The 9 Best Meal Delivery Services of 2023

0 0
Read Time:40 Minute, 50 Second

Best Overall: Blue Apron

Pros: Blue Apron offers both meal kits and prepared meals with an impressive range of gourmet recipes.

Cons: Some of our tester experienced shipping issues, and the service lacks keto and paleo options.

Price Range: $7.99- $11.99 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh meal kits, frozen prepared meals | Good For: Multi-person households, singles, foodies, beginner cooks, the time-crunched | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping, some more advanced skills like zesting, grating

How It Works

With dozens of flavorful menu choices each week, Blue Apron is the ultimate service for gourmet food lovers. Customers can select from traditional meal kits with pre-measured ingredients or its Heat & Eat line of prepared meals. You can choose from multiple meal preferences, including chef favorites, family-friendly, and vegetarian options. Weekly menu selections feature a range of flavors, with everything from togarashi tilapia to pasta bolognese to duck with thyme butter sauce on the menu. And in select areas, customers can add on marketplace items, such as pantry essentials, kitchen tools, and even wine.

You don’t have to have an account to pursue Blue Apron’s menu, but if you want to sign up, the process is simple; create an account using your email address, input your delivery information, and select your meals. Blue Apron ships to 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), and shipping costs $9.99.

Tester Takeaway

Blue Apron strikes a nice balance between convenience and flexibility, and we enjoyed the chance to flex our culinary skills with some of these meals.

How Much Does It Cost?

As with most meal delivery services on our list, you’ll find that the more you order, the more your price per serving drops. You can order as few as two, two-serving meals a week for $11.99, or as many as five, four-serving meals, which comes to $7.99 per serving.

How To Prepare the Meals

In addition to produce and proteins, Blue Apron’s meal kits include individually packaged sauces and spices. There is a lot of packaging, though we found through our testing that about half of the items were recyclable. Each recipe has its full-color recipe card, which lists the ingredients and step-by-step instructions. You’ll need a few pantry staples, such as salt, pepper, and oil, but Blue Apron provides the rest. We were impressed with Blue Apron’s recipe cards’ guidance, especially given the range of culinary skill levels represented in its recipes.

If you want a less hands-on experience, Blue Apron also offers prepared, heat-and-eat meals. These arrive fresh in plastic trays, making preparing these meals as simple as peeling back a corner of plastic film and putting them in the microwave for three to five minutes.

Our Testing

We sampled both heat-and-eat meals and meal kits to get a feel for Blue Apron’s menu, which included:

Meal Kits

  • Baked meatballs and romesco mayo: This dish in particular earned extra kudos from our panel, with one of our testers citing the dish’s “piquant flavors and nice sweetness.”
  • Togarashi shrimp and vegetable fried rice
  • Space Ranger chicken enchiladas
  • One-pan white bean and poblano shakshuka

Heat & Eat

  • Chicken Alfredo pasta with peas: This dish was an example of Blue Apron’s use of some unexpectedly jarring recipe elements, such as the use of capers in this dish.
  • Sweet and spicy beef bowl with rice, peppers, and edamame

Overall, we enjoyed the diverse and interesting flavors offered by Blue Apron, but customers with more specific dietary preferences or needs, such as keto or paleo, might want to look elsewhere.

Best Variety: HelloFresh

Pros: HelloFresh gives you a lot of control over your meal selections, with plenty of customization opportunities and the ability to view your menu options to six weeks in advance.

Cons: Our testers noted a lot of single-use plastics and packaging, and the service lacks meal plans for stricter dietary accommodations.

Price Range: $8.99-$12.49 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh meal kits | Good For: Families, kids, picky eaters | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping

How It Works

HelloFresh rolls out a menu of over 30 fresh meal kits each week featuring vegetarian, meat and veggies, pescatarian, fit and wholesome, quick and easy, and family-friendly meals. Meals are designed for two or four servings, with an option for two to six meals a week. You can customize up to 12 sides or proteins each week to create your ideal meal. Plates tend to be more on the filling side, focusing on comfort foods like burgers, rice bowls, pastas, tacos, and sandwiches.

While an account isn’t required to view the HelloFresh menu, you need one to select your meals. Creating an account lets you choose your plan size and meal preferences (which can be changed at any time). Once you’ve added your delivery and payment information, you can start choosing your meals. 

HelloFresh is intended as a weekly meal subscription service, but it’s easy to skip weeks via the app or by logging into your account. HelloFresh also makes it easy to change your delivery day, the number of meals you order, or serving sizes, so you’re not locked into any one plan based on your initial selections. 

Tester Takeaway

HelloFresh is our top pick for variety, with its enormous menu and plentiful customization options. While the menu wasn’t as complex as some, we found the meals to be well-balanced and enjoyable.

How Much Does It Cost?

Pricing for this service falls within the average range compared to other meal delivery services we tested, ranging from $7.99 to $11.99 per serving, depending on how many meals you order. Shipping is $8.99, and the service delivers to all states except Alaska and Hawaii.

