What’s the Difference Between Bisque and Chowder?

published Sep 9, 2014
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Bisque and chowder — are they just fancy monikers for creamy soup? Is there really a difference?

This question never crossed my mind until it was posed to me recently. My immediate thought was that the answer was obvious. Except, when I started to actually think about it, I really had no idea what set them apart. So, what exactly is the difference between bisque and chowder?

Bisque and chowder are two very delicious and very similar types of soup. Both are thick and creamy, have French origins and are traditionally made with seafood. Yet, there is one main thing that sets them apart.


Bisque is a type of soup that’s rich and creamy, and traditionally made from pureed shellfish. Authentic recipes ground the shells into a fine paste and use that to thicken the soup. More commonly now, bisques are thickened with rice, which can be pureed or strained out at the end of cooking.

The most well known are lobster bisque, crab bisque and shrimp bisque. There are also many varieties today that omit shellfish and seafood altogether, and instead rely on produce like tomatoes or mushrooms.

What sets this creamy soup apart from its simple pureed vegetable soup relative, is the addition of wine and cream.

Our favorite bisque recipe


Chowder is quite a different thing altogether. Unlike bisque which is smooth, chowder is thick and chunky. Traditionally it’s filled with pieces of vegetables, seafood and/or meat. It also usually includes milk or cream, and gets its thick texture from hearty vegetables, like potatoes.

Fun fact: the word chowder comes from the French word for cauldron, which was the type of pot fisherman used to use to cook their stew.

Chowder recipes we love

What’s your favorite kind of bisque or chowder?