Converting German Recipes to Standard American Measurements

dry measuring cups with spices
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Recipes that have been handed down through the family or from folk sources often use units of measure that are different than the standard units used found in most modern published recipes. Rather than teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups, for example, you may find quantities specified as knife tip or coffee cup. For some reason, German recipes are most likely to use these unusual units. For example, you may have a handed-down recipe from Grandma or an older aunt that includes phrases such as a soup spoon of sugar or a coffee cup of flour.

Sometimes this reflects the fact that these kitchen tools are all the cook had in her kitchen at the time she was creating the recipe. 

What do you do if you have a recipe handed down from a German relative or are dying to make a specific German dish when the written instructions make use of these unfamiliar units of measure?  Or what if the recipe is actually in the German language? What is the American equivalent of a "coffee-cup of flour of flour"? Or a "soup spoon of vanilla"? Germans typically measure liquids with everyday kitchen utensils and solids by weight, so it can be tricky converting a recipe in your American kitchen. 

Liquid Conversions

Instead of using cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons, German recipes often designate liquid ingredients with units such as a "soup spoon," or "EL." Here are a few equivalents to help you navigate that German recipe:

  • 1 coffee cup (Tasse or T) = approximately 150 ml or about 2/3 cup
  • 1 large soup spoon (Essloeffel or Eβlöffel or EL) = approximately 1 level tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon (Teelöffel or Teeloeffel or Teel. or T) = approximately 1 level teaspoon
  • 1 knife tip (Messerspitze) = 1/8 teaspoon or 1 pinch

Measurement Modifiers

You may come across certain German terms proceeding some ingredient measurements, such as teaspoons or cups.

Gehäuft(e) means heaping, as in "heaping teaspoon," and gestrichen(e) means level, as in "level teaspoon."

Metric Conversions

If ingredients aren't measured using items found in the kitchen, then they will be in metric measurements, such as milliliters and grams. Use this chart, as well as this handy conversion tool, which can convert just about any measurement amount from metric to U.S. equivalents and vice-versa, simply by plugging in the number and the unit desired.

Don't be afraid to experiment with a German savory recipe—if your measurements are a little off, it won't be the end of the world. But if you are baking, be sure to convert from metric, since baking is a fairly exact science and requires precise measurements. 

 

Metric to U.S. Equivalents
MetricU.S.
100 ml2/5 cup
250 ml1+ cup
1 liter1 quart + a bit
100 grams white flour7/8 cup
100 grams white sugar1 cup
100 grams butter7 tablespoons