The best recipe boxes tried and tested
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.
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 more than 400 practical buyer's guides offering unbiased advice on what foodie products and services are worth spending money on, including the best meal delivery services for when you don't want to cook at all, the best healthy meal box subscriptions and the best veg boxes to order to your door. We also have thousands of simple recipes for everyday mealtime inspiration.
Best recipe boxes at a glance
- Best overall recipe box: Gousto, from £24.99 for two meals
- Best healthy recipe box: Mindful Chef, from £22 for two meals
- Best recipe box for diverse recipe ranges: HelloFresh, from £31.98 for three meals
- Best for accessible healthy meals: Green Chef, from £22.50 for 3 meals
- Best letterbox-friendly recipe box service: SimplyCook, first box is free, just pay £1 postage
- Best organic recipe box: Abel & Cole, from £12 for one meal
- Best low food miles recipe box: Riverford Organic, from £12.45 for one meal
- Best recipe box for adventurous cooks: The Cookaway, from £28 to serve two
- Best recipe box for pasta: Pasta Evangelists, from £9 for one meal
- Best for indecisive cooks: Nonna Tonda, from £5.83 for one meal
- Best for video learning: Chefs for Foodies, from £14.95 per box
Recipe box offersBelow you’ll find all the best recipe box deals and discounts being offered by the brands in our best list.
- Gousto: get 60% off your first box and 25% off your first two months
- Mindful Chef: get 25% off your first four recipe boxes
- HelloFresh: Get 60% off first box, 25% off for 2 months and 3 free gifts
- Green Chef: get £57 off your first 5 boxes
- Abel & Cole: Enjoy 50% off 1st and 4th Fruit & Veg Box with code VEGBOX4
- The Cookaway: 20% off first order using the code BBCGF20
- SimplyCook: try for free, just pay £1 postage
- Riverford Organic: save 5% when you buy two recipe boxes. Buy three or more to save 10%
- Pasta Evangelists: enjoy £10 off your first order over £20 with code 10OFF
The best recipe boxes to order to your door in 2023
Gousto recipe box
Best overall recipe box
- Wide choice of recipes and dietary options
- Meals quick to prepare
- Flexible subscription
- Lots of plastic packaging
Gousto is one of the original recipe box providers and its offering is accomplished. There are 60+ 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.
Mindful Chef recipe box
Best healthy recipe box
- Inventive recipes with no refined carbs or sugars
- Ethically sourced protein
- Range of serving sizes available
- Wide recipe choice
- Some inaccurate cooking times
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
HelloFresh recipe box
Best recipe box for diverse recipe ranges
- Different recipe ranges for every need
- 'Rapid' recipes take less than 20 minutes
- Can deliver when you're out
- Repetition of side dishes
- Complexities from different serving sizes listed on one recipe card
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, with plenty of choice and ranges designed for different needs, from indulgent street food and gastropub-style meals to Weight Watchers approved healthy recipes or rapid 20-minute meals. Ingredients are, true to the name, fresh and high quality. The finished recipes were impressive and left us satisfied.
Read about how to sign up for the HelloFresh recipe box
Best for accessible healthy meals
- Lots of dietary options to choose from
- Making healthy eating accessible
- Wide recipe choice
- Add-ons available, e.g. tofu, vegan burgers
- Lots of washing-up midweek from some recipes
If you know you want to eat healthily but aren't sure where to start, or you want to make nutritious meals for your family, Green Chef is a great place to start. There are six diet options – vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, lower carb, keto and flexitarian – so there's plenty of flexibility, and you'll never feel like you're eating 'diet food'. Even with its healthy mindset, recipes still feel indulgent and easily accessible as Green Chef aims to break down the barriers of healthy eating. All recipes are approved by nutritionists with menus changing weekly, and you can see recipe choices three weeks at a time to help you plan ahead.
