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Home Chef and HelloFresh are two popular meal delivery services on the market, providing fresh and delicious recipe options and meals each week. Based on personal preferences, both services will populate meal ideas each week. Users can easily edit and reselect from a bevy of meal options if they choose as well.
To test out these two services and see where they shined and differed, we enlisted a tasting panel to try several meals from Home Chef and HelloFresh for a week. Read on to see what we discovered.
Home Chef Pros and Cons
Great customization options, including plant-based
Some meals can provide up to 8 servings
Monthly subscription available
Great delivery organization inside shipping box
Recipes outline when to cook each meal
Does not offer full nutritional panel
Long delivery lead times
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Price
Home Chef has boxes for two, four, and six people a week, with an option for two to six recipes per week. As of August 2021, a box for two with six recipes a week was $107.99 plus $7.99 shipping, which is $8.99 a serving. A box for six people with six recipes a week jumps to $323.64 plus $7.99 shipping, also at $8.99 a serving. We chose a box for two with five recipes a week for $89.90, plus the $7.99 shipping, at $8.99 a serving.
HelloFresh has boxes for two or four serving sizes and with an option to select two to five recipes a week. The more you order each week, the lower the serving size price. Some meals can start at $7.49 a serving but go up towards $12.49 a serving. For example, if you select the Veggie plan for four people with five recipes a week, the cost per serving is $7.49. But if you select the Veggie plan for two people with just two recipes a week, the cost per serving is $12.49. Shipping is $8.99.
Depending on the plan you select, Home Chef appears to be more consistent with serving prices and its shipping is a dollar less.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Meal Choices
Home Chef offers a quiz for new users, which helps the company identify the type of service you may enjoy. Questions include your level of interest in cooking (from “it’s a fun stress reliever” to “does a bowl of cereal count?”); your idea of a typical weeknight dinner; the style of meals you prefer; and your main priority when it comes to cooking.
Our tasting panel scored a “Convenient Chef” style: “You enjoy cooking but you’re looking for ease and convenience when life gets busy. Check out our Fresh and Easy plan for our most convenient menu options: Oven-Ready, Fast & Fresh, and Ready in 15.” We thought this was appropriate as some of the members on our tasting panel had young children.
After you take your quiz, you can set your meal kit preferences by choosing the Home Chef box, which is a pre-portioned ingredient recipe with recipe cards, or the Fresh and Easy option, consisting of a non-prep meal option. We opted for the traditional box. You can also select calorie- or carb-conscious preferences, and choose to avoid pork, beef, poultry, fish, shellfish, nuts, mushrooms, tree nuts, and/or peanuts.
After we officially subscribed, we could edit the preselected meals by clicking on the “edit meals” button and then removing recipes under each recipe image. Some recipes allow for customization. For instance, with the goat cheese and walnut-crusted steak with shallot demi-glace, we opted for the filet mignon at $7.99 per serving upcharge. Home Chef also has a drop-down button on a few recipes, allowing the user to order larger serving sizes. For the same steak recipe, we could also have two, four, six, or even eight servings.
The user may also filter recipes using the following filters: cook time, meal type, protein, dietary preferences, specific ingredients to avoid, and spice level.
In addition to protein meal customizations, Home Chef offers some desserts, breakfasts, side salads, and proteins as add-ons. Also, a week before your delivery, Home Chef sends an email with your selected meals, and an opportunity to edit and swap out before Friday at noon, CT.
When you subscribe to HelloFresh, the company will ask you for a food preference, which includes: meat and veggies, veggie, family-friendly, calorie smart, quick and easy, and pescetarian. Based on your chosen preference, HelloFresh will populate recipes, which you can then edit, much like Home Chef. Both companies keep the menu selection page static, making it a bit difficult to keep track of what items you have edited and added. HelloFresh also has helpful tags, which make it easy to find meal styles you like: veggie, calorie smart, plant-based protein, spicy, lightning-fast, take-out favorites, hall of fame, and gourmet, which includes an upcharge.
HelloFresh also offers a larger selection of add-ons than Home Chef, including breakfasts, sandwiches, desserts, and even pantry items such as salt and pepper.
After experiencing the process of selecting meals from Home Chef and HelloFresh, we were more excited by the variety and number of choices HelloFresh had, but we liked the customization choices and serving increase options that Home Chef offered.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Creativity of Dishes
The meal selection for the week of our Home Chef tasting had a gourmet bent. We noticed fancy menu components such as demi-glaces, fondue, scampis, and gratins. However, the meals did not appear to be too diverse. Oftentimes, meals consisted of a protein, vegetable, and a starch. American, Italian, Japanese, and Tex-Mex cuisines were represented.
