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 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 organic recipe box: Abel & Cole, from £12 for one meal
- Best letterbox-friendly recipe box service: SimplyCook, from £9.99 for a box
- Best low food miles recipe box: Riverford Organic, from £12.45 for one meal
- Best recipe box for young families: Pickle & Squash, from £45 for three meals
- Best recipe box for pasta: Pasta Evangelists, from £9 for one meal
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 30% off all other boxes in your first month
- Mindful Chef: use code NEW25X4 to receive 25% off your first four boxes
- HelloFresh: 50% off your first box, then 35% off your next three boxes and 3 free gifts
- Abel & Cole: Enjoy 50% off 1st and 4th Fruit & Veg Box plus a free bottle of Abel & Cole Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil (500ml) in 1st delivery – VEGBOXGF50
- 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%
- Pickle & Squash: sign up to the email list to get 30% off your first recipe box
- Pasta Evangelists: sign up to claim 50% off your first two orders
The best recipe boxes to order to your door in 2022
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.
New customers get 65% off their first box and 25% off all boxes for the next two months.
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
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
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 separaetely
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
Pickle & Squash recipe box
Best recipe box for young families
- Includes weaning guide for little ones
- Recipes have prompts where children can help
- Wide range of cuisines and flavours
- Fixed serving sizes
Pickle & Squash has taken on the challenge of creating a recipe box that can be enjoyed by all the family. Starting with babies from seven months old, the recipes are pitched as flexible and interesting enough to feed older children as well as adults (without leaning on a bottle of hot chilli sauce).
Meat and fish or veggie boxes containing three recipes are delivered fortnightly, with lovely large recipe cards and numbered large paper bags of ingredients. Everyone’s taste buds take a trip around the world with the recipes covering different cuisines and flavours while still making the most of seasonal, organic British produce. Minimal packaging and clearly written methods make this offering a treat.
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Get a welcome discount of £10 off your first and second box with the code Squash10 at checkout.
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.
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?
Are you signed up to a recipe delivery service? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below...
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