Diverse menu offerings
Can be pricey
Variable portion sizes
Limited delivery area
CookUnity bills itself as very chef-driven, offering curated meals that change weekly and are prepared fresh from sustainably sourced ingredients. From the significant menu variety to the presence of chef bios on each recipe, this theme is prevalent throughout the service.
We tested out this service for a week to see if its chefs could please our palates. Keep reading to find out if the culinary prowess was worth the price tag.
How It Works: Limited Service Area, Limited Menu Viewing
As long as you’re in the delivery area, getting meals from CookUnity is simple enough. As of August 2021, the company delivers to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, California, most of Nevada, and select areas in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, and Kentucky.
Customers begin by entering their ZIP code to make sure they’re close to a kitchen, then choose a meal plan. Plans range based on how many meals are included, and as is often the case, individual meals get cheaper the more you buy.
Customers can purchase either four, six, eight, 12, or 16 meals per week. At the largest number of meals per week, each meal is $10.49, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, four meals per week will cost you $13.49 each. Delivery is also free, which we loved, and keeps this pricing comparable to a fast-casual restaurant meal.
After selecting a meal plan, customers select which day they want their first delivery to arrive on and then move on to a short series of questions about preferences. These can also be updated later under "Settings."
The questionnaire includes some wellness goals like muscle gain, lighter meals, or simply eating delicious food. Choose up to three preferred protein sources, including vegetarian or vegan options, and then shift gears to the fun part: meal selection.
Meals are selected as-is from a diverse, chef-driven menu and don’t offer any customizations or add-ons. Unfortunately, the full menus are not viewable prior to getting to this stage in the process, so if you just want to scope out the offerings, you have to go through the account setup procedure.
Once meals are selected, you can make changes online up until the delivery cutoff (about four days ahead of delivery) and select if you want your food put in your hand, left at your door, or with a doorman. This is important because you really want to be home for it, as meals are delivered without much in the way of packing and cooling.
Meals arrive completely prepared and always fresh. Packaging includes best by dates as well as detailed instructions for reheating.
Choosing Meals: Chef Curated, No Customization
Meal selection with CookUnity seems like every chef’s dream, a menu with no customization and meals delivered just as the chef intended. While this may not seem ideal for the customer with dietary restrictions, CookUnity does have some diet-based filters to choose from.
The dietary needs that CookUnity accommodates are easy to find and filter. Across the top of the weekly menu page, there are icons for each that allow you to view only those meals, whether you’re looking for vegan items, calorie-limited items, or simply dairy-free options.
Choosing meals each week is not only simple, but it is also exciting, given the options there are to choose from. We loved that the menu has such diversity across flavor profiles, includes quite a few vegan and vegetarian options, and some fun fusion dishes as well.
There are over 80 meals to choose from each week with mostly repeating dishes but an influx of new recipes to add variety. From the main menu page, customers can see calories, a star rating, certain symbols for dietary compliance, and the chef’s name and headshot. For more specific information, each dish page has additional nutrition and allergen information, heating instructions, chef info, and details on customer reviews.
Simply select the items you want to add, up to the amount in your meal plan, plus any add-ons in the breakfast, snack, or treat categories. Meals will be delivered on the selected day and time, with a text update when your driver is close by.
What We Made
We took advantage of the menu diversity and selected six dishes with varied global flavors, some fun fusion, and a variety of protein sources and nutrient considerations.
- Chicken shawarma with caramelized onions, Israeli couscous, pickled red cabbage, and amba aioli
- Mushroom buns/wraps
- Indian spiced cauliflower, right rice
- Beef stuffed pepper, pistachio tahini crust
- Asian pork tacos
- Just beyond breakfast burrito
Support Materials: None
Aside from the instructions on the packaging, there’s nothing included in the delivery or on the website or app to help prepare the food. There is a QR code on each meal that sends you to the dish and the preparation instructions, but it just reiterates the information on the package itself.
Packaging: Functional and Mostly Sustainable
Packaging with CookUnity will vary depending on where you live, at least for the outer components, but not for the meals themselves.
Our order arrived in a reusable, insulated tote, which was unexpected given that most meal services come delivered in a cardboard box. While this was great for us as a one-time user, we could see these totes filling a cabinet over time, but we do love the idea. According to the website, some deliveries do come in a box and others come in a paper bag, sometimes with a thermal liner, which would be made from post-consumer waste.
For us, inside the tote was simply the meals and a single ice pack, which could be broken down and recycled with #4 plastics. Each meal gets packed in a microwave and oven-safe tray, which is made of a molded fiber pulp compostable base with a recyclable plastic film seal. Meals may include some rigid plastic containers or additional flexible plastics inside to house certain ingredients, and there is a paper-based sleeve around each meal container, most of which can be recycled.
The Cooking Process: Chef Instructions vs. Fast Instructions
Each meal comes with two versions of reheating instructions: the fast way and the chef’s way. While both can usually be done by the beginner cook, some do require a bit of effort or special equipment.
