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What Are Larder & Pantry Cupboards? Kitchen Terms Explained

Having a kitchen larder or pantry cupboard is fast becoming one of the most wished-for items from clients as part of their new kitchen design.

While today, many use the terms interchangeably to mean pretty much the same thing, historically there is a difference.

In this post, I’ll explain what a larder and pantry are, and the differences between them as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.

Let’s dive in!

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What Is A Larder Cupboard?

Historically, a larder cupboard (or larder store) was used as a cool food storage area. Designed to keep foods such as butter, meats and milk at colder temperatures. It is suggested that the name larder comes from the word ‘lard’, which would have been stored there.

In older homes, a larder was a dark and cool room. It would be located on the northwest corner of the house, where it gets the least sun and solar warming. In many instances, the larder would be in the basement or a sunken room off the kitchen.

The shelves were commonly made out of stone, as the stone kept food cooler without the need for refrigeration.

Today, larder cupboards are trending as one of the must-have items in new kitchen renovations.

Instead of a walk-in pantry or cold room in the basement, a larder cupboard offers serious storage for bulk foods, baking ingredients, linens, paper goods, and even small appliances.

The cupboard is typically a floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinet. It can feature drawers, shelves, baskets, a countertop and maybe even integrated lighting.

Larder Pantry Cupboard
Larder Cabinet Example

What Food Goes In A Larder?


A traditional larder, used for food storage, typically contains a variety of items.

Root vegetables, butter, eggs, meats, and various dry goods for baking are common staples. Vegetables like onions and potatoes are best kept in cool, dark environments to prevent sprouting.

Similarly, flour maintains its freshness longer when stored in a dark, dry area. Fresh farm eggs, especially those that haven’t been pasteurized, have a longer shelf life when placed on a stone shelf.

Traditional larders were often organized into two distinct sections: a wet larder and a dry larder. The wet larder was designated for items like uncooked meats, butter, and milk.

In contrast, the dry larder housed items such as grains, dried fruits, and dried vegetables, keeping them separate from the wet goods.

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What Is A Pantry Cupboard?

A pantry cupboard is formally considered a dry-goods storage space. The word pantry comes from old French. The “pan” part refers to bread. A pantry offered a dark, dry place to store baked goods waiting to be sold. Over the centuries, the word came to refer to your closet or cupboard that stored dry and canned goods.

During the nineteenth century, the canning process allowed people to preserve meats, seasonal fruits, and vegetables for use throughout the entire year. Thus, many homes added a walk-in or large pantry cabinet able to handle a year’s worth of canned goods. 

In modern kitchen design, it looks just like a larder cupboard. Only a person trained in traditional food preparation techniques may actually know the difference between a larder and a pantry. For most people, the two cupboards are interchangeable.

Today’s pantry cupboard gives you a place for paper towels, canned food, baking supplies, small appliances, and even cleaning supplies. Most include large doors that hide away the clutter that comes with a busy home.

With open-concept kitchens driving home decor choices, the pantry cupboard is becoming a popular way to keep all your supplies at hand without cluttering up your life.

An example of a pantry cupboard in a kitchen design
Pantry Cupboard Example

What Food Goes In A Pantry?

A pantry, traditionally, serves as a storage area for various non-perishable food items. It commonly includes canned vegetables and meats, as well as preserves like jams and pickles.

Additionally, pantries often feature bins or containers for storing staples like flour, sugar, beans, and a variety of dried herbs.

Many old pantries also contain a dedicated space for spices, known as a spice cupboard. This area might also accommodate tools and ingredients for coffee preparation, such as a coffee grinder, coffee beans, and sometimes a mortar and pestle for grinding spices or other small quantities of ingredients.

What’s the difference between a larder and a pantry?

The terms “larder” and “pantry” are often used interchangeably, but they historically have different purposes and characteristics:

A larder is a cool storage area traditionally used for fresh and perishable foods like meats, dairy, eggs, and vegetables, often situated in cooler parts of the house, sometimes underground, to enhance food preservation before refrigerators were common.

In contrast, a pantry is designed for storing dry, non-perishable goods such as canned foods, grains, spices, and baking ingredients, usually located within the house for convenient access and organized with shelving and storage solutions.

