I tried Home Chef’s new 15-minute meals—here’s how they taste
That homemade-meal taste, without all the prep
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I don’t know about you, but at the end of a hectic day, the last thing I want to do is stand over the stove for an hour. On those types of days, I usually end up making something mindless for dinner, like pasta with sauce from a jar. Seriously, even preparing a meal kit can seem like too much effort when you’re totally drained.
I’ve used meal kits like Home Chef before, and while I love the convenience of having pre-portioned ingredients, many recipes are still quite a bit of work, taking up to an hour to prep and cook. So when I heard that Home Chef offers 15-minute meals, I was definitely intrigued. Even on my worst days, 15 minutes of cook time seems doable, but would that make meals too simplistic?
To find out if the concept of 15-minute meals was too good to be true, I put them to the test over the course of two weeks.
What are 15-minute meals?
As the name implies, Home Chef’s 15-minute meals can be cooked in just 15 minutes. These quick and easy meals cost $9.95 per serving, the same as the company’s standard meal kits, and there are two recipes you can select each week. Additionally, you can choose between two to eight servings per recipe.
As with most Home Chef meals, there are often customization options available for an additional fee, such as the ability to swap out the meal’s protein. So, for instance, if you don’t like chicken, you could swap it for shrimp, or if you’re a vegetarian, you can choose the plant-based “Impossible Burger” instead of hamburger.
Are the recipes any good?
To see if these recipes are a worthwhile alternative to Home Chef’s regular meal kits, I tried out two weeks worth of 15-minute meals, making a total of four recipes. Here’s what I thought about each one.
Spaghetti Bolognese with Shaved Parmesan and Parsley
- 15-minutes or less? Yes
- My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The first recipe I made was pasta with bolognese sauce, and it was incredibly easy. The pasta came pre-cooked (which I thought was unnecessary, as cooking pasta only takes 10 minutes), so all there was to do was cook the meat sauce, which included ground beef, onions, carrots, and celery.
The whole thing was ready in around 12 minutes, and while it was a little bland—what do you expect from a 12-minute sauce?—I thought it was good and would eat it again.
Pulled Pork Pot Sticker Bowl with Peas and Red Cabbage
- 15 minutes or less? Yes
- My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Of all four recipes, this was definitely my least favorite. Right off the rip, a few things bothered me: First of all, pot stickers are a type of dumpling, and this was a strange noodle dish, so I thought the name was misleading. Second, the instructions said to cook the pasta, but it came pre-cooked, so I just warmed it up instead.
The recipe took exactly 15 minutes start to finish, but while I was cooking, the pulled pork kind of disintegrated, making it look and taste fairly mushy. Plus, I thought there was too much sweet chili in the dish, and it was the only thing you could taste. All that to say, I definitely wouldn’t want to make this meal again.
Mini Carnitas Flatbreads with Lime Crema and Corn
- 15 minutes or less? No
- My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
These little flatbreads were my favorite meal of the bunch, but I have to say that, again, the name is pretty inaccurate. Carnitas use pulled pork, while this recipe uses ground meat, but I digress. They took a little longer than 15 minutes to whip up—18 minutes to be exact—but that was kind of my fault because I didn’t preheat the broiler like I was supposed to. One thing I noticed is that a lot of these recipes require you to cook multiple elements at the same time, and multi-tasking isn’t my strong suit.
This recipe requires you to cook ground pork with some taco seasoning, corn, and a little bit of marinara sauce, then you serve it with queso blanco on top of toasted naan. (I absolutely love naan, so that might be why I liked it so much.) The kit also came with these strange jalapeno potato chips to use as garnish, but I skipped those because they were weird. Overall, both my boyfriend and I really enjoyed this dish, and we thought it was delicious and filling.
Smoked Almond Butter Chicken Breast with Chipotle Cinnamon Butternut Squash
- 15 minutes or less? No
- My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This dish was probably the simplest of the bunch. All it really entailed was cooking a plain chicken breast with a side of butternut squash. The squash had a chipotle-cinnamon seasoning mix that was honestly to die for, and you served the chicken with “smoked almond butter,” which was just chopped almonds mixed into butter. I’ve never seen anyone put butter on chicken, so that felt weird, but it was still good overall.
The one downside here is that the recipe took more than 20 minutes to cook, as the chicken breasts were fairly thick. Meal kits always assume you can pan-cook a chicken breast in 10 minutes, but I have literally never been able to do without pounding them out first.
Here are my key takeaways
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the quality and taste of the 15-minute meals, and I would eat three of the four recipes again. Here’s a quick summary of the key pros and cons I discovered.
- There’s very little prep required. At most, you have to chop one or two ingredients.
- Cooking takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes and requires minimal effort.
- With one exception, I liked all of the recipes and would make them again.
- The recipes don’t make a mess—you typically only need a frying pan and sometimes a baking sheet.
- Because some ingredients come mixed together, you can’t necessarily “customize” the dish to taste—ie. leave carrots out of the meat sauce.
- There are only two recipe options each week.
- Multi-tasking is often required for true 15-minute preparation.
Are Home Chef’s 15-minute meals worth it?
Despite one recipe being a flop, I still really enjoyed cooking—and eating—Home Chef’s 15-minute meals. They took a lot of the tedious prepwork out of the process, leaving you to do just a few basic tasks, and all of the recipes whipped up extremely quickly, even if they did take a bit longer than 15 minutes.
For someone who hates spending a long time in the kitchen at the end of a hard day, these 15-minute meals are an ideal solution. You get the taste of a more complex homecooked meal—without all the hard work and effort. It’s much better than simply ordering a greasy pizza or eating plain pasta, yet the cooking is still doable when you’re beyond tired from all your adult tasks.
Personally, I’d happily order these quick meals again, and while you’re at it, you can also purchase regular Home Chef meal kits for those days when you have a little more motivation.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.