Should Cereal Really Be Considered Soup?

It's one of those age-old debates that's now spread to the internet, and it's a puzzling one. We may not have settled whether hot dogs are sandwiches, ketchup is a smoothie or Pop-Tarts are ravioli (per Culinary Debates), but should cereal be considered a soup? While both sides have valid points (via Reader's Digest), it appears they're at an impasse, so now we have to step in. (Who doesn't love a good food debate? We're always up for one.)

Of course, cereal can be classified in many ways: a top-tier breakfast food, a grain, and the perfect complement to cold milk. But does it belong in the same category as the most beloved soups: chicken noodle, tomato, potato, and even pea soup? Or is it its own entity, separate from that (albeit similar) delightfully simple meal that never requires a knife and fork? We put our investigative skills to the test in a hard-hitting exposé on your go-to breakfast — so is cereal actually a soup?

The mixture of opinions on cereal's category is a veritable soup

Some people say cereal is clearly a soup, while others vehemently deny it, but one thing's for sure — the sheer mixture of opinions on the topic seems to be a soup of its own. Those who say that cereal is definitely a soup claim that since it's often eaten with milk, it has the broth component that defines many soups. They may be on to something — although milk isn't part of every soup's broth, it's featured in various bases. Meats, vegetables, or noodles are often added to soup broth for flavor and texture. While cereal is none of these things, it contains carbohydrates like noodles do, and it's also suspended in the milk "broth" like the ingredients in soup would typically be. Some soups — like gazpacho — are eaten cold, so the temperature doesn't automatically mean that cereal is not a soup (per Reader's Digest).

Detractors to these arguments need not look further than some of the most well-known dictionaries. Merriam-Webster defines soup as "a liquid food, especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food." At the same time, mentions that making soup involves boiling the ingredients. Cereal is typically sweet, isn't made with any stock, and is not boiled, so there might be some credence to this perspective. After all, who's to argue with two dictionaries?

The verdict on whether or not cereal is really a soup

Case closed? Maybe not yet. Those who think a bowl of cereal is soup and those who disagree both have valuable points. So how do we settle the score? Do we count the number of arguments in favor of each position on cereal's category, or do we simply admit that we don't know what cereal truly is?

Cereal could very well be "Schrödinger's soup" — a soup and not a soup simultaneously (per Science Focus). It often contains milk, as do many soups; it's eaten with a spoon and has a liquid, soup-like consistency when paired with milk. It also has added ingredients rounding out the milk base, making it a contender for being a delicious soup (per Reader's Digest). However, unlike most soups (except a few), it's eaten cold. None of its ingredients are boiled, and the cereal and milk are mixed together rather than cooked or chemically combined (via Virginia Law Weekly). Call cereal whatever you want, and you'll still have a compelling argument for your position. One thing's for sure: cereal is an enigma, so this heated debate could rage on forever.