Jump To Section
How to Cut a Recipe in Half
Halving a recipe is a common and easy conversion for home cooks to make. Refer to this list of cooking conversions the next time you need to do some fast math:
- Half of ¼ cup is equivalent to 2 tbsp
- Half of ⅓ cup is equivalent to 2 tbsp + 2 tsp
- Half of ½ cup is equivalent to ¼ cup
- Half of ⅔ cup is equivalent to ⅓ cup
- Half of ¾ cup is equivalent to 6 tbsp
- Half of 1 cup is equivalent to ½ cup
- Half of 1 tbsp is equivalent to 1 ½ tsp
- Half of 1 tsp is equivalent to ½ tsp
- Half of ½ tsp is equivalent to ¼ tsp
- Half of ¼ tsp is equivalent to ⅛ tsp
- Half of ⅛ tsp is equivalent to a dash
How to Cut a Recipe in Thirds
Reducing a recipe by one-third can come in handy when halving still yields too much food:
- One third of ¼ cup is equivalent to 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
- One third of ⅓ cup is equivalent to 1 tbsp + 2 ¼ tsp
- One third of ½ cup is equivalent to 2 tbsp + 2 tsp
- One third of ⅔ cup is equivalent to 3 tbsp + 1 ½ tsp
- One third of ¾ cup is equivalent to ¼ cup
- One third of 1 cup is equivalent to ⅓ cup
- One third of 1 tbsp is equivalent to 1 tsp
- One third of 1 tsp is equivalent to a heaping ¼ tsp
- One third of ½ tsp is equivalent to a scant ¼ tsp
- One third of ¼ tsp is equivalent to a scant ⅛ tsp
- One third of ⅛ tsp is equivalent to a dash
What’s the Difference Between Converting Dry and Wet Ingredients?
It’s easier to measure and convert wet ingredients than it is to measure and convert dry ingredients. This is because dry measurements are inherently inaccurate.
- Dry ingredients like flour, brown sugar, and cocoa powder are easily compressible, meaning that their volume can change depending on factors like how compact they are inside the measuring cup or even the humidity in the area.
- Liquid ingredients measure at a consistent volume no matter what. For example, if you fill a measuring cup with flour, tightness of the pack will determine your actual volume of flour. Whereas 10 fluid ounces of water will always be 10 fluid ounces of water.
In order to make your conversions as accurate as possible, it’s best to measure dry ingredients with dry measuring cups and wet ingredients with liquid measuring cups. This allows you to level off the top of a dry measuring cup with a straight edge for a more precise measurement.
4 Tips for Scaling Recipes
Scaling recipes gets easier with practice. Keep these tips in mind as you go:
- Make your conversions before you start cooking. Take a moment to convert the numbers and write them down so you don’t forget them—or the fact that you’re using a modified recipe.
- Know what ingredients to convert—and what ingredients not to convert. Most everything will need to be converted, but there are some exceptions. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the bottom of the saucepan, you’ll still need that quantity, even if you’re cutting down the recipe. The same goes for buttering and flouring a baking dish. And while you should scale some spice amounts, you shouldn’t cut back too much on seasoning, or else you’ll end up with a dish that’s too bland.
- Taste with your recipe as you cook. If reducing the amount of basil makes the dish less aromatic or if the cayenne pepper took away the kick, add some more. Taste as you go and season accordingly.
- Use smaller pots and pans. Your converted recipe may also require a different cooking or baking dish. If you cut a brownie recipe in half but pour the batter into the same sized pan, your brownies will come out a lot flatter and crispier than expected.
How Scaling Down Recipes Affects Cooking Time and Oven Temperature
When you scale a recipe’s ingredients, you do not scale the oven temperature but you may need to scale the cooking time, since smaller volumes cook faster. Set a timer to check the dish at the halfway point, and then check it about every 5 minutes until it’s finished cooking.
3 Other Ways to Scale Recipes
If you want to avoid doing a ton of kitchen math, you can also try these methods:
- Measure the ingredients by weight instead of by volume. Using a kitchen scale is the most reliable and precise way to ensure your measurements are exactly as you need them. With this method, you’d look up how much 1 cup of flour weighs (about 4.25 ounces) and weigh out the proper scaled amount accordingly. Keep in mind this method is not exact, especially for dry ingredients.
- Learn the conversion alternatives. Familiarize yourself with common measurement equivalents. For example, ½ cup is equivalent to 24 teaspoons. When reducing a ½ cup by a third, rather than trying to divide ½ cup by three, you can divide 24 teaspoons by three, which is 8 teaspoons.
- Eyeball it. If you don’t have these conversion charts handy or if you’re in a rush, you can use the same measuring cups and measuring spoons you’d use if you were making the full recipe, but only fill them based on how much you’re scaling the recipe. For example, if you need a third of ¼ cup, rather than substituting 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon, you can fill the ¼ cup measuring cup a third of the way. This method isn’t reliable when baking, as baking requires precision and chemistry, but it would work for things like soups and sauces.