Unlike many products we test at Reviewed, a meal kit delivery service isn’t something you buy once and use for years; it’s a subscription service that asks you to make choices each week from different menu options. It changes how you cook.
Since the launch of Blue Apron in 2012, a seemingly endless number of competitors have emerged—with offerings that include everything from vegan and plant-based meals to comfort food and Martha Stewart-approved dishes. So, choosing the right service can be complicated and confusing.
After several years of testing more than a dozen meal kits and cooking 50 different dinners during busy weeknights, our favorite meal delivery service is Home Chef. It forgoes gimmick in favor of providing consistently excellent recipes, quality ingredients, and enough variety to satisfy most diets.
Like its name suggests, Home Chef provides customers with the tools necessary to become true masters of the kitchen. From Home Chef’s fresh, high-quality ingredients to well-written recipes that break down intimidating cooking methods into simple digestible steps, everything about this service made us feel like we were preparing restaurant-worthy (or at least guest-worthy) meals without too much fuss.
Home Chef also offers oven-ready meals (which come with their own cooking trays) and the option to swap out proteins, making it appealing to an even wider swath of busy cooks.
Home Chef's fried chicken recipe came out great. We could hardly believe we’d made this at home!
Take Home Chef’s Farmhouse Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Onion Gravy, and Corn. While browsing the company’s website, we initially saw fried chicken and laughed. How could a food so many people find impossible to cook at home be executed well in a meal kit? We were shocked—and thrilled!—to find that Home Chef’s recipe yielded wonderfully even, juicy chicken with nary an oil burn in sight.
If the words “fried chicken” make you clutch your heart in health-related fear, don’t worry. Home Chef’s offerings are diverse enough to include healthy meal options and accommodate almost any dietary preference, including vegetarians and vegans. It offers 20 dinner options per week, as well as a handful of oven-ready meals, plus some lunch and snack choices as add-ons to its main menu.
At the heart of Home Chef’s success is its organization. Any experienced cook knows that preparation is half the battle, and this company knows it too. Ingredients are divided per meal into labeled bags that easily slide into the fridge, recipe instructions are consistently clear, and time estimates are largely accurate. Plus the website is easy to navigate, allowing you the freedom to choose what you want and skip delivery weeks at will.
This clarity and organization made for faster fridge-to-table times than a lot of the competition. It also saved us the stress of forgetting ingredients and re-reading recipes four times over.
Home Chef would be wise to incorporate more biodegradable packaging into its existing model. It could also stand to reimagine some of its vegetarian offerings that fell a little flat (like the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto with Pistachios).
Unlike Home Chef, which can require chopping, the ingredients in Gobble’s meal kits are almost entirely pre-prepped. That means your box will contain pre-made sauces and partially-cooked starches that require simple reheating, plus pre-sliced, -diced, and -minced veggies. We were pleasantly surprised by the freshness of the prepped ingredients, in particular the produce, and found that everything survived a day or two in the fridge before cooking.
Every Gobble recipe we tested came together in 15 minutes or less, as promised by the brand’s website. The recipe cards for each dish include fun facts about the dish, supplies to gather, what’s included in your dinner kit, calorie information, and easy-to-follow cooking instructions. We appreciated how the ingredients are bolded within the instructions, so it’s easier to spot these at a glance if you’re reading whilst cooking.
Gobble’s packaging is almost entirely recyclable, which is amazing! But because Gobble preps most of the veggies for you, there's unnecessary (albeit recyclable) packaging for things like chopped onions, which means more stuff for you to dispose of.
Cost:Visit Gobble for updated pricing. When we tested, meals were $11.99 per serving for two people, $11.99 per serving for four people, regardless of frequency. Different plans are available, including Classic, Vegetarian Only, and Lean & Clean.
We were impressed by how easily our Sunbasket dinners came together, relying on just a few key ingredients and spice blends to do most of the heavy lifting. That meant spending less time cooking and more time enjoying my food. Sunbasket now offers oven-ready and pre-prepped meals that we tested alongside other pre-made meals. We were extremely impressed with the high-quality ingredients in each dish. We particularly loved the flavorful veggies and non-meat protein options, making Sunbasket perfect for people who avoid eating meat.
Sunbasket has improved its cancellation policy since we originally tested. Now, you can easily skip weeks, adjust delivery frequency, pause your account, or cancel your subscription entirely by easily navigating its website.
