Question: What Is The Difference Between Chili and Soup

May 21, 2010


Chris Paulk's picture

Chili is actually more like a stew than a soup.

Stew is a dish containing meat or vegetables and has a thick soup-like broth made from a combination of the liquid and the natural juices of the food being stewed. It has a thick gravy-like sauce

Soup is any combination of vegetables, fruit, meat, and/or fish cooked in a liquid and is generally has more liquid than a stew.

When I make chili, it "stews" on the stovetop all day long, at a low temperature, getting the most flavor from all the ingredients.

Traditional Texas style chili is a combination of meat in spices and a thick sauce and usually does not contain beans. It is sometimes called, "a bowl of red".
In New Mexico, chili would be a bowl of stewed green chilies.

Chili can be a very regional dish and will contain different ingredients including; pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, tofu, chicken, pumpkin, beer, tomatillos, ect.

Curt's picture

Chili is a kind of soup (a darn nice one), just like Split Pea or Mulligatawny. Stew is traditionally made of bigger pieces of meat or seafood (1" cubes) that are browned then cooked with large cut mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) or other vegetables along with fresh herbs and garlic in a broth either thick or thin complimenting the meat.

Gabriel Cross's picture

Chili is characterized by the use of certain spices. Although there are a multitude of variations, the signature flavor of a basic form involves the use of dried ground chili peppers and cumin. Chili can be thick like a stew or thinner and more soup-like, depending on the style and region. Many Mexican style chilies consist of large chunks of meat stewed in a thick sauce, with the consistency of Stroganoff or Indian curry, thick enough to be eaten with a fork. A chili of US origin (like Tex-Mex) is more likely to be soupy, and eaten with a spoon.

The unifying theme of all chilies is the use of dried chili powder, often in combination with fresh chilies. They can be very spicy to very mild depending on the chilies used.