Good Question: What Does “Divided” Mean in Recipes?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Here’s a great question from Neha about a potentially confusing little note in many recipes. She writes:

I’m hoping you can explain to me what the term “divided” means. I see it in recipes referring to water, chocolate chips, everything. And I have no clue! I’d like to know.

Neha, the explanation for this potentially confusing note is very simple. Basically, when you see the word “divided” after an ingredient in a recipe, it is like a little flag or alert to the cook to let them know that this ingredient will not be dumped into the recipe all at once. It will be “divided” or used in more than one place over the course of the recipe instructions.

So, for instance, in the recipe picture above (Stacked Enchiladas with Turkey and Chipotle Beans, a happy idea for Cinco de Mayo, incidentally!) the green onions are “divided” and added in tablespoon increments in each layer between the tortillas.

Recipe writers use the word “divided” because it’s conventional usage to only mention each ingredient once in a recipe’s list. You are not going to list 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and then again, 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Each ingredient should only be listed once, but if it is going to be used in several separate ways, then it’s customary to note “divided” after the ingredient.

Some recipes and ingredient lists get very precise and tell you up front how the ingredient should be divided. For instance: 3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided. But this is cumbersome and impractical for many recipes.

So if you see the word “divided” in an ingredient list, just be on the watch for the recipe telling you how much of that “divided” ingredient is going to be used at any given time in the recipe. Perhaps the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, divided, and yet the instructions tell you to put just 1 tablespoon in the batter, and 1 tablespoon is used later in the topping. Be alert for instructions like these later in the recipe steps.

(Image: Scott Peterson for Bon Appétit)