Boxes can be ordered for two or four people, with a maximum of five recipes per box. We tested out a selection of recipes including pinto bean tostadas – a meat-free dish with lots of colours and textures for a midweek meal that breaks you out of a 'meat, carb and veg' mindset when cooking. It involved lots of prep and chopping, but nothing complicated, and it came together quickly. We also tried double cheesy pork meatballs and peri peri chicken thighs – recipes that might not scream healthy at first glance, but had been cleverly developed.
More like this
Read about how to sign up for the Green Chef recipe box
Abel & Cole recipe box
Best organic recipe box
- High quality organic ingredients
- Clear instructions
- Minimal packaging
- Good veggie/vegan options
- Not much delivery day choice
- Some overly ambitious prep times
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 its 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 it has made efforts to use less plastic.
Read about how to sign up to the Abel & Cole recipe box
Best for Vietnamese food
- Great quality chicken and beef
- Delicious extras, including pickled veg, fresh herbs and chilli oil
- Big, bold flavours
- Easy to use, weighed out ingredients
- Vietnamese classic dishes, like pho and summer rolls
- Expensive compared to some boxes
- Quite hands on in terms of cooking
Phomo was born out of love for the fresh, light and healthy dishes common to Vietnamese cuisine. What started as a way to bring phở (noodle soup) to home kitchens, now includes a range of delicious meals. We tried the Vietnamese BBQ for two and were thoroughly impressed. The spatchcocked chicken and steak arrived marinaded and vac-packed, to seal in maximum flavour. Along with mini packets of fresh herbs, garlic and chilli, salad dressing and pickled vegetables, as well as a jar of fiery sate sauce (of which we had lots leftover).
The chicken required cooking in the oven (or on the barbecue) and the steak called for a few minutes in the pan. All salad ingredients were washed and ready to be sliced. If serving two people, this made dinner for two nights, or you could make a big feast for four.
We found the vibrant flavours and high quality of ingredients were what you'd usually get in a restaurant. The lemongrass marinade was punchy, the nuoc cham dressing was the perfect balance of sour and sweet, and the barbecue butter sauce was mind-blowingly good. We would order this again for the sauce alone.
Phomo boxes do require quite a bit of chopping and cooking, and we had a few big items like baking trays to wash up. And we should mention they are a little more expensive than some other boxes, at £32.95 for the box we tried. However, we felt the meal was definitely worth the investment of time and money, and we'd consider this an alternative to eating out.
SimplyCook recipe box
Best letterbox-friendly recipe box service
- Fits through letterbox
- Long shelf life
- Covers wide range of cuisines
- Majority of ingredients must be purchased separately
SimplyCook 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 such as 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 SimplyCook recipe subscription box
Riverford Organic Farmers recipe box
Best low food miles recipe box
- Good quality organic ingredients
- Easy recipes to follow
- Great end results
- Limited choice in recipes and serving sizes
The Riverford Organic recipe selection features an colourful mixture of recipe options, with plant-based, veggie and meaty meals to choose from. Each week, there are 12 very different recipes featuring seasonal veg to select from and the dishes on offer change weekly. The high-quality organic ingredients are impressive and the recipes are simple to make with delicious end results. However, there isn't as much recipe choice as other brands on the market, so your options are somewhat limited. Be prepared to pay out for superior ingredients with a corresponding price tag.
Read about how to sign up for the Riverford Organic Farmers recipe box
Best for adventurous cooks
- Interesting recipes to choose from
- 95% of packaging is recyclable
- Good quality ingredients
- Can choose halal meat
The Cookaway is the recipe box to choose when you're getting bored of your own cooking repertoire and want to try something new. Based around menus from eight different cuisines, there are over 180 recipes to choose from, designed by expert chefs that specialise in Malaysian, Pakistani, Spanish, Indian and more cuisines.
There is no subscription method here, you simply choose a recipe you want to cook – most come as a main and accompaniment in one box, and others may even have more dishes if you're choosing a meze or tapas-style feast. Recipes will introduce you to new ingredients and learn more about different global cuisines than the cliche dishes we may know. They also host free cook-alongs to join as you make your dish. It is expensive, so works best as a one-off treat or cooking experience to do as a couple and enjoy, rather than a shortcut for midweek cooking.
