What is the mL of 1 cup?

When it comes to cooking and baking, measuring ingredients precisely is crucial for achieving the desired results. One of the most common units of measurement used, especially in North America, is the cup. However, cups can be a confusing unit since they depend on the specific ingredients being measured. Understanding exactly how many milliliters (mL) are in 1 standard US cup is key for accuracy.

Definition of a Cup

A cup is a unit of volume most commonly used in cooking recipes and nutrition facts labels on food packages in the United States and Canada. It is widely used for measuring liquids, semi-solids like yogurt, and solid ingredients like flour or sugar.

There are two main types of cups used in the kitchen:

  • Standard US customary cups: Contain exactly 236.588 mL. This is the most common type used in modern recipes.
  • Imperial or British cups: Contain 284 mL. Mostly used in older cookbooks from the UK.

Unless otherwise specified, most recipes published in the US today use the standard US cup of 236.588 mL. The Imperial cup is rarely used anymore, even in the UK.

How Many mL are in 1 Cup?

Since the standard US cup is defined as 236.588 mL, by simple conversion:

1 cup = 236.588 mL

Some key facts about the standard US cup:

  • It is equal to exactly half a US pint.
  • 2 cups = 1 US pint = 473.176 mL
  • 16 US cups = 1 US gallon = 3785.411 mL

Knowing these conversions by heart can be handy when doubling or halving recipes that use cup measurements.

Why Cups are Used for Cooking

There are several reasons why cups became the most popular unit for cooking recipes in the US:

  • Intuitive to visualize: Since a cup is an everyday kitchen item, imagining a cupful of flour or milk is easier than visualizing an abstract amount like 236.588 mL.
  • Allows for approximate measuring: Cups can be adapted and do not require extremely precise measuring like grams or milliliters. Results will still turn out fine if you add a little more or less than an exact cup.
  • Cups are widely available: Most American households have cup measures on hand, making following recipes easy without specialized tools.
  • Standard cup measures contain common amounts: Ingredients are often measured out in multiples of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, or 1 cup, making calculations easier.

The cup’s flexibility, accessibility, and intuitive nature make it the measurement of choice for home cooks and bakers.

Cup Conversions for Common Ingredients

While 1 cup = 236.588 mL, the actual weights and volumes can vary based on the ingredient. Here are some common ingredients and their approximate weights per 1 cup:

Ingredient Weight per 1 Cup
All-purpose flour 125 grams
Granulated white sugar 200 grams
Brown sugar 210 grams
Butter, softened 227 grams
Milk 244 grams / mL
Water 236 grams / mL

As you can see, the weight of a cup varies significantly depending on whether you are measuring a light powder like flour or a dense liquid like milk. This is why cups can only provide approximate and not highly precise measurements.

Using Cups Accurately

To get the most accurate results when using cup measurements:

  • Use standard dry measuring cups for solid ingredients like flour, sugar, oats, etc. Scoop and level off the top.
  • Use clear liquid measuring cups for wet ingredients like milk, water, oil, etc. View at eye level to check the correct amount.
  • Do not pack ingredients into cups densely or the recipe will turn out incorrect.
  • When halving recipes, use proper 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, and 1/4 cup measures rather than estimating.
  • Standardize your process for scooping and leveling based on how the original recipe creator intended.

With some care and practice, cups can provide quite accurate results. But when baking, milliliters and grams are considered more precise and recommended.

Why Grams are More Precise

While cups are convenient, grams provide a much more precise measurement for cooking and baking. Here’s why:

  • Grams measure absolute weight, unaffected by factors like how densely packed the cup is.
  • Fluffiness, humidity, temperature etc. do not alter grams like they can alter cup volumes.
  • Levelling cups of powdery ingredients introduces room for error. 1 gram is always 1 gram.
  • Grams allow easier scaling of recipes up and down based on baker’s percentages.
  • Measuring by weight (grams) tends to produce more consistent results in baking.

Professional bakers and cooks prefer using grams or ounces when accuracy is critical. Cup measurements can vary in weight by 20% or more between batches.

Gram Conversions for Common Baking Ingredients

Here are approximate gram weights for 1 cup of some common baking ingredients:

Ingredient Grams per 1 Cup
All-purpose flour 125 grams
Granulated white sugar 200 grams
Light brown sugar 220 grams
Butter 227 grams
Whole milk 244 grams

Again, you can see the range of densities and therefore weights that different ingredients have per cup measurement.

Converting Between Cups and Grams

When substituting grams for cups in a recipe, use the following basic conversions:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour = 125 grams
  • 1 cup granulated or brown sugar = 200 to 220 grams
  • 1 cup milk or water = 244 grams / mL
  • 1 cup butter = 227 grams

Check your ingredient labels as densities can vary between brands. Or you can weigh out 1 cup on your kitchen scale and calculate the conversion.

When converting a full recipe, multiply each cup measurement by the appropriate gram amount. For example:

  • 2 cups (473 mL) flour x 125 grams per cup = 250 grams flour
  • 1 cup (236 mL) milk x 244 grams per cup = 244 grams milk
  • 1/2 cup (118 mL) brown sugar x 220 grams per cup = 110 grams brown sugar

Tips for Converting to Grams

Follow these tips for best results when converting cup recipes to grams:

  • Standardize all your ingredients to the same brand or source.
  • Weigh your own ingredients to determine the grams per cup.
  • Avoid packing cups densely when weighing. Use a loose scoop and level technique.
  • Round converted gram amounts to simpler numbers for convenience.
  • Write the new gram amounts right on your recipe cards or files.
  • Adjust rising agents like baking powder/soda if recipe failure occurs.

With practice, you will get comfortable substituting grams for cups when greater precision is required.

Common Baking Ratio Conversions

Here are some handy gram ratio conversions for common baking recipes:


  • 2 cups (473 mL) flour = 250 grams
  • 1 cup (236 mL) milk = 244 grams
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar = 200 grams
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) butter = 113 grams


  • 2 cups (473 mL) flour = 250 grams
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar = 200 grams
  • 1 cup (227 grams) butter = 227 grams
  • 1 egg = 50 grams


  • 2 cups (473 mL) flour = 250 grams
  • 1 1/2 cups (339 grams) sugar = 325 grams
  • 1 cup (227 grams) butter = 227 grams
  • 3 eggs = 150 grams
  • 1 cup (236 mL) milk = 244 grams

Having these conversions handy makes substituting grams for cups a breeze.

Limitations of Cups vs. Grams

While cups are convenient, they have some limitations compared to weights:

  • Not as precise since packing/scooping alters densities
  • Harder to scale recipes up and down accurately
  • Temperature, humidity, storage affect volumes
  • Ingredients settle over time altering volumes
  • Difficult to convert between metric and US customary units

Gram weights overcome these issues and provide unwavering accuracy:

  • Essential for developing and testing recipes
  • Allows consistent results between batches
  • Easier to double or halve recipes
  • Simplifies working with baker’s percentages
  • Works for both metric and US customary units

Serious bakers should invest in a kitchen scale and practice converting their recipes to grams.


While 1 cup equals 236.588 mL by definition, actually volume and density vary based on ingredient. For convenience, cups remain popular cooking measurements. But for precision, knowing gram weights is best practice.

Use the conversions provided to substitute grams for cups. Weigh your own ingredients to determine true gram amounts per cup. Standardize your process for optimal consistency. With some care, cups can still provide adequate accuracy for most home cooking and baking.

Moving forward, try converting some of your best recipes to gram weights. You will discover that grams provide unwavering precision batch after batch. Mastering weight measurements is a key skill on the journey to becoming an expert baker.

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