I am Argentine and have made empanadas zillions of times, so I can tell you these are not traditional “Argentine beef empanadas.” Argentine empanadas don’t have jalapeño chili (I never even saw a jalapeño until I came to the US) or adobo seasoning. Most importantly, they are not eaten with chimichurri, a sauce which is reserved for asado. But my own empanada recipe has been bastardized enough that I can’t complain about lack of authenticity.
The fact is that these empanadas were pretty tasty. I did like the meat filling quite a bit and appreciated the light spiciness of the adobo filling. What I didn’t like were the shells. They were tough and thick and too crispy. My daughter and husband complained as well. The problem is that Plated sent empanada shells meant to be fried, not baked. I understand the confusion, nowhere on the package it says these are frying shells – though the one recipe it features, calls for the empanadas to be fried. And looking at the ingredients, which include sugar, confirms their intended use.
A second complaint is that Plated calls for the empanadas to be brushed with olive oil. I tried it on the one in the front, and it was a failure. Much better is brushing them with either milk or an eggwash and sprinkling sugar on them.
Finally, the chimichurri wasn’t really chimichurri. For one, it didn’t have oregano, an essential ingredient. But the real issue is that it didn’t go with the empanadas at all. Really, empanadas don’t need a dip or anything like that – they just need the right kind of shells.
On the plus side, while the meal kit was supposed to make 8 empanadas, there were enough ingredients to make 10, so it was enough for 3 of us.
I paid a tad over $13 for this kit, and I think it was well priced for that.
One of the things I like most about cooking from meal kits are the little things I learn that, despite cooking for the last 30 years of my life, I have not figured out on my own. Sometimes they are techniques, and sometimes they are simple recipes. This time, it was a bit of both. I have cooked rice before by sauteing an onion and then the raw rice before adding the water. But I was amazed at what adding just a stick of cinnamon does for rice. It really elevates it to another level. And simmering basmati rice for 10 minutes and then letting steam in its own heat for another 10, is a wonderful technique as well.
In all, this was another winning recipe by Plated. The chicken was good as were the carrots, and it all came well together. My picky 14-yo was happy.
I also loved how Plated sent me all the ingredients I needed, including the flour!
I paid a tad over $13 for this kit, with a welcome back promo, or about $7.65 per person, which was quite fair for the quality of the food and the convenience.
For the last six months I’ve been trying different meal kits, both in order to avoid getting take out and because I just like reviewing things. Having tried most of the meal kits out there (all of them with promos which brought down the price significantly), I think I’m finally done.
Meal kits fall into 4 price categories, which I’ll call budget (~$40 for 3 2-serving meal kits), mid-range (~$60 for the same), premium (~$70) and super-premium (~$80). In order to compare apples to apples, my reviews are organized by price category and they are listed in my order of preference. Please click on the title of each Meal Kit to see a more comprehensive review.
In all of these months, I haven’t really had any major problems with any of my deliveries – I’ve had no missing ingredients, for example. Once a box didn’t come (which was fine, as I didn’t want it and had forgotten to cancel in time) and another time, the box didn’t come until after 11 PM, but that’s about it. Skipping has been a breeze, as has been cancelling.
Budget Meal Kits
There are two of these meal kit services, both products of mid-range meal kit companies. They offer simpler meals, with fewer ingredients that require the use of more of your staples. The menus tend to be very classic American.
Every Plate is HelloFresh’ budget offering. They currently only have 6 offerings, including a “premium” one that costs $6 more per kit, but they’re moving to 8 offerings in mid-March. That’s good, because I often can’t find 3 dishes I want to eat/make in their weekly menu.
I mostly liked what I got – the premium kit was particularly tasty. I really didn’t feel I was compromising too much by getting these kits.
$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $20 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Dinnerly is Martha & Marley Spoon’s budget offering. They offer 8 choices a week, 3 of which are vegetarian. The meals are less refined than those by Every Plate and I enjoyed them less. In all, I wasn’t a fan.
$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.
Mid-Range Meal Kits
There are several companies in this category. They tend to have more sophisticated offerings, they may include ingredients that are not as easy to come by (or that you’d have to buy far more than you’d want to) – but they still require that you use some of your staples. Some of these companies offer discounts for larger purchases. Here they are, in my order of preference.
HelloFresh is the service I’ve tried the most, simply because they’ve sent me the most “come back” offers. They offer a variety of plans, and include one weekly “gourmet” recipe, featuring steak or expensive ingredients, for $12 more per kit.
Most of the recipes have surprised me as to how tasty they are – whoever is responsible for creating them does a pretty good job. That said, I don’t always find enough meals I want to cook in a given week, and lately it seems they’re downgrading their ingredients. Still, it’s a company I like to go back to (with a coupon).