How To Prepare the Meals

HelloFresh meal kits arrive in an insulated cardboard box filled with layers of cooling ice packs, fresh ingredients, and pieces of cardboard to separate and contain them. The service uses paper bags to corral the ingredients for each recipe, saving you the trouble of rummaging through a box full of packaged ingredients to find the items you need for your meal. We appreciate that the service tries to use paper or cardboard packaging when possible to help cut down on plastics, and HelloFresh’s website has a page that explains how best to recycle and dispose of its packaging.

You’ll need a few basics, but HelloFresh provides the bulk of the ingredients required to make each meal. Necessary kitchen tools are even called out on the large, colorful recipe cards, letting you know if you’ll need to “bust out” kitchen shears, bowls, or a colander. Each ingredient is also pictured on the recipe card, making it easier to ensure you’re fully prepared before you start dicing or sautéing.

Our Testing

Testers tried a mix of HelloFresh recipes, including:

  • Fancy French onion beef tenderloin with rosemary fingerlings, lemony asparagus, and horseradish cream: This dish was a standout; the meat was tender, and the sauces and onion topping added an excellent depth of flavor. 
  • Falafel power bowls with spinach, creamy dressing, and garlicky pita: This recipe earned similar praise, with our team citing the “herby freshness” of the dish.
  • One-pot cowboy turkey and bean chili with jalapeño and smoky red pepper crema

We found the recipes well-written and easy to follow, though we found ourselves reaching for tools like a zester or additional salt or pepper for added flavor. Some of the dishes did take a few more minutes than the suggested cooking times. Still, these recipes tended to be more complex, and one tester noted that HelloFresh seems to assume that you’re already somewhat familiar with specific kitchen skills (for example, not everyone may know how to zest a lemon).

Best Meal Kits: Green Chef

Pros: Green Chef’s meals are diverse, interesting, and made with organic ingredients. The company also has meal options with up to six servings, making it a great choice for larger households.

Cons: If you’re looking for breakfast options, Green Chef’s choices are limited, and shipping is not free.

Price Range: $11.99-$13.49 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh meal kits | Good For: Families, foodies, singles | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping

How It Works

Using certified-USDA organic produce, Green Chef curates a rotating weekly selection of 24 gourmet, chef-inspired meals. You can choose from various dietary preferences, such as vegan, gluten-free, and keto, with an option to mix and match. Meals are available in servings of two, four, and six, and you can order two, three, or four meals per week. Additionally, Green Chef’s menu is available online up to three weeks out so that you can browse future options with ease. 

Signing up is simple: Click the “Get Started” button on the website’s homepage, then choose your meal preferences and plan size. Next, you’ll enter your email, create a password, and enter your address and payment info. Once that’s done, you’ll be taken to the menu to select your meals.

Green Chef allows you to skip or reschedule deliveries whenever you need to, and you can even change your meal plan size if you need more or less food in any given week. If you have any questions about your order, Green Chef offers a live chat customer service option that can be accessed from the FAQ page. The company’s virtual assistant, Olive, will be your first point of contact; if Olive can’t answer your question, you will be directed to an associate who can. 

Tester Takeaway

Green Chef’s inventive recipes make this company’s meal kits a top contender, and we found that the clear, step-by-step instructions make meal preparation almost foolproof.

How Much Does It Cost?

Green Chef’s pricing is based on your order quantity; four meals with six servings is the most economical option at $11.99 per serving. Shipping is a flat rate of $9.99, and the company delivers to all states except Alaska and Hawaii.

How To Prepare the Meals

Green Chef’s meal kits are conveniently batched into individual paper bags, sparing you the hassle of rummaging through a box of loose sauces and garlic cloves. You’ll find the spices, seasonings, and produce needed to prepare each meal in each paper bag. Meat is the only item you’ll find packaged separately to avoid potential cross-contamination issues; it also allows the company to package the proteins closer to the ice packs to ensure everything arrives at an ideal temperature. As Green Chef’s items arrive fresh, you should store all perishable items in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

From there, preparation is up to you. Green Chef’s recipes are all printed on a full-sized sheet with colorful photos and lay out each step of the process in step-by-step detail. Since sauces and spices are preportioned, you’ll encounter minimal measuring (and, by extension, fewer dirty spoons). The vegetables will require washing and chopping, but we didn’t find this arduous or complicated. If any additional items (typically salt, pepper, and olive oil) are required, they will be items that most people will already have on hand. Anything more unusual, such as za’atar or apricot jam, will be included with your meal kit.

Our Testing

We ordered and tasted three meals as part of our evaluation of Green Chef; however, we were limited by a shipping issue that caused the vacuum-sealed bags containing the raw pork and chicken to leak in transit, leaving us unable to sample these items.

  • Chicken with spicy apricot pan sauce: We could not prepare this dish as suggested due to the packaging issue, but the apricot sauce intended for the chicken had a nice balance of sweetness and heat.
  • Greek pork couscous bowls: The couscous from the pork dish wilted the accompanying greens nicely, taking away some of the bitterness you find with chard.
  • White bean chicken chili: This represented a true miss for us; without the garnishes of a hot sauce and crema, the cinnamon was the dominant flavor, giving the dish a taste one tester described as “holiday-like.”

