Meals are quick to make and often include globally inspired ingredients
Freestyle plan aligns with Weight Watchers points
Shipping is usually free
The large gel ice pack is effective
Food tends to be too sweet
Very limited options for four-serving meals
Ingredients are packaged in lots of plastic
Almost no special dietary options such as vegan, keto and allergy-free
Shipping isn’t free for two-person, two-meal plans
Blue Apron is one of the most popular meal kit delivery services in the country, so we gave it a try to see if it deserves its top-of-the-heap status. We cooked our way through three kits, each of which promised bold flavors like chipotles, Szechuan peppercorns, and gochujang. Did they deliver? Not exactly. All the meals we tried were very fast and easy to make but the results were on the sweet side and the flavors felt dumbed down. Read on to get the full scoop.
How It Works: Straightforward Sign-up
Blue Apron is a weekly subscription meal kit service. Subscribers create an account, select one of the four plans, and choose their meals for the week. If you don’t want to select meals, or if you forget, you’ll be sent the default meals based on your meat preferences.
Creating an account was easy. The hardest part is choosing between the Signature for 2, Signature for 4, Weight Watchers Freestyle or Vegetarian Plan. Each plan only serves two people except the Signature for 4 plan.
We could pick any delivery day Monday through Saturday, but there’s no way to choose a window of time. Ours arrived via a delivery van in the afternoon and was left on the porch. The company recommends customers unpack the box and refrigerate the perishables right away (it notifies you of the delivery via the app). But, realistically, not everyone can get home to their box until evening, so we didn’t open the boxes until 5 p.m. Thankfully, the ingredients were still cold.
It's also worth noting that the company is also testing out same-day delivery, no subscription required, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which could be a real benefit for some.
Choosing Meals: More Variety Is Needed
Overall, the meals were diverse and featured interesting ingredients such as farro, ponzu, and dukkah. However, we were surprised to find out that we only had the option of six to eight meals to choose from each week in the Signature for 2 plan. Other services we tried offered options in the double digits. And the company’s other plans had even fewer options. The Signature for 4 plan includes a vegetarian option only occasionally, no Weight Watchers options, and not even the same meals that are offered in the Signature for 2 plan. So if you’d like to consistently serve four people with those types of meals, you’d have to create two accounts.
Potential allergens aren’t listed on the recipes, and all of the kits are processed in a facility that isn’t allergen-free.
Still, the recipes are well photographed and have helpful labels like “Customer Favorite,” and “Make-Ahead,” which means it can be eaten cold or reheats well. There’s often one “Carb-Conscious” option but those on specific diets such as paleo or keto are basically out of luck. Vegetarian recipes are marked with a ‘V,’ but there are no vegan options.
Another alarming thing: Potential allergens aren’t listed on the recipes, and all of the kits are processed in a facility that isn’t allergen-free.
With that said, we selected and tried the following recipes:
- Seared Pork Chops and Chipotle Mayo
- Chicken Lettuce Cups with Hoisin Mayo and Spicy Pickled Carrots
- Cumin-Sichuan Peppercorn Beef with Ramen Noodles and Broccoli
Support Materials: Recipe Cards & Instructional Videos
As informative as the recipe cards are, they don’t have allergens listed or nutrition info. However, a separate card with nutrition info for all of that week’s available recipes is included in each box.
All of Blue Apron’s recipes are available online and in the app through the Cookbook link, and they can be saved to your account, but they’re not printable. For those just starting out, there are many instructional videos for everything from salting water to holding a chef’s knife.
Packaging: Lots of Plastic
Blue Apron’s big gel ice pack is really efficient at keeping the ingredients in the box cold, so much so that it doesn’t line the box with plastic insulation like most other companies. However, it certainly doesn’t skimp on plastic packaging for its ingredients. Every single ingredient came wrapped in plastic, or in the case of the meat, double wrapped.
The recipes we tried had lots of small components — things like a tablespoon of vinegar or two teaspoons of mayo. These would be packed into tiny plastic bottles (often half full), tubs and plastic bags, and then those are inside a bigger plastic bag labeled Knick Knacks with the name of the corresponding meal. Sure, this kept the little things organized but also added even more plastic to the mix. Plus, they had no tear notches so they were hard to open on the fly. And the rest of the ingredients, like the vegetables, were scattered through the box so we ultimately had to organize things ourselves anyway. Other services we tried organized all the ingredients for a particular recipe in paper bags, which makes it a lot easier to grab what you need from the fridge when it’s time to cook.
The cardboard box is curbside recyclable but you’ll have to check your local recycling restrictions to see if any of the plastic bags, tubs or bottles are recyclable in your area.
The Cooking Process: a Breeze
The meals came with all of the ingredients promised. However, one package of Knick Knacks seemed to have a leaky bottle. And we were sent the wrong card for one of our dishes and weren’t able to download and print a new one from the website. Instead, we had to follow it on our computer screen.
