What’s the Difference Between Soup and Stew?

(Image credit: Karla Conrad)

Soup and stew are so similar in character that it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart. At their core, they both rely on the same foundation of ingredients, but there is one important factor that differentiates these two hearty meals.

The Difference Between Soup and Stew

Both soup and stew are a combination of vegetables, meat, or fish cooked in liquid. What sets these two warm and hearty dishes apart is the amount of liquid that’s used for each, with stews generally containing less liquid than soup.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

More About Soup

What sets soup apart is that liquid is the main component of this dish, whether it’s a brothy, creamy, or puréed soup. It’s made with a combination of ingredients like vegetables, meat, or fish that are well-covered with water or stock, brought to a boil, and then simmered to extract flavor. Depending on the recipe, some soups can cook as fast as 20 minutes, while others benefit from a lengthier cook time.

Soup Recipes We Love

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

More About Stew

A stew is a combination of larger-cut ingredients like vegetables, meat, or fish that are just barely covered with cooking liquid, and simmered over low heat for a lengthier period of time. During cooking the liquid reduces into a gravy that is served with the solid ingredients, which are the main focus of the meal.

Also, unlike soup, which typically relies on water or stock, the cooking liquid in stew can also contain wine or beer for additional flavor. Some stews can also be thickened with flour or a roux. While stews can certainly be served on their own, you’re likely to see them served over mashed potatoes, polenta, egg noodles, rice, or other grains.

Stew Recipes We Love