Mostly organic ingredients
Many options for special diets, including Paleo and diabetics
Dozens of add-ons, including breakfast
Recipes go beyond the usual
Shipping isn’t free
No shortage of plastic packaging
Sunbasket meal kits are geared toward people who want to eat a bit more healthfully — for themselves and the environment. The company sources organic ingredients and its globally-inspired recipes accommodate even some of the most challenging dietary restrictions. Healthy, delicious, and good for the environment? Seems too good to be true, right? We gave Sunbasket a try to see if it could deliver on all three promises. Read on to find out how well it scored.
How It Works: Sign Up in Minutes
Sunbasket’s meal kit subscription is easy to use. After creating an account and choosing how many people we planned to serve and how many meals we wanted per week, we simply had to pick a plan. Since we wanted all the options, we chose Chef’s Choice. But for those with dietary restrictions such as Paleo eaters or diabetics, Sunbasket offers a lengthy list of plans. There’s also a Family Menu that offers kid-friendly recipes designed to serve four adults with leftovers for $10 per serving. The lower price and bigger servings make this plan a great value, but the options are more limited.
Also, it’s not obvious, but you can actually order up to eight of each kit if you’re planning to serve a crowd. Just click on the number that appears on the recipe you’ve selected.
Sunbasket delivers to almost all zip codes and kits containing all the ingredients needed to cook the meals (except salt, pepper, and olive oil) are delivered once a week in an insulated cardboard box. We were able to select our preferred day when signing up, but not the time. Our box arrived in the morning and we let it sit in the shade until about 6 p.m. before we opened it to see how well the ingredients held up. They were all still cold and fresh.
Each recipe offers the option to upgrade to organic meat or swap the protein, say, for salmon instead of chicken. We could also add meat to any vegetarian dish.
Choosing Meals: Oh So Healthy
Each week there are several entrees to choose from, including vegetarian and vegan options. If you sign up for a particular dietary plan the company will filter out what doesn’t work with your diet. If you want to avoid things like soy or shellfish, you can adjust your preferences. This is especially important if you let Sunbasket send you the default recipes each week instead of choosing them yourself.
The recipes include labels like vegetarian, paleo, or speedy, and each offers the option to upgrade to organic meat or swap the protein, say, for salmon instead of chicken. These changes and additions all cost a bit extra per serving.
Clicking on the photo showed us the full recipe, nutrition information, allergens, ingredients, instructions, estimated cook time (usually 25-40 minutes), plus cooking tips, including how to let kids help. Dishes tended to use global influences and were a bit more exciting than the usual burgers and pasta that populate some other meal kit services. Pestos were often made with arugula or sweet peas, rather than just basil. Vegetarian dishes often incorporated eggs, tofu, and tempeh for protein, instead of just lots of cheese. As a result, everything looked interesting enough to try.
In the end, we chose:
- Chicken Katsu with Gingered Greens and Spicy Chile Mayo
- Spicy Sole with Greek Vinaigrette and Chickpeas
- Rhode Island Johnnycakes with Fried Eggs and Arugula-Pistachio Pesto
Support Materials: Recipe Book Instead of Cards
Instead of individual recipe cards, Sunbasket includes a recipe booklet with all of that week’s recipes in it, even the ones you didn’t sign up for. Personally, we like the simplicity of a card better. But for those who want to recreate other recipes on their own, the book is a bonus.
The recipes were easy to follow with step-by-step photos. All of the recipes are available online and in the app, too, including bonus recipes for things like desserts and drinks. But you’ll have to follow along on your screen because Sunbasket’s recipes aren’t downloadable or printable. Beginners should definitely spend time clicking through the “Explore” section of the website, where how-to videos show everything from how to cut an onion to how to sear salmon.
The recipes were well-written with good visual and timing cues, and tips like cooking in batches, which would be helpful for beginners.
Packaging: Not Really That Unique
Sunbasket likes to tout its “eco-friendly” packaging, but we found that it’s really not much different from most other meal kit services. The big cardboard box can be recycled curbside. The ingredients for each meal are bundled into paper bags (Hello Fresh does this as well), which are curbside recyclable, too. But inside the paper bags, there’s plenty of plastic. Our herbs, eggs, and cherry tomatoes came in plastic clamshells, but most everything else was bundled in plastic bags. Some cities allow recycling of these types of plastic, but not ours, so we had to throw these away. However, some of the dressings and components, like stir-fry sauces, were in handy screw-top containers that we washed and saved for other uses. Some cities might allow these to be recycled, you just have to check your local rules.
Because we ordered our kits in the summer, the insulation for our box was intended for high heat zones. It was made with recycled denim fibers, which can be taken to a recycling center that accepts clothes. Sadly, the fibers were sealed in large plastic bags that had to be tossed. But during cooler months the insulation is shredded recycled paper, which is definitely curbside recyclable.
The gel packs were made with a combination of water and cotton. Its plastic cover is a problem, but the contents are biodegradable and can be poured into the trash or the compost bin.
The Cooking Process: Mostly Smooth Sailing
For the most part, the recipes were easy to make and didn’t require advanced techniques. The recipes were well-written with good visual and timing cues. Cook times averaged 30 minutes and none went over 40. Ready-made components like stir-fry sauces and pestos sped things up considerably since we didn’t have to mix them ourselves. Most recipes used just a couple of bowls, a pot, and a pan, and portions were generous.
