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Chowder vs. Gumbo: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Updated on May 22, 2024
Chowder is a thick, creamy soup often made with seafood and potatoes, while Gumbo is a spicy stew from Louisiana featuring okra, meat, or shellfish, and a strong Creole or Cajun seasoning.

Key Differences

Chowder is a hearty, creamy soup typically made with seafood, such as clams or fish, combined with potatoes and other vegetables. Its base is usually a combination of milk or cream and broth, resulting in a rich and thick consistency. Gumbo, on the other hand, is a robust, spicy stew originating from Louisiana, deeply rooted in Creole and Cajun cuisines.
Chowder is primarily associated with New England cuisine and is often served with crackers or bread. Its flavors are milder, focusing on the natural sweetness of the seafood and the creaminess of the soup. Gumbo is known for its bold flavors, incorporating a mix of spices and sometimes file powder (ground sassafras leaves) for additional thickening and flavor.
Chowder's preparation usually involves simmering ingredients until they are tender and the soup reaches a thick, creamy consistency. In contrast, gumbo requires creating a dark roux as its base, cooking it carefully to achieve the desired depth of flavor before adding other ingredients.
While both chowder and gumbo are comfort foods, their regional origins and flavor profiles set them apart. Chowder's creamy and mild characteristics contrast with gumbo's spicy, hearty, and complex nature.

Comparison Chart


New England
Louisiana (Creole and Cajun cuisines)


Cream or milk and broth
Roux or okra

Main Ingredients

Seafood, potatoes, vegetables
Meat or seafood, okra, "holy trinity" vegetables

Flavor Profile

Creamy, mild
Spicy, bold

Thickening Agent

Cream or milk
Roux, okra, or file powder

Serving Suggestion

Often with crackers or bread
Usually with rice

Chowder and Gumbo Definitions


A type of stew with a milk or cream base.
The fish chowder was rich and hearty.


A spicy stew from Louisiana.
The restaurant's chicken and sausage gumbo was a hit.


A New England dish often featuring potatoes.
They enjoyed a traditional New England clam chowder.


A dish featuring a variety of meats and seafood.
She made a seafood gumbo with shrimp and crab.


A soup that can include corn or other vegetables.
The corn chowder was sweet and filling.


A dish known for its bold spices.
His gumbo was seasoned with a perfect blend of Creole spices.


A thick, creamy soup typically made with seafood.
She served a bowl of clam chowder for dinner.


A stew thickened with okra or roux.
The gumbo had a rich flavor thanks to the dark roux.


A creamy, comforting soup.
A hot chowder is perfect on a cold day.


A meal often served with rice.
They ladled the gumbo over a bed of fluffy white rice.


A thick soup containing fish or shellfish, especially clams, and vegetables, such as potatoes and onions, in a milk or tomato base.


Chiefly Southern US See okra.


A soup similar to this seafood dish
Corn chowder.


A soup or stew thickened with okra pods. Also called okra.


A thick, creamy soup or stew.
Fish chowder


Chiefly Mississippi Valley & Western US A fine silty soil, common in the southern and western United States, that forms an unusually sticky mud when wet.


A stew, particularly fish or seafood, not necessarily thickened.


Gumbo A French patois spoken by some black people and Creoles in Louisiana and the French West Indies.


(transitive) To make (seafood, etc.) into chowder.


(countable) okra: the plant or its edible capsules.


A dish made of fresh fish or clams, biscuit, onions, etc., stewed together.


(countable) A soup or stew popular in Louisiana, consisting of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener (often okra), and the "Holy Trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onions.


A seller of fish.


(uncountable) A fine silty soil that when wet becomes very thick and heavy.


To make a chowder of.


A soup thickened with the mucilaginous pods of the okra; okra soup.


A thick soup or stew made with milk and bacon and onions and potatoes


The okra plant or its pods.


Any of various fine-grained silty soils that become waxy and very sticky mud when saturated with water


Tall coarse annual of Old World tropics widely cultivated in southern United States and West Indies for its long mucilaginous green pods used as basis for soups and stews; sometimes placed in genus Hibiscus


Long mucilaginous green pods; may be simmered or sauteed but used especially in soups and stews


A soup or stew thickened with okra pods


What are common ingredients in gumbo?

Gumbo typically includes meat or seafood, okra, onions, bell peppers, and celery.

What is chowder?

Chowder is a thick, creamy soup often made with seafood and potatoes.

Is chowder spicy?

Chowder is generally mild and creamy.

What are common ingredients in chowder?

Common ingredients in chowder include seafood, potatoes, and vegetables.

What is the base of chowder?

Chowder's base is usually a combination of milk or cream and broth.

What is the base of gumbo?

Gumbo's base often includes a roux or okra for thickening.

What is gumbo?

Gumbo is a spicy stew from Louisiana made with meat or seafood and thickened with okra or roux.

How is gumbo thickened?

Gumbo is thickened with a roux, okra, or file powder.

What is the 'holy trinity' in gumbo?

The "holy trinity" in gumbo is onions, bell peppers, and celery.

Where did chowder originate?

Chowder originated in New England.

How is chowder thickened?

Chowder is thickened with cream or milk.

What gives gumbo its rich flavor?

The dark roux and blend of spices give gumbo its rich flavor.

Is gumbo considered a comfort food?

Yes, gumbo is also considered a comfort food, especially in the South.

Where did gumbo originate?

Gumbo originated in Louisiana, particularly in Creole and Cajun cuisines.

Can both chowder and gumbo be made with seafood?

Yes, both chowder and gumbo can include seafood as a primary ingredient.

What makes chowder creamy?

The cream or milk base makes chowder creamy.

Is gumbo spicy?

Gumbo is typically spicy and bold in flavor.

Can chowder include corn?

Yes, corn chowder is a popular variation.

Is chowder considered a comfort food?

Yes, chowder is considered a comforting and hearty dish.

Is gumbo served with rice?

Yes, gumbo is often served with rice.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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