What Does it Mean When an Ingredient is “Divided” in a Recipe?

updated Mar 20, 2024
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Sticks of butter on a wooden cutting board
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Recipes are designed to make the cooking process as easy as possible, starting with a list of ingredients you’ll need to make the dish along with the amounts. But what should you do if the recipe says to “divide” an ingredient?

What Does “Divided” Means in a Recipe?

When a recipe calls for an ingredient to be “divided,” it means you will be using that ingredient in two places when you’re cooking. For example, this recipe for roasted cauliflower salad calls for “3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided.” This means you may be using 1/2 teaspoon at one step in the recipe and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon later or one portion of the salt in the main dish while the remainder is used to season an accompanying sauce or dressing.

It’s good practice any time you’re cooking from a recipe to read the whole thing front to back. It may seem like a time-consuming extra step, but reading the recipe all the way through before you start cooking allows you the opportunity to get a clear picture of everything you’re about to do, including whether you’re using an ingredient in multiple places. 

“Divided” Alternatives

  1. Measured additions. Some recipe writers get more specific in the ingredient list when calling for divided ingredients by listing the specific amounts you’ll need to divide an ingredient into, i.e. “3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese” This is helpful if you’re prepping your ingredients ahead of cooking (something I highly encourage), though it’s still beneficial to read through the whole recipe to see when and where those two cheese additions are going. 
  2. “Remaining.” You may also see recipes employ the words “remaining” or  “remainder” to indicate that an ingredient was previously divided. As in, “add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper…” This is meant to help the reader avoid getting confused as to how much to add when. If you see an instruction in a step referencing the remainder of an ingredient you haven’t already used somewhere else, you may have missed something. 
  3. Mid-step instructions. Sometimes a recipe will ask you to divide an ingredient in a recipe step. In this case you might see an instruction to “add half of” an ingredient (like milk or butter) or “add about 1/3 of batter…” in a recipe step that may or may not have been indicated in the ingredient list. 
  4. “Plus more.” Ingredient lists sometimes include “plus more for serving” as an indicator that you may want some extra for when you’re plating up the dish to finish it off. It’s not always a specific amount, and it’s usually not required. Think of this more as an extra bit of flair for your food, like extra Parmesan for pasta, or some extra chopped herbs to add color and flavor to your plate.

Recipes That Use Divided Ingredients

A version of this story was first published on October 8, 2022 by Faith Durand.