Best Meal Kit Delivery Services 2023
Getting dinner on the table night after night can be a slog. Meal planning is time-consuming and onerous, takeout is expensive and sometimes you just want someone else to suggest what to make and provide the ingredients. That’s where the best meal kit delivery services come in. After cooking through six meal kits over 2 weeks, I found that Blue Apron is the best meal kit for most households. I also found that Dinnerly, though lacking extra frills, is the best value meal kit, starting at just $5 per serving (versus $8 for Blue Apron). If you’re ordering a meal kit delivery to help you learn how to cook, or to potentially increase your recipe library, I’d recommend Home Chef as the meal kit with the best and clearest recipes. For the best vegetarian options from a meal kit that isn’t exclusively vegetarian or vegan, my pick is Sunbasket.
- Best Meal Kit Delivery Service Overall: Blue Apron
- Best Value Meal Kit Delivery Service: Dinnerly
- Best Meal Kit Delivery Service For Beginner Cooks: Home Chef
- Best Meal Kit Delivery Service For Vegetarian Options: Sunbasket
The best meal kit delivery service for your household is, of course, going to depend on individual tastes, dietary restrictions, how often you cook and what you like to make. But there are some through lines in all great meal kit services: They should offer not just convenience, but a diversity of menu options; clear, well-written recipes; and fresh ingredients. While there are four winners here, you might also find something that works for you among the other meal kits I tested. Read on for my best meal kit delivery services review.
The best meal kits I tried came from Blue Apron, which offers the most variety, interesting flavors, clear and consistent recipes and a diversity of culinary influences. Thanks to the sheer size of its operation, Blue Apron provides tons of menu options to choose from every week (of the winners, Dinnerly offers the most). The site includes easily navigable categories to make meal prep easier, including vegetarian, nutritionist-approved “wellness” meals and ready-to-cook meals that cut down further on the required prep work. Blue Apron also offers a premium category geared toward people interested in higher-end ingredients like truffles, scallops and tenderloin steak (several other services offered upgrade options, but this seemed more geared toward foodies). The company also made meal kits available à la carte on Amazon last year, making Blue Apron a particularly convenient option to try out once or twice, or to use as needed (note that I didn’t try these options for this article).
Blue Apron’s variety also means that it offers meals that are suitable for a broad spectrum of culinary tastes and expertise. As a habitual home cook, I appreciated that Blue Apron included techniques that were slightly more advanced than the average meal kit—cooking duck or making a risotto—in the premium category, and I think other people who work in food would, too. Kiki Aranita, a chef and award-nominated food writer who has both developed recipes for meal kit delivery services and purchased meal kits herself, told me that she orders a meal kit delivery when she’s tired and needs something that’s not that complicated but still delicious. “I’m looking for ease, proper portioning and satisfaction from varying textures and flavors,” said Aranita. “I have a low tolerance for long instructions, especially when I’m hungry. I generally prefer to do less in a meal kit.”
The six Blue Apron meals that I tried all hit that sweet spot, delivering a meal that was satisfying but not overly finicky to cook, and most importantly, tasted good. The chicken shawarma bowls were well seasoned, had a satisfying bite and included a nice fresh salad as well. It was also a meal that you could easily make vegetarian by substituting chicken for chickpeas or the non-meat protein of your choice, a detail I appreciated because it meant I could have dinner with my husband without cooking two separate meals, one with meat and one without. I also really enjoyed the togarashi-spiced duck with crispy rice that I tried. When I cook duck on my own, I usually go with the traditional French duck à l’orange, or attempt to do a Sichuan-style whole duck. The application of Japanese togarashi, plus the use of the rendered duck fat to make the rice luxuriously rich and crispy, was better than what I would have come up with on my own. I was also impressed by the variety of culinary traditions that the meals drew on, which in my sampling included Japanese, North African, Korean and Chinese influences. Several other services I tried seemed to limit themselves to vaguely Italian or Mediterranean, Mexican and traditionally American flavors. Blue Apron’s portion sizes were also just right—I neither felt like we had too little food, nor did we ever have leftovers. In other services, we sometimes ended up with what felt like a whole extra potion, or were left hungry at the end of the meal.