We selected a steak, a salmon, a chicken, a pork chop, and a risotto vegetarian dish to try an array of foods.
HelloFresh’s recipes seemed a bit more dynamic with rice bowls, tacos, worldly sandwiches, flatbreads, as well as more traditional dishes, which included protein, vegetables, and starches.
With HelloFresh, we found the diversity of cuisines and nationality to be more worldly as well, including nods to American, BBQ, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Thai.
After reviewing the various cuisines, we were more impressed with the variety and diverse cuisines styles HelloFresh had to offer.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Flavor, Freshness, and Quality
We had a pleasant experience with the flavor and freshness of all of our Home Chef meals. The proteins, especially the customized upgraded filet mignon, were tender and delicious.
Our tasting panel, including the children, loved the teriyaki salmon. The panel liked the crispy salmon and vegetable fried rice with the sweet teriyaki glaze. The salmon was fresh and tender.
We were particularly fond of the Creekside Creamery small-batch butter that we used for the scampi-style pork chops. The butter, garlic, and olive oil formed a delicious sauce when tossed with cauliflower, parmesan, and tons of parsley.
We did not encounter any major glitches with our HelloFresh order. Out of all of the meals we created, we came across one tomato that wasn’t to our liking, and a piece of fish that was a bit odorous but tasted fine.
Our meals were balanced and were well-salted and seasoned. We thought most dishes had texture, acidity, and creaminess. Some dishes were richer than others, but overall, we enjoyed all of our HelloFresh meals.
We liked how each company organized the meals by bags, but appreciated how Home Chef’s bags were clear so we could see inside each one. Also, each bag had a handle, making it easy to transport them to the refrigerator. We liked how our proteins were packaged together, also in a sealed plastic bag, so that if there were any leaks, our other ingredients wouldn’t get soggy.
Overall, we slightly favored the freshness of Home Chef over HelloFresh.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Recipe Clarity/Difficulty
Overall, the recipes we made with Home Chef overall were pretty clear. The teriyaki salmon, which was a 15-minute recipe, was a cinch to make and involved minimal prep. We just had to sear the salmon, saute the vegetables, microwave rice, and add sauce.
We encountered a minor issue with the chicken: After we simmered and prepared the filling for the vegetable gratin, the instructions said to not clean out the pan and then saute the crispy pepper-crusted chicken. Unfortunately, we ended up scorching our saute pan and had to soak and scrub it to properly clean it. We would have preferred a clean pan with just oil rather than the leftover potato and cream cheese sauce residue that remained in our pan.
Despite our cooking snafu, the instructions were thoughtful. When we were slicing our beets for the risotto dish, the instructions warned us about how beets have a tendency to stain cutting boards and outlined some prep ideas on how to carefully cut and avoid pesky stains. We appreciated the attention to detail.
We were more excited by the variety and number of choices HelloFresh had, but we liked the customization choices and serving increase options that Home Chef offered.
Our HelloFresh recipes were well-written, but the recipes themselves would occasionally be a bit more on the complex side for the novice cook. Despite having six steps for each meal, we found the timing it took to prep, cook, and clean up the kitchen to be a bit laborious. Some recipes included washing produce; mincing and dicing garlic and other vegetables; sauteeing proteins; boiling water for rice; and roasting vegetables, all at the same time, for a single recipe. Having two cooks in the kitchen could alleviate some of the dovetailings that needed to be done to complete certain meals. Perhaps selecting meals that were one-pot dishes or meals geared towards speedy prep times would be good strategies.
Overall, we preferred the simplicity and straightforwardness of Home Chef.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Supporting Material
Our Home Chef box arrived with our five recipe cards, partner incentives, and a $30 gift card to use towards future Home Chef boxes for friends.
The recipe cards were punched with three holes—perfect to store in a three-ring binder. We liked that touch if you happen to be organized and hold onto recipes. The front of the cards featured the following: a large colorful image of the dish; a short list of what's included in the box, including customized options; a list of things you will need; the type of meal kit; nutrition; prep and cook time; the ideal time to make the dish after the delivery date; difficulty level; and spice level. On the back of the card, there were notes on the dish; instructions for customized options; and photos and numbered instructions for each step.
Our HelloFresh delivery included: a seasonal catalog of future dishes and meal ideas; an envelope with partner incentive coupons; and bright, big recipe cards.
