What's the Difference Between a Tablespoon and a Teaspoon?

Why is it important to know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon? They’re both small units of measure, but a tablespoon is three times the size of a teaspoon! When you’re making a recipe, especially if you are baking, it’s crucial to get all the measurements right or your final dish will be disappointing. Accidentally grabbing the wrong measuring spoon could result in an oversalted dish or a dessert that falls flat. Keep reading to learn about the differences between these two measuring spoons and how to tell them apart.

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Tablespoon vs Teaspoon

The difference between these two measuring spoons is that a teaspoon is equal to 1/6 of a fluid ounce (5mL), and a tablespoon is equal to 1/2 of a fluid ounce (15mL). This makes a tablespoon three times the size of a teaspoon. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking powder and you use the tablespoon by mistake, you've added three times the baking powder to your dish. That might not sound like a big difference, but too much baking powder will make your baked goods bitter and can cause a cake to collapse. This applies to other ingredients too. Sugar, butter, and salt usually require exact measurements in baking recipes. Make sure to choose the right measuring spoon for the job or you could have a serious cake mistake on your hands.

What Is a Tablespoon?

a metal teaspoon with spices

A tablespoon is one of the most common measuring tools you’ll use in a commercial kitchen. When looking at a set of measuring spoons, always remember that the tablespoon is the largest one in the set. One tablespoon is equal to a 1/2 fluid ounce, 1/16 cup, or 3 teaspoons.

Tablespoon Abbreviation

Some of the most common abbreviations for a tablespoon are Tbsp, tbsp, tbl, or tbs (all with or without a period). Occasionally, you may just see a T or TB representing a tablespoon.

Is a Regular Spoon a Tablespoon?

Yes, the word tablespoon can also refer to a type of flatware used in a dining room. In a traditional flatware set, the tablespoon is the largest spoon used at the table. If you don't have a measuring spoon on hand, you can use a flatware tablespoon to approximate a tablespoon in some recipes. We don't recommend using this method for baking ingredients, which require precise measurements.

Tablespoon Conversions

Here is a conversion list for tablespoons to help you with your recipes:

  • 1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup
  • 2 tablespoon = 1/8 cup
  • 2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon = 1/6 cup
  • 4 tablespoon = 1/4 cup
  • 5 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
  • 8 tablespoon = 1/2 cup
  • 10 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon = 2/3 cup
  • 12 tablespoon = 3/4 cup
  • 16 tablespoon = 1 cup

What Is a Teaspoon?

a metal teaspoon with spices

The teaspoon is a measuring spoon used for very small measurements. In a set of measuring spoons, the teaspoon is usually the third spoon, followed by a 1/2 teaspoon, a 1/4 teaspoon, and sometimes a 1/8 teaspoon. One teaspoon is equal to 1/6 fluid ounce.

Teaspoon Abbreviation

The most common abbreviation for teaspoon is tsp (with or without a period), and occasionally you'll see a variation like tspn or just a lowercase "t".

Is a Regular Spoon a Teaspoon?

In a flatware set, teaspoon refers to the small spoon used in a traditional place setting. It's the most common spoon used for dining. If you can't find a measuring spoon, you can use a flatware teaspoon to approximate a teaspoon in some recipes. It won't be as accurate as a measuring spoon, so avoid doing this with baking ingredients.

Teaspoon Conversions

Check out these helpful teaspoon conversions:

  • 3/4 teaspoons = 1/4 tablespoon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons = 1/2 tablespoon
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons = 3/4 tablespoon
  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 6 teaspoons = 1/8 cup
  • 12 teaspoons = 1/4 cup
  • 24 teaspoons = 1/2 cup
  • 36 teaspoons = 3/4 cup
  • 48 teaspoons = 1 cup

Tips to Help You Choose the Right Measuring Spoon

measuring spoons

It’s very common to get these two measuring spoons mixed up, so here are some tips to help you:

  • B is for "Big" - The abbreviation for tablespoon has a "b" in it (Tbsp), so remember that the tablespoon is the biggest spoon in the set.
  • P is for "Petite" - The abbreviation for teaspoon has a "p" in it (tsp), so just remember that this is a petite spoon in the set.
  • Consider the Ingredients - In many recipes, it's common for butter or oil to be measured by the tablespoon. Spices and seasonings, on the other hand, are measured more conservatively. You can always add more, but you can't take it away. This is why the smaller teaspoon is usually used for spices and seasonings.
  • Mise en Place - This culinary term is the practice of measuring and organizing your ingredients ahead of time. You're less likely to mix up the measurements when you use mise en place.
  • Bulk Recipes - If you are tripling a recipe, keep in mind that 3 teaspoons are the same as 1 tablespoon.
  • Recipe Writing - If you are writing a recipe, it helps to make the abbreviations for tablespoon and teaspoon as different as possible so they don't get mixed up. Try using a capital "T" for a tablespoon (Tbsp) to set it apart from a teaspoon (tsp).

FAQ and Conversions

We'll go over some of the most common questions and provide some helpful conversions for teaspoons and tablespoons below.

How Many Teaspoons in a Tablespoon?

There are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon. We've repeated this several times because it's one of the most helpful conversions for you to remember while you're cooking.

How Many Tablespoons in a Shot?

There are 3 tablespoons in a standard 1.5-ounce shot glass.

How Many Tablespoons in a Stick of Butter?

There are 8 tablespoons in a stick of butter, also equal to 1/2 cup.

How Many Tablespoons in a Cup?

There are 16 tablespoons in a cup.

How Many Tablespoons in a 1/4 Cup?

There are 4 tablespoons in a 1/4 cup.

How Many Tablespoons in 1/3 Cup?

Converting 1/3 cup to tablespoons doesn't come out evenly, but the teaspoon is there to help! There are 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon in 1/3 cup.

How Many Ounces in a Tablespoon?

There is 1/2 of a fluid ounce in a tablespoon.

It's a common mishap to choose the wrong measuring spoon while cooking. Before you realize it, it's too late! If your baked goods are mysteriously bitter or they aren't rising as they should, you may have grabbed the wrong spoon for measuring out your baking powder. Before you add 3 tablespoons of salt or spices to your soup, ask yourself, does this make sense or should I be using 3 teaspoons instead? Remember our tips and you'll be able to pick the right measuring spoon.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|By Michale LeRoy
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