Meals are familiar but with creative twists
Easy to change plans and modify delivery dates
Packaging is mostly recyclable
Contents are well packed and stay cold all day
Few to no options for those on restricted diets (such as vegan, keto and allergy-free)
Vegetarian plan has limited options
Shipping isn’t free
We recently spent two weeks testing HelloFresh meal kits to see if the recipes were as delicious as they looked, and if the ordering experience was the stuff of dreams – or nightmares. Overall we were impressed with the service. The recipes were delicious, quick to make and interesting enough to shake things up, yet familiar enough to not scare off the kids. The ingredients were fresh and arrived in great shape, and the ordering process was simple. It’s really perfect for food lovers who know their way around the kitchen. However, true beginners might struggle a bit with some of the lack of detail in the recipes. Read on to see what else we thought about the service.
How It Works: Sign Up and Choose a Meal Plan
To sign up, we had to first choose between the three main plans: Calorie Smart, Classic and Family Plan, then select two or four servings, and two, three or four recipes per week. The process was easy and can be done on the website or through the app. Both platforms are clean and easy to navigate, with gorgeous photography, but the app is even more streamlined and user-friendly. After signing up, go into the My Menu tab to select meals, otherwise, the service will send you default meals based on your preferences.
HelloFresh meal kits come once a week via FedEx. You can pick a preferred delivery day between Monday through Saturday but you can’t pick the delivery time. Kits arrive sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. You don’t have to be home, and you can leave instructions about where it should be dropped (i.e. side yard, porch, etc.). We left our box sealed and opened it at 5 p.m. The contents were still plenty cold.
Choosing Meals: Good Variety But Not For Food Allergies
If you like options, the Classic Plan is the way to go with 17 recipes to choose from each week, including recipes from the other plans.
The meals are familiar, but not boring and predictable, with a few globally-inspired recipes mixed in. Some of the most popular recipes get repeated every so often. These are usually marked with a “Hall of Fame” label. While some meal kit services tout never repeating a recipe, the commenters on HelloFresh’s social media have made it clear they get very excited when a favorite pops up in the rotation again.
There’s also the option to choose one of the “Gourmet,” “Gourmet Plus” or “Craft Burger” meals, which have premium ingredients like lobster ravioli and beef tenderloin — but you’ll pay $4.99 to $8.99 extra per serving.
Thankfully there are no surprises. The photos for each meal are clearly labeled with these surcharges, as well as the category, cook time, and even a heads-up if it’s spicy. The recipes all have nutrition and allergen information, as well as a difficulty level, though none of the recipes we saw went above level 1. You can also read the entire recipe and even print it out.
The meals are familiar, but not boring and predictable, with a few globally-inspired recipes mixed in.
Unlike the other two plans, the Classic plan allowed us to select meal preferences in the settings. If you know you don’t want pork, beef, seafood, or you do mostly want veggie or calorie smart meals, just tick the box. If you ever forget to select your meals for the next week, the default selections will align with your preferences so you won’t get automatically sent something you’d hate.
If you’re really watching your calories and don’t want to be tempted by the other meals, or don’t want to have to remember to pick a Calorie Smart meal each week, you can choose the Calorie Smart plan. It offers just three recipes per week and each averages about 600 calories. The Family Friendly plan offers 9 recipes per week, and only comes in servings for 4.
As for the Veggie plan, it’s a little confusing. When you first sign up, the plan options are Calorie Smart, Classic, and Family Friendly. No Veggie plan. But once you’ve signed up and want to change your plan, Calorie Smart is no longer an option but Veggie is, which is a little strange! The Veggie plan also only has three options per week, and cheese almost always plays a major role.
If you have food allergies, are vegan, paleo, keto or have dietary restrictions in general, HelloFresh isn’t super accommodating because you can’t search for meals that fit your needs. But all ingredients and allergens are listed for each recipe.
With that said, here are the recipes we selected while trying the service:
- Tunisian Stuffed Peppers with Chickpeas, Apricots and Feta Cheese
- Lobster Ravioli and Shrimp in a Tomato Cream Sauce
- Mexican Chicken and Rice Bowls with Salsa Fresca and Lime Crema
- Peppercorn-Gravy Steak with Roasted Broccoli and Garlic Bread
Support Materials: Recipe Cards But No Instructional Videos
In addition to the well-designed recipe cards, each recipe in the 2,500+ database is available as a printable PDF online or in the app. For extra instruction, users can browse through the blog for how-to articles or click through the recipe database for basic recipes like how to cook bacon. But there aren’t any instructional videos.
Although there are no written reviews of the recipes, there are star ratings. And users can click the heart on a recipe to store it to their favorites, both online and in the app.
Packaging: Minimal Plastic & Recyclable
Plastic packaging is just the sad reality of these meal kit services, but HelloFresh tries to keep it to a minimum. The kits come in a big cardboard box and the ingredients for each meal are packed into a paper bag, both of which are curbside recyclable. Some of the insulated liners are recyclable too.
