Balanced, eclectic flavors
Celebrity guest chefs
Lots of plastic packaging
Frequent use of added sugars and refined carbs
Limited dietary accommodations
Fewer options for 4-serving kits
Blue Apron is a focused and flexible meal kit subscription service, offering upscale-casual versions of internationally inspired DIY dishes. The service is geared toward developing cooks, or at least those looking for relief from the challenges of meal planning—but only when it comes to lunch and dinner. Blue Apron doesn't offer breakfast. Dietary accommodation is also somewhat limited. Still, Blue Apron has plenty of options, with a menu of more than a dozen two-serving meal kits that changes every single week.
Meal services generally try to satisfy a niche, a core audience that will benefit the most from the company's offer. Whether it's health, dietary preference, budget, convenience, sustainability, or something else, knowing what you value is the key to finding a service that will meet your needs. We gave Blue Apron a try so that we could evaluate the service on all these points, and help you decide whether it's right for you. Let's break it down.
How It Works: Simple and Flexible
Signing up for Blue Apron is a snap. Since auto-delivery is the default, you must first set up the basic parameters of your weekly box—the number of meal kits per week, the number of servings, and your preferred proteins—and Blue Apron will take care of the rest. The minimum recurring order is a pair of two-serving meal kits, and the max is four, four-serving meal kits, but there's significant flexibility beyond this basic setup. Don't worry too much about your initial selections; they aren't set in stone. You can change these preferences at any time.
Your subscription can run on autopilot or you can take the reins yourself, filling each week's box with your handpicked selections. Blue Apron's menu is divided into five categories: two-serving meal kits, four-serving meal kits, Meal Prep Bundles (eight-serving lunch prep kits), Butcher Bundles (12-serving boxes of mixed proteins), and Add-ons like dessert, wine, and appetizers. Oddly, only the meal kits are available for subscription, so if you want weekly Butcher Bundles, for example, you'll have to manually order them each week. This is not difficult to do; it's just a matter of how engaged you want to be.
If you go the hands-on route, you can order a maximum of two boxes per week. Each box can hold up to 16 servings (four, four-serving meal kits) and two add-ons. We did the math. A family of four on the maximum order could have Blue Apron seven nights a week, with at least four servings leftover for lunch.
Blue Apron schedules deliveries up to six weeks in advance, with plenty of flexibility within this time frame. You can skip any number of deliveries, add a second box, change your delivery day, or ship to a different address. There are only a couple of restrictions: Blue Apron doesn't deliver on Mondays and Meal Prep Bundles are only available for Friday delivery. There's also a deadline for making changes to your order, which you can see by going to your Account Settings.
Your subscription can run on autopilot or you can take the reins yourself, filling each week's box with your handpicked selections.
Choosing Meals: Lunch and Dinner for Omnivorous Couples
With Blue Apron, you don't have to choose meals if you don't want to. You can simply set your general preferences and allow your weekly box to surprise you. The menu is well-curated, with a thoughtful mix of flavors, styles, and ingredients. You could find yourself cooking mushroom tempura bowls, cheesy pork chorizo enchiladas, pan-seared duck, or Thai-style glazed tilapia.
If you prefer to take control, that's easy to do. Go to the Upcoming tab, select the week you wish to modify, click Change Recipes, and go from there. That said, customization is not Blue Apron's forte. Fewer than half the kits offer modifications—and that typically involves a simple protein or starch swap. For example, you might substitute salmon for chicken in the Spanish chicken with zucchini and romesco rice, or cauliflower for white rice to go with your miso ginger chicken. As of June 2021, Blue Apron does not offer breakfast.
With 14 different choices each week, two-serving meal kits form the largest category on Blue Apron's menu. There are half as many choices for four-serving kits, and fewer still for the bundles and add-ons. For that reason, omnivorous couples will probably get the most value from Blue Apron's service.
What We Made
We tried three, two-serving kits one week, and two more the following week, for a total of five different meals. Of the five, two allowed for modifications. We chose thighs over breasts in the cashew chicken korma and ground beef over Beyond plant-based patties in the Jalapeño Burger. We received:
- Roy Yamaguchi's togarashi scallops with beurre blanc, soy mustard & sushi rice
- Jalapeño burgers with goat cheese & smoky roasted carrots
- Cashew korma-braised chicken thighs with carrots & garlic rice
- Calabrian shrimp & pancetta pasta with asparagus & lemon ricotta
- Veracruz-style shrimp & lemon quinoa with vegetables
Support Materials: Lots of Support
Blue Apron is named for the traditional uniform of the apprentice in the French "brigade" kitchen hierarchy system. Indeed, the company provides generous instruction. A clear, easy-to-follow recipe card accompanies each meal kit. Further guidance is available on the Blue Apron website and smartphone app, including videos that demonstrate simple techniques such as zesting citrus and holding a chef's knife. The app even has a cookbook, helpfully organized by main ingredient, season, or style of cuisine.
