Wondering how some of the meal kit services compare, specifically Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh vs. Sunbasket? Here is my full review outlining which subscription service I think is best, based on what you specifically are looking for!
Because while many of them can be great options, depending on your dietary preferences, tastes, and budget, one meal kit company may be the clear winner.
My husband Matt and I have tried a bunch of the meal kit service companies and basically can’t live without them now – we use one every single week and have done so since 2014, so I am extremely qualified to write this blog post at this point. 😉
Why Use a Meal Kit?
We love meal kit delivery services because they simplify our lives and save us a lot of time.
Each week, recipe cards and all the quality ingredients (in the exact portions we need) for a set number of dinners (usually 3 or 4) arrive at our door, and it’s awesome. A delicious meal without all the shopping + planning? Yes, please.
Meal kits have vastly improved our stress around meal planning and grocery shopping logistics; I LOVE not having to think about the majority of our dinners each week.
Whoever is finished with work first can simply grab one of the recipe cards and start cooking – no “what should we make for dinner?!” type situations here!
Meal kits are also a fun way to mix up your usual routine in terms of trying new-to-you foods and cooking techniques. And, depending on the service you choose, they can be a great way to get some healthy meals and fresh produce into your routine, too.
We’ve tried all sorts of cool ingredients over the years (see also: the Romanesco Cauliflower pictured below from Blue Apron recently) thanks to meal delivery kits, and it’s nice to keep us from getting in the same boring routine of usual staples every week.
Bottom line: I highly recommend giving a meal kit delivery service a shot if you haven’t yet, and here is my review of the main 3 services we have tried.
I originally published this post back in 2017, but I have kept it updated over the years as the services have changed and evolved. The most recent update to this post was made in fall 2022.
Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh vs. Sunbasket
Get a discount on your first order
One quick hot tip that all the links in this post are affiliate links and will offer you a substantial discount on your first order should you want to sign up for any of the services after reading this blog post.
Here are the current deals available for first time customers (be sure to use my link to sign up to get the deals):
- Blue Apron: enjoy $180 off across your first 6 boxes, plus free shipping on your first order
- Sunbasket: get up to $90 off across your first 4 deliveries
- Hello Fresh: get 18 free meals across your first 8 boxes, plus 3 surprise gifts and your first box ships free
And now, on to the full review!
Which meal kit is best?
No time to read the full post? Here’s a quick summary of which meal kit is best:
- Blue Apron: overall winner for price and creativity/deliciousness of the meals
- Sunbasket: best for healthy eating, and for those with dietary needs (like gluten free), or those who prefer organic ingredients
- Hello Fresh: a good choice for those who want simple meals that will be best received by kids
And now, let’s get into the details!
We have been using one or the other every single week for nearly a decade and love them both, but Blue Apron edges out as the overall winner due to price and creativity/deliciousness of the recipes.
That said, there are reasons to use the other meal kits (especially Sunbasket), which I’ll discuss in this post.
Since it has been awhile since we tried Hello Fresh, the details around that service in this post are not quite as robust, though I have perused their website to make sure my information is still current/updated. We liked Hello Fresh, but we like the other two a lot more, so we haven’t used it in recent years.
We continue to use both Blue Apron and Sunbasket consistently to this day so that information is more detailed.
And just a reminder that if you want to sign up for any of the services, you can click through any of the links within this blog post and the links will provide you with a big discount on your first few boxes.
Meal Delivery Services Overview
Before I get into the comparison, let’s talk about basics of the three services. All of the meal delivery kits:
- Deliver fresh ingredients in a refrigerated box right to your doorstep. No food waste (everything comes in the exact amounts you need for the recipes) and no trips to the grocery store.
- Offer recycling options for their packaging.
- Allow you to create delicious, chef-designed recipes at home by following the steps on the recipe cards.
- Offer different plan options based on your needs – a 2 serving plan and a family plan (4 servings), plus specialized diet plans (more details on that below). The meal kits differ in that some allow you to get more than 3 meals per week – Sun Basket in particular will basically let you get as many as you want, plus they offer some pantry items and breakfast options as well that you can add in.
- Change their recipes each week, constantly adding new dishes, so you don’t get bored with the same old recipes.
Here’s me thrilled that I didn’t have to meal plan… 🙂
There’s also no commitment with any of the services – you sign up for a weekly meal subscription, but you can cancel or pause/skip weeks at any time if you are out of town or for whatever reason won’t have time to cook.
This comes in really handy, as you can imagine!
And now, let’s drill down into the details.