$61 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Blue Apron is actually very similar to HelloFresh, but it offers far fewer discounts. It does seem to have better quality ingredients than HelloFresh, however. The food I had was also tastier than I anticipated, and I would likely re-subscribe if I got another promo – but so far no luck.
$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.
Home Chef’s offerings are a more middle American than the other two, and I’ve had gret difficulty finding kits that I really want to make. But the kits I did make were very good. While Home Chef has occasional premium meal kits, they also regularly have steak without a premium price (unlike other companies in this price point).
Update 2021: Since my original review, Home Chef has expanded their offerings. They now allow you to choose your protein in many kits, usually at an additional cost, and they offer impossible burger for ground beef dishes. They also now offer a variety of oven dishes that include a tray and call for minimal preparation – these often combine raw and pre-cooked ingredients. Basically, they’ve become a cheaper, less exciting, version of Gobble (see below under super-premium kits).
Starts at $60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $35 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Marley Spoon was the meal kit company that least impressed me at this price-point. Granted, I only got two kits because their promo wasn’t that great, but neither of them was particularly noteworthy. They do have a large menu of choices, including 6 vegetarian ones. In all, I didn’t find a compelling reason to choose it over the other kits.
$61.50 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Premium Meal Kits
It’s probably not surprising that as we go up in price, the meal kits get better. They either include more exotic and/or organic ingredients. Some companies offer even more adventurous/sophisticated kits – and some actually send you all the ingredients you need save for oil, salt & pepper. Here they are, in my order of preference.
Note: Plated has ceased operations since my reviews. I miss it, as it was one my favorite meal kits.
I love Plated. It’s one of my favorite meal kits and, if I could afford it, it’s the one I would stay subscribed to. The offerings are pretty sophisticated, and they often include ingredients that I wouldn’t want to buy myself. More importantly, they include all the ingredients I need – including butter! I have greatly enjoyed almost every meal I’ve had from them.
Plated is also available at select Safeway supermarkets. The kits there usually vary in price depending on the ingredients, but they’re generally cheaper than with the subscription. They have a much lower selection, however.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Sun Basket distinguishes itself by providing a large variety of meals catering to special diets – from paleo to vegan. Most importantly, they don’t ask you to subscribe to a specific plan, but you can chose from any meal they provide. This is cool for families like mine that have members with very different food preferences. Sun Basket also sends more organic produce than other companies – and they’re probably the most environmentally friendly meal kit service.
Still, I wasn’t awed by their kits and I haven’t felt a compelling reason to re-subscribe.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box.
Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit company. Having a vegan child at home, I gave it a try. Unfortunately, she didn’t like any of the three meal kits I got for her – and would not even eat the leftovers.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Super Premium Meal Kits
In addition to the kits listed below, there are two other meal kits services which fall in this category. As neither offers good promo codes – and their offerings don’t seem particularly enticing – I’ve decided I’m not going to try either. Do comment if you do. Peach Dish – a Georgia based company – specializes in local ingredients and offers both international and classic Southern food. One Potato specializes in family-friendly fare.
Gobble sends out meal kits that can be put together and cooked in 15 minutes. They manage this by sending pre-sliced vegetables, prepared sauces and some pre-cooked sides (like rice, lentils and sweet potatoes). Still, most kits require you to do enough that you do feel like cooking. Their meals are generally pretty good – one, specifically, was great – and I love how quickly they are to put on the table. This is a kit I’d definitely stay subscribed to if I could afford it.
$79 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for 1 free meal kit in your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Green Chef distinguishes itself by offering a variety of plans catering to special diets – everything from keto, to gluten-free to vegan. Unfortunately, they only offer five choices per plan, and you cannot mix and match between plans (though they do have an omnivore plan, still with only five choices). Once upon a time, Green Chef was fully organic, but since being bought by HelloFresh, they now send out non-organic meats.
The dishes I tried were pretty good, though they seemed overpriced for what they were.
$67 to $85 for 3 kits with 2 servings each, depending on plan (omnivore is $79). Use this referral link for 2 free meal kits in your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Ready Made Meals
In addition to meal kits, a number of companies have entered the market offering ready-to-heat, microwavable meals. Basically, an upscale version of your parent’s TV dinners. I’m not sure I’ll try enough of these to merit their own category, but I’ll list the one I’ve tried so far (I will also be getting Thistle next week – use promo code https://www.thistle.co/referral/MARGARI98F for $30 off your first order).
Freshly offers fresh, refrigerated, microwable meals that you can heat up in just 2-4 minutes. Quality wise, they are way above any frozen meal I’ve tried. Indeed, taste wise they are as good as most meal kits. They do suffer a little texture-wise.
The biggest issue is that their menu doesn’t change much from week to week, so if you’re craving variety, you won’t find it here. They also don’t offer vegan meals. Still, it’s a good choice for when you have a busy week and you can’t make time to cook.
