Unlike a lot of products we test at Reviewed, a meal kit delivery service isn’t something you buy once and use for years to come—it’s a subscription that gets factored into your monthly budget, asks you to make choices each week, and changes how you cook, eat, and spend time with your friends and family. As a result, choosing which service is right for you is a major decision—and a personal one.
Since the launch of Blue Apron in 2012, a seemingly endless number of competitors have emerged, each with unique gimmicks and recipes—from vegan and plant-based meals to comfort food to Martha Stewart-approved.
We found that our favorite service, Home Chef, forgoes gimmick in favor of providing consistently excellent recipes, quality ingredients, and enough variety to satisfy most diets. What's more, subscribing to a service that consistently provides you with food that you love, will help to keep you from ordering take-out via a food delivery app.
To help you decide which meal delivery services are worth your time and money, I spent three months testing and retesting 14 meal kits (five of which, Plated, Chef'd, Terra's Kitchen, Amazon, and Peach Dish, have now been discontinued), cooking more than 40 different dinners during busy weeknights.
I evaluated for quality of ingredients, recipe accuracy and variety, difficulty, speed, packaging, cleanup, taste, and more. In the spring of 2020, my colleagues and I also tested five of the best pre-made meal kits, our favorite of which, Freshly, is included in this roundup.
These are the best meal kit delivery services we tested ranked, in order:
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 digestible steps, everything about this service made me feel like I was preparing restaurant-worthy (or at least guest-worthy) meals without running around like a maniac. Home Chef now 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. I could hardly believe I did it myself.
Take Home Chef’s Farmhouse Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Onion Gravy, and Corn. While browsing for meals on the company’s website, I initially saw fried chicken and laughed. How could a food so many people find impossible to cook at home be executed well in the context of a meal kit? I was shocked—and thrilled!—to find that Home Chef’s recipe yielded wonderfully even, juicy chicken with nary an oil burn in sight. I could hardly believe I did it myself.
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 accommodate almost any diet, including vegetarians and vegans. It offers 18 dinner options per week, as well as a handful of lunch and snack choices as add-ons to its main menu. I was impressed by the depth of flavor in the Yang-Yang Beef with Shishito Peppers, a lighter alternative to traditional American Chinese food, and loved the Hot Honey Salmon with Zucchini and Tomatoes for its summer simplicity. Vegetarian meals, like the Wild Rice and Brussels Sprouts Harvest Bowl, were on the table in less than 30 minutes.
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, time estimates are largely accurate, and the website is easy to navigate, allowing you the freedom to choose meals and skip delivery weeks at will. This clarity and organization made for faster fridge-to-table times than a lot of the competition and saved me the stress of forgetting ingredients and re-reading recipes four times over.
Home Chef would be wise to incorporate more biodegradable packaging into their existing model, but I struggle to find any other criticism of this excellent service.
Cost:Visit Home Chef for updated pricing. When tested, meals were $9.95 per serving, regardless of frequency or quantity. Meals can serve 2, 4, or 6 people. We liked this service so much, we've partnered with Home Chef to offer Reviewed readers $15 off their first 4 orders.
I was impressed by how easily my Sun Basket meals came together, relying on just a few key ingredients and spice blends to do most of the heavy lifting, which meant spending less time cooking and more time enjoying my food with my boyfriend. Sun Basket now offers oven-ready and pre-prepped meals we have yet to test. Sun Basket’s meals also lean heavily into South and East Asian flavors, but this is partly why it’s such a strong service for vegetarians—it tends to avoid the carb-centric dinners that are so often the only options for people who avoid meat.
My one issue with Sun Basket? Their cancellation policy is the worst I’ve seen, requiring you to call an impossible-to-find number and speak to a customer service representative rather than emailing or clicking a button on your account. It’s a dishonest, unhelpful way to retain customers and I hope they do away with it soon.
It’s also important to note that while Sun Basket’s ingredients are largely organic, the company is not certified organic like Green Chef, meaning it can swap in non-organic ingredients when necessary and offer a consistently large menu. In high school and early college, I worked at an organic juice bar and cafe that similarly forwent organic certification for a larger menu. It’s a trade-off that I was (and am) willing to make for variety and high-quality food year-round, but devout organic eaters may not be interested in a service that lacks certification.
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 ready-to-eat 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 so good 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 low-carb alternative to the classic.
She most 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 cancelation process to be a bit cumbersome. She was taken through several steps on their 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.
* NOTE: The service offers at least two options of this dietary preference each week.
How We Tested
I’m Cassidy Olsen, and I love to cook—so much so that I write about it for a living! But because I’m young, busy, and new to the nine-to-five life, making a proper dinner for myself each night can still be daunting. Sometimes I’ll have bursts of motivation and bookmark 10 different New York Times Cooking recipes for myself, but most of the time I don’t have the creative energy (or regular energy) to go shopping for new meals and actually make them. Also, trying new recipes can be flat-out hard! As much as I love cooking, I’m no expert, and I don’t want a bunch of expensive ingredients to go to waste because I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
Basically, I’m the perfect candidate for testing the best meal kit delivery services. I have the cooking and food knowledge to know what works, but the attitude of a very tired person who craves convenience and simplicity. My boyfriend also conveniently loves to eat and not go grocery shopping, so he acted as a second tester when it came to reviewing the meals themselves.
