What does 1/3 mean in a cup?

Quick Answer

1/3 cup is equal to 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon, or about 80 milliliters. This fractional measurement is commonly used in recipes, particularly baking recipes, to precisely measure out ingredients. 1/3 cup is one third of a standard US cup, which is 8 fluid ounces or 237 milliliters.

Measuring Out 1/3 Cup

When a recipe calls for 1/3 cup of an ingredient, you’ll need to use an appropriate measuring tool designed for cups and tablespoons. The easiest way is to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup, which has markings specifically for 1/3, 2/3, and a full cup. Alternatively, you can measure it out using other cups and spoons:

– Use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon and fill it 5 times. This will equal 5 tablespoons.
– Then use a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon and fill it once. This adds the final 1 teaspoon to reach 1/3 cup.
– You can also use a 1/4 cup measure, fill it once, and then add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon more.

No matter what measuring cups and spoons you use, make sure they are level, not heaping or rounded on top. This is important for accurate measurement. Scooping and sweeping off the excess helps level off the ingredients.

WHY Use 1/3 Cup

Recipes often call for fractional cup measurements, like 1/3 cup, for several reasons:

– More precision – 1/3 cup allows for measurement of a smaller amount than 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup. Recipes are tested extensively to fine tune the right volume of each ingredient.

– Even division – Some recipes require dividing a quantity evenly into thirds. Using 1/3 cup measures make this easy.

– Smaller quantities – Some ingredients are used in small amounts, making 1/3 cup ideal. For example, an expensive extract like vanilla may be called for in 1/3 cup portions.

– Uniform baking – In baking recipes, uniformity in measuring is crucial for the chemistry of the batter or dough. Using precise measures like 1/3 cup helps ensure consistency.

– Layering ingredients – Recipes for layered dishes, like lasagna, often rely on specific amounts like 1/3 cup for assembling even layers.

– Standardization – Since 1/3 cup is an established standard measure, recipes specify it for clarity and precision. Stating fractions like 5 tbsp + 1 tsp leaves more room for variation.

Equivalents for 1/3 Cup

In the United States customary system of measurement, here are some equivalent amounts to 1/3 cup:

– 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (the most common equivalent)
– 16 teaspoons
– 10 2/3 fluid ounces
– 80 milliliters

For simplicity, recipes will almost always list the 5 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon equivalent.

In the metric system, 80 milliliters is the exact conversion.

When converting between US customary units and metric for a recipe, keep in mind that the metric conversions will be approximate, not exact. Nonetheless, these equivalents can still be handy for measuring out 1/3 cup.

When Precision Matters

While the above equivalents are useful, there are cases in baking and cooking when precision is vital. For example:

– Baked goods – cakes, cookies, and breads rely on chemical reactions that require exact measurements. Too much or too little of something can result in failure.

– Portion control – sticking to proper portion sizes is important in dieting, using recipes with calorie counts, or dividing food among groups.

– Food cost – commercial kitchens need consistency in portioning expensive ingredients to control food costs. Waste costs money.

– Restricted diets – people with food restrictions or allergies require strict avoidance of certain foods, so measurements must be precise.

– Food photography – recipes being photographed require perfectly measured ingredients to look their best.

In these cases, using the exact measuring tool designed for 1/3 cup is recommended. The standard US 1/3 cup measure ensures accuracy and consistency.


While 1/3 cup may seem like an unusual amount used in recipes, it actually serves very specific purposes. The precision of a fractional measurement allows for accurate portioning of ingredients, especially in baked goods. Using the appropriate measuring tools helps eliminate mistakes for the home cook. And knowing the equivalent 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon can allow for flexibility in measuring. So next time you see 1/3 cup called for in a recipe, you’ll know exactly how to properly measure out this important amount.

Frequently Asked Questions

What measuring cups should I use to measure 1/3 cup?

The best measuring cup to use is one specifically marked for 1/3 cup. It will have clear lines showing 1/3, 2/3, and 1 cup measurements. A standard liquid measuring cup or dry measuring cups can also work if you fill to the 1/3 line.

