First of all, they’re both usually served in a bowl and consumed with a spoon—but what’s the actual difference between soup and stew? It turns out it’s a fine line—while both soup and stew are made by combining ingredients that have been cooked in liquid (broth, stock, water, etc.) stew often contains less liquid and can be thick enough to be served on a plate or ladled on top of a base like noodles, potatoes, or rice.
Stews can also be thickened with corn starch, or flour, and have more of a gravy-like consistency than soup. But again, there’s a fine line—if you cook down a soup and leave it boiling too long, the consistency will become similar to stew. Stews often require longer cooking times and are simmered for hours at a lower temperature.
The best way to differentiate between soup and stew? Try out some recipes and see for yourself. Here are nine recipes for soups and stews that will make a great addition to your next dinner party.
Beef stew is the best simple dish to test out that slow cooker you’ve let sit on your counter for the past year. Wine, mustard, and mushrooms contribute to the rich flavor and you can make a double batch for a week’s worth of lunches. Get our Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe.
A classic seafood soup with fish stock, littleneck clams, and two pounds of white fish fillets (cod, halibut, or grouper all work) with a garlicky aioli make this the perfect pick for a chilly fall evening. Get our Fish Stew recipe.
There are many variations on this classic soup, but the signature shredded chicken and fried tortilla strips are a mainstay across the board. Season liberally with garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, paprika, and cayenne. Get our Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.
This is a quick and easy recipe that makes for a pleasant change from your normal boring desk lunch. You can use any color lentil that you have on hand (except red) and substitute dried thyme if the fresh herb isn’t available. Get our Easy Lentil Soup recipe.
You’ll never buy canned tomato soup again once you find out how easy it is to make this spicy version by Boston restauranteur Barbara Lynch. Red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper add heat and you can garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche. Get our Spicy Tomato Soup recipe.
This recipe for stew includes a chayote, a gourd that is commonly used in Caribbean cuisine. The serious spice comes from using a medium habanero pepper—you can substitute with a jalapeno if you want to tone down the heat. Get our Spicy Chicken and Chayote Jamaican Stew recipe.
Nothing says fall like butternut squash soup. Roast the squash first to save time and so that you don’t have to hack away at a rock-hard winter squash. You can substitute Greek yogurt for the heavy cream if you’re trying to cut down on calories. Get our Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe.
Green Pea Soup
The lovely green color of this pea soup comes from over two pounds of fresh peas in their pods (or if you need to, you can substitute a 16-ounce package of frozen peas). Use vegetable broth if you’re making it a vegetarian evening or you can try it out with chicken broth as well. Get our Green Pea Soup recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Easy Vegetable Soup