Minimal prep work
No subscription required
Limited areas of availability
Limited menu selection
Kits sell out
Requires two memberships (Amazon Prime and Amazon Fresh)
Only available in two-serving kits
Ordering can be confusing
Most of us are used to ordering just about anything from Amazon, and starting in July 2017, “anything” includes Amazon-brand dinner kits. Like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, the kits include nearly everything you need to make a meal, but they’re only available to Amazon Prime and Amazon Fresh members who live in areas that offer Amazon Fresh grocery delivery or at select Whole Foods stores near some of those areas. But on the upside, most of the prep work is done and you don’t have to commit to a subscription. We recently tested out three meals to see if Amazon’s entry into the meal kit arena is a half-hearted attempt at market share or a serious play for meal kit dominance. Read on to find out what we thought.
How It Works: Limited availability
With Amazon meal kits you can order just one meal whenever you need it, rather than subscribing to a meal kit delivery service with a minimum order of two or three meals per week. Sure, you can skip or cancel with those other services, but it’s just one more thing to remember. And we haven’t found one that allows an order of just one meal.
Though we like the one-off flexibility of Amazon’s meal kits if you want one you’ll first have to do some research to see if you live in an area where they’re available.
With Amazon meal kits you can order just one meal whenever you need it, rather than subscribing to a meal kit delivery service with a minimum order of two or three meals per week.
For kits delivered to your door, you have to live in an area where Amazon Fresh is available. If your delivery zip code isn’t in an Amazon Fresh area, the kits won’t even appear when you search the site. (Amazon Fresh is currently available in the following areas: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.)
But even if you’re in an Amazon Fresh delivery area, the kits might not be available. They’re only available for Amazon Fresh customers in Seattle, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, and the Northeast.
Though we like the one-off flexibility of Amazon’s meal kits, if you want one you’ll first have to do some research to see if you live in an area where they’re available.
Live in one of those areas? Great! Now you’ll need to have an Amazon Prime membership ($119 per year or $12.99 per month). Many people already have Amazon Prime so being required to have a membership in order to get a kit isn’t a big deal. However, many other meal subscription services charge around $10 per week for shipments. Plus, if you like buying your groceries online and scheduling the delivery, an Amazon Fresh membership could be worthwhile. We scheduled our kits to arrive almost a week after order, and we choose “doorstep delivery” so we wouldn’t have to be home. We had the option of picking a two- to three-hour time slot for it to arrive, so we picked one close to when we knew we’d be getting home.
Keep in mind there’s an additional delivery fee of $4.99 if your order totals less than $35 or $50 before tax, depending on the delivery area. Or, if you live in an area with an AmazonFresh Pickup location, you can choose that option and skip the delivery fee no matter how small your order. You’ll have to reserve a time slot, but the order could be ready in as little as 30 minutes.
If you don’t live in a delivery area, you still have a couple of options. The kits are available at Amazon Go stores (Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City), and at some Whole Foods stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, Nevada and Arizona.
Choosing Meals: Familiar classics
For a site that aims to make itself integral to daily life, it’s not always that easy to parse. For example, it’s not clear how many meals Amazon has in its database, but there are usually eight options and based on our observations they change irregularly.
Prices range from $15.99 to $19.99, with vegetarian meals being the cheapest and fish or steak meals the most expensive. All kits serve two people, so if you’ve got a family of four or more to feed, you’ll need more than one kit.
When checking out we were surprised to find out one of the kits we had selected was labeled “unavailable” for the day we selected them to be delivered — even though it was several days away.
Browsing the meals isn’t the easiest because they’re mixed in with groceries and meal kits from other brands the company stocks and ships. And they don’t have helpful at-a-glance tags like “600 calories or less” or “kid-friendly,” as other services do. But once we clicked on a kit we could see a detailed picture of the finished dish, the recipe card, ingredients, and nutrition information, as well as customer reviews that make it easy to see which kits are crowd favorites.
Most of the dinners were familiar classics like Steak au Poivre, Chicken Piccata, and Herb-Roasted Salmon. And most were in the usual “protein + vegetable + starch” format, so not a lot of sandwiches, soups or bowls. The few internationally-inspired dishes they were pretty familiar as well, such as Thai coconut curries or Indian-ish tikka masala.