Beyond providing a wide variety of meal options, Blue Apron offered superior packaging and recipe instructions compared with other meal kit delivery services I tried. The Blue Apron box arrives with each of the smaller items that you need to make a meal—a small packet of vinegar or seasoning, for example—bundled together in a bag with a label; larger items, like proteins and whole produce, come loose in the box, so you can organize them in your fridge however you’d like. The organization was something I particularly appreciated, because I found that in services that didn’t do that, it was easy to lose a small packet I needed for the recipe somewhere in the depths of my fridge. The recipe cards come in the box but are also available online, and each step has a photo accompaniment to illustrate the step, an addition that my co-tester particularly appreciated. The Blue Apron meals did vary in how much cleanup they required, from just a few utensils to several pots and pans, but they were satisfying for both my husband/co-tester and I to make, and enjoyable to eat.
Of the meal kit delivery services that I tried, Dinnerly was the most affordable and impressed me more than other kits touted as budget-friendly. It doesn’t come with any extras—there are no printed meal cards, no organization of the ingredients and no photos to instruct you how to plate the meal, as with services like Home Chef or Blue Apron. But the produce that arrived was fresh, the recipes were well written and the meals were largely flavorful.
Dinnerly’s recipes are on the website, as opposed to the printed cards that came with services like Blue Apron. It wasn’t a kit that I would recommend to a novice home cook, who might really benefit from additional materials. My co-tester had trouble with the cheddar-biscuit-topped vegetarian pot pie recipe, one of Dinnerly’s signature meals, and ended up forgetting one of the ingredients and incorrectly measuring the flour. Both mistakes were salvageable, but he might have avoided them in the first place with more explicit instruction.
Dinnerly also required me to fill in the gaps with my own ingredients and seasonings more than any other service I tried. Most meal kit delivery services I tested assume you have salt, pepper and olive oil. Dinnerly, however, also required me to provide my own vinegar, sugar and garlic—which I had on hand, luckily. It’s a meal kit that seems designed for people who already have some dexterity in the kitchen, and a pantry with a few additional basics.
Based on Aranita’s criteria of flavor, variety and ease, Dinnerly is a winner. None of the recipes was overly finicky or complicated, and the flavors were solid. My favorite was the garlic-soy pork udon noodles, a tasty, umami dish that came together with minimal muss and fuss. I also really enjoyed the rice-stuffed peppers with Italian seasoning, a meal that could easily be made vegan if you leave out the blue cheese or feta topping. Unlike many vegetarian stuffed peppers I’ve made, these felt hearty enough to be an entire meal, not just a side dish. All four dishes we made from Dinnerly were satisfying, flavorful and came together quickly. Cleanup was also fairly easy—though some dishes were more involved than others, none of them made me feel like I had to use every utensil in the kitchen and wind up with a mound of dishes.
I admit that after the past 7 years working in the food world, I’m a sucker for a good recipe. The recipes from Home Chef were by far my favorite of any meal kit. They were thoughtfully presented—each recipe card even came hole-punched so you could add it to a binder—and included details that other services didn’t, such as spice level and a guide to internal cooking temperatures for meats. The cards had clear pictures and plating instructions, as well as best-by dates for ingredients (Fish, for example, was best cooked within 1-2 days, whereas a pinto bean flauta could hang out in your fridge for a week.)
The meals I made from Home Chef were hearty and satisfying, like the pleasingly crunchy pretzel-crusted chicken with green beans and a subtly sweet apricot-mustard sauce. I also loved the hamburger with a very nice pub cheese sauce and oven fries that came out much crispier than I expected, given oven fries’ reputation for sogginess. My only quibble with the flautas was that, though they were marked “spicy,” the end result was not spicy at all to my taste, though it was delicious. (That’s probably owing to a step where you take the seeds out of a jalapeño, removing much of what makes it spicy in the first place.)
I also appreciated that every one of the six meals I tried from Home Chef was one that I would be able to replicate in my own kitchen. This makes Home Chef a particularly good service for folks who want to use meal kit delivery as a way to improve their kitchen skills. Some meal kits rely heavily on proprietary sauces and blends that would be difficult to re-create. Home Chef had a few of those, but most of the components were things that you could either source on your own or make yourself. Home Chef was a contender for the best meal kit delivery service overall, but it was ultimately knocked out of contention because it has a limited variety of meals, and not that many options for vegetarian or gluten-free diets. But I’d still recommend it as a solid meal kit that yields delicious results.
