Meal kit delivery services strike a balance between convenience and home cooking. As opposed to premade heat-and-eat meals or ordering takeout, meal kits consist of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients so you can assemble recipes with limited prep work. As a food writer, editor and recipe developer, I cooked through six meal kits over 2 weeks and found that the best meal kit delivery services offer a diverse menu, clear, well-written recipes, fresh ingredients and value for the money. I chose Blue Apron as my top pick for most households, and for those on a budget, I found that Dinnerly, though lacking extra frills, is the best value option starting at just $5 per serving.
- 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
Ultimately, the best meal kit delivery service for your household caters to your lifestyle to make dinnertime easier; that could mean fewer trips to the grocery store, quicker, easier meal prep, a cheaper alternative to takeout or the ability to try exciting new recipes (or a combination of these). Kiki Aranita, a chef and award-nominated food writer who has both developed recipes for meal kits and purchased them on her own, puts it this way: “I’m looking for ease, proper portioning and satisfaction from varying textures and flavors. I have a low tolerance for long instructions, especially when I’m hungry. I generally prefer to do less [work with] a meal kit.”
After testing six popular services, below, you’ll find my top four meal kit recommendations. For more options, we’ve also rounded up the best meal delivery services (including kits, premade meals and diet-specific options), the best vegetarian and vegan meal delivery services and the best keto meal delivery services to help you find the perfect dinner plan for you and your family.
Price per serving: From $8 | Minimum meal size: 2 servings | Maximum meal size: 4 servings | Minimum order: 2 meals per week | Number of weekly menu options: 70+ | Dietary options: Chef favorites, wellness (with WW-recommended selections), family-friendly, fast and easy, vegetarian
- Households with a variety of dietary needs
- The most diverse recipe options
- Clear, easy-to-follow recipes with consistent results
- You’re looking for something more budget-friendly
- You want to use a meal kit to learn how to cook
- You want mostly vegetarian or vegan options
The best meal kit delivery service 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, my best value recommendation, offers the most). The site includes easily navigable categories, 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).
The six Blue Apron meals that I tried all hit that sweet spot, delivering dishes that were satisfying but not overly finicky to cook, and most importantly, tasted good. 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.
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. 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 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.
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.
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. 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.
Price per serving: From $5 | Minimum meal size: 2 servings | Maximum meal size: 4 servings | Minimum order: 3 meals per week | Number of weekly menu options: 100+ | Dietary options: No added gluten, low-calorie, low-carb, vegetarian, healthy and more
- People with a solid understanding of cooking basics
- Families who want a budget-friendly meal kit option
- Those who already have basic seasonings and condiments on hand
- You want to use a meal kit to learn how to cook
- You prefer not to read recipes off a screen
- You prefer ingredients to be organized by meal when they arrive
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.
Price per serving: From $9 | Minimum meal size: 2 servings | Maximum meal size: 6 servings | Minimum order: 2 meals per week | Number of weekly menu options: 30+ | Dietary options: Calorie conscious, carb conscious and more
- People looking to learn how to cook from a meal kit
- Cooks who want well-organized ingredients
- Recipes that you can easily replicate on your own
- You’re already an accomplished cook
- You’re looking for a budget option
- You’d like a lot of menu options every week
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.
Price per serving: From $11.50 | Minimum meal size: 2 servings | Maximum meal size: 4 servings | Minimum order: 2 meals per week | Number of weekly menu options: 20+ | Dietary options: Paleo, carb-conscious, gluten-free, diabetes-friendly, vegetarian, pescatarian, Mediterranean, keto-friendly, ready to eat and more
- Vegetarians or vegetarian-leaning households
- Those seeking creative plant-based recipes
- You’re looking for a budget option
- You’d like a lot of menu options every week
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 I Tested The Best Meal Kits
The best way to test out a meal kit is to cook through it, so that’s exactly what I did. I cooked through at least two meals from each meal delivery service, assessing taste, portion size, required cleanup, how well each kit was organized and the clarity (or confusion) of the instructions. I also had my husband, an occasional home cook who largely favors microwave quesadillas, cook through a meal for each kit so I could assess how the recipes worked for someone with fewer culinary skills. My husband is also a vegetarian, so I ordered at least one non-meat option from every meal kit service and looked at options for households like ours, where at least one person has a dietary restriction.
For my testing, I zeroed in on meal kit services that were, broadly speaking, omnivorous rather than specifically catered to certain dietary restrictions or allergies. For example, I looked at services that had gluten-free options but weren’t exclusively gluten-free.
When shopping for the best meal kit, there are other factors to consider beyond just taste: These services create a user experience that bridges the virtual and real world. I considered the ease of online ordering and took note of how much fridge real estate each meal kit required. The best meal kits are also accessible for most eaters. I considered how expensive each meal was and how many options each service provided per week (including those geared toward specific diets).
Since the idea of meal kits is to have an ongoing subscription, I also looked at the menu options presented every week, with an eye toward a variety of cuisines, techniques and formats—you don’t want to get bored making the same things over and over again. I also looked at which culinary traditions the meal kit recipes favored, preferring meal kits that provided diverse recipes beyond Western fare—after all, there are only so many one-pot pasta dishes a person can handle.
How To Pick A Meal Kit Delivery Service
Chef Jose Garces—yes, the guy from Iron Chef America—has 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 says. Here are a few things to consider when narrowing down the best meal kit delivery service for you.
Frequency And Portion Options
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.
Meal kits can provide a way to feed yourself that’s more cost-effective than getting takeout. Most services have steep discounts on your initial orders—the way they make money is when you subscribe.
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.
Following our rigorous testing process, this story is regularly revisited by senior reviews editor Anna Perling to re-evaluate top picks, update information for accuracy, improve reader experience and determine whether to test more items for future inclusion. It was last edited in January 2024 by senior updates editor Karen Tietjen in collaboration with Perling.