What Makes Soup Different From Chowder?

Whether it's chicken noodle soup or crab chowder, a warm bowl on a cold day is guaranteed to satisfy. An umbrella term for dishes that are prepared by boiling ingredients like meat, seafood or vegetables in liquid, soup can be thin or thick, hot or cold, and broth or cream-based. But, what exactly differentiates a cup of soup from chowder?

According to Campbell's, soup dates back to our Neanderthal ancestors who probably crafted the first bone broths, although archaeologists have only discovered pottery (presumably used for soup) that dates back 20,000 years ago in China. With the passage of time, cultures all across the globe adopted both hot and cold variations of the nutrient-rich liquid, adding vegetables, starches, protein, and even other liquids like dairy. 

Considered to have healing and medicinal properties, soup was actually on the world's first restaurant menus. Atlas Obscura reports that theses early prototypes of the restaurant served the dish to restore the strength of the patrons — the word "restaurant" comes from the French word "restaurer" meaning "to restore." While the motives behind our soup consumption remain the same, preparation has long since changed, so much so that soup even goes by different names. This brings us to the most pressing question: What's the difference between soup and chowder?

Varying ingredients and texture

Chowder can be classified as a soup, but soup isn't necessarily chowder. The ingredients used, along with textures achieved during preparation, are the main differences between the two bowls of soul-satisfying liquid.

Taste of Home explains that soup tends to be thinner and lighter than a characteristically thick and rich chowder. Defined by its chunkiness, chowder also features large morsels of ingredients like seafood and potatoes, as stated by MasterClass

In comparison to soup, chowders tend to have a creamier mouthfeel thanks to heavy cream or milk that are prominent in a range of seafood and corn chowder recipes. That said, chowders are also served piping hot, unlike cold soups like Spanish gazpacho or French vichyssoise.

Still wondering about other soup terms like stews and bisques? Stews are like a heartier soup with less liquid, explains The Kitchn. Bisque instead is a closer relative to chowder because of its thickness and (usual) seafood base ... so many soups, so little time.