What is the Difference Between Soup and Stew?

graphic that shows the difference between soup and stew with a top view of a bowl of chicken soup and a bowl of beef stew next to each other.

If you are new to cooking and want to know the difference between soup and stew, then you are not alone. Even the expert cook among us can’t understand the difference between soup and a fresh pot of stew.

Both soup and stew mean cooking liquid with meat or vegetables; the difference lies in primary ingredients, type of meat, and cooking method.

In this article, we will discuss soup vs. stew. We will see how both are similar or different. So before we compare the two, let’s first understand both soup and stew.

What is Soup?

Soup has been with us for the oldest period of time. It’s a liquid dish with solid ingredients like meat, herbs, veggies or even lentils. Soup comes in many forms and names, like pho or ramen. The ingredient list can be versatile can include anything from vegetables, herb meat, and noodles. The broth is the liquid part that is prepared by cooking bones, herbs, vegetables, or a combination of ingredients cooked in a pot for a long time.

four cups each filled with a different kind of soup and surrounded by bread, herbs, and vegetables

Soups are not even defined by ingredients or the consistency of liquids. The liquid in the soup can be thick, clear, or runny depending on different recipes. It’s not even restricted to meat, as there are potato soups, bean soups, cream soups, and different types of soups with rich flavors.

Toppings can be different, ingredients of broth are different. The basic soup recipe remains the same. You have to simmer the meat bones or vegetables in water. Once the broth is ready, you can add anything from herbs, meat, or a combination of vegetables. Read more about Pho, the famous Vietnamese bowl of soup with noodles. (please insert link to healthy pho article)

Before we discuss the difference between soup and stew, let’s compare different types of soups:

Broth VS. Soup

The broth is a liquid that is cooked with bones or vegetables. It’s the thin liquid that is used as a base for soups. It’s clear and thin. It can be served as it is, or you can use it as a base for soups.

Bisque VS. Soup

Bisque is another type of soup. It has a creamy texture. Some soups are also creamy, with ingredients like potatoes or sour cream. But the difference between a creamy soup and a Bisque is that in Bisque, the cream is added in early phases and then reduced and made thicker. We can call Bisque one of different types of soups.

Kabocha Squash Soup

Chowder VS. Soup

Like Bisque, chowder is another type of soup. Unlike the average soup, which is thin and clear, chowder is thick with an intense and rich flavor. Chowder is a chunky soup with chicken broth and chunks of meat, seafood, or vegetables.

a bowl filled with seafood chowder with a metal spoon and a croissant

What Is Stew?

Stew is another recipe one may confuse with soup, but both are very different. The difference between soup and stew lies in the texture, method of cooking, and presentation as well. You throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot or slow cooker. The ingredients can be larger pieces of meat,

beef stew top view with ingredients shown carrots bread tomato paste potatoes

The Difference Between Soup and Stew

Here are some key differences between soup and stew.

Soups Cook in More Liquid

Soups have more liquid. The base of soups is the clear and thin broth, and you can make it thick with cornstarch or other starchy ingredients like potato or cream. But the tasty soup has a liquid base, and other ingredients are later blended in the broth or stock. Soups can be of wide varieties, from kale soup to creamy soups.

Stews, on the other hand, may use the same ingredients, but the difference lies in the texture, method of cooking, and the final look of the dish. When cooking stew, we use the same common ingredients. The foundation of ingredients remains the same. You submerge meat, veggies, herbs, and spices in a pot and let it simmer on slow heat for a long time. After simmering for long hours, the liquid turns thicker than soup and with chunks of meat or veggies, usually a combination of both.

Stews Take Longer to Cook

A major difference between soup and stew lies in cook time. Stews usually take longer than soups and are cooked on medium-low heat. Soups take some time to prepare the broth as well, but stews are left on the stove on slow heat for a long time, and simple ingredients become tender, release their flavor, and the liquid is reduced to a great amount.(2)

Pieces of Meat

In stews, we usually have large pieces of meat. These include bone and meat alike. Usually, the stew is cooked long enough so that meat leaves the bone and becomes part of the liquid in larger chunks.

The soup broth is prepared with bones, connective tissues, joints, or muscles. Later, meat is added as a topping, but the cooking process does not involve simmering it in broth for long hours. If you love broth, try our bone broth recipe.

To make Muamba Nsusu, a Congolese Peanut & Palm Oil Stew, start by taking your chopped chicken in a bowl and squeeze your lemon juice on top of it and then add your turmeric and paprika powders and sliced green chilis into the bowl, mix it well around into the chicken, and let it sit

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about stew, and our expert answers!

Is Stew Healthier Than Soup?

When it comes to healthfulness, there isn’t much of a difference between soup and stew. In both dishes, bones in water and meat add a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals to the dish. The vegetables and bony pieces cooked in stew also give it a lot of nutritional value. Not all soups and stews are created equal, as discussed in our comparison of healthy pho to other soups.

So which one is healthy depends on the ingredients, fresh veggies, herbs, or bite-size pieces in the liquid. Still, if we have to compare, soup has more liquid, so it hydrates you, especially in winter.

If you like stew, check out our mashed plaintains fish stew or tomatillo chicken stew or even a peanut stew!

It’s an ideal cool-weather meal. The toppings added to the soup, like fresh veggies, herbs, or noodles, are added later and have more nutritional value. Some of the vegetables in the stew may lose their nutritional value due to additional cooking time. So both are a complete meal, but soup seems to have more potential to be healthier. Like with many other dishes, it may depend on the chef!

Is Chili a Stew or Soup?

Though many consider chili its own category, it can be called a stew due to its low liquid content. The liquid content in it cannot be called soup. It has rich and creamy gravy with very concentrated stock.

Here we have the final plating for Singapore's signature chili crab

Final Words

Both stew and soup are comforting food and are perfect for winter (although there are plenty of chilled coups to cool you down in the summer)! Both are healthy dishes and can be a part of any meal plan. Both can have chunky ingredients and are versatile; you can add ingredients like meat, vegetable, herb, and spices. When it comes to the difference between soup and stew, soup is based on broth. It can be chicken stock or any other stock. Stew is cooked for a long time so that larger veggies or meat pieces leave chunks of ingredients in the thick gravy.