Easy to prepare and cook meals
Can view recipes without subscribing
Environmentally friendly focus
Some users may prefer printed materials
Editing, selecting meals can be a bit confusing
Cooking directions are generic graphics
Ingredients in box are not organized by meal
Some meals are a bit bland
Calling itself "the most affordable meal delivery service,” Dinnerly creates quick and easy meals starting at $4.69 per person. It’s geared toward adults who love to cook but do not have a ton of time to prepare elaborate meals on weeknights. Dinnerly utilizes digital recipe cards, rather than printed ones, to cut down on environmental waste, and pared-down ingredients to keep meal preparation at a minimum—requiring just five steps or fewer.
With so many meal kits on the market, we were curious to see how Dinnerly’s affordable and non-fussy meals would be. We tested five meals for two adults for a week, ranging from meat to vegan options. Read on to learn more about our cooking and tasting experience.
How It Works: Multiple Meal Options
Dinnerly offers two meal plans: a two-person box or a family box for four people. Both allow you to select three to six meals per week. The two-person box starts at $5.29 per portion and the family box is $4.69 per portion, with shipping a standard $8.99 for both. During the meal plan selection process, Dinnerly offers two options as of June 2021: a traditional plan with meat or a vegetarian option.
Once a plan is selected, you can choose from five delivery dates based on your ZIP code, and an 11-hour delivery window (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) is automatically generated. Depending on the day of the week chosen for the delivery, Dinnerly identifies the date of the first delivery. We chose a two-person box for five meals for a Wednesday delivery for a total of $58.89, and were able to start receiving meals in less than a week.
Once signed up, Dinnerly asks you the types of recipes and foods you prefer, such as beef, pork, and shellfish; then, based on an algorithm, it selects a few meal options, which you can amend and edit.
Dinnerly offers 16 meals per week, which can be found on its homepage navigation under “View Menu,” without having to log in or subscribe, which is a nice feature. Dietary tags are included under each recipe, which helps identify choices right off the bat. You can even preview each recipe and learn about ingredients, what’s included in the box, and read instructions for preparing the meal, step by step.
The day before your delivery, Dinnerly sends an email summary of what’s to come with clickable recipe cards and guidelines for when you should cook and eat your meals. For example, Dinnerly suggests that you enjoy all seafood dishes within one to two days of delivery; meat within two to three days; and vegetable dishes within three to five days. We found this guidance to be helpful as we planned our meals and cooking for the week.
Choosing Meals: Mostly Straightforward
When it comes to meal selection, Dinnerly has 16 meals each week and a few extras, such as cookies, muffins, and some additional protein combinations like chicken breasts and tilapia, or grass-fed ground beef and tilapia. However, it’s important to note that if you want the extra protein or the dessert, you must include it as part of your meal choices. For instance, if you select the five meals per week plan, you’d have to select the additional protein option as one of your five meals. Dinnerly is not currently offering add-ons for an additional cost (as of July 2021).
The meals are more focused on dinner, but they can be used for lunch. Dinnerly does not offer breakfasts but occasionally will include snacks, desserts, or specials to align with particular holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day. It also does not offer ingredient omissions; so if you have an allergy, you must consult the company's allergen list and select a different recipe.
After signing up, Dinnerly asks you what kind of recipes or dishes you prefer, such as vegetarian, beef, lamb, shellfish, or an option of “I’ll eat anything,” which is what we chose. Dinnerly asks you to rate your preferences on recipe styles using a sliding toolbar: quick or relaxed; traditional or adventurous; hearty or light; and mild or spicy. We chose quick, adventurous, a little hearty, and a little spicy. Dinnerly populates the five meals based on your food preference. If you’re not in love with the choices, you can click on “Edit Recipes” at the bottom of the page and select from the recipes and other specials offered for that week. At the top of the page, a banner reminds you of how many days you have to make changes to your meal selection and the day of delivery.
Recipes are organized by links at the top of the page to sort: All, Healthy, Vegetarian, Family Friendly, Fast, and Special. When using the Dinnerly app, you can filter recipes by All, Fish, Meat, and Veggie, and even drill down further with taste profiles or dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free, low carb, under 30 minutes, and spicy.
When editing recipe choices for the week, it’s a little tricky as you can only select the exact number of meals you’re signed up for, and the meals that are selected are highlighted very faintly. Each recipe icon has a plus and minus feature below it, so you can use that tool to deselect or select which recipes you want, but we found ourselves scrolling up and down quite a bit as we adjusted our five choices.
