Thinking about signing up to Abel & Cole? We tested its recipe subscription box, covering the quality of the ingredients, the recipes and delivery experience as well as value for money.
Abel & Cole recipe box: pros & cons
Pros: High-quality ingredients, flavour-packed dishes, clear instructions, very little needed from your kitchen, varied recipes, veggie/vegan choices.
Cons: A lot of plastic, very little delivery choice, inaccurate prep times, expensive.
Overall rating: 3.75/5
Read about how to sign up to the Abel & Cole recipe box.
What is Abel & Cole?
Abel & Cole started in 1988, and describes itself as an expert in ‘organic, seasonal, wild food that’s extra special’. The company works with small, organic producers and aims to keep produce as green as possible through farming and delivery methods. The products are more expensive than some veg box alternatives, but it's passionate about the quality of its produce.
Abel and Cole recipe choices
There was a good variety of choice on the site, with plenty of meat and fish options and recipes inspired by different cuisines.
Are there special diet options?
There are three options for vegans, which are included in a total of six options for vegetarians. Allergens are flagged in the recipe cards, but there aren’t any options to search on the website for recipes without specific allergens. They give simple, speedy and light recipe options.
Can you customise recipes?
No, you can’t customise them. They have a limited stock of each recipe, which they list on the site – it says when a recipe is ‘nearly gone’.
How many recipes do you get in one delivery?
We had three recipes in our box.
What's in the recipe box?
There are several layers of ingredients inside, with the meats, chilled produce and storecupboard items grouped separately. Plastic-wrapped woolcool insulation separates the different layers. The storecupboard items were all packaged in together – the only complaint would be that the garlic cloves were in a cardboard tray with mushrooms, which had made them a little damp.
What is the quality of the ingredients?
The ingredients were obviously high-quality and lasted well (we made the three recipes over the course of a week and a half). One of our recipe choices was a beef stew – the beef was lovely, but the portion of beef was a little smaller than we would have liked.
Are refrigerated ingredients kept sufficiently chilled in the packaging?
Yes, the fridge ingredients were still cold when the box arrived, although we're unsure how long they would have stayed cold if the box had been left outside for a few hours before getting home to unpack it.
What are the delivery options?
Delivery options were quite limited as it prioritises deliveries to different areas each day of the week (this keeps delivery emissions down). We were offered delivery on Wednesday with the option to nominate a safe place.
Abel & Cole don't offer any customisation or time slot choices on the day the driver would be in the area. First deliveries can be as early as 4am (the drivers won’t knock before 8.30am unless specifically told to do so) and the last deliveries are usually finished by mid to late afternoon.
Are the boxes available nationwide?
They don’t say on their website where they deliver, but they do have a postcode checker, so you can see if they’ll deliver to your area.
How much packaging is there?
Every ingredient was packaged – even items that didn’t need wrapping (for example, a couple of individually wrapped Kallo stock cubes were placed in a paper envelope with a label).
All of the leaves and herbs came in individual plastic bags, but the root vegetables and drier ingredients were loose in cardboard trays. Some of the packaging isn’t recyclable (single-use plastic bags on greens and leaves), but for the box and woolcool insulation, Abel & Cole offer a weekly packaging collection service.
Does it offer good value for money?
Although the produce was all organic and would be more expensive to buy in a shop, £6-8 per portion was still expensive for something you make at home.
How easy is the recipe to make?
Every recipe came out exactly as expected and matched the pictures on the recipe cards, with easy-to-follow instructions and accurate cooking times. However, the preparation times weren’t very accurate, particularly where a lot of washing, peeling and chopping was needed.
Are the instructions clear?
The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and specified how finely to chop and how often to stir. They also detailed a few instructions to help you check you’re on track, for example, the consistency you’re looking for when making the dough for the dumplings – it needed to be very wet and sticky!
Is there any food waste?
Generally, the ingredient quantities were correct, and there were ideas for what to do with any leftovers.
What are the finished recipes like?
The finished dishes had plenty of flavour, and there was no need to use anything additional from the kitchen other than a little oil and seasoning.
How many people does it serve?
Each recipe serves two people at £6-8 per portion.
What utensils did you need to use to make the recipes?
We didn’t need any special equipment – just a colander to wash the vegetables, chopping board, knife, peeler and a couple of saucepans and frying pans.
Who would the product be most useful for?
Someone with plenty of disposable income who loves to cook but doesn’t have time to shop. They really emphasise the quality of their produce and that everything is organic, so this is probably a product most suited for someone happy to pay a premium price.
What’s your favourite thing about this product?
We chose recipes with more unusual ingredients we wouldn’t normally opt for, which took a little more time to make than we would normally spend in the kitchen. I really enjoyed the process of putting a little more love into my cooking than usual. I cooked the recipes for a couple of different people with good reviews!
What are the subscription terms? Can you easily cancel it?
They describe their terms as ‘no strings attached’, with the option to stop orders or cancel your account at any time.
Overall star ratings
Ease of cooking 4.5/5
Quality of the finished recipes 5/5
Delivery options 2/5
Quality of ingredients 4.5/5
Value for money 3/5
Discover how to sign up to the Abel and Cole recipe box.
This review was last updated in February 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.