$60 for 6 meals (1 serving each). Use this referral link to get $20 off your first and second week (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Non-Subscription Meal Kits
In addition to the meal kits above, there are a couple of companies that sell meal kits that don’t require a subscription. I have not yet tried these ones, but I might in the future. Good Eggs, a Bay Area company, delivers 3 and 4 serving meal kits from an extensive set menu and Amazon.com sells kits through their Prime Fresh service (which costs $16/month).
The steak, sirloin, was fine but unexciting. The potatoes were blah – I mean, good, but just potatoes. But the sauce was very good and therefore, so was everything else.
The dish also included creamed kale. I wasn’t going to eat it, so I didn’t bother making it.
But this kit was another winner.
I paid around $16/$8 for this kit/per serving. Again, I thought it was worth it.
Sauce au Poivre
This sauce is to be served with steaks. I’ve doubled the quantities but it will probably still serve 2.
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tsp Dijon mustard
Add olive oil to pan where steaks were cooked and heat over medium heat. Add peppercorns and shallot and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until the shallot starts to soften. Add wine and cook for 1-2 minutes, scrapping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and mustard, stir and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
I’m not generally a fan of sirloin, as it’s a pretty tasteless and tougher-than-it-has-a-right-to-be cut, but the tomato sauce was good enough to make up for the meat’s deficiencies. It was one of those sauces that was weird at the beginning, but then really grew on you. And while the potatoes were sort of blah on their own, they were great with the onion mixture.
All in all, I really enjoyed this dish. I liked making it too.
All the ingredients were fresh and stayed fresh until I cook the meal. However, while the potatoes pictured in the recipe were baby potatoes that had to be halved, the ones actually provided in the kit were four regular red potatoes – the oven time obviously worked differently for them.
I paid around $16 for the kit, or $8 a portion, for this kit – using a “come back” promo I got in e-mail. That was definitely a fair price given that I got basically a restaurant quality meal out of it.
I had no reason whatsoever to make this meal kit hack other than the fact that I’m enjoying hacking meal kit recipes and blogging about it. Hey, we all have our weird hobbies.
I did, mind you, need to use the rest of the skinless/boneless chicken thighs my husband got me by mistake a few days ago (the first half I used to make this meal hack) and I love Chicken Marsala, but I could have gone with my usual recipe – which is absolutely delicious. Granted, Plated’s recipe for Chicken Marsala is almost exactly like my own (this one doesn’t use shallots, though) – which is probably why this recipe was absolutely delicious as well.
The recipe for the chicken, that is. I did not enjoy the fingerling potatoes at all. The Dijon taste was too weird. Maybe I put too much, I had to guess how much were in the “packets” and “containers” that went with the kits, but more likely it’s just not a good combination.
I did make a couple of changes to the chicken recipe, the main one was that I used Madeira instead of Marsala. I usually keep Marsala around, but apparently I had actually run out of it the last time I used it. Madeira has very similar notes to Marsala, and I figured it would produce similar results. It did! If anything, the Madeira was better than the Marsala (or maybe, this is just a better recipe than mine).
I ended up spending almost the same amount to make this dish than I would have spent buying the kit – $18.3 for me vs $24, if bought as a subscription, or $21.4, if bought at my local Safeway. As usual, I didn’t have to spend money in some ingredients that I already had at home, but had to buy larger quantities than needed of other ingredients. I think
9 oz cremini mushrooms
8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
8 oz fingerling potatoes
20 oz fingerling potatoes (used less)
1/8 oz parsley
1 Tbsp parsley
1/8 oz rosemary
2 tsp rosemary
2 boneless chicken breasts
5 boneless chicken thighs
2 packets butter
2 Tbsp butter
1 container chicken stock
1/2 tsp chicken stock concentrate
1 packets Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Marsala
1 cup Madeira
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 qt heavy cream (used less)
My local Safeway carries this kit often, and I would consider buying it. My big hesitation is that it comes with chicken breasts, when I really prefer thighs so much more.
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup Madeira
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
Cover each chicken thigh with plastic wrap and then pound until thin. Place flour in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste. Flour the chicken thighs and leave aside.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
Add olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Carefully transfer the chicken thighs to the skillet and cook until done, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a clean plate and set aside.
Add the Madeira, chicken broth and reserved mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, parsley and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 minutes. Return chicken to the the skillet and cook until the chicken is warmed through, about 5 minutes.
(Unfortunately, Plated has ended its subscription service and kits are no longer available at my Safeway).
My first experience with meal kits was a Plated kit that I bought at Safeway on a whim. I was impressed enough with it that it threw me into this project of trying different meal kit services – and taking advantage of the deals most offer when you subscribe. As it turns out, Plated is one of the more upscale meal kit services, offering more global and sophisticated meals at a premium price.
