The Best Meal Delivery Services

The best meal delivery kits bring fresh ingredients and nutritious recipes to your doorstep, allowing you to enjoy home-cooked meals even if you’re too busy to grocery shop. After trying out seven of the most popular meal delivery services, we found that HelloFresh, Plated, and Blue Apron outshone the competition, with cuisine that’s convenient to order, easy to cook, and delicious.

The 3 Best Meal Delivery Services

Most convenient
HelloFresh
HelloFresh
Convenient scheduling and tasty meals
Pros
Flexible scheduling
Cost-effective and eco-friendly
Meal variety
Cons
Extra equipment needed

Why we chose it

Flexible scheduling

From the very beginning of the process, HelloFresh stood out. We love that the company delivers on any day of the week — though they do note options are limited in some regions. You can also skip a HelloFresh delivery on relatively short notice: five days in advance rather than the standard seven days required by other companies.

Cost-effective and eco-friendly

Meal delivery services can be expensive because you’re paying for convenience. HelloFresh ties with Blue Apron for being the most cost-effective option. Meal delivery plans cost between $8.74 and $9.99 per serving, which is on the lower side for the kits we tested.

Plus, when your delivery does arrive, it’s eco-friendly — or at least as eco-friendly as these boxes can be. Excessive packaging is a problem inherent to the industry, but HelloFresh reduces it as much as possible. It groups ingredients for the three different meals into three paper bags, so fewer things have to be individually wrapped in plastic, and depending on what season it is, the insulation is made of recyclable and/or compostable elements.

HelloFresh Close-up for Meal-Delivery Service

HelloFresh tries to mitigate packaging waste by bundling meal ingredients into paper bags rather than wrapping them individually.

Meal variety

We loved the variety of our meals: The two-to-four dinners that come every week are notably distinct from each other, and recipes don’t repeat, so you get to enjoy new flavors all the time. One week you might dine on a traditional American meatloaf, shrimp farfalle, and an Asian-inspired honey-ginger chicken — all without any planning or grocery shopping.

A common challenge when cooking on your own is getting stuck in a rut, and according to Emily Dellas, who runs First Class Cooking, “A lot of people just end up cooking the same thing over and over.” HelloFresh gives you all the adventure with none of the mental effort.

Points to consider

Extra equipment needed

HelloFresh sometimes calls for equipment the average subscriber won’t own. One recipe did call for a masher, and using a fork instead was laborious. Another instructed users to zest a lemon without explaining what to do if you don’t own a zester. (For the record, as Blue Apron’s instructions helpfully explain, you slice off strips of the peel without including the white pith, then mince the strips of peel.)

While this wasn’t a dealbreaker for us, since generally there’s a workaround you can find online, it does add prep time to your meal and is something to consider if you’re a new cook or want to spend less time in the kitchen.

Best for novice cooks
Plated
Plated
Easy recipes and repeat meals — perfect for the new chef
Pros
Encore recipes
Helpful recipe cards
Cons
Menu can get boring
Nutritional information not listed

Why we chose it

Encore recipes

Plated repeats meals more often, making multiple “encore recipes” available every single week. (Blue Apron and HelloFresh, on the other hand, rarely, if ever, repeat a recipe.) Again, for novice chefs, this is likely to be a draw: If you mess up a dish, you can hone your skills by trying again, making the same salmon poke bowl or chicken bruschetta several times until you feel comfortable with the process.

You also get the chance to revisit a recipe you like without having to recreate the meal on your own — not true of our other recommendations. And the recipes Plated sent us were generally a little easier to make than the ones we got from HelloFresh, with one tester noting she was “shocked at how quick and easy” her Plated meal was.

Helpful recipe cards

Clear and helpful recipe cards facilitate the learning process, offering a comprehensive list of all the equipment you’ll need before you dive in, plus tips that break down the cooking process.

For example, Plated’s recipe for horiatiki (Greek salad) with chickpeas and flatbread didn’t just instruct us to scoop the seeds out of the cucumber — it also explained why (“Cucumber seeds contain a lot of water, so we’re removing them to keep moisture out of your salad”). Thoughtful touches like this made Plated feel more like a DIY cooking class than a meal kit.

Points to consider

Menu can get boring

While Plated does mix things up with some Asian and Latin fusion dishes — meals that blend different recipes from those regions — the home food delivery service generally draws from fewer cuisines and styles, relying more heavily on traditional American fare like burgers. The reduced menu can boring for adventurous eaters, but it is good if you’re new to the kitchen and not sure you’re ready for a lentil-freekeh jumble.

Nutritional information not listed

We weren’t wild about was Plated’s lack of transparency about nutritional information. While its meals fell within our calorie range (averaging 705 calories per meal) and came with a decent balance of protein and veggies, the sugar and fiber content information was nowhere to be found. When we inquired about it, we were told, “Unfortunately, we cannot provide the nutritional information that you requested.” That makes us suspect that Plated doesn’t think we’ll like the numbers.

Most innovative recipes
Blue Apron
Blue Apron
Creative and tasty ingredient combinations
Pros
Inspired recipes
Innovative ingredients
Cost-effective
Cons
Less convenient
Not for new cooks

Why we chose it

Inspired recipes

Blue Apron is the most recognizable meal delivery service (thanks in no small part to its ubiquitous podcast advertising), so we had high expectations going into testing. And it met those expectations — especially in the quality of its recipes. In fact, of all the meals we tested across all seven services, only one was so good that a tester attempted to recreate it on her own: Blue Apron’s Vietnamese-style vegetable sandwiches. (Her solo attempt wasn’t bad, she said, but definitely inferior to Blue Apron’s.) Other testers also reported saving their Blue Apron recipe cards to reuse.