Best recipe box for pasta
- Quick and easy to prepare
- Minimal plastic packaging
- Good for freezer filling
- Dishes rotate regularly
- Can get expensive if ordered often
Billing itself as the first fresh pasta recipe box, Pasta Evangelists deliver fresh pasta to your door, complete with quality sauces and garnishes. There's a decent selection of recipes to choose from and you can add as many as you'd like to your basket - handy for filling up the freezer. Recipes serve one or two, but again you can add as many portions as you need if you'd like to serve more people. Slightly different to other recipe subscription boxes, there is minimal cooking involved as everything is done for you. Meals are ready in minutes - simply boiling the pasta and reheating or melting sauces - with impressive results.
Best for indecisive cooks
- Quick and easy to prepare, no cooking skills required
- Fresh and high-quality ingredients
- Great results
- Gets expensive if ordered often
- Limited dietary filters
- No recipe choice
If you get overwhelmed by choice, Nonna Tonda is the pasta delivery service for you. A hybrid of a meal delivery service and a recipe subscription box, Nonna Tonda delivers two pasta dishes a week. The only choice is whether to go meat or vegetarian or a combo – there’s only one of each on the menu. Just boil the pasta, reheat the sauce, and dinner is served. You can also add an antipasti selection to your order, which changes weekly.
We were impressed by how compact our delivery was, deceptively containing two pastas to serve two, and two antipasti selections in a cardboard box. Each pasta, cheese and sauce comes in a sleek cardboard box, so it's clear which elements go together. A lot of the packaging is recyclable and reusable – we kept the resealable bags that our ciabatta and pasta came in to use again. Finished recipes were impressive, and we'd be tempted to order more as a treat for busy weeks.
Chefs For Foodies
- Chef-led video to watch
- Complex recipes made simple
- Learn a new skill
- Lots of plastic packaging
- No physical recipe card
Best for video learning
Chefs for Foodies describes itself as 'recipe kits by award-winning chefs'. It's not a recipe subscription box – it's more like a restaurant meal kit, so you just pick one recipe you want to try at a time. Chefs and restaurateurs share their skills and expertise in signature recipes, whether that's a chicken tikka masala from the head chef of an Indian restaurant, pizza kits from Italian masters of pizza dough, or classic recipes such as beef wellington from MasterChef winners. We tested the chicken tikka masala, and appreciated the breakdown of step-by-step results and delivery of complex spices that would be tricky to source on our own. The amount of plastic packaging was disappointing, but Chefs for Foodies has told us that they're working on it.
Try out a Chefs for Foodies recipe box
How we tested recipe box subscriptions
Members of the BBC Good Food digital and cookery teams each tested a week of each recipe box subscription. There were several key criteria that teams based their verdict on:
- Range of recipes: was there plenty to choose from, and did recipes rotate regularly if you were going to repeatedly buy? Were all dietary options covered? Was it possible to scale recipes up or down to serve different family sizes?
- Ease of cooking: after testing several recipes from each service, we were looking for clear instructions (photos and obvious step-by-step methods were a bonus), accurate suggested cooking times and clear ways to distribute ingredients between elements and steps.
- Quality of the ingredients: some of the recipe boxes provided organic ingredients, but regardless we were looking for ethically sourced, fresh, high-quality ingredients.
- Packaging: with small quantities of ingredients individually sent, packaging can quickly add up. We looked for packaging to be sustainable, with minimal plastic where possible.
- Quality of the finished recipes: the all-important cooking results! After accurately following the recipes, we wanted delicious meals that we would want to cook again. Portion size and balanced meals was also considered.
- Value for money: how does the subscription compare to cooking from scratch? Would it be practical to regularly get a recipe delivery, or would it be more of a one-off purchase?
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