Overall, I liked Plated, but if I was going to pay full price for it, I’d just order the kits from Safeway delivery so as to minimize the packaging waste and make delivery more efficient. (Note, my Safeway now only carries a single Plated kit, but it’s often discounted to about $15)
Plated offers kits for 2, 3 or 4 people. You can order 2, 3 or 4 kits per week. The cost per serving is $10 orders if you order kits for 3 or more people, or $12 if you order a kit for just 2. The typical box with 3 kits for 2 people each, costs $72/week. Shipping is free for orders over $60, and $8 for those below.
As mentioned above, you can also buy Plated kits at some Safeway supermarkets and other supermarkets owned by Albertsons – you can check here whether any is near where you live. At the supermarket you can only find kits for 2 servings and these cost between $20 and $24, depending on the specific meal.
Like other companies, Plated provides incentives to sign in. Right now they are offering 25% off your first 4 boxes. After cancelling, I’ve received offers from Plated to resubscribe for 40% off on my first box.
Plated has probably the largest selection of meal kits in the industry. They offer 20 choices per week! They do repeat many meals from week to week, however. Unlike other services, they don’t have “premium” meals – but they also don’t have premium ingredients such as fillet mignon or large scallops. Note that only up to 4-6 meal kits are offered at the supermarket.
Of all the services out there, Plated probably offers the most “international food” choices, including some from lesser known cuisines (e.g. Indonesian Beef Rendang, Hungarian Meatballs). I can imagine this would be particularly attractive for people who don’t live in areas with many ethnic restaurants. I also appreciate that Plated offers many “fusion” dishes (e.g. curried lamb tacos, spanakopita grilled cheese sandwiches), that push beyond what most of its users are likely to have tried before. I cook a lot of international food, but a big advantage of using Plated’s meal kits is that they do away with the need to hunt for specialized ingredients and then have to buy them in far greater quantities that what you need for the recipe you are making.
Plated offers varied recipes vis a vis ingredients as well. They have four vegetarian offerings weekly and three seafood dishes. They don’t cater to any specific diet, however, and they seldom offer vegan meals.
Ingredients seem to be fresh and of good quality, but I’ve had some problems, such as having steaks sent of very different thickness.
The Shipping and Delivery
I was able to get my meals on a Tuesday. The day before they sent me an e-mail reminding me my delivery would be the next day and giving me the tracking number. They can deliver as late as 8 PM, though I got mine during the day. My order was fine.
Plated kits came in a cardboard box, just like the other services. Inside it I found the recipes for the meals and, after lifting the liner, the ingredients. Meats were packed between freezer packs at the bottom of the box. Heavy ingredients were in plastic bags, organized by recipe. On top of them were lighter, more fragile ingredients (leaf vegetables).
The cardboard box can be recycled, but the rest of the ingredients can’t.
Plated supermarket kits come in a large plastic box, which an theoretically be recycled. Most of the ingredients are in their own plastic bags. There is a lot of packaging waste, but it’s hard to say whether it’s more than what you usually get at the supermarket.
I’ve cooked several meal kits, as well as a couple of other Plated recipes using my own ingredients.
In all, I’m a bit conflicted about Plated. I love their choice and their international and fusion offerings. I don’t love the price and the food has not awed me. I plan to continue getting the occasional kit from the supermarket, but I probably wouldn’t surprise without a great offer.
I got my two weeks of Plated using a Black Friday coupon that saved me $40 out of my first two boxes. That means I paid $8 per 2-serving kit I got. I paid full price for the one I bought at the supermarket. I later got more weeks at 40% off one box.
I’m amazed at the simplicity of it: fresh baby spinach tossed with olive oil and salt and topped with beef sirloin slices, toasted pecans, blue cheese butter (a mixture of just blue cheese and butter) and a packet of balsamic glaze. There were also supposed to be seared sliced beets, but no one in my family likes beets so I skipped them (I’m thinking of using them to make an amuse bouche for my Christmas Eve dinner).
But all the flavors together – including the juice from the beef – were just magical. They worked to contrast and compliment each other. I definitely have to make this myself, though that means making my own balsamic glaze, which is easy, but time consuming. If I find commercial balsamic glaze, I may even make this very simple salad for Xmas Even dinner.
The meal wasn’t perfect, however. While most of the spinach was nice and crispy, some of the leaves had started to wilt. Given that I only received my box yesterday, I’m not sure the spinach would have survived if I’d taken longer to make this kit.
Another problem was that the two steaks were terribly different in thickness – one was twice as think as the other, which made cooking them at the same time difficult. This is not the first time I’ve encountered this problem and I wish meal kit companies would be better at this. The beef, however, was very good quality and very tasty.
Finally, I don’t think the portion was large enough for an adult. Perhaps it would have been if I had included the beets, but I’ve found that many of the meal kits that don’t include a carb leave me hungry.
I paid $8 for this kit for 2 people, using a $40-off Black Friday promo.