PeachDish provided tart shells that disintegrated before they were even out of their packaging, dolloped with a meager egg mixture that didn’t even fill up the shell. Blue Apron, on the other hand, sent a buttery, tender tart shell and instructed us to fill it with kale in addition to egg and onions, then paired it with remarkably tasty lemon-garlic roasted potatoes.

Innovative ingredients

We found the Blue Apron’s ingredient combinations more creative than other finalists. Its risotto recipe, for example, was more sophisticated than the risottos from both Home Chef and Plated.

Blue Apron’s recipe included a delicate interplay between tangy tomato paste, creamy mascarpone cheese, and a generous pinch of saffron, which one tester had never cooked with before. “I think there are experienced cooks who like to use meal delivery kits like Blue Apron to give them ideas for recipes or techniques,” confirmed Sarah Nelson, executive director of the community cooking school 18 Reasons.

Cost-effective

Blue Apron ties with HelloFresh as the cheapest meal delivery service, at $10 per meal per person for its two-person plan. And, if you have a four person household, servings are even less expensive. Its family plan is even cheaper and decreases in price depending on how many meals you get per week.

Points to consider

Less convenient

Blue Apron is less convenient than our other top picks. While you can theoretically receive your box any day, the service defaults to Friday when you sign up — without mentioning that you have other options. (To switch, you’ll need to revisit your account settings post-signup.) If you want to skip a delivery, you also have to do it with a week of advance notice.

Not for new cooks

A couple of our testers noted that the instructions on their recipe cards sometimes felt out-of-order, making Blue Apron a better option for cooks who already possess basic cooking skills (like preparing rice) and don’t need instructions at every step. That said, this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker if you’re interested in trying exciting new recipes and know your way around the kitchen.

How to Find the Right Meal Delivery Kit for You

Think about your skill level

Meal delivery kits are great for both beginner and experienced cooks, but some kits are better suited to specific skill levels. Blue Apron, for example, is geared toward those who have a basic understanding of cooking whereas Plated is good for newer cooks. When choosing your home food delivery service, think about your cooking level and which kit will work best with your skills.

Consider pricing

Cost didn’t play a huge role in our calculations, because all these services offered similar prices — around $10 to $12 per person per meal, which adds up to $60–$72 per box. “For home-cooked food, that’s expensive,” notes Sarah Nelson, executive director of the community cooking school 18 Reasons. “For takeout, it’s cheap.”

PeachDish was an expensive outlier, with most meals costing about $12.50 per person, but sometimes reaching $18 or $20. Most meal delivery plans offer discounts or free trials for new users. Be sure to take full advantage of these deals before committing to a delivery service.

Research recipes

The best meal kit service for you will be one with recipes you actually want to eat. This all boils down to preference and if you consider yourself an adventurous eater.

Our testers loved Blue Apron’s innovative recipes and consistently voted them their favorites, but Plated offered recipes that were more traditional cuisine. HelloFresh, on the other hand, landed somewhere in between these two — balancing traditional and creative fare.

Research each meal delivery service’s recipes before making your final decision to ensure they offer meals that work with your tastes.

Meal Delivery Kit Service FAQ

Are there gluten-free or paleo options?

All of our top picks offer meat-based and vegetarian options, but if you have additional dietary restrictions, Green Chef is worth considering. It came in fourth overall, and while its food didn’t score quite as highly as our top picks, it does cater to a wide variety of diets, including vegan, gluten-free and paleo. In fact, testers preferred Green Chef’s veggie dishes to the vegan-only Purple Carrot, whose recipes sometimes felt unnecessarily complicated.

Can I use less sugar in recipes?

Yes, you don’t always have to follow recipes to the letter. If a meal delivery recipe calls for sugar or honey, try only using half of what’s called for. We used half the recommended sugar in a fig compote and half the recommended honey in a vinaigrette, and both turned out delicious.

Should I be home for my meal kit delivery?

No, you don’t have to be home when the box arrive. However, meal kits are kept fresh with frozen gel packs, which eventually melt. If your box sits on your doorstep for hours, any raw meat, poultry, or fish may warm up and become unsafe to eat. In fact, one study argues that shipping issues are an overlooked risk of meal delivery kits (the FDA is currently examining the issue).

Regardless, it’s best to get food in the fridge ASAP and try to schedule deliveries for days when someone will be home — or even order vegetarian meals, which are less perishable.

How do I recycle everything in my meal kit?

Different meal delivery companies use slightly different materials, so you’ll want to double-check recycling information on their websites, but these tips will apply in most cases:

  • Cardboard and plastics: Clean cardboard and most plastics can be put in your curbside recycling, but you’ll have to take plastic baggies to a supermarket or hardware store to recycle them. If your cardboard is soiled with grease or pieces of food, don’t throw it in the recycling — you should compost it instead.
  • Freezer packs: All the services we tested used frozen gel packs to keep food cool during transit. To dispose of them, clip off a corner, pour the gel into the trash, and then recycle the plastic wrapper with other plastic baggies/films. All of the companies we tested say the gel in their packs is nontoxic.
  • Insulation: The meal delivery kits we tested used a variety of different materials as insulation to keep the boxes cool during transit. Most were recyclable and/or compostable, but you’ll have to check your favorite service’s website for details.

The Best Meal Delivery Services: Summed Up

HelloFresh
Plated
Blue Apron
Most convenient
Best for novice cooks
Most innovative recipes
Price
Starting at $8.74 per serving
Starting at $9.95 per serving
Starting at $7.49 per serving
Plans available
Veggie plan,
classic plan,
family plan
2 meals/day,
3 meals/day,
4 meals/day
Two-person plan,
family plan
(vegetarian option available)
Skip a week of delivery
5 days notice
6 days notice
7 days notice
Repeat recipes
New customer discount