Most of Green Chef’s meals require light preparation, such as chopping vegetables and mixing sauces. With this in mind, we still found that the estimated cooking times remained on par with Green Chef’s estimates. Some packaging leaking in transit was a disappointing turn of events, though we found that the flavors we could sample were reasonably cohesive, and Green Chef earned points for its inventive use of spices and flavor combinations.

Best Eco-Friendly: Hungryroot

Use promo code FOOD&WINE30 to receive 30% off + free gift in every box.

Pros: Most of Hungryroot’s meals are ready in 10 minutes or less, and customers have access to more than 2,000 recipes.

Cons: The simplicity of Hungryroot’s recipes may not appeal to more advanced home cooks.

Price Range: Varies by selection, but starts at about $8 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh meal kits | Good For: Both busy singles and families, customers with food allergies, kids | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping

How It Works

Hungryroot is a meal planning service and grocery ordering site all in one. New customers complete a detailed food preference quiz, and Hungryoot’s algorithm creates a tailored meal plan with an accompanying list of groceries and pre-portioned ingredients to make meals in 10 minutes or less. With an archive of thousands of recipes and tons of search filters, you can mix and match to create nutritious and healthful meals, including salads, rice bowls, soups, pantry items, snacks, beverages, and even ready-to-eat foods. In addition, Hungryroot focuses on sustainable packaging, with recyclable boxes, biodegradable ice packs, and recipes designed to curb food waste.

If you have specific dietary needs or even just a family of picky eaters, Hungryroot allows you to customize your order more than almost any other meal delivery service we tested. You do need to create an account to view what’s on offer, and to do that, you must first take a quiz. The quiz takes about 15 minutes to complete, but it’s worth it; the information you provide will give Hungryroot’s algorithm the information it needs to tailor everything from your dietary preferences and favorite cuisines and flavor profiles to spice tolerance and just plain dislikes (hey, we all have them). Once your profile is complete, Hungryroot will send you suggested meals based on your preferences every week. If you’re not thrilled with your choices, you can easily adjust the recipes you receive before shipping by logging into your account via the company’s website or app.

Tester Takeaway

We appreciated that Hungryroot’s grocery-oriented take on meal delivery made it easy to create meals. However, more advanced home cooks may find the recipes “overly simplistic” and lacking the finesse of other services.

How Much Does It Cost?

Pricing varies based on your order, and new customers can enjoy an introductory $30 discount. Hungryroot delivers everywhere in the contiguous U.S.; an order of $70 or more will get you free shipping; otherwise, you’ll pay $6.99.

How To Prepare the Meals

Hungryroot’s items come in an insulated cardboard box equipped with gel packs to ensure the ingredients arrive fresh. Besides individual packaging, however, your items are not grouped according to recipe; you’ll have to read your recipe card and gather your ingredients before you can get cooking. You will need to store most of your ingredients in the refrigerator; Hungryroot’s website cautions that, while some of its foods respond well to freezing (such as the red lentil fusilli or cauliflower gnocchi), its seafood, soups, and stews are at their best when refrigerated and consumed by the dates listed on their packaging. 

Recipes are printed on the back of your packaging slip, so they lack the high-end feel you’d get from Blue Apron’s colorful recipe cards. Most recipes require only five or six steps, and we found that actual cooking time was very minimal and estimated hands-on time was very accurate. In fact, both our recipes took under 20 minutes to complete.

Our Testing

We tried two recipes from this service: 

  • Lemongrass chicken and broccoli stir fry: This dish required minimal prep, a theme we saw throughout our test of Hungryroot. The broccoli arrived prewashed, chopped, and packaged; the most involved part of this dish was chopping and sauteing the chicken. The sauce came in a pouch that we poured over the chicken and broccoli, and the whole process took just 18 minutes of the estimated 15. This dish had excellent flavor, though we were hard-pressed to find where the lemongrass came into all of this; if anything, the dominant flavor was coconut.
  • Seared ribeye and creamy mashed potatoes: The seared ribeye was similarly simple to put together; the baby potatoes could be steamed in the bag, requiring only a little olive oil, salt, and pepper before microwaving them for 6 to 7 minutes. The bag did split in transit, which left us unable to reseal the bag fully according to directions, and the resulting potatoes weren’t as thoroughly cooked as we would have liked. 

We pan-seared the steak in olive oil; one drawback to Hungryroot’s recipes is that the type of oil is not specified. We had olive oil on hand, but we’d probably use butter or neutral cooking oil if we were to do this again. The suggested cook time for a medium-rare steak was 3 to 4 minutes per side, but we found this left the steak with a cool, red center. This didn’t trouble those of us that enjoy a rarer steak, but those who preferred a true medium rare were disappointed. The only other step was adding creme fraiche to the potatoes and mashing them. The resulting flavors were good, and this was another example of how Hungryroot’s meal kits are more about assembly than actual hands-on cooking time, which is not bad for folks who are short on time but still want a filling, flavorful meal.

Best Prepared Meals: CookUnity

Pros: CookUnity offers chef-crafted meals that cover a range of dietary needs, and its focus on sustainable packaging appealed to our eco-conscious testers.

Cons: With only single-serving options, CookUnity isn’t an ideal choice if you’re looking to feed a family.