The biggest downside to this meal subscription as it stands is that the portions aren’t big enough to have leftovers for eating later, which is especially nice if you have a habit of eating leftovers for lunch.
Freshly was the closest to a home-cooked meal that our editor, Meghan Kavanaugh, experienced while testing the best pre-made meal delivery services. Unlike the other services in this roundup, Freshly delivers fully prepared meals directly to your door, no cooking required.
Once the dinners were plated, Meghan wouldn’t have believed they were microwaved if she hadn’t done it herself. Other than some slightly bland broccoli that came with the chicken parm dish, she enjoyed every bite.
Most of the ingredients tasted fresh and high-quality. Meghan was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed Freshly’s Steak Peppercorn—having never cooked steak on her own, she would’ve been proud if she had whipped that up herself. There’s no getting around a sub-par steak.
And while the pork carnitas dish wasn’t the most appetizing to look at in the microwave, it was packed with flavor and tasted so good that she would jump at the chance to order it again. The same goes for the bolognese—she loved the fact that the cauliflower offered a carb-conscious alternative to the classic.
She mostly appreciated the portion sizes. With pre-made dinners, if you’re left hungry enough to need more food, it almost defeats the point. Freshly offered plenty of food to leave her feeling full, even after a workout.
She did find the cancellation process to be a bit cumbersome. She was taken through several steps on the Freshly website that included confirming on multiple pop-up boxes that she did indeed want to cancel. But with the quality of the food and the fact that skipping meals for weeks at a time was simple, hopefully it’s not something you’ll have to do once you join.
The wallet-friendly HelloFresh is the market’s biggest name after Blue Apron, and it’s easy to see why. Big portions, affordable prices, and straightforward recipes make the service incredibly approachable. Although we found that HelloFresh dishes were rarely on the table in the 30 or so minutes the recipe cards promised, we were consistently impressed by the flavor. Its Bánh Mi Burger, which puts an American twist on the classic Vietnamese sandwich with lightly pickled veggies and sriracha mayo, is absolutely out of this world.
While HelloFresh offers more variety in its dishes than it did when we first tested, it still doesn’t have consistent vegan offerings. Its website struggles when it comes to clarity and ease-of-use. We accidentally selected a “premium meal” of Balsamic Nectarine Duck Breasts and were surprised to find a second invoice for the price difference in our inbox.
However, HelloFresh does offer a variety of meal options for other specialty diets like vegetarians and pescatarians. Its packaging is some of the most sustainable on this list in that its largely recyclable, which is also a plus.
Cost:Visit Hello Fresh for updated pricing. When we tested, meals were $8.99 per serving for two people ordering at least three meals a week, $7.49 per serving for three or more people ordering at least three meals a week. Different plans are available.
If you’re looking to dive into meal kits for the first time or take a break from your usual routine, EveryPlate is a solid option—especially if cost is your primary concern. Other companies can become prohibitively expensive, and EveryPlate’s affordable, no-frills approach is certainly refreshing.
The HelloFresh-owned brand offers meals priced at just $4.99 per serving. Those are remarkably low prices—most other services in this roundup cost anywhere from $7.99 to $11.99 per serving for two people.
Each dish we tested, from Hibachi-Style Steak Rice Bowls to Apricot Dijon Chicken Legs, was quick and easy to prepare and used high-quality ingredients. While we were disappointed by the recipe for Creamy Peppercorn Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots (chicken breast is bound to dry out when baked, and the sauce was overwhelmingly peppery), we found the other meals satisfying.
However, EveryPlate is focused on affordability and not specific diet plans, which means its recipes may not suit everyone. Its weekly menu has 17 rotating options to choose from, with two or three “premium” options included, at least five vegetarian options, and limited vegan options.
In testing, we found that EveryPlate’s portion sizes are sometimes too small for people who need more than the average calorie intake, and the vegetarian options especially can be lacking in protein value. But if you're looking to subscribe to a meal kit on a budget, EveryPlate just might do. Read our full EveryPlate review.
Favorite meal: Apricot Dijon Chicken Legs with Roasted Carrots and Lemon Garlic Couscous
Cost:Visit EveryPlate for updated pricing. When we tested, most meals were $4.99 per serving regardless of frequency, with $9.99 for shipping on all boxes. Different plans are available.
