It’s not you—most meal kit companies seem really, really similar. Brands like HelloFresh, Home Chef, Blue Apron, and Sun Basket are all working to define themselves in a crowded market, but their same-sounding names and overlapping missions 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, ultimately picking Home Chef as our favorite kit overall.
But what sets Home Chef apart from Blue Apron, the original big name in meal kits? And which is right for you? Read on to see how the services compare.
What’s the price difference?
Because Blue Apron and Home Chef are both established companies with large networks of food suppliers, they’ve been able to keep their meal prices competitively low. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering how they’ll each fit into your budget.
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.
Home Chef, meanwhile, has a fixed price of $9.95 per serving for most dinner meals, regardless of frequency or number of servings. They only offer one menu per week, but these menus always include a “premium” option offered at market price (e.g. Filet Mignon with Smoked Gouda-Potato Gratin is $19.95 per serving) as well as three lunch options for $7.99 per serving. The “Customize It” option also allows for premium cuts of meat to be added for an additional price. Shipping is $10 for orders less than $45, and free for orders above $45.
When you break it down, a couple interested in cooking three standard dinners a week would spend $59.70 at Home Chef, and $59.94 at Blue Apron. A family of four, however, would spend $119.40 at Home Chef and $95.88 at Blue Apron for the same number of meals. The more servings you want, the more appealing Blue Apron’s discount is—something to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
Which has more meal options?
When we last tested these services for our meal kit round-up, we were impressed by Home Chef’s large, varied menu. Currently, Home Chef offers 14 dinner options and three lunch options per week. Dinners include at least one premium meal and at least two vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free options per menu. While vegan meals are not prioritized, at least two recipes a week can be altered to be vegan.
Since we tested, though, Home Chef has introduced their “Customize It” option, which allows subscribers to swap proteins for over half the dinners offered each week. Some meals allow for swapping an entirely new protein in for another for free, while others allow for upgrades to more premium cuts of meat for an additional price.
Kids don’t like pork? Swap in boneless chicken thigh instead for the Korean Noodle Bowl. Mom wants antibiotic-free chicken breast? Upgrade to the premium cut for $1.99 per serving. These options give couples and families a lot more flexibility in how they eat, without deviating from the organized menu and clear recipes we’ve come to expect from Home Chef.
While Blue Apron 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, Home Chef offers many more varied meals per week. Home Chef also offers snacks, smoothies, lunches, and other non-dinner foods on their regular menu.
Which has better recipes?
When it comes to recipe quality and accuracy, Home Chef takes the cake. Their fresh, high-quality ingredients and well-written recipes that break down intimidating cooking methods into digestible steps made me feel like I was preparing restaurant-worthy (or at least guest-worthy) meals without running around like a maniac.
Take their 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 isn’t just for indulgent diets. I was impressed by the depth of flavor in the Yang-Yang Beef with Shishito Peppers, a lighter alternative to traditional Chinese food, and loved the Hot Honey Salmon with Zucchini and Tomatoes for its summertime simplicity. Vegetarian meals, like the Wild Rice and Brussels Sprouts Harvest Bowl, were on the table in less than 30 minutes, but the average box-to-table time on my Home Chef meals was about 45 minutes.
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 Home Chef.
What about packaging?
At the heart of Home Chef’s success is its organization—and that extends to its packaging. 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. This 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, however, be wise to incorporate more biodegradable packaging into their existing model. While it wasn’t the most wasteful packaging we’ve seen, most of the materials were recyclable, not biodegradable.
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 of Home Chef.
The final verdict
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.
However, Home Chef is our favorite overall for a reason. High-quality ingredients, well-written recipes, and fantastic flavors make the experience one you’ll want to integrate into your weeknights—and the service’s organization makes it incredibly easy to do so.
With such comparable pricing, Home Chef is best for couples and small families—but if you’re cooking for a crowd, the Blue Apron value might appeal to you. Still not finding what you want with these services? Check out our round-up of all the best meal kit delivery services.