Maybe you’ve heard, but here at BA, we like to cook. Sometimes, though, even the easiest recipe isn’t easy enough, and that’s where the best meal delivery services come in. Think curated grocery deliveries that come with recipes, pre-portioned ingredients, or even fully prepared dinners if you’re into that. To help you narrow down your options—you have many—we tried some of the most popular meal kits around. Here’s what we learned: While all of them have their pros and cons, there’s a meal delivery company for every kind of cook (and non-cook). So whether you’re looking for a subscription service that meets specific dietary needs, prioritizes high-quality ingredients, or offers a good selection of budget-friendly healthy meals, you’ll surely find your match below.
Home Chef has a nice variety of meals, and if you’ve got dietary restrictions, the customization opportunities here are many. There are oven-ready meals that come with their own tin and grill-ready meals that arrive in a foil bag. There are the more traditional pre-portioned 30-minute meal kits, prepped 15-minute meal kits, and the Fast & Fresh option: a fully prepared meal that you just have to stick in the oven or microwave. I am not a mom to anyone besides two cats who eat out of cans, but if I were a parent to human children, I imagine these options would feel like blessings. For those with more time to spare, the “Culinary Collection” offers some more advanced recipes, like blackened mahi-mahi with lemon dill cream, sautéed asparagus, and Parmesan potato pressé—a dish that turned out to be a bit too advanced for yours truly because I don’t own a muffin tin. (But did the challenge of making do without make me a better home chef? Perhaps it did, reader. Perhaps it did.) They also have snack, dessert, and breakfast options like maple brown sugar oatmeal bites from GoOats, a product I will be buying again because who doesn’t want to eat oatmeal that tastes like donut holes? While none of the meals blew me away in terms of flavor and the packaging was a bit gratuitous, if you’re looking for family-friendly meals to feed picky eaters, you will find a lot to appreciate here. —Hilary Cadigan, culture editor
I would summarize Purple Carrot as a meal kit for vegans and people who just want to eat more vegan meals (wannabe-gans?), who like to cook but prefer to skip picking out recipes and grocery shopping. Admittedly, the kits didn’t save me much time in the kitchen—there are plenty of vegetables to peel and chop, and in my experience, multiple pots and pans (and even a blender) to clean after the cooking is finished. But I like that I could skip the trip to the store and the endless scroll through recipes, and some of the dishes are intriguing, with ingredients I wouldn’t ever think to combine (crisped gnocchi with furikake and a miso-tomato sauce? Color me skeptical-curious). The flavors are bold and bright. I made a Thai Tempeh Khao Soi that took about an hour but tasted like it took four—and I even learned a technique or two (like sprinkling tempeh with sugar for the last few minutes of cooking so that the crumbles caramelize) that I’ll use when I’m riffing in the kitchen without the friendly guidance of a meal kit. Don’t want to cook at all? Purple Carrot also sells fully prepared meals. —Sarah Jampel, BA contributor
I like to cook—except when I don’t have the time or energy. Then no matter how quick or easy a recipe sounds, nothing can convince me to chop an onion, boil noodles, or stir-fry chicken. So the best meal delivery services, to me, don’t require any cooking at all—like Freshly, which focuses solely on fully cooked meals. Here, you’ll find dishes like spiced chickpea curry, oven-baked sweet potato cakes, and bright pesto pasta that you pop in the microwave. The weekly menu has a solid selection of nutritious meals and, if you want, you can choose from categories like plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-calorie. Each meal is developed by a team of chefs and nutritionists, and they’re all portioned into a single serving. I found those portions to be relatively small, so they aren’t ideal when you’re super hungry or feeding two people or more, but I have enjoyed them for solo workday lunches. I also like that you can add on extra proteins and sides with the entrees. For instance, you can place an order for a la carte grilled chicken breasts, turkey meatballs, and sautéed green beans—super handy when I actually am putting a meal together or want something that’s high protein. Since everything is made with fresh ingredients as opposed to being loaded with artificial flavors and preservatives, Freshly definitely beats a lot of the meals you’d find in the grocery store frozen aisle. That said, I’ve found that some of the meals could use the help of more seasoning—which is okay, since I don’t have any qualms about adding a little extra salt. —Tiffany Hopkins, commerce writer
EveryPlate is all about affordability, and that’s a really good selling point for a meal kit, especially when some plans end up costing you about the same as a mid-range restaurant meal. Here, a single serving shakes out to about $5, with added discounts for students. Not bad for a ponzu chili steak bowl with charred snap peas and ginger rice. Meals marked as “premium” will run you an extra $3.99 per serving, but these typically include pricier proteins like scallops. Dishes aren’t revelatory but are tasty and relatively simple to put together, and the ones marked “30 minutes or less” made good on their promise. I appreciated the ease with which a surprisingly hearty chicken sausage and kale soup came together, though a little packet marked “chicken stock concentrate” was certainly pulling a lot of weight. I also appreciated the relatively low level of packaging with this kit, and the fact that there were plenty of comfort foods and vegetarian options. That said, healthy eating is not necessarily the name of this game: a dish of scampi-style scallop linguine included four tablespoons of butter for two portions and no vegetables save for a single shallot. But maybe that’s what I get for picking the scampi. —Hilary Cadigan, culture editor