After testing the most popular meal kit delivery services on the market back in 2016, we decided our rankings might need an overhaul—in four years, many services have grown to cater to more diets, prices have largely fallen, and new competition has emerged. So in 2020, I 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 Chef’d.
During our testing, Chef’d was acquired by True Food Innovation and rolled into their True Chef meal kit service—and since True Chef doesn’t deliver nationally, I 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, I ordered one box of three, two-serving meals through each service'stheir website just like a regular customer, choosing a diverse variety of meals when available. I prepared each meal on a weeknight for myself and my boyfriend and evaluated for quality of ingredients, recipe accuracy and variety, difficulty, speed, cleanup, taste, and more.
I 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. I scored and compared each meal in a large spreadsheet and kept detailed notes in an accompanying document like a true food nerd. I also re-tested our winner, Home Chef, to make sure they were deserving of the title.
What You Should Know About Meal Kits
Why Should I Use a Meal Kit Delivery Service?
Meal prepping and grocery shopping can feel overwhelming whether you’re a full-time mom or log 60 hours per week at your law firm. Cooking dinner nightly can be a lost art in the modern age and a Nielson survey done in late 2018 discovered that while 12 percent of people had tried a meal delivery service, nearly twice that amount had considered trying one. The study suggested that meal kits had seen a 36 percent increase in just under a year as the idea of convenient food delivery begins to explode in popularity.
The overarching trend found from the study is that meal kits are ideal for people who want to eat healthy, but may just not have the time to do so. 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.
If you’re overworked and grabbing fast food meals 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 meals and the portion sizes are often grossly out of proportion.
A recent 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 delivery service can also be a good way to go if you’re interested in trying a new type of diet (such as keto or pescatarian) and makes for an easier transition overall.
What Your First Box Will Include
Even if you’ve already decided which meal kit delivery 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, I’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 (i.e. when you get home from work and errands). 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 that go into meal kit delivery. Disposing of the large, insulated cardboard boxes and ice packs can be a hassle, and you need to stay on top of them lest you develop a small mountain in some corner of your home. Because I moved apartments mid-testing, I was already surrounded by cardboard and trash from new furniture, so I incorporated the boxes into my regular dumpster and recycling runs.
Recipes are usually seasonal, but favorites are often repeated. Every meal kit service has a different approach to repeating meals, 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 their most popular meals and offer them many weeks a year, regardless of 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! That’s why it’s important to give them priority in your fridge and cook them as soon as possible. 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, 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 meal kit companies have partnered with (or been acquired by) major food stores and are now offering their 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. If you’re curious to try a meal before you subscribe to a service, or you’re willing to regularly visit the grocery store for your meal kits, these are good options at your local chains like Stop & Shop, Safeway, and Kroger.
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 like the ones we've tested in this roundup and with frozen and ready-to-eat brands. Home Chef now offers at least two oven-ready meals per menu every week, and Sun Basket has introduced both oven-ready and pre-prepped options. We separately tested five 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:
I would also recommend having a good cast iron pan or a Dutch oven handy, although I never needed to use both together for any meal kit dinner. If you’re entirely new to cooking and meal kits are just your gateway into the kitchen, these tools will be all you need to prepare amazing meals for many years to come.
What Meal Kit Delivery Service is Best for Families?
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 an entire family, a meal kit can take a lot of stress out of your meal. The challenge is that kids can be particular about food, but there are family-friendly meals and family plans available. Many meal kit plans can accommodate two parents and multiple children, including Sun Basket and Green Chef. Home Chef, Blue Apron, and HelloFresh are also great for families with multiple mouths to feed.
Other Meal Kit Services We Tested
Though we feel that our top picks should satisfy most people, the competition has some benefits, too. Here are our reviews of the other meal kit delivery services that we tested.
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 I found that HelloFresh meals were rarely on the table in the 30 or so minutes the recipe cards promised, I was 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—it’s by far my favorite meal of testing, and it’s the only meal kit recipe I’ve made again for myself.
While HelloFresh offers more variety in their meals than it was two years ago, it still doesn’t have consistent vegan offerings, and it struggles with clarity and ease-of-use on their website—I accidentally selected a “premium meal” of Balsamic Nectarine Duck Breasts and was surprised to find a second invoice for the price difference in my inbox.
However, changes in these areas might be coming in the future—HelloFresh acquired certified organic and gluten-free service Green Chef in March, which could help them provide more reasonably-priced options for those following organic, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and keto diets. A spokesperson for the company said that there are "no expected changes to HelloFresh or Green Chef anywhere in the near future."