I live in a house divided: Whereas I eat everything for my job, my husband has been a vegetarian since age 9, and though he eats dairy and eggs, he appreciates when a meal is totally plant-based as well. When I’m at home, I tend to cook vegetarian meals so I can share them with him. Sometimes that means preparing a side of chicken for me and a side of seitan for him, but unless I get a deep craving for a cheeseburger, most of our meals are based on some kind of vegetarian protein. Of all the meal kit delivery services I tried, Sunbasket provided the most thoughtful and creative vegetarian and vegan menus for a service that doesn’t cater exclusively to vegetarians. In the 2 weeks we tried Sunbasket, we made a delicious tofu bok choy fried rice, pita with curried chickpeas and a butter bean salad with citrus, quinoa and avocado.
I was less impressed by Sunbasket’s meat-based offerings—the one-pot chicken and Spanish rice called for too much time to cook the rice, and the seasonings were too bland for my taste. It’s also the most expensive service we tried. But if you’re looking to ease into a plant-based diet, or have one or more vegetarians or vegans in your household that appreciate being served something that isn’t pasta primavera or an entire smoked cauliflower (both real options my husband frequently confronts on menus), then Sunbasket is a great service.
Other Meal Kit Delivery Services I Tested
HelloFresh: I loved that HelloFresh’s ingredients came in marked paper bags, but the produce was just so-so—I got an onion with brown rings inside it, and some wilted herbs—and the portions were often too small.
Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: It’s not surprising that a meal kit delivery service backed by Martha Stewart has solid recipes—and this one does—but it was knocked out of contention because I found the recipes needlessly finicky, calling for measuring out a teaspoon of garlic or a tablespoon of lemon juice in a situation where simply saying a clove or the juice from half a lemon would do. I’d still recommend it if you’re a big fan of Martha’s recipes, or as another service that would be good for beginner cooks.
How To Pick A Meal Kit Delivery Service
The best meal kit delivery service for you will depend on what you like to eat, how many people are in your household, what your culinary expertise is and your dietary preferences or restrictions. But chef Jose Garces—yes, the guy from Iron Chef America—had a good rule of thumb about using and designing meal deliveries. “In order for a meal kit or prepared food program to work for me, it has to offer me something I either can’t or am unwilling to do myself on a nightly basis,” he said. That might mean it gives you recipe ideas when you’re stuck in a rut, or preportioned ingredients that mean you get to avoid doing a lot of chopping. Meal kits can also simply provide a way to feed yourself that’s more cost-effective than getting takeout.
Meal kit delivery services are essentially highly specified grocery stores, where you shop for the full recipe versus individual ingredients. Doing some research to find the one that makes the most sense for you is a good way to figure out what you like. Most meal kit services have steep discounts on your initial orders—the way they make money is when you subscribe. It doesn’t hurt to try a few that appeal to you to figure out which one is the right balance of instruction, diversity of culinary traditions and ingredients, flavor and texture for you. It’s also worth looking at how many times a week you’d want to cook from a meal kit delivery service—some services provide as few as two meals a week, and others go up to six meals, practically a kit for every night. Most meal services also only provide portions for two or four, not the most convenient for larger or smaller households.
A good way to figure out which meal kit service is right for you is to look at several options on the brand’s websites. The menus for each week are available to browse, and you can filter the options by dietary restriction and, in some cases, how much prep work the meal takes. Some sites, like Blue Apron and Dinnerly, even link to the recipe without you having to subscribe to the service, so you can see exactly how much effort and technique is involved.
I’m a food writer, editor and recipe developer, and I’m also a graduate of the International Culinary Center (now the Institute of Culinary Education). I’ve worked at Food & Wine and Food52 and am currently the deputy food editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I brought a blend of qualifications to testing the best meal kit delivery services: I’m an avid home cook who has also spent some time cooking in restaurants (albeit as the slowest person on the line), and I regularly edit and test recipes to make sure that they turn out correctly. For this piece, I also spoke to chefs who write recipes for meal kits, including Iron Chef and meal kit enthusiast Jose Garces, and James Beard–nominated food writer Kiki Aranita. I’ve also tested the best pillows for Forbes Vetted.