So many diverse meal choices
Great add-on options
Efficient and quick customer service
Delicious, gourmet meals
Easy-to-follow recipe cards
Meal prep can be time consuming
Lots of clean up
Not necessarily nutritious
HelloFresh is one of the most popular and long-standing meal kits on the American market. HelloFresh offers home cooks and food enthusiasts fresh recipes and meals each week with a focus on diverse food options created by chefs and nutritionists.
Founded in 2011, we were curious to test out HelloFresh and see how it compares to newer meal kits in today’s market. We tested and tasted five meals for two adults for a week. Read on to see what we discovered about this Berlin-based company.
How It Works: Recipe Plans for 2–4 People
Each week, HelloFresh subscribers can choose from more than 25 recipes, which are posted on its website under “Our Menus.” Non-subscribers can view the recipes, but only subscribers can click on the actual recipe to expand and learn more. When selecting a plan, HelloFresh offers the following preferences: Meat & Veggies, Veggie, Family Friendly, Calorie Smart, Quick and Easy, and Pescetarian. We chose the classic plan, which was Meat & Veggies for our week.
After selecting food preferences, you have an option to choose a plan for two to four people, with two to five recipes per week. We chose a plan for two people with five recipes, which cost $9.99 per serving with a shipping fee of $8.99. Depending on which plan you select and the number of servings, prices vary. For example, if you select Calorie Smart for two people with two meals per week, the cost is $12.49 per serving. If you select the same plan for four people with four recipes per week, the plan is $7.49 per serving.
After registering your address, a delivery date is automatically populated with a delivery time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Within less than a week, we received our first box.
Once you’re registered, HelloFresh populates meals based on your preference input. A banner at the top of the page alerts you to the amount of time you have to edit your meals for your next delivery.
On the day of your scheduled delivery, HelloFresh sends a tracking email and outlines the cooling technology that allows meals to stay fresh in the box for up to 48 hours and reminds you to have on hand all of the household ingredients you need, such as olive oil, salt, and pepper. We liked having this note as it helped us prepare for the week.
Choosing Meals: Many Diverse Options
When selecting the meals, HelloFresh automatically populates your meals based on your preferences. Using a plus and minus tool, you can edit your meals and peruse other options available by scrolling down. As you edit, the prepopulated recipes stay static, so you have to keep scrolling to find your newly selected meals, which we found a bit confusing as we tried to edit our selections.
It’s important to note that while HelloFresh doesn’t currently offer dietary meal plans such as keto or paleo, it does have several vegetarian options each week and plenty of diverse cuisines and styles of meals. We noticed nods to American Diner, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican-inspired cuisines. HelloFresh leaves it up to you to determine which meal fits your lifestyle and dietary needs. There are various tags under each recipe icon to help you choose, such as veggie, calorie smart, plant-based protein, spicy, lightning fast, take out favorites, hall of fame, and gourmet.
When you click on each recipe, a recipe pop-up page appears and lists the following: preparation time; calories; cooking level; allergens; ingredients included in your box; ingredients that are not included; and an option to click on the full recipe link, which then expands into a larger recipe page. The recipe page includes the aforementioned information as well as an introduction to the dish; more detailed nutritional value information; a list and pictures of ingredients with an ability to populate ingredients based on two or four servings; a list of utensils needed; and step-by-step instructions with accompanying photos.
For our week, HelloFresh offered 25 recipes. Out of the 25 recipes, it offered a few higher-priced Gourmet meals for an additional up-charge, and then a huge selection of add-ons, which was quite impressive and reminded us of an online grocery store. Some of the add-ons included breakfasts, lunch sandwiches, and even a pantry section.
What We Made
With so many meals and add-on options, it was a tad overwhelming to pare down. We were curious about how gourmet the Gourmet meals really were, so we selected the pecan-crusted trout for $6.99 per serving and added a side of garlic bread for $3.99 for two to four servings. The recipe styles were quite diverse and worldly. We wanted to have a well-rounded sample, so we opted for fish-, poultry-, vegetarian-, beef-, and shellfish-centered dishes with American, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican-influenced cuisine styles.
- Pecan-crusted trout with an apple-studded salad, and thyme roasted potatoes, Gourmet, x 2 +$6.99/serving
- Creamy lemon butter chicken with parmesan zucchini rounds and scallion couscous
- Garden mushroom ravioli with zucchini ribbons, tomato, and creamy lemon sauce
- Sesame soy beef bowls with shredded carrots, buttery rice, and sriracha mayo
- Southwestern shrimp tacos with pico de gallo and hot sauce crema
- Garlic bread x 1, +$3.99
Support Materials: Helpful and Clear Recipe Cards
Our delivery included easy-to-follow recipe cards, a seasonal magazine featuring future meal highlights, and an envelope with coupons for partnering companies.