Cost:Visit Hello Fresh for updated pricing. When tested, meals were $8.99 per serving for 2 people ordering at least 3 meals a week, $7.49 per serving for 3+ people ordering at least 3 meals a week. Different plans are available.
If you’re looking to dive into meal kits for the first time or just take a break from your usual dinner routine, EveryPlate is a solid option—especially if cost is your primary concern. Other meal kits 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 meal kits in this roundup cost anywhere from $7.99 to $11.99 per serving for two-person meals.
However, EveryPlate is focused on affordability and not specific diet plans, which means their meals may not suit everyone. Their weekly menu has just 12 rotating options to choose from, with one or two “premium” options included, and limited vegetarian options. In testing, I also found that their portion sizes are too small for people who need more than the average calorie intake, i.e. me. But if you're looking to subscribe to a meal kit on a budget, EveryPlate just might do. Read our full EveryPlate review.
The oddly-named Martha and Marley Spoon is actually a partnership between German meal kit company Marley Spoon 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 I was consistently impressed by the flavor and inventiveness of Martha and Marley Spoon’s side dishes, I 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 meals have smaller portions than those from other services. Oddly, this service is one of the only ones we tested that doesn’t publicly archive their recipes online to access at any time.
The service did score points with me 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 meals with classic American flavors and high-quality ingredients, Martha and Marley Spoon might be a good option for you. Want to learn more? Read my full review of Martha and Marley Spoon.
Favorite meal: Chipotle-Spiced Steak with Potato Salad and Charred Snap Peas
Cost:Visit Martha and Marley Spoon for updated pricing. When tested, meals were $10.25 per serving for 2 people ordering 3 meals a week, $8.89 per serving for 4 people ordering at least 3 meals a week. Different plans are available.
Despite the success of its competition, the original meal kit service Blue Apron 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 my testing, I had consistent problems with flavors and ratios being off—oregano overpowered orecchiette, jalapeno overwhelmed peach salsa, and my polenta was in desperate need of salt, spice, or anything to make it more than a bland mush. My favorite meal of the bunch was a simple quesadilla that really didn’t require a recipe.
I appreciate how easy and quick my Blue Apron meals were to make, but disorganized packaging, limited menus, and recipes riddled with problems are preventing me from awarding the classic service a higher ranking.
Our former top pick for meal kits, Green Chef, didn’t impress me in 2018—but after testing again in 2020, I can confidently recommend them for for certain meal kit shoppers. Like Sun Basket, 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 meal options to choose from per week.
What sets Green Chef apart from other services is their commitment to organic and ethically-sourced ingredients. They’re a USDA-certified organic company, meaning that customers are buying certified ingredients from suppliers that undergo annual compliance inspections, maintain a strict list of approved ingredients, require documentation of organic practices, and provide 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. Their certification helps explain the company’s more limited weekly menus and higher prices. You can learn more about how they source their ingredients on the Green Chef website.
When I tore open my bags for meals like Red-Miso Steak Stir-Fry and Chicken with Harissa Apricot Sauce, I was 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 my meals very speedy and simple. Most were plated and ready to eat in 30 minutes, and I only dirtied a handful of prep bowls, one pan, one pot, and a cutting board. Both my partner and I enjoyed them, even if the flavors were somewhat ambiguous—and the portion sizes were generous.
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. I would prefer whole ingredients when I’m not cooking a meal kit the same day it’s delivered. But otherwise, I quite enjoyed Green Chef the second time around. Favorite meal:Red-Miso Steak Stir-Fry with Udon Noodles, Carrots, Edamame, Pickled Ginger and Carrots
Cost:Visit Green Chef for updated pricing. When tested, meals were $9.99 to $14.99 per serving, depending on your plan.
I wanted to love Purple Carrot, I really did. Sadly, my experience with this vegan service was riddled with confusing recipes, bland flavors, missing ingredients, and altogether bad meals.
Although I typically eat meat, I was a vegetarian for a period of my life and regularly enjoy vegan meals with my friends, so this isn’t coming from someone who needs to always eat animal products. I truly hated two out of the three meals I received from Purple Carrot—specifically, the Buffalo Cauliflower Salad with Farro and Ranch Dressing, and the Chilaquiles Salsa Verde with Tomatillos and Black Beans. The salad involved an entire head of lettuce and only a handful of spicy cauliflower pieces tossed together with a bit of ranch, an overwhelmingly bland, damp meal that left me hungry.
The chilaquiles—the recipe for which instructed me to blend hot, raw onion and tomato puree in a hand blender—was difficult to make and 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, as well as one of its central ingredients, yu choy, which was unceremoniously replaced with broccoli in my box.
These meals actually felt like what a huge carnivore imagines vegan eating to be like—mushy, bland, and calorie-deficient. I know for a fact that vegan meals can (and should!) have more flavor and texture than any of these dishes did.
Favorite meal: Japanese Bento Box with Miso-Glazed Tofu and Yu Choy
Cost:Visit Purple Carrot for updated pricing. When tested, meals were $12 per serving, fixed. Different plans are available.
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.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.