When choosing your recipes, you can click on the recipe icon to see an introduction about the dish, the creator of the dish (with a link to their mini bio page), serving time, level of difficulty to prepare, nutritional values, allergens, ingredients, and a list of any household items and utensils that you will need when cooking. The instructions are also provided in a simple numbered graphic format, which allows you to prepare and understand the meals in advance.
What We Made
Dinnerly offered a bevy of cuisine choices for our week, including American, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexcian, Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, as well as family-friendly and lots of vegetarian options. We selected a variety of cuisines and tried meat, vegan, and seafood dishes:
- French onion soup burger with oven fries
- Vegan oven-baked veggie tempura with katsu dipping sauce and edamame rice
- Baked tilapia and summer veggie foil packets
- Hoisin pork with buttery miso noodles
- Cheesy chicken quesadillas with salsa
Support Materials: Digital Only
In an effort to lower its carbon footprint, Dinnerly does not include printed recipe cards. Rather, all recipes can be found on the Dinnerly app and in your online account. The company'd website provides downloadable PDF recipe cards to print if you prefer to have a paper version.
However, when we opened our first box, we received a “thank you” note and a complimentary dessert, which was a nice touch.
Packaging: A Bit Disorganized
Dinnerly remains very conscious of the environment and has a page on its website dedicated to recycling delivery materials. Dinnerly’s cardboard box contains recyclable insulated bubble wrap. Most of the ingredients, such as the bread, scallions, and tortilla, were in plastic packages that could be recycled per the recycling page. Some of the vegetables and dried goods, like the potatoes and zucchini, had no packaging.
There was a plain piece of cardboard separating the vegetables and dry goods from the chilled proteins. At the bottom of the box was a Fidelity Freeze ice pack, which gave instructions on how to empty contents and recycle the outer packaging.
With the exception of the protein, most of the individual food items were wrapped or packaged inconspicuously. The little sauce packets, such as the hoisin and miso, were either in clear or white vacuum-packed packets with tiny print that was hard to read. Overall, the packaging was not very exciting; it reminded us of grocery store taco kits. The broccoli, tilapia, ground pork, and chicken were in branded packaging from their farm or place of origin.
Dinnerly remains very conscious of the environment and has a page on its website dedicated to recycling delivery materials.
The Cooking Process: Clear and Simple
Even though we knew Dinnerly did not include printed recipe cards, it did seem a bit overwhelming to open up a box full of ingredients and not have a sense of organization as we put our items away, so having your computer or the app nearby is helpful when it comes to unpacking and making a plan for your meals.
The recipe instructions are pretty clear—they show small photos of each ingredient included and a list of household items you need, such as olive oil and salt, and basic cookware like baking sheets and saucepans. The instructions are listed in just five steps with a sixth “extra credit” note for more ways to enjoy the dish, like adding rice or making guacamole. There are standard numerical graphics for each step, so don’t plan on seeing unique, step-by-step photography for your recipe preparation.
We found the cooking process very smooth and simple to comprehend, making this a great meal service for novice cooks or people who don’t want to fuss. We liked how the baked tilapia used a foil or parchment technique (en papillote) and broke this down in a very simple manner.
Dinnerly prides itself on creating quick and easy weeknight meals, and we found that all of our meals matched the approximated cooking time. Most meals were ready in 30 minutes or less.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Very Fresh, but Some Bland Meals
One thing we noticed when inspecting our box was that the tomato seemed a bit bruised and the red onion was dented. Also, the complimentary dessert was labeled to be kept frozen but the package seemed to be at room temperature.
The recipes we selected were American, Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican-inspired dishes. Overall, we found many of the recipes to be a bit bland and needed more seasoning. For example, the vegetables under the fish in the baked tilapia dish required additional seasoning and perhaps a splash of olive oil instead of the recommended pat of butter.
The cheesy chicken quesadillas were a cinch to make and took just minutes, but we also found that meal to be a bit bland and wished Dinnerly included extras like sour cream, guacamole, or even a cabbage slaw to add more vegetables to the meal. We ended up adding sriracha and sour cream to our dinner.
Our tasting panel really wanted to love the hoisin pork with buttery miso noodles. We were imagining Asian noodles tossed generously with umami miso, sweet hoisin pork, and toasted sesame seeds. However, the proportions seemed off. There was too much pasta and not enough miso paste, leaving us with watery noodles with barely a hint of miso. The pork was well-seasoned and flavorful, but it ended up getting lost in the underwhelming noodles. We were also surprised that Dinnerly included what seemed to be an Italian-style spaghetti rather than rice or cellophane noodles.
The French onion soup burger with oven fries was delicious and we really enjoyed the flavorful grass-fed beef and the sweet, jammy red onions. But overall, the dish was extremely salty, especially from the turkey broth concentrate.