We really liked the printed recipe cards. The front of the card clearly shows the recipe title and a large, bright photo of the dish. On the left side, HelloFresh lists the ingredients that are included in the delivery, with small accompanying photographs. The front of the card also includes a little tidbit about the recipe, prep time, cook time, and calories. The backside of the recipe card shows instructions in six steps with well-sized, step-by-step photographs. HelloFresh also highlights another tidbit about an ingredient from the dish and lists the household and pantry items you need from your kitchen. Social media tags are listed as well as a customer service number in case you need assistance while cooking.
If cooking from your mobile device is appealing, HelloFresh has an easy-to-use app, which illustrates detailed and step-by-step recipe instructions quite well.
Packaging: Well Organized With Lots of Individual Plastic
The HelloFresh packaging includes insulated liners and cooling packs to keep your food fresh for up to 48 hours after your delivery time.
Upon opening your box, you will find a seasonal magazine, your recipe cards, and some incentives from partners. All items are insulated in a Renew Liner, which can be recycled with household recycling.
Each meal is packaged together in a paper bag and is clearly labeled with stickers, making it very easy to organize and keep ingredients together. There are QR codes on each of the meal paper bags, which link to a HelloFresh landing page. A large cardboard board with a note reminds you to look under the ice packs for perishables. Our box included two large ice packs, which can be emptied and recycled.
One question we did have was whether each of the sorted paper meal bags needed to be refrigerated. It would have been nice if those instructions were provided on each bag.
We noticed there was a lot of plastic in addition to the paper meal bags. Nearly everything, minus lemons and tomatoes, was wrapped in plastic. Unlike some of the other meal kits, most of the packaging includes the HelloFresh logo and branding. One scallion bag even noted that you can reuse the scallion roots to regrow scallions in a small glass of water, which we thought was a great tip.
The Cooking Process: Time-Consuming With Many Steps
Each recipe is broken down into six steps with clear photographic instructions. We found the instructions pretty clear, but we did have a few questions as the recipe cards include some ingredient proportions for both two and four servings. Sometimes we weren’t sure if we were supposed to use half or all of a certain ingredient, like the multiple sour cream packets that were included in our meal bag. The HelloFresh app also offers step-by-step instructions, which are clear and easy to follow.
One of our biggest takeaways was that there were a lot of steps within those six instructions. Many of the recipes include washing, chopping, mincing, sauteing, roasting, and boiling water. There were moments when we were a little overwhelmed and at times we felt a bit frenetic, even if we had two cooks in the kitchen. We used a lot of utensils and often had more than four cooking vessels to clean up. And a few of our recipes took longer than the approximated prep and cook times. HelloFresh does not seem geared toward novice cooks.
For example, when preparing the creamy lemon butter chicken, we found there were lots of steps; chopping, dicing, bringing water to a boil, roasting, sauteing, and searching for extra “bust out” items, like pots and pans, and a zester. The zucchini in the dish had to be prepped, roasted, and then broiled, and we were constantly using our timer to keep track of time. We also had to prepare the Israeli couscous in a few steps, all while watching the chicken saute and making a finishing sauce. You definitely have to pay attention and enjoy the art of dovetailing.
The recipe took 40 minutes to prepare and execute, as suggested. But with so many steps, we felt a little rushed. And the chicken seemed to take on the longer side to cook all the way through, definitely needing at least five minutes per side instead of the suggested three to five minutes per side.
There were moments when we were a little overwhelmed and at times we felt a bit frenetic, even if we had two cooks in the kitchen.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Very Fresh and Great Flavors
Despite all of the steps and time, we did find most of our meals to be delicious. Our tasting panel loved the creamy lemon butter chicken. We found the chicken dish to be flavorful and juicy, and we loved the touch of lemon as it brightened the dish. We enjoyed the crunch of the zucchini despite the several steps needed to prepare it. The finishing sauce tied the whole dish together, making it creamy but not too decadent for a weeknight dinner.
One of our favorite meals was the aesame soy beef bowls. Our tasting panel enjoyed the sticky rice, sweet beef, and carrots, and the sriracha mayo topping added just enough spice. We didn’t feel too virtuous after eating a whopping 49 grams of fat per serving, but we loved the flavors and the children in our tasting panel enjoyed the dinner as well (without the spicy topping).
We did encounter a few meals that needed a bit more flavor. We felt the garlic bread was lackluster and dry and could have benefited from more oil and garlic.
The pecan-crusted trout (which was steelhead trout) was well flavored and tasted fine but had a slightly fishy odor.
Lastly, because we ended up keeping our paper meal bags in the fridge, our tomatoes became a bit mealy, which was disappointing.
Nutritional Value: Not for Dieters
The nutritional value can be found on each recipe card online, and the printed recipe cards list calories per serving. A fuller and comprehensive nutritional overview of ingredients can be found under the “nutrition” button below each recipe in the weekly recipe section. HelloFresh also lists where each ingredient is sourced from around the world, which we found very resourceful. For example, in the creamy lemon butter chicken, the chicken cutlets were from the U.S., whereas the Israeli couscous came from Italy.