Price Range: $11.09-$13.59 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh prepared meals | Good For: Singles, foodies | Preparation Skills: None

How It Works

CookUnity offers an extensive selection of fresh, small-batch chef-to-consumer meals ready to heat and eat in minutes. With east coast, west coast, Texas, and Midwest hubs, you can select from a rotating menu of meals created by award-winning chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Esther Choi. The menu caters to all sorts of dietary preferences, including dairy-free, vegan, low-calorie, low-sodium, and keto. Culinary and global delights feature bibimbap, Thai curries, barbeque, udon soups, pizza, tacos, and mezze platters. Meals are all single-serving, and you can order up to 16 entrées a week.

Signing up gives you access to CookUnity’s impressive list of menu items and the ability to customize your protein options and review your menu preferences. The company also includes profiles of all its chefs, which makes the site more engaging. We also liked CookUnity’s communication throughout the ordering process; we were sent confirmation emails when our orders were processed and shipped and even received suggestions based on employees’ favorite meals.

Tester Takeaway

We were pleasantly surprised by CookUnity’s take on microwave-ready meals, which our testers called “balanced and tasty.”

How Much Does It Cost?

CookUnity’s pricing averages about $12 per meal, and while its meals were a hit with our team, we did find its delivery area to be a big drawback. The service only delivers to select regions in 47 states, leaving many testers outside major metropolitan areas out of luck.

How To Prepare the Meals

CookUnity’s meals are shipped fresh, and the meal trays were carefully packaged to ensure they arrived in good condition. The box is insulated with a recyclable paper insert, and the contents are kept cool with a large ice pack at the bottom of the shipping container. Each meal tray is encased in a colorful paper sleeve with the name and photo of the chef who created the recipe, a use-by date, and detailed nutritional information. A QR code on the sleeve takes you to the full recipe page that includes more detailed information on the meal’s nutritional profile, customer ratings, and a chef profile. An additional QR code directs you to CookUnity’s recycling page. 

The meal tray is made of industrially compostable material and sealed with a plastic film. The recipe includes two ways to heat the meal: the fast way (microwave) and the chef’s preferred way (oven). To cook in the microwave, you’ll have to place the tray’s contents into a microwave-safe container and cook for two to three minutes. You’ll follow the same process for the oven, but the meals take longer, about 18 to 20 minutes on average.

Our Testing

We sampled four of CookUnity’s meals for our testing, including:

  • Crispy pan-fried Cajun salmon with fresh avocado sauce and cucumber salsa by Andres Mendez: Of the recipes we prepared in the oven, the Cajun salmon was a particular favorite, all the more surprising for a dish that requires reheated fish. The accompanying cucumber salsa added a nice hit of freshness and crunch, with the savory avocado sauce adding to the overall balance of the dish.
  • Wild mushroom bibimbap with steamed rice and cucumber kimchi by Esther Choi: The wild mushroom bibimbap packed more heat than we anticipated; testers who enjoyed spice liked the kick from the gochujang sauce. However, the heat was sufficiently mellowed out by the kimchi cucumbers and spinach, with the mushrooms adding a welcome umami to the dish. We chose to microwave this meal and were impressed by how well the textures held up to this cooking method.
  • Pat’s beef short ribs bourguignon, chef’s special by Pat LaFrieda
  • Marinated chicken shawarma over Israeli couscous with caramelized onions and pickled red cabbage by Einat Admony 

We were generally impressed with these prepared meals; while we found some portions on the small side, the flavors won over many of our prepared-meal skeptics.

Best Plant-Based: Daily Harvest

Pros: Daily Harvest’s menu is entirely plant-based, and the service makes every effort to use organic ingredients.

Cons: More impatient home cooks may not like that all meals arrive frozen; you also must commit to a minimum order of nine items with each delivery.

Price Range: $5.99-$11.99 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Frozen prepared meals | Good For: Singles, seniors, vegans | Preparation Skills: Blending or heating 

How It Works

Since 2015, Daily Harvest has provided plant-based eaters nationwide with top-notch meals that are chock-full of nutrients. Everything on the menu is plant-based and gluten-free, with a strong focus on organic ingredients. There are more than 100 dishes on the menu, from sweet potato and wild rice bowls to artichoke and spinach flatbread to purple corn and tomatillo soup. While all items arrive frozen, that just means you can keep your freezer stocked with meals whenever you need them.

Ordering from Daily Harvest is a straightforward process. You do not need to create an account to view the menu, so browse as much as you like before signing up. When you’re ready, ordering is a simple four-step operation. First, you’ll enter your email address and ZIP code. Second, you’ll pick a plan. Third, you’ll choose your items. Finally, it’s time to enter your address, select a delivery day, and check out. If you’re a first-time customer, you can look forward to an introductory discount. 

Once you subscribe, you’ll receive a weekly box until you skip, pause, or cancel your service. Unlike many other meal delivery services, Daily Harvest doesn’t automatically vary your weekly or monthly selections. Instead, your order will simply repeat until you manually alter it. Daily Harvest’s menu changes slowly, and popular items tend to stick around for a long time, so you can have a standing order or continuously explore the extensive menu.

