The Kit I Keep Buying
I've been using meal kits for about five years, frequently switching between the major meal kit services and trying new upstarts. The meal kit that keeps pulling me back is Blue Apron. I order meal kits because I like to cook, and Blue Apron has recipes that are more fun, challenging, and rewarding in the finished dish. I consider it an intermediate-level meal kit. You do far more chopping and mixing with Blue Apron, and the recipes can be more complex in flavor and execution. It can be too spicy for some, or just too unusual for others, and that's another reason I like it. I want to try new things, and Blue Apron has helped me expand my cooking perimeter.
That's not to say Hello Fresh doesn't deliver an excellent meal kit. Hello Fresh has a huge variety of recipe options to choose from every week. You'll have no problem satisfying picky eaters. If you want to impress a date, Hello Fresh will upsell you gourmet proteins like scallops or duck breasts for a nominal fee. It was hard to resist splurging regularly. However, Hello Fresh delivers some ingredients pre-chopped, and some meats pre-cooked. You'll enjoy the flatbreads, but you won't learn to work with pizza dough. They're good meals, just not the best cooking.
|Blue Apron||Hello Fresh|
|Price per serving||10||10|
|Specialty Menus||Vegetarian, WW||"Veggie," Low Calorie|
|Best fishes||Shrimp, Cod||Salmon, Barramundi|
|Best proteins (no upsell)||Sirloin Steak||Pork Tenderloin|
|Meat Substitute||Beyond Burger||Beyond Burger|
|Best whole grain||Freekeh||Farro|
|Pizza?||Fresh dough||Pre-made flatbreads|
Both Hello Fresh and Blue Apron will sell you up to four recipes per week, though on Blue Apron you can only get four with the 4-person Family Plan, with its more limited menu options. When I compare pricing, I look at a two-person, three-recipe box. For this size, Blue Apron costs $10 per serving, while Hello Fresh is $1 cheaper. But wait! Hello Fresh charges $7 for shipping, and they don't cut you a break no matter how many recipes or servings you order. So Hello Fresh also costs roughly $10 per serving.
If you want those snazzy gourmet protein options, be prepared to pay around $3 per serving extra. These options are a worthwhile splurge and actually a good deal. The duck I tried was fantastic quality and cheaper than if I'd bought it à la carte for my own recipe. In general, I've been impressed with Hello Fresh's protein sourcing. They offer a nice variety of seafood and meat, and it's always fresh and pristine.
How do I cook this?
The choice really comes down to the preparation. Hello Fresh offers some better ingredients; Blue Apron offers more complicated cooking. I usually go with the cooking. The first dish that comes to mind is pizza. I always found pizza intimidating to make at home, so I never bought store-made dough. When pizza showed up on my Blue Apron menu, I took the plunge and … screwed up pretty badly. Then I did it again, and it was a little better. Then I made some calzone. Now I look for the pizza recipes and, even though I'm still not comfortable, I can pull off pizzas that impress the kids.
Blue Apron always asks cooks to make their own tomato sauce, their own teriyaki sauce, their own spicy mayo. With Hello Fresh, you'll always make your own red sauce, you'll sometimes handle the condiments, and often the sauces come pre-made. Pizza is always made atop cooked flatbreads.
No option for special diets
If you are on a low-calorie diet, or if you like keeping your dinners low-cal, both meal kit services can help you out. Blue Apron offers dishes at consistently lower calorie counts and has the benefit of pairing with WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to provide menus that count points toward WW diet plans. Hello Fresh offers low-calorie meals that range up to 650 calories, which seems a bit high.
Neither service caters to vegan diets, which is especially disappointing. Both offer a veggie plan, but Blue Apron's plan includes limited menu options and few that don't include any animal products. Even worse, Hello Fresh showed me a "Veggie" menu that included a salmon recipe! It would seem a short stretch to include a truly vegan menu with either plan. Less important but still welcome would be a gluten-free option or even low-carb options like Paleo or Keto diets. If you need those options, Hello Fresh also owns Green Chef, which offers several specialty menus and organic ingredients. Blue Apron has no real specialty options outside the WW menu.
If you're new to cooking and looking to use meal kits to improve your ability, both of these would be a fine option. Both offer online tutorials for techniques and recipes. Hello Fresh can be slightly less intimidating, but not by much, and I personally think the added challenge of Blue Apron will make you a better cook in the long run.
Our Meal Kit Pick
Makes you work for your dinner
Blue Apron remains a favorite with unique and challenging recipes that arrive fresh and deliver on taste.
A Fun Meal Kit
Offers fun gourmet options
Hello Fresh is a great kit with cool upgrade options, but it doesn't pique our interest like Blue Apron.
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