Our tasting panel appreciated the recipe cards that featured a colorful photo of the finished dish; a list of photos for ingredients that are included in your recipe bag; a list of items you need from your pantry; prep time and calories; and step-by-step instructions, with accompanying photographs.
We liked both companies' recipe cards but appreciated how the Home Chef cards included a three-hole punch for easy binder storage and also listed the ideal timing for cooking the dish. For instance, the teriyaki salmon should be cooked within three days of delivery, while the roasted beet and goat cheese risotto could be cooked within seven days. This information helped us decipher how and when to cook our meals. However, we preferred the larger ingredient and recipe font on HelloFresh’s recipe cards and the little ingredient photo icons that accompany the list of ingredients.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Types of Diets Served
Home Chef makes it simple to select calorie- and carb-conscious meals when filtering and searching for meals. Although the company does not consider itself to be a specific diet plan meal service, it does have a variety of low carbohydrate meals available each week, and many meals have the option to customize.
While HelloFresh offers many meal options each week, including some items that are considered gluten-free or low calorie, the company does not consider itself a dietary meal plan service either. Vegetarian options will always be included each week; but again, HelloFresh leaves it up to the subscriber to decide what meals may or may not be appropriate, depending on dietary needs.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Nutritional Value
Some of our Home Chef meals were richer and heavier than others. We were a bit perplexed by the crispy pepper-crusted chicken. The components included smearing the chicken breasts with mayonnaise and putting fried pepper bits on top. While we love mayonnaise, we found the mayonnaise and fried peppers, alongside the creamy gratin full of cream cheese and mozzarella, to be a little too decadent and rich. We wished there was a sharper cheese in the gratin, and found the mayonnaise to be unnecessary.
We also noted that the nutrition facts available for each Home Chef recipe did not include a full panel breakdown as HelloFresh does.
While our tasting panel found all of our HelloFresh meals to be quite good and delicious, we wouldn’t call the meal service geared towards healthy eating—rather more towards satiated eating.
Many of our meals were high in fat and carbohydrates, and we often wished for more vegetables or greens. Some recipes had us adding extra butter, where we thought heart-healthy olive oil could be used instead. However, the company does a nice job of providing nutritional information available for each dish on the website or app.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Customer Service
In terms of support, Home Chef has a very detailed FAQ section, an online submission form, and phone support. We tried out the online submission form to inquire about some nutrition facts we were searching for. We submitted the form on a Tuesday and received a Zendesk message receipt in our email immediately. We received a response about 24 hours later, showing us where some of the nutritional information is, and outlining that the company is working with the culinary department to hopefully provide more full nutritional details in the future. The customer service rep also outlined that many Home Chef users are active on fitness trackers, so more nutrition details may be on certain fitness or nutrition websites.
We also encountered a delivery snag: We had to wait over a week and a half to receive our first order after placing it. On the day of the scheduled arrival, we tracked our order only to find that our meal was actually being delivered four days later. Luckily, we ended up receiving our order just one day later due to weather issues and our food was still fresh and cold upon arrival. Customer service even reached out to us to check in on our food, which was quite impressive.
HelloFresh’s customer service options include a detailed FAQ section, live chat, and phone support. We utilized the phone option a few times and were immediately connected with friendly representatives.
Both companies have solid customer service support, but we found the extra check-in on our delayed order from Home Chef to be top-notch.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Making Changes and Canceling
To manage your Home Chef account, subscribers can click on “Account” and “Account Settings.” There, users can change the number of meals and servings, delivery day and delivery type (weekly, biweekly, even monthly), and pause or cancel. Taste profiles, order history, and weekly add-ons can also be updated in Account Settings.
Account updates and changes can be made for HelloFresh under “Account Settings.” You may also cancel your subscription there, but you will have to go through and answer a few mandatory questions before the subscription is fully canceled. The company will offer incentives as well to keep subscribers from opting out of the delivery service.
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh: Additional Features
At the top banner of Home Chef, users can access a “My Cookbook” feature, which allows subscribers to save and access favorite recipes. Home Chef is also a part of the Kroger grocery store chain so, depending on where you live in the United States, you can visit and find Home Chef products at participating Kroger stores.
HelloFresh also has a “Cookbook” page on the website, which gives you access to popular meals and recipes. As of July 2021, HelloFresh was launching a new HelloFresh Market, a grocery delivery service in addition to its meal kits.
Our tasting panel enjoyed both services. We liked the gourmet-bent of each company but liked Home Chef’s customization options and the simpler preparation and execution of recipes. We also found all of our Home Chef recipes to be quite excellent and flavorful.
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