The oddly named Martha and Marley Spoon is a partnership between Marley Spoon, a German company, and lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart—and her influence over the brand is evident. Meals like Chipotle-Spiced Steak with Potato Salad and Charred Snap Peas and Garlicky Chicken with Dilly Beans and Corn on the Cob are simple, sophisticated, and downright American, just like the homemaking queen.
While we were consistently impressed by the flavor and inventiveness of Martha and Marley Spoon’s side dishes, we found less to celebrate in the mains, which were typically plain animal proteins. The service is also far from ideal for those with dietary restrictions—in typical American fashion, every recipe revolves around an animal protein or heavy carbs.
To keep calories from spinning out of control, most Martha and Marley Spoon dishes have smaller portions than those from other services. Oddly, this service is one of the only ones we tested that doesn’t publicly archive its recipes online to access at any time.
The service did score points with us for its eco-friendly packaging, made almost entirely from biodegradable materials. Most of its recipes were also easy to follow for new cooks.
If you’re looking for classic American flavors and high-quality ingredients, Martha and Marley Spoon might be a good option for you. Want to learn more? Read our full Martha and Marley Spoon review.
Favorite meal: Chipotle-Spiced Steak with Potato Salad and Charred Snap Peas
Cost:Visit Martha and Marley Spoon for updated pricing. When we tested, meals were $10.25 per serving for two people ordering three each week, $8.89 per serving for four people ordering at least three each week. Different plans are available.
Despite the success of its competition, the original meal kit service still has some fight left in them. Time and experience has allowed Blue Apron to keep prices low, perfect time estimates on recipes, and offer fun wine-pairing and gift options.
Unfortunately, it seems like some of that time would be better spent on diversifying its menu and making recipes taste better. In our testing, we had consistent problems with flavors and ratios being off. Oregano overpowered orecchiette, jalapeño overwhelmed peach salsa, and my polenta was in desperate need of salt, spice, or anything to make it more than a bland mush. Our favorite of the bunch was a simple quesadilla that really didn’t require a recipe.
We appreciate how easy and quick our Blue Apron meals were to make, but disorganized packaging, limited menus, and problematic recipes prevent us from awarding the classic service a higher ranking. That said, the company recently announced that it's in the process of overhauling its existing packaging to make it more sustainable and streamlined. We plan to retest and update this guide as soon as these goals have been implemented.
Green Chef was our former top pick after our first round of testing, and even though they've fallen a bit in ranking, we still confidently recommend them for certain eaters. Like Sunbasket, Green Chef promises organic ingredients and a variety of different diet-based meal plans (think keto, paleo, and vegan) at different price points, with about eight options to choose from per week.
What sets Green Chef apart from other services is its commitment to organic and ethically sourced ingredients. The company is USDA-certified organic, meaning that customers are buying certified ingredients from suppliers that follow strict standards. That includes undergoing annual compliance inspections, maintaining a strict list of approved ingredients, requiring documentation of organic practices, and providing guidelines for protecting the soil ecology and water quality.
While Green Chef occasionally swaps in non-organic ingredients when necessary, this is about as close as you can get to 100% organic with a meal kit. Its certification helps explain the company’s more limited weekly menus and higher prices. You can learn more about how they source its ingredients on the Green Chef website.
When we tore open our bags for dishes like Red-Miso Steak Stir-Fry and Chicken with Harissa Apricot Sauce, we were surprised to see that many of the ingredients were pre-prepped. The carrots and cabbage were already chopped, the miso sauce was already prepared, and there was a baggie of finely minced garlic and ginger that was almost a paste.
All these pre-prepped ingredients made preparing our food very speedy and simple. Most were plated and ready to eat in 30 minutes, and we only dirtied a handful of prep bowls, one pan, one pot, and a cutting board.
However, convenience has its drawbacks. Many of the pre-chopped veggies were brown or wilting by the time we went to cook with them. This, of course, is what happens when ingredients (especially organic ingredients) are chopped well before they’re prepared. But otherwise, we quite enjoyed Green Chef.
Favorite meal: Red-Miso Steak Stir-Fry with Udon Noodles, Carrots, Edamame, Pickled Ginger and Carrots
Cost:Visit Green Chef for updated pricing. When we tested, meals were $9.99 to $14.99 per serving, depending on your plan.