Tester Takeaway

While there may be better choices than Daily Harvest for larger households, we found its smoothies, bowls, and flatbreads to be a solid choice for folks who want a quick, nutritious meal.

How Much Does It Cost?

Pricing varies by item, and you get a discount of between $5 and $25 depending on the size of your order, which can be anywhere from nine to 24 items. Daily Harvest delivers to all states except Alaska and Hawaii, and shipping will cost you $9.99.

How To Prepare the Meals

Daily Harvest ships its products in a cardboard shipping box, insulated with a liner and kept cool with a package of dry ice. Your items will arrive frozen and can be stored in your freezer for up to three months. Most packages have at least three elements: a paper-based vessel, a plastic film seal, and a plastic lid or thin cardboard sleeve. Harvest bakes are the exception; they have the sleeve and plastic seal, but the vessel is an aluminum tray. In general, containers, lids, and sleeves are recyclable or compostable. 

Preparing your Daily Harvest meals is about as foolproof as it gets. You’ll have to heat, blend, or add some type of liquid to the food (which you must supply), but that’s the extent of your meal prep. At the most, you’ll have to stir a dish once or twice as it heats. Daily Harvest provides oven, stovetop, and/or microwave directions for heated meals depending on the recipe. Aside from overnight oats and chia bowls, which need to soak for at least six hours, harvest bakes and flatbreads take the longest, requiring roughly 20 to 30 minutes to bake in the oven or toaster oven. Everything else is ready to eat in about five minutes.

Our Testing

We sampled nine different items to get an idea of what Daily Harvest has to offer, including:

  • Strawberry + Peach Smoothie: We found that many smoothies had a thin, watery consistency when made according to the directions. The strawberry and peach smoothie blended thicker than the rest, but it lacked the fruity flavors we expected.
  • Chocolate + Blueberry Smoothie: The chocolate and blueberry smoothie was the best of the bunch, tasting like a chocolate shake without feeling overly sweet and artificial.
  • Kohlrabi + Zucchini Salsa Verde Harvest Bake: The harvest bakes fared better during testing, with this dish displaying a lightly spicy kick that paired well with the vegetal flavors.
  • Portobello + Pesto Flatbread: This recipe was also satisfying, with the portobello mushrooms supplying a meaty flavor that gave this relatively light dish some heft.
  • Acai + Cherry Smoothie
  • Mint + Cacao Smoothie
  • Passion Fruit + Pineapple Smoothie
  • Spinach + Shiitake Grits Harvest Bowl
  • Tomato + Zucchini Minestrone Soup

During testing, we found that the more umami a dish had, the more filling it felt to testers. This was key, as Daily Harvest’s portions can seem unsatisfactory. A more traditional meal kit might serve you better if you’re looking for anything but a light meal. However, this service fits the bill if you want something fast and healthy.

Best Organic: Sunbasket

Pros: With its ethical sourcing and USDA-certified organic ingredients, Sunbasket has a level of variety and customization options that set it apart from the rest.

Cons: Our testers found some of Sunbasket’s recipe instructions hard to follow, and shipping is only free for your first order.

Price Range: $9.99-$14.49 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh kits and prepared meals  | Good For: Families, singles, foodies, organic eaters | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping, sautéing

How It Works

Sunbasket takes pride in ethical sourcing and using certified USDA-organic ingredients whenever possible from a plethora of U.S. purveyors and farmers. The service offers healthy and nutritious meals, with an option for a traditional meal kit with pre-portioned ingredients or fresh-and-ready prepared meals you can heat up in minutes. Meals are available for two or four servings, and many of the meals offer protein customization alternatives, plus options to add on breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. From Persian salmon to chimichurri steaks to chop suey, Sunbasket creates enticing and internationally inspired meals.

You can sign up for Sunbasket via the web or its free app (though you don’t need an account to browse the menu). First, you’ll choose which type of meals you’re interested in: Fresh & Ready no-prep meals or its meal kits. You can select from Sunbasket’s dietary options, including paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, pescatarian, Mediterranean, and diabetes-friendly. Once you’ve established your preferences, you can select your meals or recipes. Remember that you can change your meal plan and preferences at any time, so you’re not locked into, say, a vegetarian menu indefinitely.

Tester Takeaway

Sunbasket offers inventive recipes for home cooks who don’t mind spending a little extra time in the kitchen, though we found that some of the more unique flavors were a miss for us.

How Much Does It Cost?

Pricing varies depending on the type of meal you choose (kit or prepared) and what menu item you select, but prepared meals start at $9.99 per serving, while meal kits start at $11.49.  Sunbasket currently ships to 46 states (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, and portions of New Mexico), and shipping is free on your first order (but increases to $7.99 after that).

How To Prepare the Meals

Sunbasket tries to ship its meals in environmentally-friendly packaging; our items arrived in a cardboard box lined with paper and denim insulation. The food is kept cold with plastic ice packs, which are filled with compostable gel. Proteins are sealed in plastic, while all other ingredients are sealed in brown paper bags. Recipes are printed on a full-color folded sheet, and their information is extensive and helpful. In addition to your step-by-step instructions, you’re also given suggested substitutions, instructions for preparing two or four servings, and a list of ingredients you’ll need to supply from your pantry before you begin. There are even instructions on making your meal ahead of time, which we thought was a nice touch.

