As we settle into autumn and watch the leaves change colors, the colder air makes us hungry for some of the best comfort food around. Our thoughts turn to chili… and chicken noodle soup… beef stew… homemade vegetable soup… The list goes on and on!

Do you have a favorite soup or stew? If you had to choose, would you rather have soup or stew? Do you know what the difference is?

As it turns out, there are no hard and fast rules that separate soups from stews. There are a few general guidelines that tend to define the two, though.

A soup is any combination of vegetables and/or meat cooked in liquid. Soups are usually made with water, although milk and even fruit juice can be used. Since they’re mostly liquid, soups tend to be thin.

A stew is also a combination of vegetables, usually paired with meat cooked in liquid. Unlike soups, however, stews tend to have more ingredients and less liquid. In fact, the liquid in a stew is often thickened with flour or corn starch to form gravy.

So how can you tell the difference between soups and stews? Soups tend to be thinner, while stews tend to be thicker with more meats and vegetables.

Of course, a hearty soup may resemble a stew, and a thin stew may look like soup. Stews are often served as a main dish, while soups tend to be first courses or appetizers.

Stews are almost always served hot. Soups, on the other hand, can be eaten hot or cold.

Another key difference between soups and stews is cooking time. Stews are usually cooked for a long time over low heat. The slow-cooking process allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to mix together.

Soups, though, tend to be cooked quickly at higher temperatures. Most soups rely on added flavors, such as herbs and spices, to create their final taste.

Of course, in the end, it may be nothing more than the cook who decides what he or she wants to call what’s in the pot. If the cook calls it soup, then it’ll probably be called soup… even if it’s a thick, slow-cooked mixture that contains more gravy than water.

Our recommendation? If you’re hungry, don’t argue with the cook! Just grab a spoon and enjoy… regardless of what it’s called!


24 Join the Discussion

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  1. What a perfectly-timed Wonder! We’re having burgoo and chili tonight with Grandma and Grandpa. They’re both very thick with lots of meat and vegetables, so I think we’ll call them stews.

    • Sounds like some super yummy comfort food will be consumed in your house tonight, Duane! It is the perfect time of the year for soups AND stews, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your comment with us today! :-)

    • “Stone Soup” is a WONDERful story, we agree, Mrs. Russ and students! Thank you for letting us know you enjoyed exploring today’s Wonder. We think a lot of Wonder Friends will be having soup or stew for dinner tonight after learning so much about each! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing this with your friends in Wonderopolis today, Mr. P! We will have to “check out” Fandango Stew for some more yummy reading! :-)

    • Hello, Kelly! We’ve got some holiday-themed Wonders coming up in the next month or two, so we can ALL learn new things together! We chose this Wonder because we WONDERed what the difference was between soup and stew! Do YOU wonder about different things sometimes? You can let us know what you wonder about any time you feel like it! Just click the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis and answer the questions! You just might see YOUR idea featured as a future Wonder of the Day®!

      Here is a Thanksgiving-themed Wonder for you! It’s past Wonder #53 – Why Do We Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving? :-)

  2. Hello!
    I saw that some of you read my book “Fandango Stew.” I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Remember-“Chili’s good, so is barbeque, but nothing’s finer than Fandango Stew!” Slim and Luis want you to have a big bowl soon.
    Good eating, friends!

    • Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis today and sharing this COOL comment with us, Mr. Davis! We’re glad we learned about Fandango Stew yesterday, and we can’t wait to make a big bowl of it! Do you think Slim and Luis would help us? :-)

    • We sure could use a big bowl of yummy soup right now, JimBobJoe! It’s a chilly evening in Wonderopolis! Thanks for sharing about your grandmother’s soup. We think meals made by grandmothers must have an extra ingredient that makes them taste so special…LOVE! :-)

  3. I don’t know… I like them both! Like JimBobJoe, my grandmother makes a lot of soup and stew. However, I like them both and I hope someday I’ll be able to make her famous lasagna soup! Hey, that reminds me, Wonderopolis. I have a WONDER. Why do ear buds stop working? A lot of mine broke and that made Sharkysharky very mad. :(

    • Lasagna Soup sounds super, super, yummy, yummy, Sharkysharky! You’re lucky to have a grandmother who cooks so many delicious soups and stews for you! Thanks for suggesting a Wonder of the Day® about ear buds! That’s a GREAT idea! :-)

    • Hello, Terri! Thanks so much for sharing that you liked exploring this Wonder of the Day®! We’re super glad to hear that! :-)

    • It sounds like you enjoy stew that has “everything but the kitchen sink”, Jeff! We love your SUPER appetite for delicious food and WONDERing, too! Thanks for leaving such a yummy post! :)

    • Not to worry, Tyler J! We think as long as you try new foods it’s okay to dislike certain cuisines! We think the most important part is trying new things– you will never know if you don’t try! Some people may prefer soup or stew, but what’s your favorite food to eat on a chilly night? :)

    • We love a good variety of food, Cyera, but once in a while we will enjoy some delicious Wonderopolis soup! Do you have a favorite meal? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do you prefer soup or stew?
  • How are stews different from soups?
  • What’s your favorite soup or stew recipe?

Wonder Gallery

beef stew_shutterstock_65262175Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make some soup? Or would you prefer to make stew? It’s up to you! Head to the kitchen with a friend or family member, and see what the refrigerator and the cupboards hold.

If you need some inspiration, here are some delicious recipes that you’re sure to enjoy:

When your soup (or stew!) is ready, sit down for a nice meal together as a family. While you enjoy your homemade meal, share a story together, too. We recommend reading Stone Soup by Marcia Brown.

If you have a favorite soup or stew recipe you’d like to share with your Wonder Friends, you can email it to us, post in on Facebook or even share it on Twitter!


Still Wondering

Check out Illuminations’ The Soup Spot lesson to learn how to conduct a survey and create pictographs and line plots.


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