When checking out we were surprised to find out one of the kits we had selected was labeled “unavailable” for the day we selected them to be delivered — even though it was several days away. So it’s important to pay attention to that detail when filling your cart because your delivery date can impact what’s actually available.
Thai Yellow Curry with Tofu, Vegetables and Jasmine Rice
Seared Salmon with Fennel and Pea Risotto
Chicken-Fried Chicken with Farmhouse Potato Salad and Red Cabbage Slaw
Support materials: Small recipe cards
Each kit comes in a small cardboard box with a full-color recipe card. There are usually five or six steps to each card, plus a helpful tip or two. The cards are small, as is the font, but we still found them easy to follow. The photos generally offer helpful visuals for what some of the steps should look like, such as how to bread the chicken or how big to cut the tofu. Oddly, though, the cards feature a large photo of the ingredients rather than the finished dish.
There’s no section of Amazon.com that offers any auxiliary support for the meal kits. So, unlike other subscription services, there’s no blog with tips or cooking videos, no database of recipes. And there’s no app specific to the meal kits, but they are linked to Alexa-enabled devices if you want the cooking instructions read aloud to you. We didn’t have a device to try this option though.
Packaging: Less than traditional meal kits
Since Amazon doesn’t ship its kits far and wide, it’s actually a bit less packaging-heavy than other meal kit brands. There’s no big cardboard box to recycle and no insulated liners encased in plastic to worry about. Our delivery arrived in a simple paper bag with a frozen water bottle to keep the kits cold. The kits each come in compact paperboard boxes that can be recycled at the curb. They also fit nicely in the fridge and keep all the ingredients for each meal together.
Where the plastic gets intense is inside the boxes. The ingredients are mostly prepped so they’re all packed in little plastic bags, clamshells, tiny tubs, and screw-top jars. Our chicken came wrapped in its own little insulated bubble-wrap package. And there was even a pair of latex gloves included to keep hands mess-free while breading the chicken. Personally, this seemed a bit unnecessary and wasteful to us.
If you live in an area that accepts film plastic and clamshells for recycling you can keep most of the packaging out of the trash. Otherwise, that’s where they’ll have to go. We were able to keep the screw-top jars for other uses. They’re even dishwasher safe.
The Cooking Process: Really fast
Since most of the ingredients were already prepped, we found the Amazon meal kits were really quick to make. Even the tofu for the Thai Yellow Curry was already cubed (though the recipe card assumed it was whole).
With hardly any chopping or mixing to do, we were able to get right to the cooking. Each meal took no more than 30 minutes, one was even done in 25, and mostly they used very little cookware to execute. The Thai Yellow Curry only used one large skillet since the rice was already cooked and just needed a stint in the microwave. The Seared Salmon used two skillets, one for the risotto and one for the fish. The Chicken-Fried Chicken was the messiest, with a bowl for marinating the chicken, a bowl for making the slaw, a bowl for making the potato salad, a pan for breading and a skillet for cooking.
With hardly any chopping or mixing to do, we were able to get right to the cooking.
Each recipe was simple and straight-forward enough that even beginners would have no trouble with them.
Flavor, Freshness and Quality: Mostly delicious
All of the ingredients we received were in great shape. If we had to find a quibble, our lemon was really hard and not as juicy as we’d like, but that was the only fault we could find. Even the herbs looked sprightly.
We enjoyed all three dishes and felt like they had a good deal of flavor even though they were not that adventurous, and the portions were very generous for two.
The Thai Yellow Curry was the one borderline disappointment because the curry was only mildly spiced and the addition of brown sugar skewed it unnecessarily sweet. But with mushrooms, spinach, butternut squash and water chestnuts along with the tofu, it was quite filling and healthful.
The Chicken-Fried Chicken was essentially chicken tenders breaded in buttermilk and flour and pan-fried until golden. It’s very hard to go wrong with that, and these cooked up crispy and tender just like we wanted. The simple red cabbage slaw was tossed in a honey-spiked red wine and mustard dressing, but it wasn’t too sweet. In fact, it tasted perfectly balanced. And the potato salad offered a few pleasant surprises, like radishes, charred corn, fresh dill and a sauce made with tangy feta cheese.
