This French Onion Tarte Tatin is one of my favourite quick and easy savoury dishes. It’s so handy to make using basic ingredients I like to keep in stock in the fridge and pantry. This recipe is healthy too – as onions are naturally sweet, there’s no need to add any sugar or honey; the onions caramelise themselves!
With some chèvre goat’s cheese hidden under the onions before hitting the crispy puff pastry, the flavours are divine – especially with a touch of fresh rosemary and toasted walnuts sprinkled on top, almost as an afterthought. I took inspiration for the accompanying flavours in this recipe from the classic French salade de chèvre chaud. For those of you not keen on goat’s cheese, however, you can replace the cheese with Comté, Emmental or your own favourite cheese – or omit the cheese entirely.
Serve with a salad of lamb’s lettuce with extra toasted walnuts and for those not vegetarian, go the full monty with added bacon bits (lardons).
A version of this recipe was first published on le blog on 10 December 2013, and as a guest at Ann Mah’s Tuesday Dinner series. The text is now updated with a printable recipe card and includes an accompanying VIDEO.Jump to Recipe
Story of the Tarte Tatin
According to my old 1984 edition of Larousse Gastronomique, the Tarte Tatin dessert of caramelised apples (see my recipe here) was first served in Paris at Maxim’s giving a bow to its creators, the famous Tatin sisters.
Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin came up with this irresistible dessert quite by accident at the end of the 19th century while running their hotel/restaurant in the French Sologne region, south of Paris. The story goes that, as the apples were caramelising in sugar and butter in the oven for their tarte solognote, they either realised they’d forgotten the pastry or that they’d burned the apples, so they simply plopped the pastry on top, baked then flipped the tart upside down, et voilà. From then on, it was served as their speciality until they retired in 1906, although they never called it a Tarte Tatin until Maxim’s took it on by storm in Paris on their dessert menu.
Onion Tarte Tatin – No Sugar!
Onions are naturally sweet: they contain about 5% sugar, which is good news for making an onion tarte tatin. So there’s no need for making any caramel or adding any sugar. Cooking the onions slowly first means they caramelise themselves without the sugar.
If you do have a sweet tooth, however, you could add a touch of balsamic vinegar to the onions, to add a bit of acidity and extra rich colour.
Perfect Vegetarian Starter for Entertaining
It’s a handy recipe for all seasons and, depending on who’s sitting at the table, it can be dressed either up or down for something simple to oh-là-là effective as a starter at dinner.
It’s also vegetarian (it’s not vegan), happy food served with a side salad.
One large onion tarte tatin serves 6-8 slices. Cook it in advance for no longer than 25 minutes until light golden, upturn on to a serving plate that can transfer to the oven then leave to cool. Just re-heat in the oven for 10 minutes and it’s an easy, stress-free dish that’s ready to serve to your guests.
Onion Tartlet Tatins
If you’d like to be more chic, make individual onion tartlet tatins using non-stick tartlet moulds (this recipe makes 6 tartlets). Watch my VIDEO here to see just how quick and easy they are to make, just like the large onion tarte tatin.
I made them with regular onions – the best of French’s ‘Roscoff’ onions with some comté cheese.
Onion Tarte Tatin with Cheese – What’s Best?
French Onion Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese
Like a French goat’s cheese salad or this goat’s cheese and walnut pasta sauce, don’t skimp on using good quality goat cheese. I like to use a couple of Crottins de Chavignol made with raw goat’s milk (lait cru). Not creamy fresh and not too mouldy mature, either – just somewhere in between which is perfect for cooking and full of flavour.
Can’t find Crottin de Chavignol? No worries – use a good quality farm goat’s cheese and about 6 thick slices in total for a whole onion tarte tatin. It depends on your taste.
Comté or Emmental Cheese for Onion Tarte Tatin
Otherwise, replace the goat’s cheese with a few slices of comté cheese (as I use in the tartlet tatins on the video) o
Not keen on cheese at all? Omit the cheese entirely and the tatin will be just as good – just don’t forget the walnuts!
Wine pairing: serve with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc and the sensation with the goat’s cheese brings out honey flavours. Ideally, serve a wine from the Loire Valley since it’s The French region for goats cheeses (Sancerre, Quincy, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly, Reuilly…)
French Onion Tarte Tatin – without Cheese
Made without the cheese, I love this on its own just as much. However, topped with a few slices of Stornoway black pudding it gives it a stunning touch of the Scottish alliance on a French plate!
A crispy and soft upside down tart of caramelised onions without any added sugar or honey with rosemary or thyme, toasted walnuts and a hidden layer of melted goat's cheese. Ready-made puff pastry makes this onion tarte tatin even easier to prepare along with staple pantry and fridge items.
- 4 large onions red or yellow
- 1 packet (230g) ready-rolled puff pastry, all butter (or defrosted puff pastry, rolled into a circle)
- 25g (1oz) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary or thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence)
- handful walnuts
- pinch salt & pepper
- 100g (4oz) goat's cheese or comté (optional)
Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low heat, melt the butter with some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan (ideally that can be transferred to the oven otherwise use a 23cm non-stick cake pan to bake the tatin). Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for about 15 minutes, turning a few times to coat the onions in the butter and oil.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.
Add chopped fresh herbs (or a teaspoon of dried Herbes de Provence) and season the onions. Transfer to a cake pan, if using. Slice the goat cheese (3 slices per person) and place them on top of the packed caramelised onions.
Top with the larger disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry (to stop the puff from rising in the oven) then transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
Remove from the oven. Place a serving plate larger than the pan over the top. Carefully turn the tatin upside down on to the plate.
A side-salad of lamb's lettuce (mâche) tossed in olive or walnut oil, white balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts.
Wine pairing with onions:
With goat's cheese: serve with a chilled white Sauvignon Blanc and the sensation with the goat's cheese brings out honey flavours. Ideally, serve a wine from the Loire Valley since it's The French region for goats cheeses (Sancerre, Quincy, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly, Reuilly...). A Sancerre red is also a good match.
Otherwise with onions: serve with a fruity Chenin Blanc (e.g. Vouvray, Savennières) or rosé.