Can I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure 1/3 cup?

Yes, but you’ll need to fill the 1/4 cup measure and then add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon more to reach 1/3 cup. This requires an additional spoon measure. Using the dedicated 1/3 cup is easier and more accurate.

Is it okay to round off when measuring 1/3 cup, like 6 tablespoons?

No, it’s best to measure as precisely as possible. Those extra few teaspoons can throw off baking chemistry in some recipes. Stick to the exact 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon equivalent.

What if I don’t have measuring spoons for the 1 teaspoon?

In a pinch, you can use a measuring cup marked with tablespoons and estimate. Or substitute 3/4 tablespoon or 21⁄4 teaspoons for the 1 teaspoon. But measuring spoons are inexpensive and worth buying.

Can I use a kitchen scale to measure 1/3 cup? What weight is it?

Yes, using a food scale can be very precise. Just set it to grams and measure out around 75 grams, which is approximately equal to 1/3 cup. But this varies slightly by ingredient.

Is 1/3 cup the same amount as 2/3 cup?

No, 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup are distinctly different amounts. 1/3 cup is equal to 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2/3 cup is twice that amount, 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons. Be careful not to confuse these fractional cup measurements.

Using 1/3 Cup in Recipes

Here are some examples of recipes that use 1/3 cup measurements, and why:


Pancake batter relies on the right ratios of flour, milk, eggs, etc. Using 1/3 cup allows pancakes to turn out light and fluffy yet still sturdy enough to flip. Too much flour makes them tough, while too much liquid results in thin batter that burns easily.


Cookies depend on precision, since too much leavening or flour can lead to spreading or cakey texture. Many cookie recipes call for 1/3 cup butter or oil. Using just tablespoons could result in slight variances.


Cupcakes need uniformity so they bake evenly. 1/3 cup measurements are called for in both mixing the batter and filling cupcake liners. This ensures consistent results for things like height and texture.


Layering lasagna properly depends on adding the right amounts of ingredients like ricotta and sauce between the noodles. Using the standardized 1/3 cup for these layers means each forkful has the perfect ratios.

Salad Dressing

Emulsified salad dressings like vinaigrettes use 1/3 cup fractions to allow mixing the right amounts of vinegar and oil so the dressing doesn’t separate. This ratio keeps the emulsification stable.

Tips for Measuring 1/3 Cup

– Use liquid measuring cups for wet ingredients and dry measuring cups for dry ingredients. Be sure to level off the top.

– When measuring sticky ingredients like honey, spray the cup with nonstick cooking spray first to make it easier to remove all the honey cleanly.

– Spoon loose dry ingredients like flour into the cup and level with a knife for an accurate measure. Don’t scoop directly from the container.

– Check your measuring cups and spoons periodically to make sure they still have the measurement markings etched clearly. Replace if worn.

– Opt for stainless steel or plastic measuring cups and spoons rather than glass ones, which can break. Sturdy tools last longer.

– Wash and dry your measuring cups and spoons thoroughly after each use for the most precise measurements every time. Leftover oils or crumbs can affect the volumes.

– Arrange all the measuring tools you’ll need for the recipe out on the counter before starting. This makes the process more efficient so you can grab and go.

– Use a standalone 3/4 tablespoon measure if you have one rather than trying to eyeball it on a multi-size spoon. This minimizes errors.

– Measure over a bowl or the dish you’re mixing in to catch any spills and make things neater.

Common Uses for 1/3 Cup

Here are some of the most common ingredients that are measured in 1/3 cup amounts:

– Butter or oil – Especially in baking recipes like cookies, cakes, muffins
– Milk or cream – In batters, doughs, sauces
– Cheese – Sprinkling on casseroles or pasta
– Nuts – As a topping or mix-in for cookies or salads
– Chocolate chips or chunks – For nestling into muffins or pancakes
– Fruit – Fresh berries or chopped apples mixed into scones or crisps
– Herbs or spices – When a small amount provides enough flavor
– Sugar or honey – For sweetening tea or coffee
– Flour – When part of a blend, as in pancake or waffle recipes
– Liquids like vinegar, lemon juice, vanilla – For dressings and sauces

How Different Ingredients Affect Volume

When measuring out 1/3 cup, keep in mind that different ingredients can occupy different volumes in the cup measurements. For instance:

– 1/3 cup flour settles into a more compact space than 1/3 cup marshmallows.