Our Testing

As part of our testing, we cooked and prepared:

  • Green goddess chicken salad lettuce cups with roasted almonds: The listed preparation time for the green goddess chicken salad was 20 to 30 minutes, and we could easily complete the recipe in 20. The ingredients were fresh, though the avocado was very underripe; this is a tricky fruit to ship, but it would impact your planning if you’d planned to whip up this recipe within a day or so. The chicken was the only item that had to be cooked, though we did have to wash the lettuce. The dressing was premade and arrived in a packet, so assembly was easy. However, we were startled by the distinctly fishy flavor of this dish. Further investigation revealed that the dressing contained anchovies, which no one expected from a green goddess dressing. The overall creaminess of the dressing made this dish feel thick and heavy, not at all the light, crisp chicken salad we were expecting. The almonds added a much-needed crunch, but we felt the dish would have benefited from some acidity or fresh herbs to lighten the taste.
  • Northern Italian duck ragu with potato gnocchi, Pecorino, and endive: Despite its more intimidating name, the duck ragu was surprisingly easy to assemble, taking 29 minutes of the suggested 25 to 30. The duck arrived pre-cooked in a sous vide pouch; all our efforts went into washing and chopping the endive, garlic, and parsley, though the mirepoix mix of onions, carrots, and celery did come pre-chopped. This recipe did require multiple pots and pans, though we liked the chef’s suggestion of crisping the gnocchi before serving; the resulting chewy texture took this dish to the next level.

Despite the care Sunbasket puts into its packaging, we were puzzled to find that the company made ingredient substitutions with no warning beforehand. The differences were small (we received Parmesan instead of Pecorino, and the recipe listed roasted garlic when we had raw cloves), but enough to give us pause. 

Best for Families: Home Chef

Pros: Home Chef has recipes designed to save you time, and with its easy-to-customize dishes, bigger serving sizes, and affordable price point, it’s a great option for families.

Cons: Home Chef only offers limited dietary accommodations, so those with specific needs may want to look elsewhere.

Price Range: $7.99-$10.90 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh Meal Kits | Good For: Families, couples | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping

How It Works

Home Chef’s array of tasty, crowd-pleasing meals is a boon for busy families. The company’s menu boasts three dozen meals weekly, and its “Easy Prep” meal line can significantly reduce cooking time. There’s even an “Oven Ready” category that hardly requires any prep work at all — just assemble a few pre-prepped ingredients in the accompanying tray, pop it in the oven, and enjoy. You can choose from tasty, comfort food-leaning options like Tuscan-style shrimp penne, crispy shallot beef burgers, and mushroom and black bean chili, each of which can feed up to six people.

To sign up, you must first input your email address, ZIP code, and your goal with Home Chef’s meal kits (to save time, eat fresh, try new recipes, or cook for your family). Then you specify your dietary preferences. While this service doesn’t offer as many options as some, you can still choose from vegetarian, calorie-conscious, carb-conscious, and keto-friendly categories. You can also eliminate foods you’d like to avoid from your menu selection (pork, tree nuts, and shellfish, to name a few). Once you’ve customized the number of people you’ll be cooking for (two, four, or six) and the number of recipes you’d like (two to six), you enter your billing and shipping information and may begin selecting your meals. You have until Friday each week to pause, skip, or cancel your order, which you can do via Home Chef’s website or app.

Tester Takeaway

Home Chef’s uncomplicated approach to meal kits is a solid choice for folks who are short on time but still appreciate a home-cooked meal.

How Much Does It Cost?

Your costs will vary based on your menu options and number of servings, and shipping will cost an additional $10.99. At this time, Home Chef does not ship to Alaska or Hawaii.

How To Prepare the Meals

Our Home Chef ingredients arrive in an insulated cardboard box, with items kept cool with ice packs. Proteins are individually wrapped and packed together in a plastic bag, and all premeasured ingredients are grouped in resealable plastic bags, making it easy to store the items in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Each recipe comes with its own double-sided card; these are already three-hole punched and intended to be saved in a binder. Each card has a large image of the finished dish, a list of ingredients (including a section for items like salt and oil you’ll have to supply yourself), and a helpful “Cook Within” section that gives you your optimal window for when using your ingredients (for example, you should cook the shrimp tacos within three days). On the opposite side, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for the meal and instructions for customizing the recipe (for example, if you decided to use scallops instead of chicken).

Our Testing

We sampled several recipes from Home Chef, which consisted of the following:

  • Sweet and spicy shrimp tacos: While not very spicy, the sweet and spicy shrimp tacos had a good flavor. This dish took much longer than anticipated (50 minutes to the recommended 15 to 20), but this was mainly due to following the recipe to the letter; had we used an additional pan instead of re-using one per the instructions, there would have been less lag time. We were also skeptical of the instruction to cook the shrimp for two to three minutes per side; this would’ve resulted in very rubbery shrimp, in our opinion. The shrimp tacos, while not groundbreaking, were very tasty. The squeeze of lime kept the coleslaw from being too cloying, and the ancho chili powder added some smokiness to keep things interesting.
  • Chicken adobo flautas with homemade salsa and crema: The chicken flautas were another recipe saved by its garnishes. Alone, the chicken was smoky and not terribly inspiring. However, the addition of the salsa and crema improved the dish considerably.
  • Crispy Cajun-style mahi mahi tacos with slaw
  • Impossible banh mi burger with sweet chili garlic fries

While it’s true that Home Chef skews more towards solid, comfort-food fare, we didn’t find the simplicity of the meals to be a drawback.

