Learn the Difference: Soup, Stew, Bisque, and Chowder

Thick Soup

When the cold season comes around, a bowl of hot and steamy soup can keep you going. Even better, you can freeze your soups with ease and keep them fresh for longer. I have taken a keen interest in making soups lately. Amazingly, there are more soups recipes than I could ever imagine. So far, I’ve come across the likes of stew, bisque and chowder And I’m sure this is only the tip of a gigantic iceberg. Feel free to share with me more soup variations at the comments. I didn’t even know all these blends of soups were different. But now I know better. Out of curiosity, I set out on a journey to finding out the difference between soup, stew, bisque and chowder. Fortunately, my adventure has been successful and I’m ready to share with you.

In here you will learn the various types of soups. After reading this, you will add a variety to your soups. And it will never get boring taking your portion of soup everyday during winter. Come with me and let’s dare the world of soups.

What is Soup?

Soups can be light, chunky, filled with noodles, or creamy. They are pourable from a bowl and you get comfortable when taking them hot. Depending on your ingredients, soups can be very nutritious. In some cases, I take a bowl of soup before my meals. And that has worked great in making sure I’m keeping up with daily nutrition quota come whatever weather.

And as much as I count myself as a soup expert, a few times I’ve had to scratch my head wondering what is in my soup menu- especially if they aren’t homemade. One of the main questions I get a lot: Is bisque just another fancy name for soup? If yes, then how do the two differ from chowder? And what about stew; where does it fall in the scale of soups?

I know, a lot of you out there have their minds spiraling asking the same questions. Luckily, today we are going to know the difference between soup, stew, bisque, and chowder.

Light Chicken Soup
Chicken Soup

Soup Types

There are two broad categories of soups. It is either clear or thick soup. Clear soups are quite popular across cuisines. They are better when taken hot and they tend to form base for thick soups. For instance, chicken broth or stock is a good base for chicken noodle soup.

On the other side, thick soups are just that: thick. They contain varying sizes of solids. Very good examples of these soups are purees and cream soups. Purees are cooked vegetables in either stock or broth. Usually, pureeing is done right before serving. The thickness of the soup depends on the consistency of the vegetables. Cream soups tend to be thicker due to the presence of big solids. The main ingredient goes through simmering before pureeing. Cream or milk is added before serving. There is a special group of soups that cut across both soup categories. While they are generally categorized as soups, chowder and bisque can fall on the both lanes of soups. They can be thick or clear soups depending on the main solid ingredients.

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Difference Between Soup, Stew, Bisque, and Chowder

It would be fair to note that all these are variations of soup. They all have a liquid base and vary in their flavors and thickness.

Despite their differences, you will also find points of convergence between these soup versions. So, what sets these varieties apart?


Soup is the overall term that describes dishes coming from solids boiled in liquid. The solids could be meat, vegetables, rice, pasta or anything else that can make soup. For the liquids, you can use plain water, juice or broth. Depending on your creativity, you can make soups in tens of flavors. Typically, soups are served hot but some varieties are better when cold.


Technically, stew is a dish coming from a stewing process. A little liquid is added into the solids, which are then simmered for quite some time. Generally, stewing uses a pot with a lid covering the top. However, cooks use the term stew loosely to refer to any dish of large solid ingredients with a little liquid. Of course, you can tell that there is a slight deviation from traditional soup.


Bisques lean towards seafood. They are thick and packed with nutrients. Unlike chowders, bisques are pureed to remove any chunks. Other ingredients for these soups include creams and wines. Bisques come close to vegetable soups but it is their choice of ingredients that take them into a different direction.

Savory Hot Bisque
A Pot of Hot Bisque


Chowders are also made from seafood just like bisques. However, they are thicker and chunky. On top of big chunks of seafood, they also contain dairy products such as milk. Some blends also contain vegetables. In some quarters, chowder refers to thick and chunky soups that do not necessarily contain seafood. But the debate is still going on around cooking circles if that should be the right description for chowders.


Soups, for me, are the go-to options when I’m stuck indoors not only during the cold months but every season. To make it less monotonous, I have and still continue to discover more soup recipes. For now, you know the difference between soup, stew, bisque, and chowder. There is enough variety for you to have around the week. We will also be sharing more soup recipes and soup-related information. Therefore, don’t go anywhere. We are crazy about cooking and we are sharing it with you here. If you are wondering why we are being so good, there is no catch. We are merely looking out for a brother, sister, mother, or father who want to get better at their cooking.

Jillian Noon

Hi, I am Jillian Noon, the owner of this beautiful cooking blog. I create this blog to share my passion for cooking and other kitchen & food tips. I hope you will enjoy it!

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