Hungryroot is essentially a virtual grocery store with hundreds of recipes built around the food on its digital shelves. If you’re interested in getting help with your meal planning, this meal delivery service is a great place to start. You get a weekly set of recipes based on special diets and dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc), and they’re usually very simple and easy to assemble: grain bowls, salads, burgers, plates featuring meat and/or veggies. You can also order a selection of standalone groceries, including organic produce and an array of sweet and savory “healthy” snacks you’d likely find in a hip media company’s pantry, like dried mango jerky, organic medjool dates, and almond chickpea cookie dough. After using Hungryroot for half a year, I eventually grew bored of the recipes, which were basically permutations of a core set of foods and ingredients—the same sesame ginger sauce applied to different styles of bowls and salads, for instance. But I became addicted to several grocery items, such as the prepackaged Garlicky Herb Chickpea Duo, a dish I loved mixing into quinoa or farro for a quick and refreshing lunch. Hungryroot is best if you’re in discovery mode and want to poke around grocery aisles for hidden gems without ever leaving your apartment. —Karen Yuan, lifestyle editor
If you’re looking for both ease and affordability, then Dinnerly is another meal kit delivery service for you. It proclaims it’s “The Affordable Meal Delivery Service,” and at five dollars per meal, it does come in cheaper than most competitors. When trying it out for myself, I liked that there were many meals to choose from (28 per week, to be exact) and that every meal came with an easy-to-follow recipe card with only five steps. I went with the pastrami-crusted steak, orange chicken, and Thai red curry stir-fry—all good, all fuss-free. The flavors were on point but mellow, so to take them up a notch, I added more seasoning. For the orange chicken, I doubled the orange juice and soy sauce and also added honey and chili flakes. You don’t have to stick to the recipes exactly (though you certainly can), but I think they offer a good base to play around with flavors you like. —Rachel Gurjar, associate food editor
Factor is a little like a fancier, healthier TV dinner. It’s a prepared meal delivery service that takes cooking completely out of the equation. Here are the steps: Take the meal tray out of its paper sleeve, poke holes in its plastic lid to let air out, and pop the tray in the microwave for two minutes. I’ve tried a variety of meat dishes such as Creamy Tomato Pork Chop and Garlic Herb Salmon, but the real stunner was the Indian-Style Vegetable Rice, a richly seasoned vegetarian meal. The carnivorous dishes became a little repetitive, to be frank: Many of them consist of a small slab of meat sitting on a bed of some purée, accompanied by a couple dollops of different greens. But it’s pre-cooked by “real chefs,” as Factor’s website puts it, and a pre-packaged meal, so I can’t really complain. The portions are filling for a single person, the ingredients are whole and simple, and the nutrition per serving is broken down on the label of each dish (and there are paleo, low-carb, and keto meal options, too). All in all, a solid choice when you want to eat a cooked meal while watching a half hour of a sitcom but don’t want to do any of the cooking yourself. —Karen Yuan, lifestyle editor
In fall 2020, I moved to the Catskills to help my brother’s partner run her new motel. I normally love cooking, but between freelance writing gigs, folding industrial-sized loads of laundry, making sure the coffee was always on point, and flipping rooms as guests swarmed in and out, I found myself eating more than my fair share of chips and dip. I needed something that would be delicious enough to compete with Doritos, lightning fast to make, and ensure I did not get scurvy from a serious lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Instagram algorithm must have heard my plea (it’s always creepin’), and next thing I knew I was subscribed to Daily Harvest—a frozen food subscription that sends you a weekly box of six, nine, 14, or 24 items per week. Everything is vegan, and you can select from a range of organic meal options like nutrient-dense smoothies, grain bowls, soups, veggie-topped flatbreads, lattes, and even ice cream. I liked some meals (cauliflower rice and kimchi), drinks (mint and cacao smoothie), and desserts (salted black sesame ice cream) more than others, but everything was genuinely tasty. I did find each portion was a little on the small side, but easy fixes—like adding cheese to the flatbreads, an egg and leftover cooked pasta to a harvest bowl, and a big scoop of nut butter and oats to the smoothies—helped beef my meals up a bit.
I also appreciated that, unlike a lot of subscription services, Daily Harvest makes it easy for you to pause, skip, and update your preferences each week. I never felt a glut or deficiency in my freezer, and had enough flexibility to still cook meals whenever I felt so compelled. Most of all, DH took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. I’ll always love her for that. —Ali Francis, associate editor
I’m a big podcast listener, so I’ve been hearing about Hello Fresh—and its many, many coupon codes—for a long time. It has a lot going for it: There are plenty of options to choose from, the shipping is quick, and the meals are super easy to cook. I sometimes eat meat (the cuts of beef and pork I received were tasty, fresh, and high-quality), but was happy to see plenty of vegetarian and plant-based options to choose from. My only caveat is that there was a lot of sameness to many of the meals I tried—repeat ingredients or the same seasonings used across disparate international cuisines. Still, portions were large, leftovers were plentiful, and I really enjoyed the convenience of knowing dinner was taken care of. Stick to more classic options—I loved the beef tenderloin with truffle mash—and you won’t be disappointed. —Nico Avalle, digital operations associate