Packaging: Almost Excessive but Effective
Blue Apron's weekly box is roughly the size of a case of wine. A silver insulating bubble bag lines the inside. Two large cold packs on the bottom keep the contents cool. In one of our boxes, the cold packs were filled with a drainable gel made by Enviro Ice. The gel doubles as a nitrogen-based plant food. It's safe for your drain and good for your garden, but ours spontaneously leaked on the carpet while awaiting both. The cold packs in the second box were filled with a drain-friendly, water-based gel. Both effectively kept the contents of the boxes cold.
Most of the ingredients were packaged in plastic bags. Only especially robust vegetables like peppers, radishes, onions, and heads of garlic arrived al fresco. Proteins were packaged in a manner consistent with a typical supermarket, although sometimes with an additional layer of plastic. A package of ground beef, for instance, was sealed inside another small plastic bag, presumably as extra insurance against leaks.
Sauce components, nuts, seeds, spices, and the like were individually packaged and grouped by recipe into bags labeled "Knick Knacks." The Knick Knack bag for the Cashew Chicken Korma, for example, contained a tiny plastic bottle of soy sauce, a pouch of peanut butter, a baggie of cashews, a foil-sealed plastic ramekin of korma sauce, a small packet of honey, a lime, and a small plastic bag of rice. The outer Knick Knack bag almost feels excessive, but it is convenient to have the small elements grouped together.
Blue Apron takes pains to highlight the recyclability of its packaging. The website and app have a section titled "How to Recycle" that spells out the possibilities for every class of packaging material. We recommend you review this before signing up, as it will give you a reasonably clear picture of the waste management situation. On the site, you can find the guide in the account dropdown on the upper right. In the app, it's in the "More" section on the lower right.
The Cooking Process: Both Convenient and Complex
Overall, Blue Apron strikes a good balance between convenience and complexity. Even meal kits with many ingredients and plated components, like our Calabrian shrimp and pancetta pasta with asparagus and lemon ricotta, came together without undue difficulty. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. Timing-wise, Blue Apron's estimates seemed a little too short, but it's also possible that our evaluation process slowed the pace of our cooking.
The recipes required simple equipment—a pot with a lid, a pan, a baking sheet, a cutting board, a chef's knife, and aluminum foil. The only ingredients you need to supply are salt, pepper, and cooking oil. Only very basic cooking skills are necessary. If you can use a knife and follow directions, you'll have no problem executing these recipes. Cleanup was reasonable. None of the kits we tried required more than two pots and/or pans.
One caveat: If you are an experienced cook, you may not learn very much from Blue Apron and may even find the instructions a little tedious. If you can already cook well without following recipes, don't expect Blue Apron to up your game. That said, it's nice to be reminded how to make a beurre blanc.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: No Complaints
Feedback from our tasting group was very positive, with adults expressing the highest levels of satisfaction. The child on the panel was less enthusiastic but no less than usual. One taster noted the presence of added sweeteners, such as honey, in several of the recipes, which may not appeal to those avoiding sugar. However, with Blue Apron the cook is largely in control of the seasoning. If you prefer food that's less sweet or salty, you can adjust as you see fit.
Ingredients were generally very fresh and flavorful. A couple of produce items had minor defects—a small wrinkly spot on a bell pepper, a shriveled brown garlic clove—but these did not significantly impact the quality of the finished meals. Overall, the flavors were fresh, well-balanced, and varied.
Nutritional Value: Middle of the Road
From a macro perspective, Blue Apron's meals are relatively wholesome, with a harmonious blend of lean protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Refined carbs are the norm, but whole grains also make an appearance from time to time. Calorie counts ranged from 480 to 1100 calories per serving.
Blue Apron publishes the nutrition facts for all its recipes on its website and mobile app. A small proportion of the meals carry tags like "Vegetarian," "WW Approved," "Diabetes Friendly," "Carb Conscious," "Plant Forward," "Mediterranean Diet," and/or "600 Calories Or Less." You can make these tags part of your default delivery preferences by checking the "We're Vegetarian" box, or selecting "Prioritize Signature Wellness Meals," both in the Meal Preferences section of your account settings.
