In a recipe on a Spanish cooking website, it calls for:

1 unidad de cebolla blanca

In this context, does 1 unidad mean one onion?

  • 2
    Yes, it's just one onion. The text extracted is a bit uncommon, I think that normally it's just "una cebolla, dos patatas, tres manzanas" (one onion, two potatos, three apples), there is no need to use "unidad" (unit)
    – RubioRic
    Apr 24, 2020 at 7:32
  • 3
    Could you add the link to the recipe so we can check how the rest of the ingredients are written?
    – RubioRic
    Apr 24, 2020 at 7:43
  • If you buy a tin of food it sometimes says 12 unidades to tell you how many products it contains.
    – mdewey
    Apr 24, 2020 at 11:08
  • Here is the website: recetasgratis.net/receta-de-albondigas-caseras-51607.html . I noticed a similar thing on a few other sites too, e.g mccormick.com.sv/recipes/aperitivos-y-entradas/entradas/… Apr 27, 2020 at 4:04
  • 1
    I guess that web uses a form that requires adding units to items; when it has no units, it just uses that, unidad. Not a good practice in Spanish, but perfectly understandable, in my opinion.
    – Gorpik
    Apr 27, 2020 at 6:27

1 Answer 1


It is certainly unusual to see "una unidad de cebolla" instead of "una cebolla" since the onion is a whole, so adding "unidad" is redundant.

My guess is that the aim is to use the second entry of unidad

  1. f. Singularidad en número o calidad.

but since it is obvious that one onion is one unit of onion(s), phrasing it like that makes it look like you were using the seventh entry (maths related)

  1. f. Mat. Cantidad que se toma por medida o término de comparación de las demás de su especie.

So "1 unidad de cebolla blanca" sounds more like

Una unidad de medida de cebollas / One unit of measure of onion

With the (standard) unit of measure for onions being... onions themselves. It's tricky because it doesn't refer to weight or size of the onion, just one onion is enough for the recipe. Imagine that is was an Spanish omelette, and then the recipe asked for "three units of potato(s)" to refer to 3 potatoes. Weird.

Phrasing like that makes sense if we are talking about a know or conventional unit of measure. It could make more sense for other ingredients, but not for items for which the unit is the default unit of measure.

  • 4
    Could it be that the website creates the content automatically? It sounds weird as a sentence, overly convoluted
    – fedorqui
    Apr 24, 2020 at 14:34
  • But, even in the "mathematical" definition you have quoted (by the way, in my opinion this has more to do with physics than it does with mathematics), you normally wouldn't construct sentences with a number followed by "unidad". The only example of "unidad" used in a way similar to that of the question that comes to my mind is packs of some products that are sold to you. For instance, if you are buying yogurts, you can find "un paquete (o pack) de 4 unidades" (as already mentioned by @mdwey).
    – Charo
    Apr 24, 2020 at 15:49
  • 1
    También existe (en algunas cocinas) la costumbre de picar la cebolla y medirla en tazas, por lo que podría existir una ambigüedad
    – Conrado
    Apr 24, 2020 at 16:17
  • 1
    Acabo de encontrar el textonen distintas webs. En recetasgratis.net/… es gracioso ver que también hablan de cosas como 1 puñado de lechuga :D Cuesta imaginárselo
    – fedorqui
    Apr 25, 2020 at 20:19
  • 1
    @Diego: Interestingly the same recipe (which I've added the link to above) also calls for "1 unidad de Heuvo", and I'm pretty sure it just means one egg. I suspect maybe the content is generated from a database so the wording may be quite un-natural. Apr 27, 2020 at 4:08

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