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Here's The REAL Difference Between Soup And Stew

Delish logo Delish 12/3/2021 Felicia LaLomia
There are so many names for the hearty, liquid-y dish that warms us up. But what is the difference between them all? © Delish - Hearst Owned There are so many names for the hearty, liquid-y dish that warms us up. But what is the difference between them all?

Soup? Stew? Chili? Bisque? Chowder? There are so many names for the hearty, liquid-y meals that warm us up. But what is the difference between them all?

Well, here's what they all have in common: All of these names refer to recipes cooked with a liquid base. After the liquid comes the veggies, spices, grains, beans, and animal protein, but really it's the consistency and amount of liquid that sets them apart.


A soup is probably the wettest and thinnest of these dishes, because the main part of the recipe should be broth, with other ingredients like veggies, pasta, and protein filling in the rest of the bowl. Sometimes you'll find soup blended into a smooth consistency. Other times it's left separated and chunky as is. Either way, it's delicious.

Soup recipes we love: Chicken Noodle Soup, Tortilla Soup, Easy French Onion Soup


Stew dishes usually give focus less to the liquid and more to larger cuts of meat and veggies. The whole meal is cooked for a lot longer, so the liquid becomes a thicker consistency. Sometimes, other than just water and broth, other liquids like wine are used, and/or the base can be thickened into a roux. Stews are often served on their own or alongside potatoes, egg noodles, rice, or other grains that soak up all the wonderful sauce.

Stew recipes we love: Slow Cooker Beef Stew, Lamb Stew, Jamaican Oxtail Stew

Video: 7 Comforting Soups Made With Thanksgiving Leftovers (Real Simple)



Chili is often considered a type of stew, but with smaller chunks of food and less overall variety: They are usually made with beans, tomatoes, meat, and chili or chili powder.

Chili recipes we love: Best-Ever Beef Chili, Vegetarian Chili


A bisque is a soup that has been pureed to be smooth. Typically, the ingredients are sautéed or roasted until soft or otherwise cooked, and then blended with a liquid until you no longer see the individual ingredients.

Bisque recipes we love: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Creamy Parm Tomato Soup, Crab Bisque


A chowder is typically chunky, filled with ingredients like potatoes, carrots and seafood in a thick liquid. The ingredients are often chopped into smaller pieces than you'd get with a stew. The word comes from the French word for cauldron (chaudron), which is the vessel fishermen used to cook their soup in. Because of that history, the term is often used with seafood soups like clam chowder, but a chowder doesn't have to have fish to be called a chowder. Got it?

Chowder recipes we love: Classic Corn Chowder, Clam Chowder, Shrimp and Bacon Chowder


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