The best meal kit delivery services

  • Why spend yet another dinner eating the same takeout when you can impress yourself with your culinary abilities?
  • We tested a variety of meal kits and found Blue Apron to be the overall winner because of its creative, healthy, generously-portioned, and well-seasoned meals — not to mention its optional companion wine subscription service. 
  • That being said, if you tend to prioritize all-organic ingredients, a plant-based lifestyle, or fast prep time, you may prefer another meal kit service that caters to those specific preferences. 
  • If you want to save yourself even more time and effort while still eating right, check out our guide to the best pre-made meal delivery services.

Note: As of 3/17/20, the FDA announced there is no evidence that food produced in the US and imported foods can transmit COVID-19. There is also no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.

We've included updates, where available, from meal kit delivery services that have confirmed shipping delays or increased production plans as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Maybe it's not the cooking you're unwilling to do. It's the recipe planning, the ingredient sourcing, and the shopping for difficult-to-find spices and cuts of meat that's keeping you from your kitchen. But with the right meal kit, you'll be able to (re)discover your inner chef and save yourself from ordering the same takeout meal for the fifth night in a row.

While the meal kit space seems more crowded than ever these days, there are certainly a few standouts. Of course, there are various factors that you should keep in mind before deciding which service is best for you, including dietary preferences and restrictions, eco-friendliness, and portion size. 

Here are the best meal kits we've tried:

  • Best meal kit overall: Blue Apron
  • Best organic meal kit: Sun Basket
  • Best meal kit for variety: Home Chef
  • Best meal kit for quick dishes: HelloFresh
  • Best meal kit for simple dishes: Dinnerly
  • Best vegan meal kit: Purple Carrot

Prices and links are accurate as of 9/11/2020. We've updated information related to delivery, stock, and donation options for all the companies in light of the novel coronavirus. 

The best meal kit overall

If you're looking for creative recipes, thoughtful kit design, and the inspiration necessary to start cooking more for yourself, Blue Apron is the way to go. 

Note: As of 9/11/20, Blue Apron is not experiencing any delivery delays, but in an earlier statement, it said it may discontinue some recipes in order to maintain quality and order fulfillment. You may also experience longer than usual response times from its Customer Experience team. In addition to donating food through existing food bank partners like City Harvest, Blue Apron is accepting donations for Feeding America. 

One of my primary complaints about many meal kits is that they often seem to be about two-thirds of a full meal. But with Blue Apron, this isn't the case. For folks looking for a well-composed, classic, yet creative take on dinner, there are few meal kits that fit the bill better than this popular (and heavily advertised) option.

Blue Apron is probably one of the most recognizable names in the meal kit world, and for good reason. The ingredients that I received were neatly packaged and high quality and the recipes were easy to follow. They also included clever little boxes for you to check off things that you had done, though this probably isn't quite so necessary for the more advanced chef.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about Blue Apron's recipe cards, however, has nothing to do with the instructions or the ingredients — rather, it's the wine pairings. Blue Apron has a companion wine subscription service, which we've previously reviewed, and the meal kits are paired directly with a Blue Apron wine.

As far as the meals themselves, I found Blue Apron to be simple yet creative. Za'atar chicken was precisely what you might expect from a chicken dish, with a well-cooked protein, roasted vegetables, and a fluffy couscous base. But what saved it from boredom was the truly delightful Za'atar spice. I often complain about foods being under-spiced, this certainly wasn't the case.

Blue Apron is also customizable, as it provides options for both two-person and four-person meals. Although some delivery services seem to provide rather small portions, with Blue Apron, I always felt as though there was sufficient food for two full-grown adults with hearty appetites, and didn't feel like I was missing out on my vegetables or skimping on my protein — everything felt well-balanced and thoughtfully put together.

In the spirit of actually making people better chefs, which is what meal kits ought to be about, Blue Apron is actually teaching us to fish, metaphorically speaking. Blue Apron has its own online cookbook, which features detailed recipes of their dishes, organized by date and season.

