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Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated? Which is the Best?

After being a Blue Apron customer for almost a year, I took advantage of promotions to try Plated and Hello Fresh at a discount.  Although happy with Blue Apron, I was interested in comparing services to determine which offered the best quality ingredients and recipes.

Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh deliver over 5 million meals per month to subscribers.  Blue Apron and Plated, both based in New York City, were founded in 2012 by American entrepreneurs.  Hello Fresh, a global food delivery service established in Berlin, provides over 7 million meals a month to 9 countries.

In the following reviews, I include information about packaging, food quality, and recipe prep time for meal plans that include 3 meals per week for 2 people.  I tried all services back-to-back over a three week period.

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh ingredients are conveniently separated into individual boxes by meal.  Each box has a large label displaying the name of the recipe.  The boxes fit neatly on refrigerator shelves and can be stacked on top of each other to conserve space. When ready to cook, just pull out a single box, lift the lid, and all of your ingredients are at your fingertips.

Hello Fresh Food Packaging

One notable difference between Blue Apron and Hello Fresh is how they package ingredients like soy sauce, dijon mustard, and vinegar.  Hello Fresh sends small glass containers with larger servings than required so these items must be measured.  Blue Apron sends similar ingredients pre-measured in plastic containers.  I prefer the convenience of Blue Apron’s pre-measured ingredients.

All of the food items were fresh.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans were firm and showed no sign of bruising from shipping.  Directions on the enclosed recipe cards were easy to follow.  Hello Fresh rates their recipes on a scale of 1-3 by level of complexity.  I noticed no difference between the level 1 and level 2 recipes.  The recipes called for prep time of 10-15 minutes and a total time of less than a half hour, but it took me closer to 40 minutes to complete each of the following recipes:

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Quinoa, Cucumber Jalapeño Salad

Sweet and Sour Pork over Bulgur Wheat

Roasted Salmon with Potatoes, Tomatoes, Green beans

The recipes were much easier to prepare than Blue Apron recipes.  With Blue Apron, up to 8 items need to be chopped, minced, or peeled for each recipe.  Hello Fresh, on the other hand, only required 3-5 of those items per recipe.  This cut the prep time in half, but also may have contributed to the less flavorful recipes.

hello-fresh3

Portion sizes were larger than what I have grown accustomed to with Blue Apron. Blue Apron doesn’t disclose the weight of the protein included in their meals.  Hello Fresh includes that information on the recipe card. The Hello Fresh meals I tried included 12 oz of chicken, salmon, or pork.

Browse current week recipes at the following link.

Conclusion: Hello Fresh recipes were good, but not great.  I have no intention of repeating any of the recipes.  In contrast, I often save Blue Apron recipe cards for future reference.  The Chicken and Quinoa and the Pork over Bulgur recipes were very similar in texture.  The Salmon with vegetables was basic, no frills.  Blue Apron offers more variety of textures and flavors in their weekly meal options.

I would recommend Hello Fresh to non-adventurous eaters and to those who value quick meal preparation.  The menu includes familiar recipes that include a protein plus vegetables with basic spices.  To give you a better idea of the weekly menu choices, here is a list of Hello Fresh recipes for the upcoming week:  Chicken Parmesan Salad, Steak Tacos, Honey Mustard Salmon, Thai Stir-Fry, Corn and Tomato Risotto, Chickpea Tacos.

Plated

Plated packaging is very similar to Blue Apron.  Both services include all ingredients in a large insulated bag inside the shipping box.  Ingredients are labeled with individual stickers that include the name of the item and the associated meal, but unlike Hello Fresh, ingredients are not separated by meal.  Including the meal on the sticker label made it easier to find all of the ingredients for each meal.  Blue Apron labels only include the name of the ingredient.

Of the three services, the quality of the produce received from Plated was the worst.  Bad produce spoiled two of the three meals received.  The avocado for the Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Cups was overripe.  It was soft with several large brown spots.  The three tomatoes included for the Walnut Crusted Fish side dish were in really bad shape.  Upon arrival on Saturday, one tomato had a little mold on it.  I put the tomatoes on a paper towel on a marble countertop and left them there for a few days.

