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Is Cereal a Soup?

Is cereal a soup? If you’ve ever wondered whether there are enough similarities between soup and cereal for the latter to be considered a kind of cold soup, you’re not the only one. Over 12,000 people search for the answer to this question every month! So what’s the down low?

A bowl of cereal with milk next to a spoon

Every now and then you stumble upon a debate that makes you pause and question everything you assumed was true. Case in point: is cereal a soup? Your immediate answer will probably be a definitive “no,” but… are you sure? If you stop and think about it, there are enough similarities between cereal and soup to definitely give you food for thought.

Is Cereal a Kind of Soup?

Believe it or not, there is some debate about this and you can make a good argument either way. Let’s take a look at some key similarities and differences between soup and cereal:

  • Ingredients. Cereal is made primarily from grains, such as oats, rice, or wheat, which are processed and often fortified with additional nutrients. In contrast, soup typically includes a combination of various ingredients like vegetables, meats, or legumes, along with a liquid base. However, soup can also be served with grains like barley or farro, and it can also be served with croutons… which are essentially the same as cereal except savory and shaped more like a square.
  • Preparation. Cereal is usually consumed by pouring milk or a milk alternative over it. It is intended to be enjoyed in its dry form or with the milk partially absorbed to provide texture and flavor. Soup, on the other hand, often involves cooking and simmering ingredients together to create a blended or chunky mixture. Still there are soups that have milk as a base, in which case, could the cereal milk be considered a kind of broth?
  • Serving Temperature. Cereal is typically served slightly chilled when combined with cold milk. Soup, can also be served chilled (for example, a gazpacho) but is also often served warm or hot. If cereal by cereal we mean dry cereal from a box (not cereal grains like oats), then only being served cold sets it apart from soup.
  • How you eat it. Both cereal and soup are served in bowls and eaten with a spoon. People often also drink the remaining milk or broth from the bowl towards the end of their meal. In this regard, there isn’t a distinction between the two kinds of food.
  • Culinary tradition. Cereal is considered a breakfast or snack food, while soup is a broader culinary category that encompasses various cultural and regional dishes. Soups have a long history in different cuisines, and they often play a role in appetizers, main courses, or even desserts. But here too the lines can get blurry, because in some areas of the world soup is considered traditional breakfast fare. For example, in Japan a bowl of nourishing miso soup is a common way to start the day.
  • Societal norms. In 1893 the supreme court ruled 9-0 that even though tomatoes are technically fruit they should be classified as vegetables (Nix v. Hedden). The reasoning was that society viewed and used tomatoes as a vegetable, therefore they were vegetables. Following this logic, since society views cereal as a distinct meal of its own, cereal is not a soup.

What do you think? Is cereal a kind of soup? Just as folks can argue either way about hot dogs being a kind of sandwich, it seems like you can make a good case for cereal being a kind of could soup. Or not!

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