With the fast instructions, you’ll rely on the microwave and the meal will come together in less than 5 minutes. You may be asked to remove some components from the tray prior to heating, but overall this method is much less effort while the chef’s process will likely be more involved but will result in a better end product. This may involve heating sauces on the stove, using a steamer, or warming in the oven and can take up to half an hour.
Overall the process is still pretty simple, the instructions are clear, and while we found that some items needed longer to heat than the instructions allocated for, we were happy with the results.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Balanced Seasoning, Tempting Flavors
The overall quality of the food with CookUnity was very good for reheated food. Nothing can be as good as food that’s hot and fresh, but this was a close second, especially if you follow the chef’s instructions.
Flavors were really tasty and balanced across the board, from spice blends and seasonings to the various elements of each dish. We enjoyed the bright pickled elements, the creamy sauces, and the soft tortillas and steamed buns. For a prepared meal, we were impressed by the tastes across the board.
In terms of textures and execution, we had one or two dishes where not every single element was quite right, but this mainly came down to balancing what will hold for several days in the refrigerator and then reheat well.
Our only challenge was that portions felt uneven. While one or two dishes were extremely filling, others left us a little peckish. We would have loved to see an additional component in some of these lighter dishes, both to fill us up and to add another element because we enjoyed the flavors so much.
Nutritional Value: Not the Main Priority
CookUnity offers a variety of dietary accommodations, including vegan, vegetarian, low carb, keto, paleo, whole30, gluten-free, less than 600 calories, and dairy-free. While this certainly accommodates a range of restrictions, we would have liked to see a bit more attention to the allergen side, or some of the more medically relevant dietary needs. As most of the major nutrient information is available for each dish, some individuals may be able to get the level of detail they need to enjoy this program, but we do think a lot of folks would be excluded too.
Overall, the dishes from CookUnity are meant to balance nutrition alongside a chef’s considerations, but not necessarily prioritize it. We found this to be on track with their nutrition profiles and enjoyed seeing a range available.
We were also pleased by the range of vegan and vegetarian options, most of which considered a protein source as far as we could tell. This element, in line with the thoughtful packaging, would definitely appeal to the sustainability-focused customer base as well.
Also worth noting, there is a nutrition profile for each customer, and CookUnity has some nutrition staff to help those who are seeking guidance in this area. While we didn’t take them up on it, we could see this service being useful for the general public.
CookUnity Is Good For
Singles or couples who live in the delivery area, want to prioritize flavor, and have a decent food budget might appreciate CookUnity's offerings.
Nothing can be as good as food that’s hot and fresh, but this was a close second, especially if you follow the chef’s instructions.
CookUnity Is Not Good For
CookUnity might not be right for folks on a tight budget or individuals who are looking for more comfort food and a Euro-centric palate.
Add-ons: A Few Options
Outside of your standard meal package, there are a few beverages, treats, and breakfasts that can be added on. While there are fewer than five options to choose from in each category, it’s nice to have the choice of a juice or a chia pudding.
Customer Service: Email, Live Chat, and Text
CookUnity offers a few different ways to contact customer service to resolve issues, ask questions, and seek other help. Customers can communicate via email, live chat on the website, or text message.
We reached out with some general questions about the delivery area and the nutrition team. While the basic questions were easily answered, and we got a super-fast response via live chat, we did leave with questions about the nutrition team unanswered. Overall, the CookUnity customer service team was friendly and helpful, but with a few gaps in knowledge.
Making Changes and Canceling: All Online
Using the website or the app, customers can change their desired meal plan, delivery date, and other delivery preferences like where the food should be left in just a few clicks in account settings. Customers can also skip, pause, or cancel online easily without needing to contact CookUnity.
The Competition: CookUnity vs. Icon Meals
Both services provide fresh meals delivered right to your door and have similar price points, but they’re vastly different in terms of the options available, delivery area, and emphasis on flavor.
CookUnity’s chef-forward program blows Icon Meals away in terms of flavor quality, food experience, and variety. With over 80 meals to Icon’s 30-something, CookUnity certainly has more to choose from. However, that’s irrelevant if CookUnity doesn’t serve your area, as it only covers 23 states plus Washington, D.C., as of August 2021. Icon Meals delivers to 48 states.
CookUnity may not be exactly like eating at a restaurant, but if you’re in a delivery area, it’s a pretty reasonable substitute, and for a comparable spend, you can have it right at home. We loved the flavors and variety, and could easily see this replacing a weeknight takeout or a weekday fast-casual restaurant lunch.
We spent numerous 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.
The criteria we used to evaluate each company included:
- 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 CookUnity
- Lowest Price per Serving $10.49
- Types of Diets Served 5
- Number of Recipes 80+
- Delivery Area 23 states
- Serving Sizes Available 1