Get the facts about both sides of this classic argument

Breakfast to many, a nighttime snack to some... but the ultimate question still remains. Is cereal, in all its milk-soaked glory, a soup or… well, just cereal? From forums and blog entries to social media posts and website articles, countless people have tried to spoon up the truth to this milky debate—but we’re here to settle things once and for all. Read on to learn everything there is to know about this iconic argument, so you can confidently answer this question for yourself.

Things You Should Know

  • Cereal doesn’t count as a soup by most well-established dictionaries.
  • Some people argue that cereal is a soup due to the existence of dessert soups and milk-based soups.
  • Many argue that cereal isn’t a soup since it’s universally accepted as a breakfast food and it doesn’t have to be cooked.
Section 1 of 5:

Does cereal qualify as soup?

  1. In the eyes of the Random House Unabridged dictionary, soup is “a liquid food made by boiling or simmering meat, fish, or vegetables with various added ingredients.”[1] The Collins dictionary also supports this definition, calling soup a “liquid food made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables in water.”[2] Last time we checked, no boiling water (or meat and veggies!) is needed to prepare a cold bowl of cereal.
    • The Merriam-Webster definition offers a little bit of wiggle room by defining soup as “a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food.”[3] Cereal, in many respects, qualifies as “a liquid food” that “often contains pieces of solid food”—and the use of “especially” leads some to speculate that savory stock isn’t the ultimate qualifier of a dish’s overall soupiness.
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Section 2 of 5:

Why Cereal Is a Soup

  1. Sure, most soups are hot—but not all of them are! The Spanish gazpacho is an iconic example of a chilled soup, along with the French Vichyssoise. The beloved Bulgarian Tarator, which includes a delightful pairing of yogurt and cucumbers, is yet another delicious soup that’s served cold.[4] By this logic, why can’t a bowl of cereal with a cold milk base also join the ranks of chilled soup?
  2. “Soup has to be savory” is a classic argument by cereal-soup naysayers—but dessert soups disagree. Often made with fresh fruits and left to chill in the fridge, dessert soups are as sweet (and cold!) as soups come.[5] In this sense, couldn’t a delicious bowl of Lucky Charms or Reese’s Puffs qualify as a “dessert” soup?
    • Cereal company Kellogg’s actually has a “Froot Loops Soup” recipe on their website. While it has a fruit juice base instead of a milk one, it does feature Froot Loops cereal as a key ingredient.[6]
  3. Would anyone care for a bowl of New England clam chowder? How about some broccoli cheddar soup instead? These dishes—you guessed it—have milk-based broths.[7] Who’s to say that milk itself can’t count as a broth by these parameters?
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Section 3 of 5:

Why Cereal Isn’t a Soup

  1. When it comes to prep time, it doesn’t get much simpler than cereal: you measure out your cereal, you pour in the milk, and bam—you’re done. Even if you’re following a simple recipe, soup requires several more steps (and an actual cooking process) to become soup.
    • Let’s take a look at this wikiHow recipe for making homemade chicken noodle soup. As simple as this recipe is, you still need to complete 12 steps to get a finished pot of soup.
  2. Let’s say that you’re chopping up a potato for a batch of creamy potato soup. Once you’ve added in the potatoes (along with your other soup ingredients) and cooked it on the stove, you’ll eventually have a delicious soup. The potatoes on their own aren’t soup, though—it’s the cooking process that makes it so. Cereal, on the other hand, will always be cereal (even if there’s no milk poured in).
  3. In 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that while tomatoes technically qualified as fruits, they were legally vegetables because that’s what everyone knew them as.[8] Cereal, arguably, follows the same principle—hardly anyone seriously views cereal as a soup; therefore, it isn’t one.
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Section 4 of 5:

Is cereal a salad?

  1. Some people argue that cereal qualifies as the base of the salad, while milk serves as the dressing. Let’s take a closer look at that theory—according to Nestle, a popular cereal company, the recommended child’s serving size for breakfast cereal is ⅔ cup (30 g) of dry cereal and ½ cup (125 mL) of milk.[9] By that logic, you’d have to pour a heaping ½ cup (125 mL) of salad dressing over a measly bowl of veggies. Yuck!
    • Most major dictionaries don’t support cereal being a salad, either. For instance, Merriam-Webster qualifies salad as either “raw greens often combined with other vegetables and toppings” or “small pieces of food mixed with a dressing or set in gelatin.”[10] A simple bowl of cold cereal and milk definitely doesn’t make the cut here.
Section 5 of 5:

Key Takeaways

  1. The true meaning of a word really boils down to the way it's used in a given conversation. If your friend says that they’re making soup for dinner, you’d hardly expect them to plop down a bowl of Cheerios in front of you. Plus, many dictionary definitions don’t really make a strong case for cereal qualifying as soup, either.
  2. At the end of the day, people on the internet are always going to disagree—and if you, within your heart of hearts, really believe that cereal is a soup, who are we to tell you otherwise? The cereal-soup question is a silly debate to stir up with your friends, family, and the occasional stranger on the internet. You can believe whatever you’d like!
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About This Article

Ollie George Cigliano
Reviewed by:
Private Chef & Food Educator
This article was reviewed by Ollie George Cigliano and by wikiHow staff writer, Janice Tieperman. Ollie George Cigliano is a Private Chef, Food Educator, and Owner of Ollie George Cooks, based in Long Beach, California. With over 20 years of experience, she specializes in utilizing fresh, fun ingredients and mixing traditional and innovative cooking techniques. Ollie George holds a BA in Comparative Literature from The University of California, Berkeley, and a Nutrition and Healthy Living Certificate from eCornell University. This article has been viewed 33,815 times.
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Co-authors: 8
Updated: January 18, 2024
Views: 33,815
Categories: Food and Entertaining