Best Value: Dinnerly

Pros: Dinnerly offers comfort food favorites in varying sizes at budget-friendly price point.

Cons: In order to cut down on cost, Dinnerly only offers digital recipe cards. Some of our testers also report chatbot issues when reaching out to customer service.

Price Range: $4.99-$8.04 per serving | What’s on the Menu: Fresh meal kits  | Good For: Folks on a budget, comfort-food fans | Preparation Skills: Basic chopping

How It Works

With a modest price that goes as low as $4.99 a serving, Dinnerly is a solid option for budget-minded folks. You can order meals with either two or four servings, with an option of three to six meals a week. Dinnerly’s rotating weekly menu focuses on family-friendly comfort foods like steak and potatoes, quesadillas, and rice bowls. You can also incorporate grocery items into your shipments using the new online Market by Dinnerly. With preportioned items and only a handful of ingredients, meals are quick to prepare and delicious.

You don’t need to create an account to view Dinnerly’s menu. Simply click on “View Menu.” To place an order, follow these easy steps. First, select the number of meals and servings you need. Then, provide your location, email address, and delivery address. Choose the delivery day that suits you best. Once you’ve added your payment information, you can select the meals you want for your first delivery. 

If you want to make changes to the meals that Dinnerly selects for you each week, it’s a simple process. Dinnerly will choose your meals, but you can adjust your preferences by clicking on the “edit taste profile” link in your account settings. Once there, you can customize the types of proteins you prefer, whether you want vegetarian options, and whether you like spicy food. 

To choose your meals, simply click on “edit recipes,” select the meals you want, and then hit “continue” to reach Dinnerly’s “Market” section. In the “Market,” you can choose up to 10 additional items from categories such as bakery and dessert, breakfast and brunch, drinks and smoothies, fresh fruits and vegetables, lunch, and prepared meals and sides. 

Tester Takeaway

We cooked and sampled Dinnerly’s meals and determined that whatever it lacks in frills, it delivers affordable, family-friendly meals that come together with minimal effort.

How Much Does It Cost?

Ordering the maximum amount of meals and servings (six meals with four servings each) gets you the lowest price per serving, but even two two-serving meals come to a reasonable $8 per serving. Shipping is $9.99, and Dinnerly delivers to all states except Alaska and Hawaii.

How To Prepare the Meals

Dinnerly ships its meal kit ingredients fresh, and items are kept chilled in transit by a combination of insulation (which can vary based on your location) and a large ice pack. Proteins are separated from your produce and seasonings, and all perishable items should be stored in the refrigerator.

You won’t find printed recipe cards in your Dinnerly delivery. The company only provides digital recipe cards to reduce costs and its carbon footprint. These are always available in your Dinnerly account and can be accessed on your phone via the app or on your computer. You can also download your recipes as a PDF from Dinnerly’s website.

Our Testing

Our sample meals included:

  • BBQ chicken, broccoli, and cheesy macaroni: The BBQ chicken dish proved to be juicy and well-flavored, and the broccoli came out fresh and crisp. We did find ourselves reaching for the salt shaker for the macaroni, but otherwise, this dish met with approval from our testers. When testing the steak dish, we found the recipe instructions resulted in a solid medium rare, though the meat lacked marbling and was a little tough. The potatoes cooked up perfectly, though it was one tester’s opinion that “plain herb butter might have served this dish better.”
  • Seared steak and ranch butter with BBQ spiced potatoes

Our main complaint? Dinnerly’s recipes indicate that you only need a couple of basic kitchen tools, such as a skillet and a saucepan, but these recipes both required more. For example, we were instructed to pound the chicken to a ½” thickness; this requires a mallet and wax paper or cling wrap, at the very least. Pan sizes are also not specified, and listing a “large skillet” didn’t give us the guidance we needed. The broccoli and chicken were supposed to be cooked in the same skillet, but this proved impossible and required another skillet (and thus more dishes to clean). 

Beyond our minor frustrations with kitchen equipment, we felt Dinnerly’s meals had good flavor, required only minor preparation, and would appeal to families with children. Dinnerly is also the most affordable meal delivery service we tested. So while the recipes aren’t exactly groundbreaking, we can see the appeal of having someone else deal with grocery shopping and recipe planning.

Our Favorite

Blue Apron stands out from the rest for its diverse selection of meals and entrées available, all with a gourmet touch. Additionally, the company offers both kits and the convenience of heat-and-eat meals, giving busy folks more options to save valuable time in the kitchen. Last but not least, with its pre-prepped ingredients and clear, step-by-step instructions, Blue Apron makes it both fun and convenient to try new meals each week.

