Given the sheer volume of choice on the market, identifying the best meal delivery service is no easy task. Whether you’re considering subscribing to a meal kit or just want to try out a box, there’s no denying that the whole process can quickly become overwhelming once you start perusing all the options on offer.
Thankfully, in this handy guide you’ll find everything you need to know to make signing up for a meal delivery service a piece of cake – which is a good thing when you consider that opting for a meal kit can bring you a range of benefits that will help make your busy life a whole lot easier.
From skipping those grocery store crowds and queues to the convenience of having dinner delivered directly to your door, meal delivery services take the hassle out of menu planning so you can concentrate on what’s important — enjoying your food.
Plus, many meal kits prepare diet-specific meals such as keto, paleo, and vegan-friendly options, which means that no-fuss cooking is now available to all of us regardless of what particular dietary restrictions we might have.
What the experts say:
Registered dietitian Deanna Wolfe (opens in new tab) tells Live Science: “For my clients, meal kits can be a great way to get out of a recipe rut and inspire new ways to use food in the kitchen. By using a meal kit, my family discovered our favorite way to cook salmon: first, we pan-sear the crust on the stove and finish it in the oven. Sometimes, we add extra veggies to a meal if there isn’t a big serving to bump the fiber.”
From pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards for meals you can assemble yourself at home, to ready-to-eat dinners and healthy snacks, every meal kit company brings something different to the table. We tested a range of the most popular meal kits and prepared meal delivery services to identify the best choices for convenience, taste, quality, and overall customer experience.
So if you’re looking for a heat-and-eat meal kit that will help you stick to your keto diet, or you want a gourmet cooking experience at home without the planning or grocery shopping, there is a meal kit on this list for you. Here’s what you need to know about the best meal delivery services.
Best meal delivery services we’ve tried
Marley Spoon is a great choice if you’re looking for many meal options that fit your diet. This is a cook-it-yourself meal kit. Each box includes pre-portioned ingredients and a full-color, easy-to-follow recipe card. Though the meals took a bit longer to prepare than the recipe suggested, we didn’t mind when we sat down to eat. These dishes are full of flavor and introduce new ingredients and techniques, which makes Marley Spoon a great choice for anyone looking to improve their culinary skills.
The meal kit offers up to six meals per week that feed two or four people, and there are plenty of kid-friendly menu options, so it’s a great solution for busy families. The portions are appropriate and the meals strike a balance between comforting and indulgent (such as the Creamy Mushroom Ragu with Cheese Ravioli), and light but filling, such as the 20-minute Coconut Turmeric Tilapia.
If you’re following a specific diet, you’ll also find good options that are dairy-free, contain no added gluten, are low-carb, or low-calorie. Each week’s menu also includes a good balance of meat, fish, and vegetable-based choices so you can enjoy a well-rounded diet without getting bored.
HelloFresh strikes a keen balance between allowing customers to prepare their own meals without overwhelming them with work. The meals arrive with pre-portioned ingredients, including certain things like sauces and seasoning blends already mixed. This makes the prep process faster, but you still get the fun of having prepared dinner for yourself.
This meal kit offers more choices than many others, with over 37 recipes per week. There are plenty of vegetarian and pescatarian options, as well as more classic meat-based meals, such as Golden Chicken Schnitzel with Crispy Potatoes. And this is one of the most customizable choices. In many meals, you can select your protein. For example, the Roasted Veggie Kale Salad can come with chicken or steak. Other times, you can select your favorite side to accompany the protein. Even the vegetarian options offer balanced meals with a good amount of protein per serving, thanks to ingredients like nuts, seeds, and tofu.
Although these meals were on the smaller side compared to other meal kits, in general, we found them to be healthy and satisfying. Because the site does not allow you to filter by dietary preference such as gluten-free, though, this may not be the best choice for those with allergies or specific dietary needs.
Purple carrot is the only completely plant-based meal kit service, making it the best choice for vegans. You can enjoy both cook-it-yourself and heat-and-eat meals from Purple Carrot. Whichever you choose, you can expect very high-quality ingredients and unique flavors.
While the you-cook meals are a bit more involved than others to put together, if you enjoy the process of cooking and don’t mind spending a half-hour or more in the kitchen to make dinner, you’ll always impress yourself with what you create.
Despite skipping animal products, there are plenty of high-protein options, as well as gluten-free, soy-free, and meals with less than 600 calories per serving on each week’s menu. Another great benefit of choosing a meal kit that doesn’t include dairy products, meat, or fish is that the ingredients tend to stay fresher for longer. So if you tend to be busy and may not be able to prepare all of the meals straight away, you don’t have to worry about food spoiling before you can enjoy it.
