The Differences Between Broth, Bisque, Stock, and More Soup Types

Whether it’s a creamy chowder, cold gazpacho, chunky stew, or silky bisque, this guide will help you identify which kind of soup you're ladling into bowls.

There's nothing like a cozy bowl of chicken noodle soup or New England Clam Chowder when you need a comfort food fix. And while Merriam-Webster defines "soup" as a liquid food made with stock (meat, fish, or vegetable) and pieces of solid food, there are quite a few kinds of soups in the culinary world. Here's our list of all the types of soups so you won't have to guess what it means when you spot "consommé" on the menu the next time you're at a French restaurant.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Peter Krumhardt

A "soup" can be labeled one of the following:

  • Bisque is a rich, thick, smooth soup that's often made with shellfish, such as lobster, crab, or shrimp.
  • Broth or Stock is a strained, thin, clear liquid in which meat, poultry, or fish has been simmered with vegetables and herbs. While normally used as an ingredient in other soups, it can be enjoyed as a light course on its own.
  • Bouillon (pronounced bool-yaan) is basically the same as broth, but the term refers to commercial dehydrated products sold as granules or cubes.
  • Chowder is a thick, chunky soup. Traditionally, chowder is made with seafood or fish, but chowders made with poultry, vegetables, and cheese are also popular.
  • Consommé (pronounced con-som-AY) is a strong, flavorful meat or fish broth that has been clarified.
  • Chili is short for chili con carne, which translates to "chili pepper with meat." It is a stew with a base usually consisting of beans, tomatoes, chili peppers or powder, and meat.
  • Gazpacho is a (usually) spicy soup made from raw vegetables or fruits and served chilled.
  • Stews are composed of larger cuts of meat and/or vegetables that are simmered in cooking liquid over a longer amount of time. Because there's less liquid here than a traditional brothy soup, some don't consider stews to be a soup.

Now that you've got all these soup definitions down, you can curb your craving by whipping up a creamy butternut squash bisque or hearty beef stew for your next meal.

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