These French Onion Chicken Meatballs are a cozy cold-weather dinner! If you love French onion soup, you will love these tender chicken meatballs simmered in a savory French onion sauce with melty cheese on top. Serve them with pasta, rice, or bread on the side for an amazing dinner.
French Onion Meatballs
In the last almost ten years of writing this blog, I’ve embarked on a few kitchen cooking marathons best described as labor intensive. They’re fewer and far between these days because I get the whole “nobody has time for that” mindset when we often only have a small window to get dinner on the table. One-pot, 30-minute, 5-ingredient dinners just fit a little easier into hectic days, and that’s where my head is at, too, most days.
Except sometimes my head is not in that place, and I get a hankering to stand over the stove nursing and doctoring a pan of something that takes longer than a hot minute to execute. And these French onion chicken meatballs are the latest addition to my repertoire of savory weekend-friendly slow-cooked dishes.
It starts with onions, cooked until they are sweet and jammy, a savory sauce, and tender chicken meatballs. It’s a twist on the classic French onion soup, complete with melted Gruyere cheese but served up skillet-style. They’re a new favorite cold-weather comfort-food dinner.
- Unsalted butter
- White onions
- Dry white wine
- Herbes de Provence
- Salt and pepper
- Large egg
- Ground chicken
- Olive oil
- All-purpose flour
- Chicken stock
- Shredded Gruyère cheese
- Fresh parsley
Onions: I like large white onions for this recipe. You’ll need a few, so many, in fact, you’ll wonder if it’s too many, but it’s not. A pound of onions will yield about a 1/2 cup of caramelized onions, so for this recipe, I use about two pounds.
White wine: Use a dry white wine that you like to drink. I like to use Pinto Grigio or Sauvignon blanc.
Herbes de Provence: This is an herb blend that is used in French cooking. Look for it with the other spices and dried herbs at the grocery store.
How to Make French Onion Meatballs
Start caramelizing the onions first. They will take about an hour and a half (see the tips section for more info about this), but you can prepare other parts of the recipe while they cook.
Mix the bread crumbs, herbs, salt, pepper, and egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken and mix just until combined. Roll the meatball mixture into one-ounce meatballs (you should get about 16).
After the onions are caramelized, remove them from the pan and adjust the heat to medium. Add the olive oil, and once it’s hot, place the meatballs in the pan and cook them until they’re browned on all sides. They’ll finish cooking in the sauce, which you’ll make next.
The pan has been used to cook the onions and brown the meatballs, which means there are some browned bits that will go a long way to flavor the sauce. It starts with butter and flour that cook together until the flour loses its raw flavor.
I like to add about a quarter cup of the chicken stock at this point, and as it simmers, I use the whisk to scrape up all the flavor off the bottom of the pan. From there, add the rest of the stock and bring it to a boil until it starts to thicken.
Add the caramelized onions to the sauce and reduce the heat enough to maintain a strong simmer. The sauce will continue to thicken, and after about five minutes or so, you can add the meatballs back in. Cook all of it together for another five to ten minutes until the French onion sauce is thick and glossy and the meatballs are cooked through.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover the pan. Once the cheese is melted, sprinkle the parsley over the top, and they’re ready to serve.
Tips for the Best Caramelized Onions
If you’ve ever read a recipe that says you can caramelize onions in 15 to 20 minutes, you have, I’m sorry to say, been misled. Depending on the amount of onions, the size of the pan, and other conditions, it just takes a while to develop that deep golden color.
I tested this recipe using a 10-inch skillet, and it takes an hour and 40 minutes to achieve what I consider perfectly caramelized onions. Perhaps a bigger pan would have shortened the cooking time, but I wanted to keep this to a one-pan recipe, and using a larger pan would have messed with the amount of sauce that I wanted. You may, should you choose to take on this caramelized onion challenge, get the same results in more or less time. Just know if you use a bigger pan, I can’t guarantee how the rest of the recipe will go.
Others may take different steps, but I find the best caramelized onions start with some butter in a pan over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions and then stir them every so often. It will seem like not much is happening for quite a while because in order to caramelize, they need to release a lot of their moisture.
After about an hour, I like to turn the heat down to medium-low and keep a closer eye on them with a bit more stirring than before. I’ve read some recipes that recommend adding more liquid or butter to the pan as you go to prevent the onions from drying out, but I find if I monitor the heat and stir the onions, they stay soft and moist without having to add anything else. Only at the end, right before you take them out of the pan, add a splash of white wine. This gives them a wonderful flavor and also deglazes the pan.
So the moral of the caramelized onion story? Be patient because great things will happen if you take your time.
- Depending on what you like, there are a few ways to serve these French onion meatballs. Pair them with cooked rice, pasta, or buttered egg noodles. Or serve them up with some crusty bread on the side. I also love to pile the meatballs into rolls and serve them up sandwich-style.
- If you have leftovers, they’ll keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. They’re also freezer-friendly. Once you’ve cooked the meatballs in the sauce, transfer it all to a freezer container. They’ll keep in the freezer for a few months. Wait to add the cheese until you warm them up.
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French Onion Chicken Meatballs
These skillet French onion chicken meatballs are a twist on French onion soup and make for a cozy cold-weather dinner. Caramelized onions are simmered in a rich sauce with chicken meatballs seasoned with herbes de Provence. Serve the meatballs with pasta, rice, or bread on the side or pile them into rolls for decadent meatballs subs.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stove
- Cuisine: American
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 white onions (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1/4 dry white wine
- 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions (the pan will be very full). Cook the onions, stirring them occasionally, for about an hour or until they have turned a light golden-blonde color. At this point, turn the heat to medium-low and keep cooking them, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and a deep golden brown in color, approximately 30 to 40 minutes longer.
- Turn the heat back to medium and pour the wine into the pan with the onions. As it simmers, scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Once the wine has cooked away, transfer the onions to a clean plate.
- In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, herbs, salt, pepper, and egg. Add the ground chicken and, using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix it with the breadcrumb and egg mixture just until combined. Scoop approximately one ounce of the mixture to form the meatballs. You should be able to make 16 meatballs.
- Once the onions are ready, remove them from the pan. Add the olive oil to that same pan. Heat it over medium heat. Place the meatballs in a single layer and cook them until they are browned on all sides. Transfer them to a clean plate.
- In the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk it with the butter until combined. Add about a 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and, whisking continuously, combine it with the butter and flour. As you whisk, scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Whisking continuously, add the rest of the chicken stock. Bring the pan to a boil and cook the sauce for about five minutes or until it starts to thicken. Add the caramelized onions and stir to combine.
- Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue cooking the sauce until it’s glossy and thickened, about five to ten minutes.
- At this point, you can sprinkle the cheese over the meatballs and either cover the pan to melt the cheese or stick the pan under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Garnish the meatballs with parsley if using.
Caramelizing onions: If you use a 10-inch pan, the onions will take about an hour and a half to get to the right texture and color. The cooking time will vary if you use a different-sized pan. You can read more tips about caramelizing onions in the post.
Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. They’re also freezer-friendly. Once you’ve cooked the meatballs in the sauce, transfer it all to a freezer container. They’ll keep in the freezer for a few months. Wait to add the cheese until you warm them up.
- Calories: 483
- Sugar: 6.8g
- Sodium: 658.2mg
- Fat: 31.4g
- Saturated Fat: 13.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 15.8g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 20.8g
- Fiber: 2.6g
- Protein: 30.2g
- Cholesterol: 192.2mg
Keywords: French onion meatballs, chicken French onion meatballs
The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.