Purple Carrot allows you to customize your box each week using their 12-item menu of breakfast, lunches, and dinners, as well as add-on items such as plant-based snacks from partner brands. Though you cannot select your own delivery date, you’ll always know when to expect your box on the same day each week.
If you prefer not to do any prep work (or clean-up) at all, Freshly may be the meal kit for you. The large menu boasts over 50 meal options each week, with a great selection of plant-based and gluten-free choices. Freshly also offers individual portions of sides and proteins, such as creamy mac and cheese and simply grilled chicken breasts for those who want to beef up their meals a bit.
The dishes arrive fresh (not frozen) in microwave-safe containers with reheating instructions and take three minutes or less to heat. The flavors are good, if not the most gourmet, and there are no uncooked ingredients, such as salads. This is a great choice for anyone short on time who values convenience and portability, as the meals travel well and can be reheated anywhere there’s a microwave.
Nutrition-wise, the meals are mostly under 600 calories, with many sub-400-calorie choices that are still hearty and satisfying. Note that you do have to pay more for shipping than other meal delivery services, but buying more meals per shipment is an economical choice. You can get up to 12 meals per box, but they have a three to five-day shelf-life after delivery.
Home Chef is a cook-it-yourself meal kit that emphasizes fast and easy meals. The dishes aren’t quite as gourmet as meal kits that will keep you in the kitchen a little longer, but they’re easy to cook and great for beginners. The portions are a good size for most appetites and there are plenty of hearty options like Mushroom-Smothered Turkey Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots.
If you’re looking for something lighter, Home Chef also lets you filter their weekly menu of 25+ dishes by carb-conscious and calorie-conscious choices. A recent low-carb dish is Tex-Mex-Style Smothered Chicken, with 33 grams of carbs and 520 calories per serving. If you’re new to cooking, you’ll appreciate that Home Chef labels the difficulty of each recipe. And we found these labels to be largely accurate.
The dishes come together quickly, thanks to certain shortcuts like pre-mixed sauces. The digital recipe also lists the specific pieces of cookware you’ll need for the recipe. So if you don’t own a blender or food processor, it’s easy enough to steer clear of those more complicated recipes.
We found the included recipe cards to be very easy to follow, aided by colorful step-by-step photos that showed helpful cooking cues such as how your chicken should look when it’s fully cooked. Ultimately, this is a good choice for a slightly less expensive meal kit that makes cooking dinner fast and easy.
This meal kit giant paved the way for its many competitors and it remains a leader in the space, offering both you-cook meals and pre-cooked, heat-and-eat single-serving dishes. The weekly menu offers a nice variety of meat-based and vegetarian options. Blue Apron has also partnered with WW to provide points, though the recipe cards in your box do not include nutritional information. For that, you’ll have to head to the recipe webpage.
We found that the recipes took about the same amount of time as suggested by the recipe card, and the meals were overall easy to prepare. They were also quite tasty, with a delicious Miso Butter and Panko-Crusted Cod with Ponzu Mayo, Asparagus, and Potatoes being the favorite in our box. Though one of the recipes we tried was fairly involved (a Miso Mushroom and Brown Rice Bowl with a variety of toppings that needed prepwork and cooking), nothing was too laborious in the kitchen.
Blue Apron offers two- and four-serving meals as well as add-ons like Assorted Chocolate Truffles, breakfasts, and fun appetizers that can be great for entertaining. We like Blue Apron for reliably tasty meals that are fairly straightforward to prepare. And because you can mix and match you-cook and pre-cooked meals, there’s something for every night of the week, whether you have the time to spend in the kitchen or not.
Green Chef prides itself on using high quality, sustainably sourced ingredients. The eggs and all produce in the meals are all certified organic, and Green Chef partners with small and local farmers to support small-scale agriculture. As a result, you’ll see plenty of seasonal ingredients on the weekly menus. For example, in June you might see Harissa Apricot Chicken with Almonds, Smoky Farro, Kale and Currants. The menu also reflects flavors from around the world, such as crispy Italian Breaded Pork Chops and Baharat-Spiced Couscous Salad, so your taste buds will always be entertained.
All Green Chef meals come with pre-portioned ingredients, including many pre-mixed sauces and seasonings that cut down on your time in the kitchen. Each meal comes with a clear step-by-step recipe card with images that cater to beginner cooks. Most Green Chef meals take about 30 minutes to make, but the most accurate time is indicated on the recipe card.