Main differences between Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Sunbasket
#1 – Meal Kit Pricing
Blue Apron Pricing
Blue Apron meals are between $7.49 to $9.99 per serving, depending if you are getting the 2 or 4 person plan, and how many meals you are getting (more meals = lower price, unsurprisingly).
The standard amount of meals to get is 3 (each of which will serve either 2 or 4 people, depending on your preference), but in some cases you can drop down to 2 meals, or go up to 4 meals, per week. Shipping is $9.99.
A recent feature is that some meals are considered “premium” – there is usually 1 meal each week which requires a small up charge and features premium ingredients, like extra nice protein (think: scallops, really nice cuts of beef, etc.).
You are able to opt out of these meals, though, so if you’re not interested in the premium situation, don’t worry.
HelloFresh meals range from $7.99 to $11.99 per serving and shipping is $9.99. Again, the more meals/servings you get, the cheaper they are per serving.
HelloFresh also has some “premium” meals, though, which add $5 per person to the order if you select those options.
Meals range from $11.49 to $14.49 per serving, again depending how many meals you are getting each week, and for how many servings. As with the other services, more meals and bigger servings = a lower per serving price.
If you want organic protein added to your meals (vs. the standard non-organic protein), you do have to pay extra, though.
One other thing to note is that as of early 2022, shipping is $9.99 per BOX – not just per shipment.
So if you are getting any add ons in addition to the meal kits (they have a lot of pantry options available, for example) and it comes in more than one box, you will be charged that shipping rate for EACH box.
If you are just getting the typical 3 or 4 meal kit dinners, it will be one box and no worries, it’s just if you’re adding on a lot of their extras.
That said, a new feature Sunbasket just added is that you can see if your box is almost full, and whether you are starting to add into a new box or not. This is helpful if you don’t want to pay $9.99 to ship a second super empty box with just one extra thing.
(Although, our cat really loves boxes, so she doesn’t mind if we get two!)
#2 – Specialty Diet Accommodation and Meal Selection
Blue Apron Meal Selection/Preferences
Blue Apron offers a regular (“signature”) and a vegetarian plan as well as a new “wellness” plan (which has a focus on extra nutrient-dense meals), but you can mix and match between the meal offerings each week and select exactly what you want, which is great.
They also recently launched “Heat and Eat” (both wellness-specific and regular) meals, which can be added in to your boxes in single serving sizes in addition to your regular meal kit meals.
One fun thing is also that during the summer they will offer grilling-specific recipes, which as grilling fans we enjoy!
Sunbasket Meal Selection/Preferences
Sunbasket is the winner in terms of special diet customization.
They offer a large variety of specific plans to accommodate different diets: gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, mediterranean, carb-conscious, pescatarian, and diabetes-friendly.
You can opt in to any of these categories and the meals that the system auto-selects for you each week will fit into your diet category. You can then go in and change them if you want to mix up the selections.
One note for those who are gluten free, though, is that Sunbasket‘s meals are made on shared processing equipment so trace amounts of gluten (as well as other allergens) may be present. This means they are appropriate for someone that wants to eat gluten free for health or taste/preference reasons, or for an intolerance, but NOT for someone who has a gluten allergy, like Celiac disease. Similar for other allergies.
In addition to the dinners, Sunbasket has started offering a lot of pantry options (stuff like egg bites, overnight oatmeal, nut butters, etc. – specialty prepared products) as well as some “Fresh and Ready” meals which are ready to heat and eat.
They also offer some meals that are pre-prepped for you and extra quick to make.
HelloFresh Meal Selection/Preferences
HelloFresh offers a number of different plan options as well: meat & veggie, veggie, family friendly, fit & wholesome, quick & easy, and pescatarian.
You can select more than one category (for example, both “family friendly” and “quick and easy”) to customize what meals you get, too, which is cool.
#3 – Organic vs. Non-Organic Meal Kits
All the services do a great job of offering fresh ingredients that are sourced from quality suppliers and artisans.
That said, if organic food is a priority for you, and you are okay with paying more for it, then Sunbasket is going to be a better option for you.
Almost all organic food used to be their standard, and they still automatically offer organic produce with the meal kits, but they now up-charge you a bit for organic protein.
But again, it’s an option if you want it and are willing to pay.
#4 – Which Meal Kit has the Best Meals?
Obviously this is not an official or scientific measure and is completely subjective, but we found Blue Apron and SunBasket to have the tastiest meals, with Blue Apron being the overall deliciousness winner.
We have found Blue Apron in particular to be really creative with their meals, and they have you using unique ingredients.
Their meals taste the most like something you’d get at a restaurant vs. just something you’d easily throw together on your own – but they are easy to make following the recipe cards!
