is to combine two beloved dishes into one mouthwatering and fun presentation.
A few examples of popular “mash up” recipes on the site are my Italian Drunken Noodles, my Gumbo-laya, my Rigatoni Meatball Soup, my Philly Cheesesteak Stew, and my Chicken Fajita Pizza, to name a few—so whimsical, and so deliciously comfy-cozy!
So when I got a hankering for some tender, juicy, succulent beef meatballs recently, the kind that are gently seared on the outside until golden-brown and then nestled in a rich sauce (which can be sopped up with bread or spooned over mashed potatoes!), what sounded utterly enticing to me was the idea of French onion meatballs...
My French onion meatballs recipe takes the classic, earthy flavors many of us just love in French onion soup—the savory beef flavor, the sherry, and the sweet, caramelized onions—and partners them up with juicy beef meatballs kissed with thyme.
Of course, when it comes to French onion soup, that gloriously ooey-gooey, cheesy lid is a huge part of the appeal of ordering up a hot, steaming bowl...
So, these delectable meatballs get that same deliciously melted topping of a combo of Gruyere and mozzarella cheese as their perfect finishing touch!
My French Onion Meatballs Recipe
To create lots of delicious flavor in this dish, I like to start with high quality, lean ground beef.
I typically use organic, grass-fed ground beef these days, and use a lean to fat ratio of 85/15. (97/3 is fine as well, but the meatballs tend to be a bit juicier with slightly more fat.)
Then, I add in lots of aromatics such as finely minced onion, garlic, dried herbs, fresh thyme leaves, plus some milk-soaked bread crumbs and egg to act as binders.
Once formed, these meatballs get a searing in a cast iron skillet for a few moments to create a deeply browned, flavorful crust on the outside.
Then, of course, there's that yummy French onion sauce…
For this, I'm mimicking those flavors in French onion soup, so I use lots and lots of sliced onions (they seem like almost too much at first, but cook way down), a touch of oil and butter, a splash of sherry (white wine works here as well), some beef stock and fresh thyme.
It's the rich, earthy flavor in the sauce when paired with the beef meatballs that creates full flavor for these French onion meatballs.
And, the Gruyere and mozzarella cheeses broiled over top at the end are the decadently tasty part, of course!
Here's a glance at my French onion meatballs recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I prepare my beef meatballs, and brown them in a heavy-bottom, oven-safe skillet until deeply browned and mostly cooked through.
- Next, I prepare my French onion sauce, and then gently place my meatballs into the sauce and top with lots mozzarella and Gruyere cheese.
- Then, I broil the cheese-topped meatballs just until the cheese is gooey and melted, then top with fresh thyme.
- I serve these French onion meatballs with warm, crusty bread on the side, or spooned over top of hot, mashed potatoes.
French Onion Meatballs
by Ingrid Beer
These French onion meatballs are nestled into a rich, savory onion sauce kissed with sherry, then topped with Gruyere and mozzarella cheeses!
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 669 calories per serving
Prep Time: 45 minutes (does not included chill time for meatballs)
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (or panko breadcrumbs)
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 ½ pounds organic ground beef (85/15 ratio)
- 1 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- Salt (about 1 teaspoon, or your desired amount)
- Black pepper (about ¼ teaspoon, or your desired amount)
- ½ onion, finely minced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- ¾ cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided use
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 cup shredded, whole milk mozzarella cheese
French Onion Sauce Ingredients:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- 2 ½ onions, halved and sliced
- Black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup sherry (or white wine)
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour
- 2 ¼ cup beef stock
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your meatball ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Place your breadcrumbs into a dish, and add the milk to them to soak for 5 minutes. In the meantime, place your ground beef into a large bowl.
- After the breadcrumbs have soaked, add them to the ground beef, along with the parsley, thyme, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, minced onion, garlic, ¼ cup of the shredded Gruyere cheese, and whisked egg.
- Using your clean hands, gently mix the beef together with the ingredients until well-combined, but taking care not to over mix to keep the meatballs tender. Scoop out 2 tablespoon-size portions of the meat mixture (I like to use my cookie scoop for this), and place onto a tray or large platter to hold.
- Wet your hands with a bit of water, and roll each portion into a round meatball, then place the rolled meatballs into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, gather and prep all of your French onion sauce ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Once the meatballs have chilled, place a large cast iron skillet (or other large, oven-safe, heavy bottom pan that can accommodate the meatballs and sauce) over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Once hot, add a batch of meatballs into the pan and allow them to sear and brown on all sides for about 8 to 10 minutes. Place the meatballs onto a tray or sheet pan to hold while you brown the rest of the meatballs.
- In the same skillet as you browned the meatballs (which should be on medium-high heat), add another 2 tablespoons of the oil (if there's already enough oil from browning the meatballs, skip the added oil), as well as the ghee or butter.
- Once hot and melted, add the onions plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and allow them to cook down and deeply caramelize for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions become very dark, soft and jammy.
- Then, stir in the garlic, herbes de Provence and dried thyme, just until aromatic (about 30 seconds). Add in the sherry or wine, and allow it to bubble up and reduce for about 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir that in to incorporate for about 30 seconds, then pour in the beef stock and whisk or vigorously stir to blend in and combine until smooth. Allow the French onion sauce to simmer to 5 minutes, just to tighten it up.
- Meanwhile, turn your broiler on “high”.
- Turn the heat off under the sauce, and stir in the fresh thyme leaves. Nestle back into the pan the browned meatballs, and top them with a combination of the Gruyere and mozzarella cheeses. Place under the broiler for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese becomes nice and gooey and melted.
- To serve, sprinkle over the meatballs some additional thyme leaves as garnish, and spoon 3 to 4 meatballs, along with lots of with sauce and cheese, into a bowl to enjoy with warm, toasted bread, or over hot mashed potatoes, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my French Onion Meatballs recipe:
- Lean ground beef for the meatballs: For tender, juicy meatballs, I typically opt for 85/15 lean organic, grass-fed beef—they have lots of flavor, and they're better quality as well. You can also use 97/3 lean to fat ratio if desired, but they will be a bit leaner in flavor.
- Lots and lots of onions: The recipe calls for what seems like a ton of sliced onions. It seems like a lot in the beginning, but rest assured that the mound will dramatically cook down as the onions caramelize!
- A kiss of sherry or white wine, or leave out the alcohol altogether: Sherry is often added into classic French onion soup, so I add a small splash into this sauce. But you can sub white wine if that's what you have on hand, or even leave out the alcohol completely if you prefer. In that case, just add a touch more beef stock.
- Mozzarella and Gruyere cheeses for added gooeyness: While you can use all Gruyere or all mozzarella cheese here, I like the combination of cheeses. Gruyere is classic atop of French onion soup, and has a nutty, mildly sweet flavor, and the mozzarella has a terrific meltability and mildness, so I like using a bit of that. Feel free to use your favorite cheese that melts!
- What to serve with French onion meatballs: If I'm looking to keep things simple and a light, I'll just lightly toast or warm up some nice crusty, rustic bread, and mop up the sauce and cheese with that. So yummy! Or, if I'm making more of a meal out these meatballs, I'll prep some creamy mashed potatoes, then spoon the sauce and meatballs over top.
Hungry for more delectably savory recipes like this one? Check out this French Onion Chicken, these Turkey Meatballs in Pumpkin Sage Sauce, these Mexican Meatballs, this Braised Beef with Mixed Mushrooms, this French Onion Mushroom Tart, or this French Onion Soup!