On Tuesday afternoon, just three days after food delivery, I decided to cook the Walnut Crusted Fish for lunch only to find that all tomatoes were split, bruised, and molded.  The acid from the bottom of one tomato permanently etched the marble countertop.  I have never had this issue with tomatoes purchased from the grocery store or received from other food delivery services.  Blue Apron protects tomatoes by shipping them in individual cartons.  I had to come up with an alternative side dish.

plated-produce

The Plated recipes I tried included:

Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken

Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Cups

Walnut Crusted Fish

The recipe cards were very easy to follow and included helpful tips like recommended meat temperatures for each meal.  There were only a few ingredients that required hands-on attention so preparation time was in line with Hello Fresh.  Recipes were less complicated and less time-consuming than Blue Apron recipes.

Portion size and meat quality were good.  I am very picky about meat and seafood.  Plated met my standards.  The chicken breasts included in the meal were very similar to the organic chicken I buy at my local grocery store.  The shrimp was fresh.  The recipes were a bit bland for my taste, but I prefer spicy global cuisine so I may not be a reflection of the typical customer.

Browse current week recipes at the following link.

Conclusion: Plated is more expensive than Hello Fresh and Blue Apron at $12/per meal compared to $9.99/meal.  After comparing the services, the additional expense doesn’t seem to be justified. Plated may need to reassess their produce vendors and packaging of fragile items like tomatoes. Based on my limited experience, I would recommend Blue Apron or Hello Fresh over Plated.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron packaging is similar to Plated.  The only items separated by meal are the “knick-knacks” which include items like garlic, ginger, vinegar, spices, and pre-measured sauces.  These items are packaged in small paper bags with labels that indicate the associated meal.

blue-apron-packaging

Blue Apron recipes included:

Curried Catfish and Coconut Rice

Spicy Chicken and Korean Rice Cakes

BBQ Pork Burgers and Corn on the Cob

All of the ingredients in the Blue Apron recipes were fresh and well-protected during delivery.  In the past, there have been issues with leaking meat packages, but in this shipment, the meat was protected by an additional layer of Ziploc packaging.

Blue Apron recipes are more complicated than Hello Fresh and Plated recipes.  They require more preparation time and careful review of instructions.  Most Blue Apron recipes call for 30-40 minutes from start to finish, but I usually have to allocate at least an hour.  Many ingredients must be peeled, chopped, minced, or sliced.  Garlic, ginger, shallots, and scallions are common ingredients for Blue Apron recipes.  I find the Blue Apron recipes to be more flavorful than their competitors.

Serving sizes are carefully measured – there will be no leftovers or second helpings.  I like that Blue Apron includes ingredients to spice up most meals.  For example, in the Spicy Chicken recipe, directions read: “add as much of the gochujang as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be.”   I always add the entire contents of the spicy ingredient and find it to be the perfect amount of heat.

The Spicy Chicken recipe included chicken thighs.  I’m not a fan of chicken thighs.  I find them an odd choice in some Blue Apron recipes.  The choice of thighs over breasts for this Buffalo Chicken Sandwich recipe made the sandwich inedible for me.  Blue Apron allows customers to choose certain combinations from 6 recipes each week so there is some control over the recipes you receive.  Meat and seafood quality is good.

You can find current week recipes at the following link.

Conclusion:  After trying several food delivery services, I will be sticking with Blue Apron.  The recipes reflect global diversity with exotic flavors found in countries like India, Korea, China, Vietnam, and Mexico.  If you enjoy curry dishes, ethnic foods like banh mi sandwiches, and spicy dishes, Blue Apron is the best choice.  If you prefer basic meat and potatoes recipes, check out Hello Fresh.

You might consider taking advantage of promotions to try a few services to determine which is best for you.  Blue Apron and Hello Fresh offer free meals with your first order.  Don’t let the cost deter you from trying food subscription services.  As a Blue Apron subscriber, I actually save money because I eat out less often.  You really can’t beat $9.99 for a gourmet, restaurant-quality meal. For more information, visit the following websites: Blue ApronHello FreshPlated

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