chowder vs soup

Chowder vs. Soup – What Are The Differences?

A good soup is good for the soul. Not only is it nutritious, but it is easy to make and heartwarming. Do you know what chowder is though? A soup and a chowder might not always be the same.

Stay tuned to find out what the differences are between chowder and soup. You will probably finish reading this article only to get cooking your favorite soup recipe!

What Is Chowder?

A chowder is a soup, or sometimes stew, with milk or cream. In most cases, you thicken it using broken crackers or a roux. It might also have seafood or vegetables.

Most times, chowder comes with oyster crackers or saltines to drop into the soup. Common examples of traditional chowders include the New England clam chowder and corn chowder. Other chowders include seafood, lamb, veal, potato, and cheese.

The chowder we know today was used as a dish aboard boats for fishermen and seamen. It was thickened using a dense biscuit that contains flour, water, and salt, and is called hardtack. This soup was originally brought to North America by English and French immigrants.

The most traditional chowder is the New England clam chowder, which contains clams and pieces of fish along with potatoes, cream, milk, and spices. You can also find it with onions and sometimes pork. Other variations of this chowder, like the Manhattan one, might include tomatoes, Worcester sauce, red peppers, and allspice. There are many sides for clam chowder you can eat with.

Some other examples of chowder include potatoes, sweet corn, haddock, crayfish, bean, bacon, salmon, and leeks. Many of these are homemade but are also available frozen or homemade. Popular brands like Campbell and Progresso sell various chowders in cans for quick cooking.

These days, you might also see chowders that do not have milk or cream but are still thickened and have the texture of a stew. A chowder will always be chunky and a bit on the heavier side. You can choose more vegetables and skip the milk or cream to make it healthier.

Nutrition Facts

One cup of New England clam chowder with milk (248 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 151 calories
  • 8.08 g protein
  • 5.03 g fat
  • 18.7 g carbohydrate
  • 0.744 g fiber
  • 6.6 g sugar
  • 176 mg calcium 
  • 3.05 mg iron
  • 41.5 mg magnesium
  • 154 mg phosphorus
  • 425 mg potassium
  • 539 mg sodium
  • 12.2 mg vitamin C
  • 36.6 µg folate
  • 107 µg vitamin A
  • 41.5 mg cholesterol

Is Chowder Healthy?

Chowder can be healthy depending on its ingredients. Canned soup will always be higher in sodium as well. The best choice is to make your chowder at home and pick healthy ingredients.

Since chowder contains cream and milk, it is a good source of vitamins and minerals. These often include vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is also relatively higher in protein than other soups.

You might also get other nutrients depending on the ingredients of the chowder. New England clam chowder and seafood chowders have more protein, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc due to fish in them. Vegetable chowders have more fiber than the rest of these.

On the other hand, chowders can be high in fat. Because they almost always contain heavy cream and butter. Some recipes will also include bacon or pork, increasing the cholesterol content.

It is also important to note that chowder can be high in sodium. Since it contains milk and sometimes preservatives, some chowders can have over 800 mg of sodium, which is already ⅓ of your daily allowance. Watch out for canned chowders, as those can be even higher.

As mentioned earlier, chowder can also have some protein. However, the content depends on the type of meat you are using, whether it is fish, shrimp, bacon, or chicken. Some chowders are extremely low in protein and contain carbohydrates and fat.

The best way to ensure your chowder is healthy is to cook it at home. You can choose more vegetables and skip the heavy cream. You can also make a low sodium broth.

What Is Soup?

Soup is a liquid food with many ingredients, including vegetables, meat, and dairy. It is usually served hot but can be room temperature or cold. It might also include only a broth, thick liquid, or pieces of meat and vegetables.

You prepare hot soup by boiling liquid and solid ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, and extracting the flavors. Depending on the amount of liquid, the soup can be thin or thick, almost resembling a stew. It might also have vegetables, pasta, noodles, peas, beans, seafood, etc.

There is evidence that soups have been around since before Christ (BC). The term soup comes from the French “soup,” which stands for broth. In France, soups are grouped as either clear or thick.

Although you might think that canned and dry soup is a recent invention, this preparation has been around since the 19th century. Canned soup can be condensed, which requires the addition of water. It can also be ready to eat and only requires heating.

You can find dry soup mixes as a means for longer preservation. They only require boiling water, but other ingredients might be added too. Some common examples include minestrone, ramen, and chicken noodle.

In certain regions of the world and in hot weather, you might find cold soups. One example is gazpacho, which is a cold tomato-based food served in Spain. Vichyssoise is a cold soup made with pureed potatoes, leeks, and dairy.