So if you want to buy the ingredients needed for Crispy Catfish with Coconut-Lime Curry & Kale, you can easily recreate a Blue Apron meal without ever getting anything shipped to your front door. The digital recipe cards also feature the estimated preparation time, nutrition facts, and suggested wine pairings. 

Some meals seemed more expensive through Blue Apron than if I'd just bought the ingredients at the grocery store. This complaint can be justified by the overall convenience of the service and the ease of making the meals, but it's something to note if budget is on your mind. —Lulu Chang 

Pros: Familiar recipes with a twist, wine pairing suggestions, easy-to-follow directions, options for both two and four-person families

Cons: Some recipes may not justify the price point, given that ingredients are quite straightforward and easy to find in your local supermarket

Read our full review of Blue Apron's Mediterranean diet recipes 

The best organic meal kit

Sun Basket impresses from start to finish, from its sourcing of organic produce to its attention to detail when it comes to oft-neglected meal components like flavorful sauces. 

Note: As of 9/11/20, Sun Basket is not experiencing any delivery issues. 

One of Sun Basket's primary talking points is its use of organic produce and clean ingredients.

Over 99% of its produce from the USDA-certified organic company is organic, and it takes seasonality seriously when developing its recipes. In addition, it provides responsibly raised meats and poultry, focusing on antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, pasture-raised or grass-fed animals, and wild-caught seafood. Sun Basket will impress anyone who takes sourcing seriously and wants to eat more responsibly and sustainably. 

The environmentally-conscious ethos also translates into the packaging. Almost all the company's packaging materials are recyclable, and even the ice pack can be composted and recycled. You can reuse things like the sauce jars for your own meal prep.

Speaking of sauce, Insider Reviews contributor Lulu Chang calls Sun Basket's mastery of sauces a major highlight. She says, "The California-based company has long hung its hat on its health-conscious recipes that can accommodate just about any diet, but really, all they need to do is have you taste their romesco or have a spoonful of their pesto. The availability of the sauces also makes Sun Basket meals very straightforward when it comes to preparation. After all, much of the flavor of your meal comes in a little jar, which you can simply spoon on at the end (or throughout the recipe)." 

Sun Basket is much more than an organic meal kit-only service. It provides add-on options like egg bites, yogurt drinks, and granola from vetted brands that tend to be paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and/or Non-GMO Project Certified. Right now, it's also a great place to stock up on protein that may difficult to find in stores: steaks, chicken breast, salmon, and more. 

When it comes to the actual cooking process, Sun Basket looks to make things as easy as possible and takes care of some of the more tedious components for you. For example, butternut squash will come to you pre-cut, and cauliflower rice comes pre-ground so you don't have to pull out your food processor. Some recipes are designated 20-minute meals, and Sun Basket lives up to this promise. —Connie Chen

Pros: Organic ingredients and responsible sourcing, health-conscious recipes that take many dietary restrictions into account, tasty sauces 

Cons: Slightly pricier than competitors due to ingredient sourcing 

Read our full review of Sun Basket

The best meal kit for variety

Home Chef makes dinner more interesting without the complication. Its weekly rotating menu has more than a dozen recipes, which include customization options, easy-prep meals, and protein packs. 

Note: As of 9/11/20, Home Chef customers may experience delivery delays or cancellations as the coronavirus situation evolves, and will receive notifications from the customer support team. Home Chef has created a COVID-19 Response Fund in partnership with Feeding America to donate meals to those in need.

Omnivores who love eating anything and everything can appreciate Home Chef's large and diverse menus. It's almost difficult choosing just a few dishes each week because of the range in cuisine and ingredients.

I know I had trouble, but it's not like I suffered — every recipe I tried turned out to be fresh, delicious, and easy to make. There are indulgent options, like Cajun Chicken Thigh Cornbread Pie, as well as lighter meals like Cashew Tofu.