Other Services We Tested for This Roundup

How We Test Meal Delivery Services

Our dedicated team, which includes editors, researchers, home testers, dietitians and skilled chefs, has conducted a comprehensive review of over 50 meal delivery services. We’ve carefully evaluated each company on various criteria, such as pricing, meal variety, packaging, cooking time, and more. 

To ensure we provide the best recommendations to our readers, we’ve tested and tasted over 1,000 meals (and counting!). We retest companies we’ve tried before while continually seeking out new ones in order to provide the most comprehensive reviews for our readers. 

Our testers begin by creating an account with the service and exploring the website to assess its user-friendliness. They then select a diverse range of meals that represent a variety of dietary preferences and make a purchase. Upon delivery, our testers meticulously document the unboxing process by conducting a packaging count and taking photos.

Next, our testers follow each recipe’s directions and photograph the cooking process as they chop, slice, and sauté. They keep track of the time spent preparing and cooking the dish to see how these recipes stack up against their expected preparation and cooking times.

Finally, we document the best part–the food! Our testers are encouraged to assemble a tasting panel of family and friends to try the meals and make note of details such as texture, seasoning levels, and presentation. While we know taste is subjective, we collect feedback from the panel and present those notes to our readers to help them make an informed decision when choosing a meal delivery service.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are meal delivery services healthy?

    Each meal delivery service is unique and may offer a variety of health benefits. For instance, if you follow a strict diet, such as vegan, gluten-free, or keto, there are specific meal kits that focus on these dietary needs. For those looking to lose weight, there are dietitian-designed services that cater to customers who want extra support. If you are looking to add more organic produce or vegetables into your diet, many meal services offer a vegetarian meal plan or work with local farms to procure and produce healthful meals.

    While each meal delivery service is distinctive in its offerings, most of the meal companies share nutrition facts for each meal and may even offer filters or tags to help you find the ideal meal. If you have any specific health ailments or issues, speaking to a doctor or registered dietitian may be advised to help select the right meal delivery plan for you.

  • Do meal services have good options for people with food allergies?

    Fortunately, for those who suffer from food allergies and restrictions, there are plenty of options when it comes to meal delivery. Many services cater to a variety of food allergies and dietary needs, and some meal services are created by physicians and registered dietitians to offer custom meal plans. A variety of services offer a selection of diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-, nut-, and dairy-free. It’s important to note that, despite offering diet-specific meals, many companies process foods in facilities that may not uphold strict allergen standards. For this reason, consider reaching out to customer service to learn more about each service’s processing and facility practices.

  • What type of meal delivery service is best for me?

    With so many meal kit plans available, there are several factors to consider when selecting a meal delivery service. Who is the plan for? How big is the household? Some services are geared towards single-serving meals, while other services offer multiple serving sizes, which may appeal to families or homes that love to have a fridge stocked with leftovers.

    Time commitment may also be an important factor. Which deliveries will work best with your schedule? Are you looking to microwave a complete meal in a few minutes, or do you enjoy the process of cooking a gourmet meal some evenings? Additionally, it’s important to consider diet, food restrictions, and food allergies when selecting the best meal plan for your household.

  • Is it easy to cancel a meal delivery service?

    Most meal delivery services make it quite easy to cancel, update, skip, or even pause your service. Many companies let customers make changes and updates to their account in the online profile or mobile app. Depending on the service, you may need to answer a few questions before fully canceling your subscription. Other services may even require contacting a customer service agent to cancel a subscription. If you have any hesitations or questions, check the FAQ section of the company website or reach out to customer service for assistance.

Compare the Best Meal Delivery Services

Company Starting Price Delivery Area Products Arrive Meals Offered Free Shipping?
Blue Apron Best Overall $7.99 per serving 48 states Fresh Vegetarian, family-friendly Yes, with minimum order
HelloFresh Best Variety $8.99 per serving 48 states Fresh Vegetarian, family-friendly, quick and easy, pescatarian No
Green Chef Best Meal Kits $11.99 per serving 48 states Fresh Keto, high-protein, vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, gluten-free No
Hungryroot Best Eco-Friendly $8 per serving 48 states Fresh Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free, shellfish-free Yes
CookUnity Best Prepared Meals $11.09 per serving 47 states Fresh Low-calorie, low-carb, dairy-free, plant-based, keto, paleo Yes
Daily Harvest Best Plant-Based $5.99 per serving 48 states Frozen Vegan, gluten-free Yes
Sunbasket Best Organic $9.99 per serving 46 states Fresh Paleo, soy-free, gluten-free, diabetes-friendly, vegan No
Home Chef Best for Families $7.99 per serving 48 states Fresh Calorie-conscious, carb-conscious, vegetarian, keto-friendly No
Dinnerly Best Value $4.99 per serving 47 states Fresh Low-carb, low-calorie, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian No

0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %


Next Post

15 yoga moves for the car to banish back pain during commutes

Tue Aug 22 , 2023
Get the T3 newsletter! All the best features, news, tips and great deals to help you live a better life through technology Thank you for signing up to T3. You will receive a verification email shortly. There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again. By submitting your […]
15 yoga moves for the car to banish back pain during commutes

You May Like