Thinking of signing up for a recipe box subscription that delivers meal kits direct to your door? We put popular brands to the test to see whether they're a match for traditional home cooking.
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Recipe subscription services – the concept of ingredients, individually portioned up for cooking meals at home and delivered straight to your door – have boomed in recent years. They are certainly a convenient way to make evening meals without the hassle of planning recipes and visiting the supermarket.
The food comes in specific quantities with clear instructions for cooking. The recipes often take little time to prepare and the results can be impressive thanks to brands putting plenty of imagination behind the dishes offered. It's a step up from ready-meals as the food is prepared by hand, but it cuts out the legwork of cooking from scratch.
However, they can be an expensive way to cook, especially if you like to hunt for reduced ingredients or shop at inexpensive local markets. Those who prefer to cook on a whim might not like being committed to set meals, plus there is no shortage of inspiration for easy recipes online if you're stuck in a food rut. There are also environmental pitfalls to using these services – they sometimes come with excessive packaging that can't be recycled.
If you're thinking of signing up to a recipe delivery service, bear in mind the value for money, convenience factor and any limitations, especially the terms around cancelling a subscription. We tested and scored popular brands to help you make your decision.
For more, visit our reviews section and find over 200 practical buyer's guides offering unbiased advice on what foodie products and services are worth spending money on. Plus, we have thousands of simple recipes for everyday mealtime inspiration.
1. Gousto recipe box
Highest scoring recipe box service
Gousto is one of the original recipe box providers and its offering is accomplished. There are 40 recipes on offer at any one time, with the menu rotating each week. The flavours are adventurous and the ingredients, premium. This is the ideal choice for busy professionals who don't have time to shop, and want something quick, easy and tasty. It's also good for people who want to try cooking new dishes and need some inspiration.
Read about how to sign up for the Gousto recipe box
2. Mindful Chef recipe box
A healthy recipe subscription service that delivers on flavour
Mindful Chef is a health-focused food box delivery service, first launched in 2015. Each of the recipes are designed to be nutritious and low-carb, and all use ethically sourced ingredients from small UK farms and producers. All Mindful Chef boxes are gluten- and dairy-free, plus they mention Paleo-friendly options on the menu. The recipes we tried were delicious and well-portioned. The dishes are innovative and use different flavour pairings, so it's good for people who want some inspiration in discovering new dishes that are still healthy.
Read about how to sign up for the Mindful Chef recipe box
3. Abel & Cole recipe box
A recipe subscription service with quality ingredients at its heart
Abel & Cole started in 1988, and describes itself as an expert in 'organic, seasonal, wild food that's extra special'. The company is perhaps best-known for its fruit and veg subscription services, so it's no surprise that their recipe boxes focus on quality ingredients. This USP means the service comes with a premium price tag, however the finished dishes deliver. For a company that prides itself on its sustainable message, we were disappointed by some of the excess packaging, however they have made efforts to use less plastic.
Read about how to sign up to the Abel & Cole recipe box
4. HelloFresh recipe box
An established recipe box with inventive recipe choices
HelloFresh is another of the leading recipe box brands and was masterminded by Patrick Drake, formerly of the prestigious Fat Duck restaurant. The dishes on offer are adventurous and bold, drawing on interesting flavour combinations from around the world. Ingredients are, true to the name, fresh and high-quality. The portioning method was a little frustrating to work with as they only bag for two servings at a time, meaning cooking for three involves some mathematics. However, the finished recipes were impressive and left us satisfied.
Read about how to sign up to the HelloFresh recipe subscription box
5. Morrisons Eat Fresh recipe box
Best budget-friendly recipe box service
Morrisons is the only major UK supermarket to offer a recipe box delivery service and its Eat Fresh service is very competitively priced. In keeping with the Morrisons brand, it is practical, affordable and family-friendly, although the recipes are basic. This is utilitarian cooking that serves a clear purpose and leaves you well-fed. The use of fresh, nutritious ingredients feels wholesome and the recipes are an education in how to prepare balanced meals when faced with limited time and cost parameters.
Read about how to sign up to Morrisons Eat Fresh recipe box
6. Simply Cook recipe box
Best letterbox-friendly recipe box service
Simply Cook is a unique service in that, unlike other recipe boxes, it's letterbox-sized. Each delivery contains four 'recipe kits' – dry ingredients in pots, to which you add your own fresh ingredients. The recipe list features a good mixture of cuisines, satisfying hot meals like stews, curries and bowl food. It's a great option if there are cuisines you've not cooked before and are keen to try out before you commit to filling your storecupboard with new ingredients. The portions are generous and the finished dishes, very flavoursome.
Read about how to sign up to the Simply Cook recipe subscription box
7. Riverford Organic Farmers recipe box
A premium recipe box with a veg-focused selection
The Riverford organic recipe selection features an enticing mixture of cuisines, with richer and lighter options to choose from. Each week, there are 12 very different recipes to choose from and the dishes on offer change weekly. The high-quality organic ingredients are impressive and the recipes quick and easy with delicious end results. However, the dishes we tried were high in fat and overall this isn't a viable option if you're not willing to pay out for superior ingredients with a corresponding price tag.
Read about how to sign up for the Riverford Organic Farmers recipe box
Are you signed up to a recipe delivery service? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below...
This review was last updated in September 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.