Lots of vegetables
Prep work is easy
Shipping is free
Limited recipe menu
No four-serving plan
Recipes lack flavor
We're continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation with regards to whether or not some meal delivery services will be altering their operation schedules, geographic restrictions, and/or frequency of shipments. As of now, most meal delivery services seem to be operating under a normal schedule, expanding inventory to continue to provide meals, are complying with FDA regulations, and are monitoring CDC recommendations closely. However, there are a handful of companies (and we have noted them below) who have had to scale back deliveries and are having delays of one to two weeks.
A Note From a Medical Professional:
"Having food delivered is felt to be safe at this time, but an emphasis on disinfecting and avoiding close contact with people remains. Asking to have the food delivered to your doorstep and not directly handed to you is one precaution to directly avoid contact with another person. Any container should be wiped with a disinfectant, and you should wash your hands immediately after [receiving your food] to further minimize the already low risk of food delivery."
— Joseph Khabbaza, MD, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic
As of March 23rd, 2020, Purple Carrot wants to reassure customers that despite the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the service will continue to deliver meals to customers as scheduled.
Purple Carrot launched in 2014, just a few years after companies like Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh first introduced the U.S. to the concept of quick-to-make meal kits delivered right to your door. While other meal kit companies are geared toward omnivores, with a few vegetarian options tossed in the mix, Purple Carrot offers a fully vegan alternative. Recipes use no animal products and are ready in about 30 minutes, making it easy to add plant-based meals to your dinnertime lineup whether you’re a full-time vegan or just want to eat healthier a few times a week. We recently gave Purple Carrot a try to see if the meals are actually good, or just good for you. Read on to find out what we thought.
How It Works: Great for Couples and Preppers
Purple Carrot is a meal kit subscription service that delivers all the ingredients needed to prepare the meals each week. When we first signed up we had to choose between a two-serving plan that ships three meals a week, and a six-serving plan that ships two meals a week. It’s a little odd that there wasn’t a plan for families of four, but the six-serving plan can work for average families who welcome having leftovers for lunch. Or, as the company states, it can be great for a small household of meal-preppers who want to stock their fridge with meals for the week.
The two-serving plan costs $11.99 per serving, shipping included, and offers a selection of eight meals per week. The bulk-minded six-serving plan is a better deal at $7.99 per serving, but you don’t get to choose the two meals, the company chooses for you. However, you can see what’s on the menu up to four weeks ahead and skip the weeks that don’t have dishes you want.
While many meal kit companies allow customers to choose their delivery day, Purple Carrot picks your delivery day depending on your proximity to its distribution center. It can also come early in the morning or late in the evening. Our box arrived on a Thursday around 8 p.m., by which time we had already decided to stop waiting for the delivery and cook something else for dinner. Interestingly, the company says the contents of its boxes will keep for 72 hours, which is far longer than what most other companies specify, likely because Purple Carrot kits don’t contain meat.
While many meal kit companies allow customers to choose their delivery day, Purple Carrot picks your delivery day depending on your proximity to its distribution center.
You can change plans or skip weeks at any time with the click of a button. You can also go into the profile page to pause the subscription (but only for up to 10 weeks) or cancel completely. We appreciated how the deadline for skipping or making changes each week is prominently displayed with each menu, so we wouldn’t forget.
Choosing Meals: Lots of Bowls
Though some meal kit companies go all-out with over a dozen dinners to choose from each week, Purple Carrot is limited to eight. If you’ve opted for the six-serving plan there are no choices, you simply get the two meals the company has decided to scale up that week. Keep in mind those meals aren’t always gluten-free, so you may have to occasionally skip a week to avoid gluten if you’re on the six-serving plan.
The dinners take gentle inspiration from the world’s cuisines, with dishes like Mexican chilaquiles and Vietnamese bun cha in the lineup next to southern favorites like barbecue sandwiches. Dishes generally take 30 minutes, though oven-baked dishes can take closer to 40. There’s nothing too unfamiliar and most dishes come in bowl form.
Dishes generally take 30 minutes, though oven-baked dishes can take closer to 40.