Nutrition Facts

One cup of Maryland crab soup (244 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 85.4 calories
  • 10.3 g protein
  • 0.854 g fat
  • 10.3 g carbohydrate
  • 2.93 g fiber
  • 3.2 g sugar
  • 80.5 mg calcium
  • 1.29 mg iron
  • 41.5 mg magnesium
  • 33.6 mg phosphorus
  • 62.4 mg potassium
  • 516 mg sodium
  • 79.2 µg folate
  • 0 µg vitamin A
  • 0 mg cholesterol

Is Soup Healthy?

Soups can be an extremely healthy option, but it depends on the ingredients it contains. Certain soups are clear and light, while others have milk, butter, and fat. They can be a good option when you want a quick and fulfilling meal.

On the one hand, soup is a great way to eat your daily vegetables. You can find soups that only have vegetables, such as minestrone, mushroom, tomato, or leek. You can also see some combination of whole grains, which improves the amount of fiber you consume.

However, not all soups are the same. You should be careful with certain ingredients, including thickeners, like cream, butter, egg yolk, and more. These can raise the fat content and will lower the nutrient profile of your food. Creamy soups might lose all their benefits when they have high-fat content.

Other soups might also be too high in sodium, depending on how they are prepared. The canned soup contains over ⅓ of the recommended amount of sodium because it needs it for preservation purposes. Some canned, condensed, and dry soups might exceed the 2.6g of sodium that is recommended for healthy adults per day.

Certain soup recipes might contain more protein and nutrients than others. Some of these include chicken noodles, tomato soup, and bone-broth-based soups. Adding lean protein, like chicken or fish, will also increase the protein content without raising the fat or calories too much.

Finally, using a broth that contains more collagen, such as bone broth, will improve the benefits of drinking soup. Soups that contain lean meats and bone will add more protein along with collagen. This nutrient is essential in creating healthy muscles, joints, and bones.

If you want your soup to be the healthiest option, it is best to avoid canned soup. Otherwise, try to find a low sodium option. Making your recipe at home will improve its nutrient profile and give you more health benefits for fewer calories, carbohydrates, and fat.

What Are The Key Differences Between Chowder and Soup?

The first difference between chowder and soup is what they are and are not. Chowder is a type of soup that includes cream or dairy and is thick.

Soup is a stand-alone term that refers to a variety of liquid recipes.

The origins of the dishes are also different. Chowder originated in ships, with fishermen making it for their meals. The soup originated in France, although the concept has been around for centuries in various cultures.

Another key difference is the texture between these two. Chowder uses milk or cream and flour to create a very thick mixture, as well as chunks of food. Soup can be extremely light or contain some dairy as well.

These two foods are also not prepared the same. Chowder requires slow cooking of the fish or meat, then adding the liquid, and cooking over low heat. Soup is often made by boiling the ingredients to extract the flavors.

Finally, the ingredients are not equal either. For the most part, chowders include milk, flour, fish, and vegetables, although they can have other meat. Soup can have multiple ingredients, including noodles, chicken, fish, tomatoes, pork, beef, potatoes, and more.

Chowder vs Soup Main DifferencesChowderSoup
Origin England, France, and North America  France 
Main Ingredients  Cream, flour, seafood, or meat Broth, vegetables, grains, and more 
Texture Thick and creamy Depends on the ingredients but can be light, creamy, or chewy 
UseAppetizer, main dish, and side dish Appetizer, main dish, and side dish 
Cost$1.98 to 4.99 per 18 oz can$1.19 to 5.99 per 18 oz can
Calories per cup    151 calories 85.4 calories 

Is Chowder or Soup Healthier?

In general, the soup will be a healthier choice. Chowder contains more cream, fat, and calories. Soup tends to be lighter, but it depends on the ingredients.

If you choose to make your soup at home, you can make it healthier. Try choosing low fat, low sodium, and whole-grain ingredients. Your soup can be high in protein and very filling without excessive calories.

Chowder can be healthier when you choose lighter ingredients, such as low-fat cream or non-dairy alternatives, as well as fish or chicken. Either way, when in doubt, choose a soup. When buying canned or dry, go with low sodium options too. If you’re using canned products or leftover, reheating soup is an important skill you need to know before serving.


Now you know that chowder is a type of soup, but it is different from it. You can safely choose the right one next time you go to dinner. Enjoy a nice cup of hot chowder or soup next time you are cold.

*image by bhofack2/depositphotos

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