Although there are ways to make the recipes vegetarian, Home Chef isn't the best for people with certain dietary restrictions, but it does work well with everyone from couples to large families (you can order up to eight servings) who enjoy exploring all types of food. 

The online experience feels streamlined and intuitive, so even newcomers to the meal kit world will feel immediately at ease. You can skip meals and add or substitute protein options without any trouble, plus filter recipes of cook time and meal type. 

In addition to the online directory of recipes, you'll get a binder to store all your physical recipe cards so you can easily refer to them later. On the recipe cards, Home Chef offers many customization options such as protein substitutions. 

All in all, Home Chef is simply a consistent and enjoyable meal kit experience. It doesn't have extra frills like snacks, breakfast, or wine, but you never feel like you're sold short in terms of recipe variety. 

Home Chef also offers a 10% discount to first responders, doctors, nurses, hospital employees, teachers, and military personnel. You can verify your status on the website to receive the discount. —Connie Chen

Pros: Well-designed recipes and website, customization opportunities, large menu, large serving size option

Cons: Not ideal for those with dietary restrictions, lacks extras like snacks or wine

Read our full review of Home Chef

The best meal kit for quick dishes

If you're looking for a no-fuss dinner that is quick and easy to prepare, HelloFresh's meals come together in 20 to 30 minutes. 

Note: As of 9/11/20, HelloFresh says there are no major disruptions to its service and any unscheduled changes to your delivery will be communicated. You'll receive a full refund if it's unable to deliver your box. HelloFresh has donated $180,000 worth of meals to City Harvest to feed New Yorkers in need. 

The whole point of meal kits is to make cooking at home easier, and no one does this better than HelloFresh. If you're looking for a way to make your own dinner without breaking a sweat, breaking the bank, or standing over a hot stove for more than 30 minutes, then say hello to HelloFresh.

Of the many meal kits I tested, few were as true to the estimated preparation time as HelloFresh. This is likely because there are fewer ingredients associated with these meal kits — there's little pretension and little complexity involved. But that's not a bad thing, and it doesn't mean that its meals are any less tasty.

In fact, for folks who are looking for something just a little more high brow, HelloFresh does have a few new premium options available every week in their recipe selection. I opted for the Pan-Seared Duck Breast, a well-composed meal that also featured duck fat fried potatoes, sauteed asparagus, and grape tomatoes.

Whenever duck is on the menu, I temporarily forego my pescatarian tendencies, and I was certainly glad to have done so. While duck may seem like a rather unapproachable ingredient, HelloFresh's straightforward recipe made the protein easy to work with and decidedly delicious.

This seems to be the mentality behind most of HelloFresh's recipes: prove that even without bells and whistles, food can be delicious. For example, the Tuscan Shrimp and Orzo was easy to prepare, requiring nothing but shrimp, orzo pasta, and roasted tomatoes, but was still a flavorful meal that took about half an hour to prepare (the duck, by the way, was similarly speedy).

Like Blue Apron, HelloFresh also offers a companion wine subscription service, and while Blue Apron offers smaller 500 mL bottles, you can get full-sized bottles from HelloFresh to go along with your meal.

HelloFresh similarly boasts a recipe archive where you can get the instructions for all your favorite meals (not just the ones that are on the docket this week). And if you have dietary restrictions, HelloFresh lets you select a veggie-friendly menu right from the get-go, helping to avoid sifting through recipes that you won't be able to eat. —Lulu Chang

Pros: Simple, straightforward recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, all while being quite tasty

Cons: While the premium meals are an exception, most of HelloFresh's meals might otherwise seem too simple for folks looking to go on a culinary adventure

The best meal kit for simple dishes

Dinnerly may just be the best meal kit on the market for fans of simplicity and classic comfort food.

Note: As of 9/11/20, Dinnerly is not experiencing any delivery issues.

At less than $5 per serving, it's hard to beat Dinnerly when it comes to price, and that's even the case if you think about doing your own shopping at a grocery market. The meal kit is part of the Marley Spoon universe, also known as Martha Stewart's meal kit service. But instead of charging you an extra premium for having someone so well-versed in recipe creation on your side, Dinnerly makes it easy to cook homemade, tasty food.