Green Chef is a great choice for feeding a large household, thanks to their six-serving plan. At most, you can fill your box with four meals that feed six, which becomes a more economical option, especially because shipping is a flat-rate $9.99 per box.
- We are still in the process of testing Green Chef.
Fresh n Lean offers the widest selection of meals each week, and satisfies the most specific diets. You’ll find keto, paleo and even Whole30-approved meals and snacks. And not just dinner; you can order Fresh n Lean breakfasts and lunches for five or seven days a week.
All of the meals are prepared in a gluten-free kitchen, and when you sign up, you’ll indicate allergies such as tree nuts, shellfish, sesame and dairy. You can even indicate ingredients that you simply want to avoid, such as polarizing items like eggplant, mushrooms, and cilantro.
Fully prepared and ready to eat in three minutes or less, the ingredients are organic and the meals arrive in recyclable BPA-free containers that are microwave safe. They will even stay fresh for up to 10 days after delivery if stored in the fridge, which is longer than most meal kits.
The menu items include vegan treats like Teriyaki Bowl with Plant-Based Chicken, and protein-packed options like Curried Steak with Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf, which boasts 42 grams of protein per serving. If you’re an athlete or following a specific diet but don’t want to think about preparing meals, Fresh n Lean makes it about as easy as possible.
- We are still in the process of testing Fresh n Lean.
Factor is one of the best meal delivery services for the keto diet. The meals are all fully prepared and just need to be heated in the microwave. They’re never frozen, but they are specially packaged to stay fresh for up to seven days after delivery. You can order as few as four meals per week and as many as 18 if you’re buying in bulk.
The large menu of over 30 dishes includes plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and lower-calorie options. There’s also a great low-carb and keto-friendly selection, including hearty meals like Blackened Salmon with Smoked Gouda Cauliflower “Grits” and Broccoli. However, not every menu item complies with a specific diet. For example, BBQ Ground Pork Plate is not considered “calorie smart” but it has a modest 620 calories per serving.
If you’re looking for a meal kit that can satisfy a range of dietary needs and tastes in one household, Factor is a great way to go. You can view the entire list of ingredients, and even heating instructions for each meal on the website before you order. And though you won’t be able to select a specific delivery date, Factor provides tracking information and the meals come in a well-insulated box to stay fresh.
- We are still in the process of testing Factor.
How to choose the best meal delivery service
If you’re on the market for a meal delivery service that can make dinnertime, or lunchtime for that matter, more streamlined, healthier, and every bit as tasty as your favorite restaurant, you’ll want to do a bit of research before choosing a subscription.
First, consider how much prep work you want to be doing. For example, if you’re eager to enhance your cooking skills or just love the practice of cooking every night, you’ll love a cook-it-yourself meal kit. These, such as Marley Spoon and Purple Carrot, come with pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards that walk you through each step of the recipe so you can create a dish to be proud of.
On the other hand, if you’d do anything to avoid cooking and want pure convenience over anything else, a pre-made meal delivery service like Factor or Freshly is a great choice. These meals arrive ready to heat so all you have to do is pop them into the microwave for a few minutes, and dinner is served. Of course, it’s helpful to have a microwave for these. Some meal kits, such as Blue Apron, offer a mix of cook-it-yourself and ready-made meals, which gives you some nice flexibility during the week.
It’s also important to choose a meal kit that caters to any specific dietary needs in your household. If you’re a strict vegan, Purple Carrot is the only fully plant-based meal kit on the market. Or, if you need to ensure your meals are gluten-free, you’ll appreciate that Fresh N Lean uses no gluten in their kitchens. Many other meal kits allow you to filter the menu by your dietary needs. If variety of choices is important to you, you may want a meal kit with more weekly options, such as Freshly or Marley Spoon.
Along the same lines, meal kits are generally very open about the nutritional profiles of their meals. Many make it easy to find low-carb or lower-calorie options if that’s important. Some, like Fresh N Lean, Factor and Green Chef, have keto-specific meals. Blue Apron includes WW points on all of their meals (but does not provide nutritional information on the recipes themselves).
Of course, cost is another consideration for any new household expense. If you usually go out for meals or order delivery, you’re likely to save money by switching to a meal kit. And larger orders are more economical, so if you have the refrigerator space, a great way to make the most of your subscription is to buy in bulk (provided the meals will last long enough). Some meal kits charge extra for shipping, so be sure to factor that into the price.