Neither excessively rich nor especially healthful, Blue Apron occupies the safe middle-ground between pure nourishment and outright hedonism. Although the company does a good job in this area, if peak nutrition or adhering to a particular diet is your top priority, there are probably more appropriate services for you.
Blue Apron Is Good For
Omnivorous couples and small groups/families looking to gain variety, basic cooking skills, and relief from shopping and menu planning will probably love Blue Apron.
Neither excessively rich nor especially healthful, Blue Apron occupies the safe middle-ground between pure nourishment and outright hedonism.
Blue Apron Is Not Good For
Experienced cooks and health or diet-focused diners will likely appreciate the variety of Blue Apron's menu in the short run, but probably won't benefit enough to warrant sticking with the service long term.
Add-ons: Appetizers, Wine, Dessert, Tools, and More
Blue Apron offers a small weekly collection of appetizers and desserts. Strangely, we could not find this category on the desktop site. In the app, however, you can't miss it. Just scroll down and there it is. There are three options, but you can only add two of them per box. You can't have cheesy garlic bread, snow pea and nectarine salad, and a brown butter skillet cookie unless you add a second box.
The other major add-on category is wine. However, it's more than an add-on. It's also a tightly integrated parallel subscription universe. In a nutshell, you can get six 500-milliliter bottles for about $60 a month, plus tax and about $6 for shipping. The wine subscription works the same way as the meal kits. You can passively accept or override the default choices. If you want to make your own selections, there's a food-pairing guide to assist you. Alas, we did not test the wine subscription.
Blue Apron also has a Market section, divided into four subcategories: Kitchen Tools, Pantry, Wine Bundles, and Bulk Wines. The collection of essential, high-quality kitchen tools is attractive. The Pantry section contains salt and various spice blends. Wine Bundles and Bulk Wines allow you to pick up a few bottles without signing up for the subscription.
Customer Service: No Issues
Blue Apron provides customer service through multiple channels: FAQs, a contact form, email, phone, and chat (both on the site and in the app.) We tried out the chat and connected with a rep within a minute or two. We were convinced that we were interacting with a human being, who patiently responded to our basic questions like "What is the maximum amount we can order?" and "How do we cancel?" After the chat, we received a follow-up email with further info and helpful links. When this is available, why bother phoning?
Making Changes and Canceling: Very Easy
To manage your order from week to week, go to Upcoming, where you'll be able to change your recipes and manage your delivery settings. Need to send your order somewhere else next week? This is where you do that. You can also change the delivery day, order an extra box, or skip the week entirely.
To change the broader parameters of your account, go to your account settings. You can change your meal preferences at any time, though changes made after the weekly cutoff time won't apply to your upcoming delivery. The same goes for your plan settings, where you can change the default number of kits and regular delivery day.
To cancel your account altogether, go to Account Info, click Edit, then Manage Status, and then Cancel.
The Competition: Blue Apron vs. Sunbasket
Both Blue Apron and Sunbasket offer a nicely curated variety of well-balanced, internationally-inspired meals. Blue Apron aims to deliver a focused, broadly appealing experience in an upscale casual package, with a light gloss of education. Sunbasket wants to serve you more broadly. Its options include breakfast, snacks, heat-and-serve meals, and a broader selection of pantry items. Sunbasket also falls further toward the healthful end of the spectrum, with fewer refined carbs and more organic ingredients. Sunbasket does not sell wine and has a higher overall price point.
Relative to the competition, Blue Apron has been around for a long time. It shows. There's an elegance about the service that feels well-honed. If you don't have any obvious dealbreakers—like a strict Paleo diet or an insistence on breakfast—give Blue Apron a try.
We spent countless hours looking through 48 meal delivery services’ websites, ordered meals and cooked them at home, photographed the process, spoke with customer service representatives from the companies, filled out detailed surveys about each company and their meals, and wrote in-depth reviews and comparison articles. Our expert panel includes dieticians, chefs, and longtime food writers. The one thing they all have in common is their love and knowledge of food.
Among the criteria we used to evaluate each company were:
- The ordering process
- Meal selection
- Packaging and support materials
- The cooking process
- The flavor, freshness, and quality of each meal and ingredient
- Nutritional information
- Customer service
- Product Brand Blue Apron
- Lowest Price per Serving $7.49
- Number of Diets Served 5
- Number of Recipes 25
- Delivery Area 48 states
- Serving Sizes Available 2, 4