Bread. I love the stuff, in many forms, prepared many ways, to satisfy my carb craving. One could say The Grillin’ Fools are obsessed with the doughy delight. This will be the 5th recipe in the pull apart category plus we have bruschetta (pics are rough with that one, but the recipe is outstanding) and then there are the crostini recipes (we originally spelled it crostinis-sorry Wolfgang). So how did this version come about and why is it famous? I was assisting Scott at a Pinterest event he was conducting for other bloggers a while ago at a local restaurant. One of the attendees was food and beverage professional, Angela Castelli. We had a conversation during which I mentioned a couple ideas I had for pull apart bread on the grill. Angela suggested creating a French onion version (thank you again Angela) and that was all the inspiration needed. The famous part? I immediately thought of a now defunct downtown St. Louis department store known as Famous-Barr Company that had a small restaurant on the second floor that served what became legendary, fabulous, French onion soup. I thought perhaps I’d recreate that recipe and use it with the grilled version. Didn’t happen. I took the shortcut, easy way out to make the recipe less taxing for backyard grillers like me to tackle. For those that would be interested in the Famous-Barr original here it is

Famous Barr French Onion Soup Ingredients:

Yield: About 4 quarts
5 pounds unpeeled onions
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
3 quarts beef broth (regular or low-sodium)
1 cup white wine, optional
Caramel coloring or Kitchen Bouquet, optional
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Sourdough or French baguettes, thinly sliced, optional
Swiss or Gruyere cheese, optional

Famous Barr French Onion Soup Directions

1. Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Sprinkle with pepper, paprika and flour and add bay leaf; sauté over low heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Slowly pour in broth and wine, stirring constantly. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
4. As soon as the soup boils, reduce heat to low and simmer very slowly for 2 hours.
5. If desired, adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring. Season with salt. Refrigerate overnight so flavors can blend.
6. To serve, reheat soup. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Here’s what is needed for the simplified version.

Famous French Onion Pull Apart Bread Ingredients:

1 round loaf of sourdough bread
1-2 cans French onion soup (depends on how wet you wanna’ get)
1-1/4 lb unsalted butter (that’s one stick)
1-8 oz. chunk of Gruyere cheese grated (add more if you like), reserving a couple ounces to layer on after the first round melts
1 small can/bag/canister French fried onions rough chopped
1 bunch fresh chives

The ingredients

Break out your favorite bread blade then carve bread into a diamond/grid pattern of one inch cubes without completely cutting through the loaf:

Carve that grid pattern

The finished result should resemble this.

Get ready to fill all those crevices

Melt the butter in the microwave or saucepan, combine with the French onion soup, then hit it with the boat motor or blender:


Create a foil nest to maintain form during cheese stuffing and while on the grill, then fill in each crevice with the cheese:

Mmmmmm cheesy!

Carefully drizzle the butter and soup mixture over the bread covering all the cuts. Utilize a turkey baster to get in deep if necessary:

Shizzle my Drizzle…

Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on one side and none on the other and toss in a small chunk of mild smoke wood. I used apple from Bob’s Smokin’ Hardwoods which has the cleanest and best smoke wood I’ve ever used. Other woods to consider could be pear or peach, I’m leaning toward milder smoke here:

Bread LOVES smoke and it doesn’t take a lot

While baking/smoking the bread, chop the crispy onions and fresh chives for added flavor and garnish:

Chive on!

Bake the soon to be famous French onion pull apart bread at 350 for 20-30 minutes uncovered:

Mmmmmm melty

Notice how the cheese has melted into the crevices and the bread is browning a bit?

Time for more cheese!

That’s too much cheese, said no one, ever

Then add the chives and crunchy onions. Here’s an overhead look after everything has been added:

That’s some busy bread

Close up shot would indicate a lot is going on in and on this loaf of sourdough:

Wait until all those flavors come together

After all the new cheese has melted and browned a bit, remove from the heat and serve.

Let’s take a bite! All you do is grab one of those chunks of bread and pull. How good does that look?

Check out that stretch!

So how was it?  The flavors were delicious, not overpowering, but once they all melded together they created a well nuanced flavor profile. The texture rocked my French onion world, soft flavorful bread inside, melty cheese, crunch of the onions, and the crispness of the smoked crust made my appetizer hall of fame. I considered topping with crispy bacon crumbles but decided to stay with the original flavor profile, but next time…it’s on! How would I improve or modify this recipe? I’d consider working more crispy onions down inside the carved loaf in addition to topping with them. Could there be other uses for this concoction? You bet. I would consider many options such as using the butter/soup mixture to dress the bread on a patty melt or a crostini, mix into burgers or sliders, or changing up the cheese mix by adding Swiss and/or provel to the Gruyere. Imagine the flavor if applied to a flat top grilled cheese sandwich? The possibilities seem endless.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

Famous French Onion Pull Apart Bread
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Barbecue
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Grilled pull-apart, cheesy bread appetizer inspired by French onion soup
  • 1 round loaf of sourdough bread
  • 1-2 cans French onion soup (depends on how wet you wanna' get)
  • 1-1/4 lb unsalted butter (that's one stick)
  • 1-8 oz. chunk of Gruyere cheese grated (add more if you like), reserving a couple ounces to layer on after the first round melts
  • 1 small can/bag/canister French fried onions rough chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  1. Slice the bread in a grid pattern every inch, making sure not to slice all the way through the bottom
  2. Create a foil nest to place the bread in
  3. Fill the crevices with the grated cheese
  4. Now melt the butter in a pot with the French onion soup and blend together well
  5. Drizzle the butter/soup mixture over the bread making sure to get the liquid into the gaps in the bread. Be sure to reserve a couple ounces to add later
  6. Set up the grill for two zone grilling with coals on one side and nothing on the other
  7. Target temperature inside the grill is 350f
  8. Place smoke wood (a lighter fruit wood is preferred) on the coals and place the bread (in the foil nest) on the side with no coals and close the lid
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes
  10. While the bread is baking, chop the chives and French fried onions
  11. After the initial cheese is melted, add the second set of cheese along with the French fried onions and chives and then close the lid
  12. Once the second round of cheese has melted, remove the Famous French Onion Pull Apart Bread from the grill and eat.

one comment

Diabetes nightmare. Looks fantastic. Will have to try.


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