Matt and I have tried a bunch of the meal kit recipe delivery companies and basically can’t live without them now – not having to meal plan is the best!
We used Blue Apron every week for years, and then in 2016/7 started alternating between Blue Apron and Sun Basket due to Matt’s need for gluten free meals for a bit (per his doctor due to Lyme disease). Just an FYI, though, that while Sun Basket has a lot of gluten free meal options, they are only appropriate for someone who wants to eat gluten free due to an intolerance or just taste/health preference, NOT for someone who has a gluten allergy (like Celiac disease), as their meals are made on shared processing equipment so trace amounts of gluten may be present.
Since we started mixing it up, and because we’ve tried other services in the past, I’ve had a lot of questions from you about the differences between the services, so a compare and contrast post seemed like a great idea.
This post was originally published in 2017, and at the time it was sponsored by Blue Apron (who made it clear that they wanted the post to be authentic and truthful, even when that meant including notes about things I didn’t totally love about Blue Apron at the time).
The post has since been updated with more recent facts/thoughts since the services have evolved over the years, so I’ve changed the date on it. Since it has been awhile since we tried HelloFresh, I’m not sure if that information is still 100% accurate. But we continue to use both Blue Apron and Sun Basket consistently so that information is updated/current, and both the Blue Apron and the Sun Basket links will provide you with a discount on your first boxes if you’d like to try them out!
Pictured above: Tandoori-Style Chicken and Rice (<- recipe) – the yogurt sauce was sooo good!
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). 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. I will say that in recent years it seems Sun Basket has mostly been recycling recipes, though – I notice a lot of the meals on there are ones we’ve already tried.
Pictured above: Spicy Miso-Glazed Baked Chicken Wings with Purple Rice and Zucchini & Cucumber Salad (<- recipe) – this was one of our all-time Blue Apron faves!
There’s also no commitment with the services – you sign up for a weekly plan, 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 with all our travel!
Pictured above: Seared Chicken and Caramelized Fennel (<- recipe) – another all-time fave!
Main differences between Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Sun Basket
#1 – Price
One main difference is price.
Blue Apron and HelloFresh are a lot more affordable – each meal is $9.99 per serving on the 2 person plan ($8.99 on the family plan for Blue Apron, $8.74 for HelloFresh), and shipping is free. On the 2 person plan for 3 two serving dinners per week, this ends up coming out to $59.94 per week.
HelloFresh does have some “premium” meals, though (things like steak), which add $5 per person to the order if you select those options. When I originally wrote this post in 2017 Sun Basket and Blue Apron used to have everything at the same price point, but in recent years they have also added some “premium” options that require an up-charge.
For Blue Apron, this is fancier meals (not entirely sure how they decide which are premium or not, because sometimes steak isn’t premium for example), and for Sun Basket, they charge extra if you want organic (vs. non-organic) protein. I do like that with Sun Basket you are able to add animal protein to vegetarian meals, though, which you can’t do with Blue Apron. (Update: Blue Apron just started offering more customization/swaps regarding protein and sometimes starch in their meals, and this is being rolled out to customers over time, so stay tuned!)
Sun Basket is $11.49 per serving for the 2 person plan, and $9.99 per serving for the family plan. There’s also a $5.99 delivery fee each week. On the 2 person plan for 3 two serving dinners per week (or 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts), this comes out to $74.93 per week, so about $15 more per week. Definitely not cheap, and that certainly adds up! And again, if you’re selecting organic options, you will pay more per meal.
Blue Apron still comes out as the overall winner on price – it starts out the same as HelloFresh, but there’s only a couple meals that are “premium” and it’s easy to stick with the base pricing plan.
#2 – Specialty Diet Accommodation and Meal Selection
One thing I wish Blue Apron would offer is a gluten free option; while some weeks there do occasionally end up being 3 gluten free recipes for us to select, for the most part most of their meals contain wheat, and they aren’t labeled as gluten free so you have to figure it out yourself, which is one more step. This is why we switched mostly to Sun Basket when Matt needed gluten free meals.
(Again, just a note that Sun Basket‘s meals are made on shared processing equipment so trace amounts of gluten 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).
With Blue Apron, they offer a regular and vegetarian plan, but you can mix and match between the meal offerings each week. They used to have a weird restriction where you couldn’t pair certain meals together (like a specific veggie dish and a steak dish), but they changed that in 2017. That drove me crazy because we like getting some meat and some veggie meals, but didn’t always want the specific ones they’d let you pair together.
HelloFresh also offers a regular and a vegetarian plan option; they don’t have a special gluten free plan (at least they didn’t when we last tried them), but they note which of their meal options each week are gluten free (and dairy free and nut free), and you can mix and match any of them/pair anything you want together (although as I mentioned above some include an upcharge if they are “premium”).
Regarding gluten free, there were usually 3 gluten free options offered each week from HelloFresh, but no more than that, so that meant if you didn’t like the look of those meals, you were out of luck.
Sun Basket offers paleo, gluten free, and vegetarian plans, and you can mix and match within those categories based on which recipes you like the look of the most.
There were enough options in each category from Sun Basket that you could mix and match nicely and still easily do all gluten free, too, which was awesome.
Sun Basket also offers a breakfast option – you can swap out one of your dinners for the ingredients for a fast two serving breakfast, which is fun, especially if it’s a week where you only want to cook dinner twice.
#3 – Organic vs. Non-Organic
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 Sun Basket is going to be a better option for you. Almost all organic food used to be their standard, but as I mentioned in recent years they now up-charge you quite a bit for organic protein. But again, it’s an option if you want it and are willing to pay.
#4 — Deliciousness
Obviously this is not an official or scientific measure and is completely subjective, but we found Blue Apron and Sun Basket to have the tastiest meals, with Blue Apron being the overall deliciousness winner.
Between Blue Apron and HelloFresh, I liked the additional variety and flexibility with meal selections that you had with HelloFresh, but we thought their meals were much more basic and boring/bland.
One of the things we love about Blue Apron is that they are really creative and have you using unique ingredients – and their meals are really flavorful and taste like something you’d get at a restaurant vs. just something you’d easily throw together on your own.
That said, Blue Apron can tend to overly portion the carbs and under-portion the veggies in some of their meals – we sometimes find ourselves adding extra of our own veggies. And their vegetarian options often don’t include vegetarian protein (like beans) but rather mostly just carbs.
Regarding deliciousness with Sun Basket, 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!
Sun Basket has also gotten really repetitive over the years – they offer a lot more meal options each week than the other services, but a lot of their meals are ones that we see over and over again on their menus. This is nice if you find something you really love, but a bummer if you want to mix it up more frequently.
A couple other small differences to consider:
Blue Apron offers a wine pairing program.
I love this (well, I did before I was pregnant, anyway – ha) – especially because the bottles are smaller than normal bottles so it’s just the right amount for a weeknight dinner (that doesn’t leave you hungover). Only $10 per bottle, too!
HelloFresh also recently launched a wine program, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t review that. 🙂
Sun Basket, as I mentioned, also offers a lot of pantry/grocery items now – you can get extra meat, or fresh juice, or morning oats, or random other pantry staples. It’s a nice option to be able to add a lot of extra stuff to the box you’re already getting. We like their egg bites in particular.
If you are looking for an affordable, classic option, I’d go with Blue Apron.
If you have dietary restrictions (beyond vegetarian) or are very passionate about organic food, however, you may want to consider Sun Basket instead.
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?