Does 6 tablespoons equal 1/3 of a cup?

Quick Answer

No, 6 tablespoons does not equal exactly 1/3 cup. However, it is a commonly used approximation. 6 tablespoons equals 3 fluid ounces, while 1/3 cup equals approximately 5.33 fluid ounces.

Measuring Equivalents for Common Ingredients

When baking and cooking, it’s important to accurately measure ingredients for recipes to turn out as intended. While there are standard measuring equivalents, some common approximations are used for convenience. Here are some common measuring equivalents:

3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce
4 tablespoons = 1⁄4 cup
5 1/3 tablespoons = 1⁄3 cup
8 tablespoons = 1⁄2 cup
16 tablespoons = 1 cup

As you can see, 6 tablespoons equals 3 fluid ounces, while 1/3 cup is approximately 5 1/3 tablespoons or 5.33 fluid ounces. So 6 tablespoons is not exactly equal to 1/3 cup. However, the approximation is very common.

Why 6 Tablespoons is Used as an Approximation of 1/3 Cup

There are a few reasons why 6 tablespoons is often used in place of 1/3 cup:

– Convenience – 6 tablespoons converts evenly to 3 standard 2-tablespoon measuring spoons. It’s easier to measure out 6 tablespoons using 3 spoons than trying to measure 5 1/3 tablespoons.

– Small margin of error – The actual difference between 6 tablespoons (3 oz) and 1/3 cup (5.33 oz) is only about 2 1/3 tablespoons or 1 1/3 fluid ounces. This small difference won’t drastically alter most recipes.

– Standardization – Published recipes almost always use the approximation of 6 tablespoons to 1/3 cup. Using this standard avoids confusion by aligning withrecipe conventions.

– Difficulty of exact thirds – Without special 2/3 cup or 1/3 cup measuring tools, it can be tricky to accurately divide a standard 1 cup measure into exact thirds. 6 tablespoons gets you close enough without hassle.

So while not perfectly mathematically accurate, the approximation of 6 tablespoons to 1/3 cup is entrenched in cooking tradition, backed by logic, and works well enough for most applications.

When Precision Matters

While the 6 tablespoons to 1/3 cup approximation will work for most recipes, there are some instances when precision is more important:

– Baked goods – For delicate baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pastries, precise measurements matter more. Too much or too little of a key ingredient like flour or butter can make a big difference.

– Small batches – When making very small batches, like a single serving, the small margin of error from approximations is proportionally bigger. Precision is key.

– Dietary restrictions – People with food allergies/sensitivities, diabetes, or other medical dietary needs require precise measurements to calculate nutrients and ingredients appropriately.

– Scientific applications – Laboratory or scientific recipes call for exact measurements for experimental validity and reproducibility.

– Canning/preserving – For home canning and preserving, precision is important to maintain proper pH levels and ensure food safety.

So while 6 tablespoons per 1/3 cup works for most everyday cooking scenarios, there are instances where precision should be prioritized for accuracy, safety, and consistency.

Weight vs Volume Measurement

Part of the imprecision between 6 tablespoons and 1/3 cup stems from using volume rather than weight. Measuring by volume in spoons and cups can vary due to:

– How tightly packed an ingredient is
– Granule/powder size
– How heavily scooped/leveled a cup is filled
– Settling of contents over time

Measuring by weight in grams and ounces is actually much more precise since it is not affected by these volume variations. However, most home cooks don’t have digital kitchen scales, so volume measures remain common. But when precision is needed, weighing ingredients removes the guesswork and provides consistent accuracy.


While 6 tablespoons and 1/3 cup are not exactly equivalent, 6 tablespoons can be used as a reasonable approximation for convenience in most everyday cooking. However, when precision matters for baking, dietary needs, small batches, or scientific applications, it’s important to measure 1/3 cup as precisely as possible by weight or exact volume. Ultimately, it depends on the specific recipe and your needs. Knowing when precision is critical can improve your baking and allow you to adapt recipes perfectly to your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do recipes use 6 tablespoons as 1/3 cup? Why not just use the real measurement?

Recipes use 6 tablespoons primarily for convenience, since it can be easily measured as 3 regular tablespoons or 3 standard 2-tbsp measuring spoons. The actual 1/3 cup measure is 5 1/3 tablespoons, which is trickier to measure. The difference is small enough not to affect most recipes.

When baking, should I use the exact 1/3 cup measure or 6 tablespoons?

For baking, it’s best to use the more precise 1/3 cup measure, which is about 5 1/3 tablespoons. Baking relies on chemical reactions so precise amounts are important. Use proper measuring cups and level off ingredients.

Is there a big difference in volume between 6 tablespoons and 1/3 cup?

There is a small but measurable difference. 6 tablespoons is equivalent to 3 fluid ounces. 1/3 cup is approximately 5.33 fluid ounces. So 6 tablespoons is about 2 1/3 tablespoons or 1 1/3 fluid ounces less than the exact 1/3 cup measure.

Should I buy a 1/3 cup measuring tool instead of using 6 tablespoons?

Specialty measuring cups like 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup measures can be useful for precision baking and cooking to avoid rounding up or down. However, since most recipes use the 6 tbsp approximation, these specialty tools are not essential kitchen items.

If a recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, can I substitute with 1/3 cup?

It’s generally OK to substitute a precisely measured 1/3 cup for 6 tablespoons called for in a recipe. Just keep in mind the volume will be slightly more. For baking, you may want to stick to the recipe for best results. For other cooking, the small difference likely won’t be noticed.

Key Takeaways

– 6 tablespoons does not precisely equal 1/3 cup. 6 tbsp = 3 oz while 1/3 cup = 5.33 oz.
– The 6 tbsp to 1/3 cup approximation is very common due to convenience and small margin of error.
– Precision measurements are important for baking, small batches, dietary needs, and scientific applications.
– Weighing ingredients by grams provides the most accuracy versus measuring by volume.
– Specialty measuring tools like 1/3 cups can improve precision when needed.
– For most recipes the difference between 6 tbsp and 1/3 cup is negligible, but precision is key for some uses.

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