We also loved the vegan oven-baked veggie tempura. The tempura batter worked surprisingly well and the garlic edamame rice with the sweet katsu sauce was a nice addition. It was definitely carbohydrate-heavy, but it felt healthy and satisfying.
The cheesy chicken quesadillas were a cinch to make and took just minutes, but we also found that meal to be a bit bland.
Basic information such as calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates are clearly labeled on each recipe page with helpful tags and allergens. We weren’t able to find cholesterol, sodium, or saturated fat info, and when we inquired with the chat bot, they weren’t able to assist. Dinnerly has a lot of vegetarian options and offers meals that are gluten-free, low carb, dairy-free, and low calorie. Overall, we found our meals very carbohydrate- and protein-heavy and wished they had more vegetables.
Here is the breakdown of our five meals:
French Onion Soup Burger With Oven Fries
- 1070 calories, 66g fat, 48g protein, 75g carbohydrates
- Meat and kid-friendly
- Allergens: Wheat, milk, and sulphites
Vegan Oven-Baked Veggie Tempura With Katsu Dipping Sauce and Edamame Rice
- 840 calories, 7g fat, 23g protein, 165g carbohydrates
- Vegan, kid-friendly, dairy-free
- Allergens: Wheat and soy
Baked Tilapia and Summer Veggie Foil Packets
- 330 calories, 15g fat, 32g protein, 22g carbohydrates
- No added gluten, under 30 minutes, low carb, fish, low calorie, one-pot meal, healthy, nutritious
- Allergens: Fish and milk
Hoisin Pork With Buttery Miso Noodles
- 780 calories, 25g fat, 35g protein, 101g carbohydrates
- Meat, kid-friendly
- Allergens: Wheat, soy, sesame, and milk
Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas With Salsa
- 630 calories, 35g fat, 47g protein, 38g carbohydrates
- Under 30 minutes, poultry, kid-friendly
- Allergens: Milk and wheat
Dinnerly Is Good For
Dinnerly is good for quick and easy weeknight meals for families or adults without a lot of fuss or clean up.
Dinnerly Is Not Good For
Dinnerly is not good for people who like to have a physical recipe in front of them when cooking (hello, greasy hands) or for people who love to eat more balanced meals with lots of fiber from vegetables or fruit. We also found some of the sauces and flavoring to be a little on the bland side, so that may turn off some folks as well.
Dinnerly does not offer add-ons at the moment, but customer service told us it is working on “developing a more user-friendly and tailor-based platform” for the future.
Customer Service: Several Avenues
Dinnerly’s customer service includes email, an online submission form, chat bot, phone, and an FAQ section, organized by account management, payments, delivery, and vouchers for friends and family.
We found the chat bot hard to use and ended up reaching out via Dinnerly's submission form and direct email. The submission form response took well over the advertised 72 hours, but we received a direct email response within 24 hours. We also called Dinnerly's phone number and were connected with an agent immediately. The customer service agents are very polite, but we did receive conflicting emailed responses to our question regarding the protein combination add-ons; we had better luck calling by phone.
Making Changes and Canceling: Very Easy
Changes to your subscription, such as delivery date, meal plan type, and pausing and canceling your account can be done under the Settings tab. You can pause on a particular date or decide to cancel without having to reach out to customer service. When canceling, Dinnerly will prompt you to answer a few questions before you officially stop your subscription. If you do cancel, Dinnerly will send a follow-up email, providing contact details for its chief customer officer, in case you wish to reach out with feedback.
In terms of making other changes, if an order is in progress, you cannot skip that particular order. You can also make changes to your recipes up until five to seven days before the box ships and pause your subscription up to six days before the upcoming box ships.
Making changes to your taste profile or food preferences can be done as well, but you will have to wait until the following week if your order is in process.
The Competition: Dinnerly vs. EveryPlate
Dinnerly and EveryPlate are two similar meal service platforms. They both share a low price point of under $5 per serving with meals that can be made in just a few steps. Currently, EveryPlate does not offer any special diet considerations, whereas Dinnerly does have vegetarian options and clearly marks recipes that are free of dairy or gluten. Due to environmental considerations, Dinnerly skips printed recipe cards, whereas EveryPlate’s boxes do include recipe cards and step-by-step, photographed directions.
We had mixed reviews on Dinnerly. We liked the price, simplicity, ease of making the meals, and efficient cleanup, but we found three out of five of our recipes to be lacking in flavor or excitement. We would be willing to give Dinnerly one more try; if we encountered any lackluster meals, however, we would stop our subscription.
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 Dinnerly
- Lowest Price per Serving $4.69
- Number of Diets Served 6
- Number of Recipes 16
- Delivery Area 48
- Serving Sizes Available 2, 4