The recipes have tags like “gluten-free” and “high protein” but they don’t offer the full set of instructions so you can’t really see what you’re getting into. But you can at least see the complete ingredients list and nutrition information. In order to see just how complicated each recipe is going to be before we choose it, we had to search for the recipe through the database.
- Ranchero Bowls with Cumin-Roasted Vegetables and Serrano Yogurt
- Skillet Chilaquiles with Charred Corn and Black Bean Salsa
- Coconut Tofu Bun Cha with Carrot Noodles and Sweet Chile Sauce
Support Materials: Booklet Instead of Cards
Instead of three individual recipe cards, Purple Carrot sends a recipe booklet with all of that week’s recipes. Sun Basket is another meal kit company that goes this route. Personally, we’re not fans of this approach. Cards are easy to grab and prop up, plus they minimize confusion. However, some cooks might appreciate seeing the entire recipe spread across two pages rather than have to flip a recipe card over.
Instead of three individual recipe cards, Purple Carrot sends a recipe booklet with all of that week’s recipes.
It’s not intuitive, but Purple Carrot’s recipes are available under a link at the bottom of the home page, rather than by clicking on a recipe title in the menu. You can search through the entire database to find recipes you’ve had before, or to try something new. There are also several how-to videos on prepping ingredients.
The blog, called Rooted, offers cooking, health and lifestyle articles on eating a plant-based diet, and is updated a couple of times a month.
Packaging: No Shortage of Plastic
Just like every other meal kit service we’ve tried, Purple Carrot says it’s mindful of trying to limit the environmental impact of its packaging. But in the end, it’s the same as everyone else.
The kits are shipped in a cardboard box that’s easily recyclable at the curb. Our box was lined with fiber insulation encased in a plastic wrap and kept cold with gel packs. The insulation is made of recycled cotton that can dropped off at a clothing recycling center or tossed in the garbage where it’ll break down. But the plastic wrap for the insulation, gel packs and ingredients is only recyclable in some areas (not ours).
The ingredients for each kit were bundled in plastic bags. We would have much preferred they were bundled in paper. Inside the bags, some of the produce was also individually wrapped in plastic, as were ingredients like herbs. Thankfully, the company sent a whole bulb of garlic to use in all of our recipes, rather than individual cloves in separate plastic bags. Other ingredients, like vegan yogurt, came in little screw-top plastic containers that can be reused for other purposes or recycled if your community accepts them. The best bet is to use Purple Carrot’s recycling page to identify each type of plastic, then consult your local recycling program to see what’s accepted.
The Cooking Process: Mostly Straightforward
Purple Carrot doesn’t list a prep time on its recipes, but it’s mostly pretty minimal. Even though the recipes are built around several kinds of vegetables, which typically require more slicing and dicing than meat does, the prep work didn’t seem onerous and we usually had it done in about 15 minutes.
Purple Carrot doesn’t list a prep time on its recipes, but it’s mostly pretty minimal.
There were a few more finicky steps to the recipes than most other meal kit companies require. We needed to do things like toast tortillas, make our own refried beans, and encrust tofu with coconut flakes. None of these steps were hard, but they required a bit of multitasking that might be a bit of a challenge for beginning cooks. They also resulted in a few extra bowls and plates that needed washing.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: A Little Disappointing
We didn’t have any issues with the ingredients included in our kits. They were all in great shape and everything arrived cold and undamaged. Our bell peppers were oddly shaped, making it a little tricky to dice them, but we didn’t mind. The beans in our kits were labeled organic, but it’s not clear if any of the produce was organically grown since it’s not specified on the site or in the booklet.
As nice as the ingredients were, the finished dishes lacked flavor. The Coconut Tofu Bun Cha was our least favorite. It felt like a bunch of salad ingredients in a bowl without anything to tie them together. With carrot ribbons, cucumbers, radishes, and jalapenos, it was fresh and crunchy, but the sweet chile sauce was too one-note to make an impact. Traditionally a dish like this would have fish sauce to add umami, but since it’s vegan there was no savory funk to add dimension. The giant coconut flakes didn’t want to adhere to the tofu slices, even though they had been dipped in a cornstarch mixture. In the end, it was a lot of trouble for very little payoff.