Pictured above: Spicy Miso-Glazed Baked Chicken Wings with Purple Rice and Zucchini & Cucumber Salad – this was one of our all-time Blue Apron faves!
We found HelloFresh meals to be pretty good, but much more basic and less interesting in general.
It was a lot of fancy pizzas, pasta, burgers, etc., and we could easily make that stuff on our own without a service, you know? That said, more basic can also be good depending if you are trying to feed a bunch of kids who are picky!
We have found that Blue Apron can sometimes tend to overly portion the carbs and under-portion the veggies in some of their meals (not the one pictured above, though, and I do think this has gotten better in the past few years). And their vegetarian options often don’t include vegetarian protein (like beans) but rather mostly just carbs.
Regarding deliciousness with Sunbasket, we love that all their meals pack in tons of veggies, but sometimes they lacked creativity – a lot of their paleo meals were “protein with a side of sauteed greens”, for example, which was kind of meh, and also had us reaching for cereal an hour after dinner because they didn’t include enough carbs.
Opposite problem here, although I do love my veggies!
#5 – How Long Do Blue Apron, Sunbasket, and HelloFresh Meals Take to Cook?
By popular demand, I’m adding this section in since I’ve gotten questions about how long the meals take to prepare!
In general, I’d say that meal delivery kits are best for people who at least kind of enjoy cooking.
For us, they work well because we don’t want to deal with researching tons of recipes every week, making lists, grocery shopping, and all the planning ahead. The actual cooking we usually enjoy!
We love meal kits because then we can just quickly buy our usual staples at the grocery store (breakfast and lunch stuff, plus basics for one or two of our super easy go-to dinners) vs. having to take a lot of time planning ahead and figuring out all sorts of different dinner recipes to try each week.
That said, it is nice to not spend ages in the kitchen.
How long the meals take to prepare really depends on the meals you are selecting.
The meals from all 3 services will take on average about 20 to 45 minutes to prepare, and I like that on all of the meal kit menus where you make your meal selections they note the average amount of time the specific meals take to prepare.
This is nice because it means you can specifically select the quicker meals if you want to! The recipe cards you get sent to you will also include the time estimates, so if you are trying to decide which dinner to make and short on time, that’s an easy deciding factor.
All 3 services also label particularly speedy meals on their menus, which is helpful.
These labels, in addition to the cooking time estimates, are helpful as you are choosing your meals each week!
These pre-made meals are a great option for those nights you really don’t have any time to spare. They come in single serve portions and you can add them on to your normal meal kit deliveries whenever you want.
Sunbasket also offers some “pre-prepped” meals on their menu each week that allow you to have the option to make meals that are ready extra quick, which is a cool bonus. These meals will have things like some of the veggies already chopped for you, etc.
The only issue with the pre-prepped kits is that the ingredients won’t keep for quite as long in your fridge, so you’ll want to make those meals before the others just in case, because when veggies are pre-chopped they won’t stay fresh as long as when they are whole!
#6 – Meal Kit Wine Pairing & Pantry/Grocery Offerings
A couple other small differences to consider:
Blue Apron offers a wine pairing program.
I love this – especially because the bottles are smaller than normal bottles (about 2/3 the size of a regular bottle) so we find it’s just the right amount for a weeknight dinner (that doesn’t leave you hungover). Only $10 per bottle, too!
HelloFresh had a wine program for awhile, but it’s no longer available now. Guess it wasn’t popular enough?
Sunbasket doesn’t offer wine pairings, but it sets itself apart from the other services by offering a lot of pantry/grocery items – for example, you can add in fresh meat, cheeses, juices, morning oats, or random other pantry staples and specialty prepared products.
It can actually be a little overwhelming to scroll through because there are SO many add on options, but it is nice to have the choice! We like their egg bites in particular and add those in to our boxes often.
Conclusions: Blue Apron vs. Sun Basket vs. Hello Fresh
If you are looking for an affordable, classic option that’s super delicious, I’d go with Blue Apron. They are also the only option of the 3 with wine pairings.
If you have dietary restrictions (beyond vegetarian) or are very passionate about organic food, however, you may want to consider Sunbasket instead. They are also the one to go with if you want to add on a lot of extras, like snacks, pantry stuff, fresh meat, etc.
If you’re looking for more basic/simple meals, try HelloFresh. Their meals are probably the best bet if you are looking for a more kid-friendly vibe.
I hope this post answered questions you might have about the three services! Please let me know if there are any other things you’d like to know.
Have you ever tried any of the meal delivery kit services? What did you think?
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