We did have one small issue. The recipe for Johnnycakes called for two grated zucchinis and we could tell the large zucchinis that came in our box were going to yield way more than we needed so we didn’t use it all. A measurement for the zucchini would have been helpful.
The jade rice was a fun departure from the usual white rice, and the chile mayo was indeed properly spicy, so the whole dish was packed with flavor.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Not a Dud in the Bunch
The first dish we made, chicken katsu with gingered greens and spicy chile mayo, was a big hit with the adults. The chicken turned out perfectly crispy and juicy and the gingery stir-fry sauce was bold enough to stand up to the mustard greens. The jade rice was a fun departure from the usual white rice, and the chile mayo was indeed properly spicy, so the whole dish was packed with flavor. The kids, however, loved the chicken and cool-looking green rice, but not much else.
The second dish, spicy sole with Greek vinaigrette and chickpeas, was another big winner and took only 20 minutes to make. It’s just a quick sauté of chickpeas, shallots, cherry tomatoes, and spinach, with quick-cooking fillets of mild-tasting sole on top. But the Greek vinaigrette was the star of the show. It was so deeply flavorful and bright, it transformed the whole dish in an instant.
The vegetarian dish we tried, Rhode Island johnnycakes with fried eggs and arugula-pistachio pesto, felt a little more brunchy than dinner-worthy, but it still got demolished. The best part, though, was the arugula-pistachio pesto, which we wanted to slather on everything. It seems Sunbasket really excels at creating deeply flavorful and delicious components for its recipes.
All the ingredients we received were very vibrant and fresh. One leaf in our mustard green bundle looked a little yellowed, but that was it. We also felt good knowing that Sunbasket sources organic produce from local farms.
It seems Sunbasket really excels at creating deeply flavorful and delicious components for its recipes.
Who it’s Good For?
Sunbasket is perfect for people who want to eat healthier and use organic ingredients but don’t have time to plan and shop for meals.
Who it Isn’t Good For?
People looking for rich and cheesy comfort foods will probably want to look elsewhere. And it’s a little more expensive than other meal kit services, so people on a tight budget might find it too pricey.
Add-Ons: Breakfast, Lunch, and Much More
Some meal kit services offer wine pairings, but Sunbasket skips the wine in favor of much more practical add-ons, like coffee. There’s also pita and flatbreads to pair with your meals, salad kits, and fresh pasta for quick lunches, tons of meats, and seafood if you want to bulk up your order or make your own recipe without having to run to the store. Breakfasts and snacks such as yogurts, energy bars, granola, oatmeal, and juices are also available.
All the ingredients we received were very vibrant and fresh, even the tender herbs.
Customer Service: Responsive During Business Hours
Customer service is available during business hours via a range of methods. If you’re old-school, feel free to call. Otherwise, you can chat online, fill out an email form online, or even text. It’s not clear what the company’s business hours are, but we tried texting after 9 p.m. and got an auto-response that someone would contact us the next morning. We received our response just after 7:30 a.m. Luckily most questions can be answered in the directory of Frequently Asked Questions, though there wasn’t a search bar so we had to click around to find what we were looking for.
Making Changes and Canceling: Easy Enough
Skipping a week requires clicking on the Schedule tab, which is just a tiny bit harder than having the skip option right on the menu page as some companies have. You can skip up to six weeks in advance. There’s also a link so you can have your box forwarded to a friend or maybe to that beach rental you’re heading to. Another option? You can donate it to Feeding America.
It’s very easy to change plans and preferences, delivery day, and the number of meals and servings in the My Account settings. Just click the edit symbol. You can also see updated pricing information so you know what the new costs will be.
What’s a little more under the radar is the small “Manage My Subscription” link on the settings page. Click that and you can pause your subscription indefinitely, change to every other week or once a month deliveries, or cancel completely.
All changes must be made by Wednesday at noon Pacific time the week before.
The Competition: Sunbasket vs. Blue Apron
Both Sunbasket and Blue Apron pride themselves on using global ingredients like Szechuan peppercorns and fish sauce, and both offer menus that are a bit beyond the usual suspects. However, Sunbasket’s meals consistently turn out tastier. Also, the meals are more health-oriented, customizable, and most recipes able to fit a wide range of dietary restrictions. Both companies offer sustainable seafood and meat without hormones or antibiotics. But Sunbasket goes the extra mile by sourcing mostly organic ingredients. This, of course, means it costs a bit more. Blue Apron’s price per serving is $9 and shipping is free.
Definitely worth signing up for.
When it comes to healthy meals that are bursting with flavor and made with environmentally responsible ingredients, Sunbasket really delivers. It costs just a few dollars more per serving than other meal kit services and shipping isn’t free, but the ingredients are organic, fresh and high quality, the recipes don’t disappoint, and the service can accommodate almost anyone on a restricted diet, even diabetics. With options to change up the proteins and order multiple kits to feed a crowd, it’s a flexible service you can feel good about.
- Product Name Sunbasket
- Price $55.96
- Minimum price 2 meal kits for 2 people = $55.96 including shipping
- Cost per Serving $13.99 (two meals), $11.99 (three meals), $10.99 (four meals)
- Best Value Family Plan 2, 3 or 4 meals for 4 people = $10.99 per serving
- Shipping $6.99
- Weekly Meal Options Choose from 2, 3 or 4 meals per week, and 2 or 4 servings per meal
- Promotional Deals $35 off plus four free gifts valid through March 3, 2021