Everything you need to know about measuring tablespoons, from terms and origin to tablespoons in a cup and helpful measurements!
Tablespoons in a cup
Knowing how many tablespoons are in a cup is very helpful when baking and cooking. Add in sticks of butter and it can get even more complicated! But what about when a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter and you don’t know how many tablespoons that is? Well, we’ve got you covered here with our basics for how to remember how many tablespoons are in a cup.
There are 16 tablespoons in 1 cup (although I find it easiest to remember 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup). The table below gives you quick conversions for the amount of tablespoons in different sized cups.
|1 cup||16 tablespoons|
|¾ cup||12 tablespoons|
|½ cup||8 tablespoons|
|⅓ cup||5 ⅓ tablespoons|
|¼ cup||4 tablespoons|
Once you’ve mastered these measurements, you won’t be afraid of recipes that switch between tablespoons, cups, or even sticks! Getting these memorized will help you become more confident in the kitchen and ready to tackle any recipe you want.
What is a Tablespoon?
Much like when we learned about ounces, there are slight variations to the tablespoon itself depending on where you are in the world.
The United States still holds to its imperial measures; as such, a tablespoon is approximately ½ fluid ounce or 14.8ml. The United Kingdom and Canada have this rounded to 15 ml but things get a bit wacky in Australia where their tablespoon is 20 ml. Keep this in mind especially when searching for recipes online, just in case you start seeing measurements that don’t add up.
Why the discrepancy? In medieval Europe, it was common for people to carry their spoons with them. Crazy right? Around the early 18th century, flatware place settings increased in popularity and among the affluent, spoons for different purposes became the norm. They would often include teaspoons (yes, for stirring tea!), dessert spoons, and soup spoons (which are the closest to the tablespoons we know today). (And by the way, there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon!)
Wet vs Dry Tablespoons
Thankfully, unlike using two sets of measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients, tablespoons work out the same. Whether it’s spices, flour, oil, or water, you can reach for the same set of spoons for measuring.
What is a cup?
Plenty of people have stories of learning to cook from their grandmother or another family figure. Sometimes there are stories of how grandma’s famous family recipe could never be duplicated because even if they did find her notes, it was filled with measurements like a “handful of rice” or a “generous portion of sugar.” No wonder these recipes get lost to time!
The standardized measure of a cup is relatively new. It was invented by Fannie Farmer, the Director of the Boston Cooking School in 1896, and first appeared in her book “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book”. Having standard measures means recipes can provide consistent results.
A cup is a measure of volume, and is equal to half of a pint. In the U.S., a cup is 8 fluid oz (though things get more complicated when you start measuring solids, where the weights can vary greatly).