The chilaquiles—the recipe for which instructed us to blend hot, raw onion and tomato puree in a hand blender—was difficult to make. (It was also nearly inedible in the end thanks to its overpowering onion flavor and soggy tortillas.) The redeeming meal of the bunch, a Japanese Bento Box with Miso-Glazed Tofu and Yu Choy, severely lacked texture. (It didn't help that one of its central ingredients, yu choy, was unceremoniously replaced with broccoli in our box.)
These meals actually felt like what a carnivore imagines vegan eating to be like—mushy, bland, and calorie-deficient. Vegan meals can (and should!) have more flavor and texture than any of these dishes did.
There are several options to choose from when it comes to buying a meal delivery kit. To help make your selection a little easier, here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind before you subscribe to a delivery service:
As with any subscription service, the price is one detail that should not be overlooked, especially since you'll be paying for the delivery on a weekly or monthly basis. Meal kit services tend to cost about $7 to $12 per serving, with some dishes going even pricier for higher quality meals.
As a rule of thumb, I'd stick to the basics when you first start out with a meal delivery service. See what it has to offer at a price point that matches your budget, and then weigh your options if you decide you want to switch things up.
Time and effort
Not everyone is a connoisseur in the kitchen, and some folks may want their dinner to be prepared more quickly or easily than others. Certain recipes can take longer to prepare, while some may be less labor intensive. Before ordering your meal kit, check to see how long each recipe is intended to take, as well as how much additional chopping, cutting, or prepping you may have to perform.
If you find yourself having little to no time to cook, then a pre-made meal kit like Freshly could be your best option.
Meal delivery services tend to offer a variety of options to meet a wide range of dietary needs, whether it be low calorie, vegan, or gluten-free dishes. There's also the benefit of customization, which allows consumers to change some of the ingredients within the meal kit to suit their needs. This is particularly useful when it comes to protein options or excluding a particular ingredient due to an allergy or taste preference.
Before you select your meal kit service, check to see what delivery days or times it offers. Some may vary based on your location, but you'll typically be able to select a delivery date for Monday-Friday, with some services offering weekend availability. This is important to keep in mind as you sign up for your first delivery to ensure you are receiving your meals at the most convenient time for you.
Compare Meal Delivery Services
How We Tested Meal Kit Delivery Services
Former Kitchen and Cooking editor Cassidy Olsen was our original tester. She found that despite loving to cook, making a proper dinner for herself each night could be daunting. Sometimes she’d have bursts of motivation, but most of the time she didn't want to go food shopping and make dinner. Basically, she was the perfect candidate for testing and had the cooking and food knowledge to know what works. Madison Trapkin, Meghan Kavanaugh, and Monica Petrucci added to Cassidy’s original results by testing new services and retesting our top picks.
After testing the most popular meal kits on the market back in 2016, we decided our rankings needed an overhaul. Over the years, some services—like Plated, Terra's Kitchen, AmazonFresh, and Peach Dish—were discontinued, while many others had grown to cater to more diets, and new competition emerged. So in 2020 and 2021, we re-tested all of the existing contenders along with some new entries that were growing in popularity, including celebrity chef-approved services Martha and Marley Spoon and Gobble.
During our testing, Chef’d was acquired by True Food Innovation and rolled into its True Chef meal kit service. And since True Chef doesn’t deliver nationally, we left it out of our final ranking. That same reason is why we omitted new services like AmazonFresh that are still in beta or only deliver to certain markets.
For each service, we ordered one box of three, two-serving meals through each service's website, choosing a diverse variety of meals when available. We prepared the food on a weeknight for ourselves and our partners and evaluated for quality of ingredients, recipe accuracy and variety, difficulty, speed, cleanup, taste, and more.
We also considered cost, how eco-friendly and user-friendly the kit’s packaging was, and how easy (or difficult) it was to cancel the service after we were done testing. We scored and compared each meal and kept detailed notes like true food nerds.
Are Meal Kits Worth It?
Meal prepping and grocery shopping can feel overwhelming whether you’re a parent or log 60 hours per week at your law firm (or both). Meal kits are a great way to expand your tastes and eat healthier, bringing you through the cooking process one step at a time and slicing the time it takes to prepare your food in half. We found many recipes that only took 15 or 20 minutes, and oftentimes less!
If you’re overworked and grabbing fast food after late nights at the office frequently, a meal kit service may be for you. High levels of sodium, fat, and calories are to be found in the most popular takeout options and the portion sizes are often grossly out of proportion.