We selected an array of cuisines but observed that many had high levels of fat and carbohydrates, such as the pecan-crusted trout, which had a whopping 70 grams of fat and 64 grams of carbohydrates. We were also surprised by the many instances in which adding butter was instructed; we thought swapping olive oil could be a slightly more heart-healthy option.
Here is the nutritional breakdown of each meal we made:
- 980 calories, 70g fat, 19g saturated fat, 64g carbohydrate, 20g sugar, 10g dietary fiber, 31g protein, 125mg cholesterol, 35mg sodium
- Allergens: Tree nuts, wheat, eggs, soy, fish, milk
Creamy Lemon Butter Chicken
- 740 calories, 35g fat, 15g saturated fat, 60g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, 6g dietary fiber, 44g protein, 155mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium
- Allergens: Wheat and milk
Garden Mushroom Ravioli
- 540 calories, 29g fat, 16g saturated fat, 60g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, 8g dietary fiber, 18g protein, 85mg cholesterol, 1080mg sodium
- Allergens: Eggs, milk, wheat
Sesame Soy Beef Bowls
- 920 calories, 49g fat, 16g saturated fat, 86g carbohydrate, 20g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 28g protein, 125mg cholesterol, 1240mg sodium
- Allergens: Eggs, soy, wheat, milk
Southwestern Shrimp Tacos
- 640 calories, 25g fat, 9g saturated fat, 74g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, 5g dietary fiber, 27g protein, 235mg cholesterol, 1740mg sodium
- Allergens: Milk, shellfish, wheat
Garlic Bread x 1, +$3.99
- 250 calories, 8g fat, 5g saturated fat, 37g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 6g protein, 20mg cholesterol, 490mg sodium
- Allergens: Milk and wheat
HelloFresh Is Good For
HelloFresh is good for people and families who love to cook and who are craving diverse, satiating, and delicious meals.
HelloFresh Is Not Good For
HelloFresh is not good for people or families who don’t have, or wish to devote, a lot of time to preparing meals and cleaning up, and may prefer lighter, more healthful food.
Add-ons: So Many Options
HelloFresh offers a plethora of add-ons and extras once your weekly meals are selected. A few examples of the add-ons we noticed were: a five-minute prosciutto and caprese quick meal sandwich for $7.99 for one serving; a quick breakfast package of Annie’s organic cinnamon rolls for $5.99 for five rolls; and a surf and turf protein duo for $21.99 for two servings. You can even select “meals with meaning” for $9, which provides food for community members in need.
Customer Service: Easy and Quick
HelloFresh offers a variety of customer service options including an FAQ section, chat, and phone support with a live waiting time alert. There is also an online form to submit an ingredient or recipe error.
We encountered a recipe question as we were cooking so we decided to engage with the live chat agent and were able to obtain details on the recipe within a few minutes. We called customer service too and were immediately connected with a live person. We loved the quickness and ease of connecting with a customer service agent.
Making Changes and Canceling: Easy, But They Hate to See You Go
The HelloFresh Help Center and FAQ page have a lot of information on editing meal plans, changing delivery days, and payment options, and will redirect you directly to your Plan Settings page to make account changes. The page also answers extensive questions on dozens of popular inquiries, such as billing, delivery, and recipes and ingredients.
Making changes to your account is pretty simple. If you want to edit your selections before the cutoff time, visit the homepage and click on the calendar date at the top of the page for your future delivery. Recipes are listed and you can use the plus and minus buttons to edit. If you’d like to make a change to your delivery, such as a date change, click “Edit Delivery” at the top of the same page. Next to the edit button is a handy summary button, which creates a pop-up list of your upcoming order, which we found useful.
If you like to receive email notifications on selecting your order each week, which we think is helpful, visit “Account Settings” and then “Notifications” to manage all of your communications.
To cancel your account, go to your profile, click on “Plan Settings,” and scroll down to “Status,” where you can change your delivery date or cancel your plan. If you choose to cancel your plan, HelloFresh offers a few incentives and extra referral bonuses. It also asks you several questions as to why you want to unsubscribe. Once you’ve responded, make sure to press the “Cancel Anyway” button to fully cancel your subscription.
The Competition: HelloFresh vs. Home Chef
HelloFresh and Home Chef both offer fresh, weekly meals. Home Chef pricing starts a bit less than HelloFresh at $6.99 per serving versus HelloFresh’s $7.49 starting point. Both companies promise quick meals but include more in-depth recipes that can take nearly an hour to prepare. Some of Home Chef’s recipes allow for protein customization options, where you can select salmon, beef, or chicken, or even Impossible Burgers, depending on your mood. Both companies offer a bevy of cuisines and recipe styles, including calorie-conscious and veggie-based meals.
HelloFresh is a great option for people who truly love being in the kitchen, preparing, and executing gourmet-inspired meals. We found all of our meals to be flavorful and satisfying, and would certainly order from HelloFresh again.
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 HelloFresh
- Lowest Price per Serving $7.49
- Number of Diets Served 2
- Number of Recipes 25
- Delivery Area 48 states
- Serving Sizes Available 2, 3, 4