Cream Soup, Chowder, Bisque. What’s the difference?

What is a soup?

A soup can be any combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked in a liquid. They can be thick or thin, smooth or chunky. They can be served hot or cold. Vishyssoise and many fruit soups are served cold. They may be garnished with croutons, grated cheese, sour cream or crispy pancetta to take your soup to a higher level. Or if you are like me, in most cases, simple crackers put the finishing touches on it.

Soups are classified according to the liquid used as a base as well as the manner in which subsequent additions are treated.

Basic styles of soup.

Clear Soups

Clear soups are, well clear. They use a patiently and carefully skimmed stock to remove all bits and leave nothing but the broth. Clear soups typically feature a clear, flavorful liquid brimming with meat or vegetables as you would find chicken soup (not Campbell’s Chicken Soup which hardly has anything more than the broth).

Pureed Soups

While pureed soups usually rely on clear stock (like clear soups) their character is defined by the vegetables they contain. The vegetables can be cooked in the stock and then pureed to make a smooth soup, or partly pureed to create a nice contrast of chunky ingredients in a smooth paste.

Cream Soups

Cream soups, along with chowders and bisques, depend on the addition of milk or cream for the richness. Classic cream soups, such as Cream of Broccoli, begin with a butter (if you can’t find good quality local butter made from grass-fed beef try U.S. Wellness Meats ) and flour roux as a thickener and are finished with heavy cream for a silky texture.


Chowders, most often chunky mixtures, usually contain potatoes and onions along with other vegetables or seafood and a smoky hint of bacon (if you can’t find nitrate/nitrite free bacon in your area U.S. Wellness Meats has some of the best we have found).


“Bisque” is a term originally applied only to smooth cream-based seafood soups made with lobster, shrimp, crab or crayfish. However, now it is often used to describe any thick creamy soup. Cooked rice, though not always used, is a traditional thickener for bisque. This is the best source of fresh Pacific Seafood.

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