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Tablespoon vs. Spoonful — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 8, 2024
A tablespoon is a standard unit of measure equal to 3 teaspoons or ½ ounce, while a spoonful refers to the amount that can fit on a spoon, varying in size.
Tablespoon vs. Spoonful — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Tablespoon and Spoonful


Key Differences

A tablespoon is specifically a unit of measurement used in cooking to measure volume, equivalent to 3 teaspoons or approximately 15 milliliters in the US. It is used for both liquid and dry ingredients, providing a precise measurement that is crucial for cooking and baking recipes. On the other hand, a spoonful is a more general term that describes the amount of substance (liquid or solid) that a spoon can hold. The actual volume of a spoonful can vary significantly depending on the size of the spoon used (teaspoon, tablespoon, or serving spoon) and how much the spoon is filled.
The term tablespoon often refers to a specific measuring spoon used in cooking, marked to ensure accurate measurement of ingredients. This standardization is essential for recipe consistency and success, especially in baking, where precision is critical. Conversely, a spoonful is a casual, non-standardized measure that can apply to any spoon and is subject to interpretation, making it less reliable for recipes requiring precise proportions.
Tablespoons are crucial in recipes and culinary contexts where accuracy is needed to achieve the desired outcome. Recipes will specify "tablespoon" (often abbreviated as "tbsp" or "T") to denote this precise measurement. Whereas, spoonfuls are more commonly used in informal settings or spoken language, suggesting a more relaxed approach to measuring, such as adding a spoonful of sugar to coffee.
The concept of a tablespoon is widely recognized and used internationally, though the exact volume designated by "tablespoon" can vary by country. For example, in Australia, a tablespoon is typically 20 milliliters, larger than the 15-milliliter tablespoon used in the United States. In contrast, the notion of a spoonful remains universally vague, emphasizing its flexibility and the importance of context in determining the exact amount.
Understanding the difference between a tablespoon and a spoonful is crucial for anyone following a recipe, as confusing the two can lead to significant differences in the outcome of a dish. A tablespoon offers consistency and precision, while a spoonful allows for personal preference and variability.

Comparison Chart


A standard unit of measure in cooking, 3 teaspoons.
The amount a spoon can hold, not standardized.


15 milliliters in the US, varies internationally.
Varies based on spoon size and how it's filled.

Use in Recipes

Used for precise measurements.
Used for approximate measurements.


Critical for baking and cooking accuracy.
Offers flexibility and simplicity in casual cooking.


Standardized volume.
Volume can vary significantly.

Compare with Definitions


Frequently abbreviated as "tbsp" or "T".
Add 1 T of honey to the mixture.


Can be any spoon in the kitchen.
She scooped a spoonful of peanut butter directly from the jar.


Often a specifically marked measuring spoon.
She reached for the tablespoon from her set of measuring spoons.


Not used for critical recipe components.
Stir in a spoonful of jam for sweetness.


A unit of volume used in cooking, equal to 3 teaspoons.
The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


The exact amount can vary.
A spoonful of medicine varies with the spoon used.


Volume can vary by country.
Australian recipes often use a 20ml tablespoon.


Used for non-precise measurements.
Just a spoonful of cinnamon can enhance the flavor.


Essential for accuracy in recipes.
Use a tablespoon for measuring baking powder to ensure the cake rises properly.


The amount that fits on any spoon.
He added a spoonful of sugar to his tea.


A tablespoon is a large spoon. In many English-speaking regions, the term now refers to a large spoon used for serving; however, in some regions, it is the largest type of spoon used for eating.


"Spoonful" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf. Called "a stark and haunting work", it is one of Dixon's best known and most interpreted songs.


A large spoon for serving food.


The amount that a spoon holds.


Abbr. T or tbs. or tbsp. A household cooking measure equal to 3 teaspoons, or 1/2 fluid ounce (15 milliliters). See Table at measurement.


The amount that a spoon will hold, either level or heaped.


A large spoon, used for eating food from a bowl.


The quantity which a spoon contains, or is able to contain; as, a teaspoonful; a tablespoonful.


A spoon too large for eating, usually used for cooking or serving.


Hence, a small quantity.


(cooking) A unit of volume, the value of which varies regionally; in the US: three teaspoons or one half fluid ounce or roughly 15 ml; in Britain and Canada: exactly 15 ml; in Russia 18 ml; in Australia: four teaspoons or 20 ml.


As much as a spoon will hold;
He added two spoons of sugar


A spoon of the largest size commonly used at the table; - distinguished from teaspoon, dessert spoon, etc.


As much as a tablespoon will hold


A spoon larger than a dessert spoon; used for serving

Common Curiosities

What is a tablespoon?

A tablespoon is a standardized unit of measure in cooking, equivalent to 3 teaspoons or about 15 milliliters in the US, used for precise ingredient measurements.

How do professional chefs use tablespoons and spoonfuls?

Professional chefs use tablespoons for precise measurements and might use spoonfuls for adding ingredients where exact quantities are less critical.

Why is it important to use a tablespoon for baking?

Precision is crucial in baking to achieve the correct chemical reactions, so using a standardized measure like a tablespoon ensures consistency.

Can I use a tablespoon and a spoonful interchangeably in recipes?

Generally, no. A tablespoon is a precise measurement, while a spoonful is not standardized and can lead to variability in recipe outcomes.

What should I do if a recipe calls for a tablespoon but I only have teaspoons?

You can convert tablespoons to teaspoons; 1 tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons, so use three times the number of teaspoons for the tablespoon amount required.

Can the size of the spoon affect the taste of a dish?

Yes, when a recipe calls for spoonfuls and precision isn't crucial, the size of the spoon can affect the flavor intensity by altering the amount of an ingredient added.

What's the best way to measure a tablespoon of a sticky ingredient?

For sticky ingredients, lightly coat the tablespoon with oil or use a measuring spoon made of silicone for easy release.

What does spoonful mean?

A spoonful refers to the amount of a substance that a spoon can hold, which can vary depending on the spoon's size and how much it is filled.

How do I measure a tablespoon without a measuring spoon?

Without a measuring spoon, you can approximate a tablespoon using a teaspoon measure (3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon) or by filling a dinner spoon slightly less than full, though this is less accurate.

Are all tablespoons the same size internationally?

No, the volume designated by "tablespoon" can vary by country, with the US tablespoon being about 15 milliliters and the Australian tablespoon about 20 milliliters.

Is a spoonful enough for dosing medication?

Due to its lack of precision, a spoonful is not recommended for dosing medication. Use a measuring spoon or dosing device for accuracy.

How can I ensure my spoonful measurements are consistent?

For consistency with spoonfuls, always use the same spoon and fill method, though this is more applicable to casual cooking than precise recipes.

Is a dessert spoon the same as a tablespoon?

No, a dessert spoon is a specific type of spoon that is smaller than a tablespoon, commonly used in many countries for eating desserts.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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