One study found that popular restaurant meals can have a whopping 1,500 calories on average per serving. Using a meal kit service can help you to better manage your portions and ingredients for a healthier lifestyle. A meal kit can also be a good way to go if you’re following a new eating style, like keto, pescatarian, or a diabetes-friendly diet.
What Your First Meal Kit Will Include
Even if you’ve already decided which service is right for you, chances are you’re still confused about what your first box actually entails. While each service has different approaches to ordering, packaging, and delivery, we’ve found that most services have some baseline similarities.
You’ll get a discount on your first box. Almost every service we tried offers a large discount on the first box. While this is an awesome benefit for new customers, don’t let it fool you into thinking one service is much cheaper than the others. Our price breakdown for each service reflects the price you’ll be regularly paying per meal, disregarding initial discounts.
Your box is good to sit on your doorstep until the end of the day. Because delivery windows for these services are as broad as a full day, they package ingredients to last outside your actual refrigerator until the end of the day. Most often, produce and dry ingredients will be grouped in bags above ice packs, and any meat will be fully insulated below ice packs.
The packaging is going to be bulky and cumbersome. As much as certain services pride themselves on eco-friendly boxes, there’s no way around the massive amounts of packaging.
Recipes are usually seasonal, but favorites are often repeated. Every meal kit service has a different approach to repetition, but most try to make recipes as seasonal as possible to keep you from getting bored and to guarantee fresh, sustainable produce. That being said, most companies make note of the most popular dishes and offer them many weeks a year, regardless of the season. If you really love one of your meals, hold onto the recipe card for future reference so you can request it again—or make it yourself using store-bought ingredients.
Cook your meals soon after receiving them. Meal kit ingredients are typically fresh and high-quality, but there’s nothing special preserving them—they’re just like what you buy from the grocery store. Because of transit times, they might actually be older than what you buy from the store. Use common sense when approaching certain dishes—seafood, fresh greens, and chicken should be prepared first, while red meat, pork, and harder produce can last a few more days. Freeze any meat you won’t be eating in the first few days after receiving your box.
Cancel at least one full week before you want your last box. Most meal kit companies have solid customer service and flexible cancellation policies, but it’s important to consider the long-term logistics that go into assembling your box. If you’re interested in canceling your subscription service, make sure to do it at least one full week before you want your last box. If you want to skip a week or take a break from deliveries, most services allow you to make those selections, too.
Many meal kits are now offered in grocery stores. To combat the high operational costs of delivery-only services, many companies have partnered with (or been acquired by) major food stores and are now offering its kits in the grocery aisles. While we only tested delivery services, many of the recipes we tried are also available in stores for equal or lower prices.
Some meal kit companies now offer pre-prepared and heat-and-eat meals. We've noticed a recent trend toward speed and convenience in the meal kit world, both with traditional companies and with frozen and ready-to-eat brands. Home Chef now offers at least two oven-ready dishes per menu every week, and Sunbasket has introduced both oven-ready and pre-prepped options. We separately tested eight of the best pre-made meal delivery services that might interest you if you don't have time to cook.
Before you order, you’ll also want to make sure you have some essential cooking tools at the ready. Here are our recommendations:
While a meal kit can easily work for one, many consumers wonder if a delivery service will be able to accommodate their entire family. When you’re cooking for a lot of people, a meal kit can take a lot of stress out of dinnertime.
The challenge is that kids can be picky eaters, but there are family-friendly meals and plans available. Most meal kits we tested—including Home Chef, HelloFresh, Gobble, and more—have the option to select a plan with four or more servings per recipe, which would easily accommodate a family.
Cassidy covered all things cooking as the kitchen editor for Reviewed from 2018 to 2020. An experimental home chef with a healthy distrust of recipes, Cassidy lives by the "Ratatouille" philosophy that, with a few techniques and key tools, anyone can cook. She's produced in-depth reviews and guides on everything from meal kits to stand mixers and the right way to cook an egg.
Madison covered all things cooking as the kitchen editor for Reviewed in 2021. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Culture Magazine, Madison is the founder of GRLSQUASH, a women's food, art, and culture journal. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Cherrybombe, Gather Journal, and more. She is passionate about pizza, aesthetic countertop appliances, and regularly watering her houseplants.
She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and a Master's of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy from Boston University.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.