Our favorite dish was the Seared Salmon with Fennel and Pea Risotto. This one had a bunch of positive reviews on the site, so we had high hopes for it and it didn’t disappoint. It was super easy to put together and a few key ingredients made it special: the risotto was cooked with clam juice instead of chicken broth to add a seafood flavor that matched the salmon perfectly. It didn’t require a half-hour of stirring either, just a slow simmer in a covered pot. A dollop of mascarpone stirred in at the end made it exceptionally creamy, while fresh basil added brightness. We also loved how a squeeze of lemon and just a few capers and fennel slices cooked alongside the salmon transformed the dish with minimal effort.
Our favorite dish was the Seared Salmon with Fennel and Pea Risotto. It was super easy to put together and a few key ingredients made it special.
Who It's Good For?
Amazon meal kits are great for those who already have and use Amazon Fresh, don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and don’t want to commit to a subscription.
Who It Isn’t Good For?
The meal kits won’t work for anyone who wants a bigger selection of meals to choose from.
Technically there’s a whole grocery list of add-ons to choose from since Amazon meal kits are sold through Amazon Fresh, the company’s online grocery delivery service. The selection changes depending on the region, but it pretty much includes anything a typical grocery store would carry.
Customer Service: Extremely limited
When ordering the meal kits online, you’ll see a series of photos with the dish, the recipe card, etc. One of the photos is a customer service number. If there are any problems with the kit, customers can call that number to discuss. We called the number to ask a few questions and the representative was very patient and helpful, though he had to forward our questions to an internal team. Sadly we never got a response. Trying to directly contact someone at the company who works with meal kits proved nearly impossible. Amazon keeps its staff’s contact information behind closed doors. E-mails to the general PR team also ultimately went unanswered. If you simply have an issue and need a refund, you’ll probably be fine. But if you have tricky questions about availability, sourcing, or even the extent of the menu options, it’s almost futile to try to find answers.
Trying to directly contact someone at the company who works with meal kits proved nearly impossible.
Making Changes and Canceling: Not that hard
Unlike other meal kit delivery companies, there’s no subscription to skip or cancel to stop receiving the meal kits. But if you want to cancel the Amazon Fresh part of your membership it takes a few clicks. From your Amazon account profile click “Memberships & Subscriptions” and then click the “Manage Subscription” link next to the Fresh area. Then you’ll get an expanded area that has “Advanced Controls” where there’s a link to “Go to My Fresh Membership.” You have to click the link under “Settings” to cancel.
The Competition: Amazon vs. Blue Apron
How does the most popular online marketplace stack up to the most popular meal kit delivery service? It’s actually pretty different. First of all, Amazon allows you to order just one kit if you like, and it doesn’t require a subscription to its meal kits. Shipping is free as long as you meet the minimum order requirements in your region. Hello Fresh requires a weekly subscription and there’s a minimum order of two meals, though you can easily pause or skip deliveries, and shipping is free if you order three or more recipes a week.
Both services offer a limited selection of meals (about eight) though Hello Fresh changes its lineup completely each week. Amazon seems to rotate options through in a more unpredictable way. Amazon’s meal kits come with mostly prepped ingredients, so there’s less to do in the kitchen, but both kits are ready in about 30 minutes. Both offer mostly Euro-centric recipes, though Blue Apron gets a lot more adventurous with its global ingredients.
Amazon costs $7.99 to $9.99 per serving, which is on par with Blue Apron, which costs an average of $9.99 per serving.
Only worth using if you have Amazon Fresh.
Amazon Meal Kits are fast and easy to make, and the meals we tried were delicious. Although it requires two memberships, plus a special zip code to order them, they’re a great kit to add to your grocery order if you’re already an Amazon Fresh customer. The meal service scored poorly mainly because of customer service, the limited range of serving sizes, and because it's only available in certain zip codes.
- Product Name Amazon Meal Kit
- Price $15.95
- Standard Plan No plan, but requires Amazon Prime and Fresh memberships.
- Shipping $9.99 or free for orders over $35 or $50 (depending on area).
- Minimum cost per Serving $7.99.
- Minimum Order No minimum.