In modern times, the distinction has become less pronounced, with many households using the term “pantry” for any storage area for food and kitchen supplies, regardless of the specific items stored or the room’s characteristics.

The concept of a larder has largely been replaced by refrigeration, but some homes, particularly in Europe, still have larder spaces or incorporate features of traditional larders in their kitchen design.

Features Of A Larder or Pantry Cupboard

Most pantry or larder cupboards can be customised to suit your particular needs. Many designers offer the following features to mix and match.

  • Shelves: A place to sort boxes and cans. Shelves can be fixed or on casters, so you can pull them out to reach items stored in the back.

  • Drawers: Big drawers on the bottom half of your cupboard are a smart choice for storing pots, pans, and baking sheets. It’s also an intuitive way to sort your plastic storage containers. Small drawers higher up help to keep small utensils, seasoning packets, and herbs and spices neat.

  • Work Surface: Opt for a pull-out wood chopping block or even a cold slab crafted from marble.  A cold slab helps in kneading pastry without melting the butter. It’s also a favourite for crafting fudge and candy.

  • Door Racks: Find all your spices and utensils at a glance. Narrow shelves or hooks line the inside of the large cupboard doors, so you can see all your small jars and packets, spoons, and knives without sorting through cluttered drawers and bins.

  • Small Appliance Storage: Nobody has room for the cappuccino machine, toaster, air fryer, blender, and dehydrator on the counters. Have your cupboard built to fit all of your small appliances and finally free up room on your visible worktops.

What is a butler’s pantry?

A butler’s pantry once referred to a separate small room that served as an ancillary capacity to the main kitchen used to store your china, silver, kitchenware and table linens.

In large households, it was the butler’s responsibility to maintain these pantries. In today’s homes, it can be an additional space or room off the kitchen and dining area that doubles as dry storage and some minor food preparation areas.

It may have walls lined with worktops, a small sink, and even a coffee bar. If you are fond of entertaining, it is fabulous for staging serving trays or letting the wine breathe before pouring.

What Is The Difference between a pantry and a butler’s pantry?

A pantry tends to be a smaller storage area or dedicated cabinet for dry goods and food. Whereas a butler’s pantry will usually be a small room containing some elements of kitchen functionality.

Such as an additional small sink, countertop area for food preparation or use of small appliances such as a coffee machine or microwave. As well as ample storage for dry goods, crockery, cutlery and kitchenware.

FAQs

Which Is Better, An Integrated or Freestanding Larder Cupboard?

Both are excellent options for improving storage in your kitchen.

A freestanding larder cupboard can be picked up at the home improvement store or found as a vintage item from an antique store and added to any large kitchen.

An integrated larder cupboard looks exactly like the rest of your kitchen cabinets. Larder and pantry cabinets are available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As well as different configurations and features.

They can be either standard or custom-designed units with pricing starting as low as £500 for an off-the-shelf cabinet or up to £3,000+ for hand-crafted beauties.

Which is posher, a larder or a pantry?

A larder cupboard is more likely to be the posher option, as it often comes with a stone worktop and shelving. Ultimately, the materials used and features included will drive up the final price.

However, many kitchen manufacturers offer pantry and larder cupboards that look and function the same.

Talk to your kitchen desiger to make sure that your cupboard has all the features that you want.

Are Pantry and Larder Cupboards The Same?

In today’s modern kitchen design language the terms larder and pantry are very much interchangeable and will refer to the same type of cabinet.

Typically a larger, full-height cabinet with various features is used to maximise the storage of all sorts of food, crockery, utensils, small appliances and kitchen essentials.

However, historically, there was a difference between a larder and a pantry. A larder was used to keep food cool and store cold goods such as meats, butter and milk.

Whereas a traditional pantry would store dry goods such as bread, pastries, pasta and canned goods.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Now you know what a larder and a pantry cupboard are as well as their features and differences.

One of the most requested and versatile cabinets in a modern-day kitchen. Almost all my clients have a larder or pantry cabinet on their kitchen wish list.

While nowadays the terms larder and pantry are pretty much interchangeable in the kitchen design world, historically there are some differences.

However, if you’re going down the truly bespoke kitchen route you may need to know these differences as traditional cabinet makers may still distinguish between them. 😊

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.