Although robust produce, like limes, isn’t wrapped in plastic, most ingredients are, and everything is bundled in twos. For example, in one kit that served four, we had two packs of garlic each with two cloves, and two packs of scallions each with two scallions. This packaging is wasteful, yes, but clearly, this makes sense from a systems standpoint since it makes it easy to scale from two to four servings.
HelloFresh offers recycling instructions on its website, but they’re not accurate for every area so you’ll have to check the regulations in your city.
The Cooking Process: Simple Enough
We cooked four HelloFresh recipes in a range of categories and found they were all easy to follow and not at all difficult. Most recipes took 25 to 30 minutes to make, and the one that took 40 was mostly hands-off.
Though simple, the recipes assume the user has some basic cooking skills and knowledge. Instructions to “heat a large drizzle of olive oil” are self-explanatory to most, but very beginner cooks might not know what a “large drizzle” really looks like. When we made the Peppercorn-Gravy Steak, it instructed us to cook the steak to my “desired doneness” with no guidelines for, say, medium-rare.
The recipe cards are well-designed and easy to read with lots of step-by-step photos. However, they also pack in a lot of information, and because they have instructions for two or four servings, it’s easy to get a little mixed up. We found it important to read the entire card before beginning.
Flavor, Freshness and Quality: Delicious & Accurate
The ingredients were all fresh and of good quality. They arrived in great shape. Nothing was broken or bruised. Only the scallions seemed like they’d been around a while, and that was consistent for every box we tried.
Each recipe got its own labeled paper bag with ingredients, which made it easy to check and make sure everything was included and keep things organized in the fridge. The kits supplied everything we needed, but we were expected to provide our own cooking oil, butter, salt, pepper, and sugar.
The company tries to be relatively transparent about its sourcing, and according to the website, most of the produce comes from Grower Express in Salinas, Calif. It follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program guidelines for sourcing fish and seafood and the beef is typically labeled “pasture-raised,” but it’s unclear what the company’s policy is for pork and eggs. However, 100 percent of the chickens are antibiotic-free.
The company tries to be relatively transparent about its sourcing, and according to the website, most of the produce comes from Grower Express in Salinas, Calif.
We did have some quibbles with a few ingredients. In one kit, some of the broccoli florets were massive so we had to cut them to ensure everything cooked at the same rate. And in a package of pre-cut chicken breast, the pieces ranged in size from tiny to big gangly shreds. The recipe also instructed us to pat them dry before sauteing, but they were too wet and our paper towels kept getting stuck to them. We gave up and simply cooked the chicken in batches. It would have been far better to send whole chicken breasts and instruct the users to cut them.
Ultimately the dishes were flavorful and looked just like the photos. None were a disappointment.
Who it’s Good For?
HelloFresh kits are great for people who know how to cook but don’t have a lot of time, and appreciate a few chef-y twists.
Who it Isn’t Good For?
Flat-out beginners might struggle a bit, and anyone with strict dietary issues will likely find the options lacking.
Click the Help Center link and you can contact customer service via chat, phone or e-mail (answers within an hour). But most questions can be answered by looking through the very detailed and organized FAQ. When we e-mailed, the rep responded within an hour even though it was a weekend.
Making Changes and Canceling
Making changes, whether it’s a meal, delivery date, serving amount or even canceling the service entirely is very easy to do both on the web and the app.
In the app, but not online, we could add extra meals (up to six total), and each additional meal was discounted. The app also allowed me to sync my meal delivery dates with my calendar.
Any changes or cancellations have to be made by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time five days before your scheduled delivery date. To take away any guesswork, the website and app both display the change-by date prominently.
The Competition: HelloFresh vs. Blue Apron
HelloFresh and Blue Apron offer a similar selection of contemporary recipes that take around 30 minutes for the same price per meal. They both aim for transparency in their sourcing, their websites and apps are easy to navigate, and their recipes are easy to follow with step-by-step photos. However, Blue Apron doesn’t charge for shipping, and it offers instructional videos. But HelloFresh wins major points for its quality of ingredients, more variety of recipes and an overall tastier finished product.
Worth a try.
With plenty of tasty recipes to choose from and a variety of different plans that serve two or four people, HelloFresh is well worth trying. A few of the favorite things we like the most: The site and app are super easy to navigate when signing up and choosing your meal plan, and when it comes time for delivery, most of the packaging is recyclable. All in all, HelloFresh is a service we'd recommend signing up for.
- Product Name Hello Fresh
- Price $39.96
- Classic Plan 2 meals for 2 people: $39.96
- Shipping $6.99 to $7.99
- Average cost per serving $8.99
- Promotional Deals Only one promo code allowed per subscription, Students always receive 15% discount,
- Hello Fresh App Referral program Get a $20 credit when friends order their first delivery at $40 off.
- Weekly Meal Options 2, 3 or 4 recipes a week that serve 2 or 4 people