– Chopped nuts have more air pockets than a solid chocolate bar, so 1/3 cup nuts may actually weigh less than 1/3 cup chocolate.

– Granulated sugar is less dense than brown sugar or confectioners sugar due to molasses content and texture.

– Light, fluffy powders like confectioners sugar settle into a smaller space than heavy, coarse salt.

– Liquids like oil or water fill the volume more evenly, while sticky nut butter tends to cling to the cup and trap air bubbles.

The key is to level off the measuring cup for the most accurate results no matter what you’re measuring. This gives you the proper volume needed for the recipe to succeed.

Measuring Other Fractional Cup Amounts

While 1/3 cup is a common increment, recipes also rely on other fractional cup measurements. Here are some tips for measuring those successfully:

– 1/4 cup – Use a measuring cup marked with 1/4 or fill up any cup to this line. Don’t estimate between tablespoons and 1/3 cup.

– 1/2 cup – A dedicated 1/2 cup measure is useful. Or fill up a 1 cup measure halfway.

– 2/3 cup – Use a measuring cup marked with fractions, or fill a 1 cup measure to the 2/3 line.

– 3/4 cup – Specialty measures exist, or fill a 1 cup cup to this line. Recipes don’t usually combine tablespoons and teaspoons for this amount.

– 1/8 cup – This equals 2 tablespoons and is often measured that way rather than trying to estimate on a measuring cup.

– 1/6 cup – As above, this is easier measured as 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons.

– 1/5 cup – While seemingly odd, this amount comes up in some recipes. It is equal to 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon.

How Measuring Methods Can Vary

There are actually two main ways to measure dry ingredients:

Dip and sweep – This is the standard U.S. approach described above, where you dip the measuring cup into the ingredient container and sweep off any excess.

Weighing – Used more often in other countries. You place the empty measuring cup on a food scale, press tare to reset it to zero, then add ingredient until the desired weight shows on the display.

These two methods can give slightly varied results. The dip and sweep method depends on the technique of the person measuring and how firmly packed the ingredient is. So weighed measurements are considered more precise.

However, standard U.S. recipes are formulated using the dip and sweep method. Sticking to this ensures best results unless a recipe specifically says to use weighed measurements.

Applicable Recipes

Here are some recipes that include 1/3 cup measurements:



– 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
– 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 tablespoon white sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup milk
– 1 egg
– 3 tablespoons butter, melted


1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter. Mix until smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Blueberry Muffins


– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/3 cup white sugar
– 1 egg, beaten
– 1 cup milk
– 1/3 cup butter, melted
– 1 cup fresh blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.

3. Combine the egg, milk and melted butter in a separate bowl.

4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry just until moistened.

5. Gently fold in blueberries.

6. Divide batter evenly into prepared tin.

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes until light golden brown.

Chicken Salad


– 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
– 1/3 cup mayonnaise
– 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
– 1 celery stalk, diced
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
– 1/4 cup red grapes, halved
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, mayonnaise, yogurt, celery, lemon juice and mustard.

2. Stir in grapes.

3. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

5. Serve on bread, lettuce or crackers.


Whether following a recipe or improvising your own creation, getting to know measurements like 1/3 cup is essential for any cook. While it may seem odd compared to more common increments like 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup at first, 1/3 cup has very solid reasons for being used. Mastering use of the appropriate measuring tools and knowing factor equivalents allows you to successfully use this fractional amount. With the right technique, a perfect 1/3 cup can lead to perfect pancakes, gorgeous cupcakes, flavorful chicken salad and so much more. So embrace the 1/3 cup as your new secret baking and cooking weapon!

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