While some meal kits want to turn you into a gourmand, Dinnerly is perhaps more approachable for folks just starting out in the kitchen. There will be no fancy techniques and no difficult-to-source ingredients. Just straightforward recipes that could quickly become staples.

Generally speaking, the meals that you'll be making with Dinnerly consist of five ingredients. They're neither intimidating nor confusing, and meal prep is the easiest I've ever experienced with a meal kit.

But this isn't to say that I'm conflating lack of complexity with lack of enjoyability. Rather, I've found that Dinnerly consistently provides comforting, approachable food that you'll want to make, eat, and serve.

With Dinnerly, I've made meals like their one pan potato, kale, egg, and cheddar cheese hash — the perfect fall dinner. Preparing the whole thing took effectively no time. I needed only to cut up the potatoes and kale, season them with the included paprika and add some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then throw everything in the oven. And since making it with Dinnerly for the first time, I've often returned to the same recipe, adding some variations of my own to keep things interesting.

There was also delicious pizza, which was made even better by Dinnerly's inclusion of a still-rising crust — seriously, when a company sends you fresh pizza dough, take it as a gift. And why order out when you can just make one at home, and add all the toppings you want and none of the ones you don't?

I'll also commend Dinnerly on being more eco-friendly than most meal kits. The boxes are smaller, there's less packaging, and rather than sending you recipe cards, you'll receive a PDF of all the meals you're slated to enjoy so that you can save some trees. —Lulu Chang

Pros: Few ingredients, approachable food, eco-friendly, extremely affordable

Cons: if you're a more advanced chef, Dinnerly's options may be a bit too basic for your tastes

The best vegan meal kit

As plant-based diets become more popular, Purple Carrot steps in with delicious and hearty meals that never compromise nutrition, taste, and creativity. 

Note: As of 9/11/20, due to increased demand, Purple Carrot says to expect changes like ingredient substitutions and shifts in delivery days. It's donating a percentage of sales from all boxes to Feeding America. 

It's easy to join the plant-based lifestyle, thanks to all the new brands cropping up and services like Purple Carrot that cater to these specific needs. Plant-based diets are healthy and better for the planet because it requires less water and produces fewer carbon emissions to grow ingredients than to raise cows. 

Purple Carrot is especially great for people who are transitioning to a more plant-based diet or aren't sure how to cook meat or dairy. It shows you how there are always creative workarounds and flavor combinations with all the plants on this planet, resulting in filling, delicious recipes like Warm Japanese Yam & Shiitake Salad and Parmesan Gnocchi with Melted Summer Squash & Basil.

Plus, most of its non-produce items are organic, though all other ingredients can vary on organic or non-GMO status. 

Changing your eating habits is never easy, but Purple Carrot makes the shift just a little more manageable. I'm not strictly plant-based, but I am trying to eat less meat, and Purple Carrot gave me nice inspiration for how I could continue eating this type of diet, even if I don't personally continue the subscription. 

Compared to other meal kits I've tested, I noticed Purple Carrot does use blenders and food processors often to make its sauces, so make sure you have these appliances on hand and are prepared for a little extra cleanup afterward. 

If you so choose, it also has breakfasts, lunches, and snacks covered with healthy options. 

Pros: Delicious and filling recipes for people who are on plant-based diets or who are interested in starting one 

Cons: Slightly pricier than competitors due to ingredient sourcing, requires more kitchen tools 

What else we considered

Gobble: Gobble says its meals can be made in 15 minutes or less, though in my testing, it took more like 25 — which is still quite quick. There was a good variety of dishes but not a way to filter them much by dietary restrictions. You can add on extra protein, snacks, and sides, which was a great perk and helped dishes feel less like they came from a meal kit and more like homecooked dishes. Read our full reviews here and here.

 

Subscribe to our newsletter.

You can purchase syndication rights to this story here.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article