As nice as the ingredients were, the finished dishes lacked flavor.
The Ranchero Bowls were fine. It’s hard to go wrong with pinto beans and lettuce topped with roasted vegetables. But it was annoying to have to make our own mashed pinto beans since they weren’t even doctored up with aromatics like garlic or onions. Why not just send a can of vegan refried beans and save us the time and trouble of simmering whole beans with water and mashing them ourselves? There was too much water anyway that we had to simmer longer to cook off. Overall, this meal was so basic it was not worth the trouble of turning into a kit. It was essentially a collection of ingredients chopped and put in a bowl. Thank goodness we had some hot sauce on hand to add flavor.
The Skillet Chilaquiles with Black Bean Salsa was the best of the bunch. The salsa of charred corn kernels, black beans, garlic, onion, and lime was flavorful. But the sauce was a bit on the sweet side since it was made with red bell peppers instead of tomatoes and chili powder. The toasted corn tortillas added an earthy flavor and held up well in the sauce.
Though the dishes lacked flavor, spice and interest, they were healthy, packed with vegetables and there was plenty of food for two people. And we could see them serving as a jumping-off point for creative cooks with a well-stocked pantry.
Who it’s Good For?
Purple Carrot is great for people who want to eat a plant-based diet, either regularly or even just a few days a week, but don’t have time to plan and shop for meals.
Who it Isn’t Good For?
It’s not ideal for cooks on a limited budget, or those who crave bold flavors.
Add-Ons: Extra Meals
There’s no wine subscription or a long list of snacks and ingredients that can be added on, but Purple Carrot does offer a few extras. Subscribers of the two-serving plan can add up to three extra meals each week. Those meals can be dinners or they can one of the four breakfast and lunch options. There are usually two breakfasts and two lunches offered, such as Peanut Butter Overnight Oats with Dried Figs and Cacao Nibs or Kale Beet Salad with Chickpeas and Scallion Cashew Cheese. Breakfasts come in four-serving kits and cost $5.99 per serving while lunch is priced similar to dinner: $11.99 per serving with a two-serving minimum. These meals are supposed to be ready in five minutes.
Customer Service: The Usual
You can contact customer service by phone, e-mail or chat. Keep in mind they keep East Coast business hours. When live-chatting with a rep, we got an auto-response that someone will reply typically in under 20 minutes. It only took about a minute for someone to send a friendly and helpful reply to our question. But mostly we were able to click through the Frequently Asked Questions section to get the answers we needed.
Making Changes and Canceling: Very Easy
We easily skipped weeks right from the menu page. And changing our account information, putting the subscription on pause or canceling can all be done from our account page with a few clicks.
You can only pause the subscription for 10 weeks, but you’ll get an e-mail 10 days before the subscription re-activates so you have a few days to make changes or pause again before something ships out.
No matter what your delivery day, you’ll need to make any changes or cancelations to your subscription by Tuesday 11:59 p.m. Eastern time the week before your next delivery.
The Competition: Purple Carrot vs. Sun Basket
Purple Carrot and Sun Basket both put an emphasis on vegetables. Though Sun Basket isn’t strictly vegan like Purple Carrot, it does offer a vegan plan. Both cost about the same ($11.99 per serving for three meals), but Sun Basket charges extra for shipping. However, most of its ingredients are organic. Purple Carrot isn’t clear about where it gets its produce and whether or not it’s organic. Sun Basket is also a lot more flexible, offering protein upgrades, more menu options, more add-ons, and a wider range of serving sizes. In the end, we think Sun Basket edges out Purple Carrot a little bit.
- Product Name Purple Carrot
- Price $71.94
- Standard Plan 3 meals for 2 people
- Shipping Included
- Typical Cost per Serving $11.99
- Lowest Cost per Serving $7.99
- Weekly Meal Options Choose from 8 meals per week that serve 2 people
- Promotional Deals $20 off first order