We put two of the best meal kits to the test.
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Meal kits might take a lot of stress out of grocery shopping and cooking, but before you can reach dinner enlightenment, you’ll need to wade through a lot of noise and confusion to actually choose a service. Brands like HelloFresh, Home Chef, Plated, and Sun Basket are all working to define themselves in a crowded space, yet 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.
Because Home Chef and Sun Basket 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.
Currently, Sun Basket’s main menu meals are $11.99 per serving for two to four people, regardless of frequency. However, they also offer a “family plan” with a menu limited to six recipes per week that costs $10.99 per meal for four people. Shipping costs $5.99 for every box after your first order, regardless of box price.
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.
|Price / serving (2 people)||$9.95||$11.95||$11.99||$8.99||$10.25|
|Price / serving (4 people)||$9.95||$9.95||$10.99||$7.49||$8.90|
|Meals offered / week||16||20||18||12||10|
|Time to table||45||44||40||46||50|
* NOTE: The service offers at least two options of this dietary preference each week.
When you break it down, a couple interested in cooking three standard dinners a week would spend $59.70 at Home Chef, and $77.93 at Sun Basket. A family of four would spend $119.40 at Home Chef and anywhere from $137.87 and $149.87 at Sun Basket for the same number of meals.
However you shake it, Sun Basket is going to cost you more than Home Chef. Home Chef does have more additional fees (with protein upgrades and premium meals) that allow you to spend more than you might originally intend to, but they’re avoidable if you’re sticking to a careful budget, whereas Sun Basket has higher prices built in to account for their organic ingredients.
If you’re committed to an organic diet and have the cash to spare, Sun Basket is the way to go. But if you’re looking for savings, Home Chef will be kinder on your wallet.
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.
Sun Basket allows subscribers to choose from one of 11 diet plans, or mix and match from 18 weekly recipes. The current plans offered are Carb-Conscious, Paleo, Mediteranean, Lean & Clean, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Quick & Easy, Vegetarian, Diabetes-Friendly, Pescatarian, and Chef’s Choice. Even if you elect to follow one meal plan, you can swap out recipes from the rotating menu. Sun Basket’s less expensive Family Menu is much more limited, only offering six dinner options to choose from per week.
While not an entirely vegetarian service, Sun Basket offers a huge variety of quick plant-based meals that we think will satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike—which is why we gave them our Best for Vegetarians badge. Sun Basket is also a certified organic handler, meaning that their ingredients are largely organic, although they do swap in non-organic ingredients when necessary to offer a consistently large menu. You can learn more about how they source their ingredients on the Sun Basket website.
Home Chef’s “Customize It” options allows for a lot of variety, and they also offer snacks, smoothies, lunches, and other non-dinner foods on their regular menu. Sun Basket, meanwhile, has less flexibility but a larger standard menu with 18 dinner options to choose from each week, many of which tailor to specialty diets. Variety comes in many forms—and both these services have a lot to offer.
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.
During my week of testing Sun Basket, I was impressed by how easily my 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’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.
Dinners like Fast Mediterranean Flatbreads with Beet Salad and Skordalia and Simple Tempeh Curry Stir-Fry are among the service’s tasty vegan offerings, but because I’m a reformed vegetarian, their omnivore meals were still my favorite. Chicken Yakitori with Broccoli and Rice and Quick Curried Beef Khow Suey with Ramen Noodles were simple, filling meals that took about 30 minutes to prepare.
It’s also important to note that while Sun Basket’s ingredients are largely organic, the company is not completely 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 complete 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.
Home Chef wins this round in terms of flavor sophistication and recipe accuracy, but Sun Basket’s organic-first recipes were often impressive, too.
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. Delivery was fairly flexible and accurate, and cancellation was simple.
Sun Basket’s packaging is less plastic-heavy and thus more eco-friendly, but also decidedly less organized than Home Chef’s. My real issue with their service, though, is their cancellation policy, which was the worst I saw throughout testing. Cancelling Sun Basket requires 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 an unhelpful way to retain customers and I hope they do away with it soon.
Delivery, packaging, and cancellation as the worst aspects of basically any subscription service, and meal kits are no exception. Home Chef wins this round for their organization and forthright policies.
If you’re looking for a meal kit to suit your unique diet or kick start your healthy eating, Sun Basket might be for you. With 18 different meals to choose from each week, this organic-first service accommodates a wide range of diets that are otherwise underserved by meal kits, including paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and of course, vegetarian.
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.
Still not finding what you want with these services? Check out our round-up of all the best meal kit delivery services.