We put the biggest meal kits to the test.
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If you’ve heard of any meal kit companies, you’ve heard of HelloFresh and Blue Apron. These two giants of direct-to-your-doorstep dinners are working to define themselves in a crowded market, but their similar-sounding names and overlapping missions can make it difficult to tell them apart—and decide which is actually worth the money.
Lucky for you, we’ve done all the hard work already. I tested the best meal kit delivery companies over three months and judged them on cost, recipe quality, meal options, and more. Although we ultimately chose Home Chef as our favorite kit overall, both HelloFresh and Blue Apron stood their own, offering a variety of fresh, inexpensive meals and fun add-ons like wine and gifts.
But what sets these two meal kit companies apart? And which is right for you? Here’s how the services compare.
Because Blue Apron and HelloFresh are both established companies with large networks of food suppliers, they’ve been able to keep their meal prices competitively low. And despite differences in the way their meal plans are structured, you’ll spend about the same using either service.
Blue Apron currently offers four different “menus” to their customers: Signature, Freestyle, Vegetarian, and Signature for 4. Meals are priced at $9.99 per serving across every one of these menus except for Signature for 4, which offers prices as low as $7.49 per serving for meals with four or more servings.
Customers can switch their menu whenever they’d like, depending on their taste and how much they plan to cook in a week. Shipping is $7.99 for orders of only two meals a week, and free for orders of three or more meals. Shipping is always free for the Signature for 4 menu.
Similarly, HelloFresh offers three different meal plans: Veggie, Classic, and Family. Prices vary across plans, with meals ranging from $6.99 to $9.99 per serving. Shipping also ranges from $5.99 to $7.99 depending on meal frequency and the number of servings. Like with Blue Apron, customers can switch between plans to their liking.
HelloFresh does have the occasional hidden cost, though—they offer a handful of Gourmet and Gourmet Plus meals each week that are priced differently than standard meals. During testing, 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, these meals are labeled appropriately on the website and can be avoided for those looking to keep costs low.
When you break it down, a couple interested in cooking three standard dinners a week would spend $60.93 at HelloFresh, and $59.94 at Blue Apron. Similarly, a family of four would spend $96.87 at Home Chef and $95.88 at Blue Apron for the same number of meals. Even the Blue Apron Signature for 4 Menu and the HelloFresh Family Plan are very similar in price.
Price isn’t going to be a deciding factor when choosing between these two services. Disregarding sign-up discounts and add-ons like wine, snacks, and premium meals, Blue Apron and HelloFresh will cost you about the same.
When we last tested these services for our meal kit round-up, both HelloFresh and Blue Apron fell into the middle of the pack in terms of meal options and variety. However, HelloFresh now offers many more options—17 per week for their Classic Plan, compared to the 12 offered when we tested. Nine of those meals are carried over to the Family Plan, and three are included in the Veggie Plan.
HelloFresh offers multiple vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free meals a week, but vegan options are almost nonexistent. If you’re a flexible vegetarian or belong to a household with meat-eaters, stick to the Classic Plan for the most options—and if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, try another service like Sun Basket.
While Blue Apron also presents four different menus to choose from each week (Signature, Freestyle, Vegetarian, and Signature for 4), the first three menus overlap heavily, resulting in just 11 dinner options to choose from per week—and you can’t mix and match across menus, so really the maximum is eight options from the Signature menu. The Signature for 4 menu is independent from the rest and offers five options per week.
Blue Apron’s multiple menus create the illusion of choice, but when it comes down to it, HelloFresh offers many more varied meals per week—17 is greater than 11, simple math. Note: Both services offer wine pairings, if you’re into that kind of thing.
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 their flavor. The 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 was by far my favorite meal of testing, and it’s the only meal kit recipe I’ve made again for myself. HelloFresh also gets bonus points for their excellent Thanksgiving Box, which I prepared myself last holiday and really loved.
Unfortunately, Blue Apron’s recipes didn’t impress me nearly as much. 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, with average cook time at just 35 minutes, but was disappointed by how often the recipes were riddled with problems. In this way, it pales in comparison to HelloFresh.
Like our winner, Home Chef, HelloFresh keeps meals organized into handy bags within the larger box for easy access and clarity when it comes time to cook. HelloFresh even uses paper bags, an eco-friendly improvement over Home Chef’s plastic bags. Meat and fish are kept separate near the cold packs, which is standard practice for meal kit companies.
Blue Apron seems to have less packaging overall, but loose produce and random packages in the box made it much harder to keep organized and know which products belonged to which meal. If you know exactly what you’re cooking and care deeply about reducing the amount of waste coming from your meal kit delivery boxes, Blue Apron wins this round—but I preferred the organization provided by HelloFresh.
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 them to keep prices low, perfect time estimates on recipes, and offer fun wine-pairing and gift options.
HelloFresh is the market’s biggest name after Blue Apron, and it’s easy to see why—big portions, varied menus, and straightforward recipes make the service incredibly approachable. In the end, I preferred the HelloFresh meals and had more fun making (and eating) them. While they’re not our favorite meal kit service, I would recommend them over Blue Apron. You’ll spend the same amount of money and get bigger, better meals in return.
Still not finding what you want with these services? Check out our round-up of all the best meal kit delivery services.
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