The recipes were so simple even a beginner would have no trouble making them.
The cook times were either spot-on, or we were able to finish in even less time than indicated. In fact, the three Blue Apron meals we cooked were all super fast and very easy. The recipe cards were well designed and easy to follow with helpful step-by-step photos. Two of the recipes took 25 minutes to make. The pork dish took the longest at 35 minutes, and only because the red rice took 28 minutes to cook. The recipes were so simple even a beginner would have no trouble making them. The recipes we tried required very minimal chopping. Prep time was 5 to 10 minutes tops. They also didn’t involve too many components, requiring only one pot, one nonstick fry pan, and one or two small bowls.
Flavor, Freshness and Quality: Tasty Enough
We found the ingredients to be quite fresh and in great shape. The butter lettuce for our chicken lettuce cups still had its root ball attached. The chicken itself was precut in nice chunks, unlike another service we tried that had made a hash of it. Blue Apron also offers a freshness guarantee so we could make a claim if anything in the box had been sub-par.
The dishes we tried were tasty enough, but none wowed us. Perhaps our expectations were a bit high considering the recipes had interesting, flavor-packed ingredients like Szechuan peppercorns, gochujang, and chipotles, but they didn’t really pack a punch. And two of the recipes had added sugar and honey, which made them taste sweeter than they needed to be. The Seared Pork Chops and Chipotle Mayo were rather boring, though far improved by the sprinkle of cotija cheese. The Chicken Lettuce Cups with Hoisin Mayo and Spicy Pickled Carrots lacked the vibrant flavors we expected. The Cumin-Sichuan Peppercorn Beef with Ramen Noodles and Broccoli was our favorite. We could taste the distinct flavor of Sichuan peppercorns and the noodles were great. But the sauce, again, skewed sweet.
Who Is It Good for?
Blue Apron is a good choice for singles or couples who have very little time to cook but enjoy fresh ingredients and trying new flavors.
Who it isn’t Good for?
Discerning palates will likely find Blue Apron’s recipes a bit bland, and families will have limited options.
Add-Ons: Wine & More
For $65.99 per month, which includes shipping, you can order a monthly shipment of six bottles of wine — either red, white, or a mix — that pair with the recipes. Just match the symbol on the recipe card with the symbol on the bottle.
The company also offers a “Market” filled with items such as cookware, spice blends, and cheese and charcuterie packs for dinner parties.
Customer Service: Reliable
We used the chat service a couple of times and found the representatives replied quickly and courteously. Most of our questions could be answered by searching the FAQ in the Help Center. Customers can also call or e-mail customer service, and the phone number is prominently displayed on the website and in the app.
Making Changes and Canceling: Relatively Easy
It’s very easy to change plans, select recipes and skip weeks on the Blue Apron website and in the app with just a few clicks, taps or swipes. No need to go into settings. If our usual delivery date wouldn’t work one week, we could simply choose a different day instead of having to skip the week completely. We were also able to go into our profile and select our protein preferences, so if we didn’t like, say, lamb or shellfish, our default meals wouldn’t include those.
It’s very easy to change plans, select recipes and skip weeks on the Blue Apron website and in the app with just a few clicks, taps or swipes.
Keep in mind, changes must be made by 9 a.m. five days before the scheduled delivery date. And according to the website, canceling completely requires e-mailing customer service for instructions, which is not as easy as simply clicking a button as with other services we’ve tried. Once we got the instructions, though, it turned out all we had to do was find the “edit” button in our account settings.
The Competition: Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron
Hello Fresh and Blue Apron both offer contemporary recipes that take around 30 minutes to make for about the same price per serving. Blue Apron’s recipes are a bit easier, but also not as flavorful even though they use more global ingredients. Blue Apron also doesn’t offer as many choices, especially for families. Both companies aim to source their ingredients from small producers, and both offer websites and apps that are clean, well-designed and easy to navigate. If you order three or more meals per week Blue Apron doesn’t charge extra for shipping but Hello Fresh does. Both offer wine pairings but Blue Apron’s is cheaper. So if you're looking for some variety when it comes to recipes and more flavor (and who isn't?), Hello Fresh wins.
Easy-to-follow recipes, but more flavor and variety is needed.
Blue Apron's meals are quick to whip up even if you're a newbie to the kitchen, but the lack of recipe variety (no options for keto, vegan, etc.) and relatively bland taste could be improved. We also thought the plastic packaging was a bit excessive but were happy the ingredients arrived fresh. If you're looking to wow your next dinner party, it might not be your best bet, but if you're just cooking for one or two people and want an easy meal without dietary restrictions, Blue Apron will do just fine.
- Product Name Blue Apron
- Price $47.95
- Signature Plan 2 meals for 2 people: $47.95
- Shipping $7.99/ free when ordering 3 or more meals per week
- Average Cost per Serving $9.99
- Weekly Meal Options 2 to 3 recipes per week for 2-person plans, up to 4 recipes a week for 4-person plans