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The best meal kit service is simply the one that works best for you and with different players occupying various lanes on the meal kit highway, you'll just need to do a little poking around to find the right fit. The good news is we've been poking around for you -- aka testing all the leading operations -- in an effort to help you find the best meal service in 2021. 

After more than a year of pandemic-related restrictions putting a damper on our ability to dine out at restaurants, people are craving new culinary experiences. That said, takeout can be both unhealthy and expensive -- a one-two punch of poor decision-making. If you're looking to expand your food horizons, you might want to consider a meal kit delivery service. Even if it's just for one or two meals every week, these services can take something off your plate (pun intended), keep you on track with healthy eating goals and save you money when purchased instead of takeout.

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With meal kits, it's easy to keep track of what you're eating, since in-depth nutritional information, including calories, protein, carbs and sugar, is always provided. Many meal kit services even offer specific diet plans that filter out any foods that don't fit in, like keto or carb-conscious, diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, paleo diet and more. And if you're new to cooking and it feels daunting to start from scratch on a complex recipe, meal kits will take most of the guesswork out of meal preparation, setting you up to knock out a perfect chicken Milanese, meatloaf or mahi-mahi. 

Even for the pickiest eater, there's something about a box arriving with all the fresh ingredients to make a relatively easy and healthy recipe. A meal kit delivery service can also help you avoid that nightly debate about what you're going to actually make for dinner and save a trip to the grocery store if you're missing breadcrumbs or flour. Instead, you have a foolproof meal plan with pre-portioned ingredients -- whatever meal comes in the box is the meal you make (and the meal selection is extensive). For us indecisive folks, this is an incredible perk.

Read more: Don't feel like cooking? Check out the best prepared meal delivery for 2021

But with seemingly endless options, how do you find the best meal kit service for your situation? Bright and colorful meal delivery boxes from the likes of FreshlyHome ChefSakara Life, Purple Carrot and Gobble are now a staple delivery for busy home cooks -- just take a peek at some of your neighbor's doorstep -- but each has its own set of unique features along with strengths and weaknesses, often based on the audience they're looking to target. While different boxes may offer a meal plan that falls into its own niche (such as vegan, paleo or gluten-free), each box from a meal delivery company sources from chefs, culinary teams, nutritionists and grocery experts and then delivers them into the kitchens and hands of home cooks everywhere with weekly menus and delicious, pre-measured ingredients.

The variety of meal delivery program options available today is staggering, including everything from fully prepared meals to gluten-free, healthy meals to organic meals, vegetarian plant-based meals and more, all available and ready to ship within just a few days. Companies such as Sun BasketMartha & Marley Spoon Snap Kitchen, Daily Harvest and Purple Carrot come with a variety of healthy and niche meal selection customizations. That means that people with special diets like vegan and vegetarian gluten-free, paleo, low-carb, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto, plant-based, general low-calorie, health-conscious and just about anything else. There are even boxes that focus on organic ingredients, humanely raised meats and sustainable seafood. Some services even offer smoothies and oat bowls, so you're never far away from a delicious meal. 

You'll also often find promotional offers for new customers and convenient features like being able to skip weeks and cancel anytime. With limited or no commitment, if you're a calendar master and an account-management ninja, you can dabble in any or all of these meal delivery services and choose, week-by-week, which best suits your circumstances and what meal options you already have in your fridge.

So! It's time to find the best meal kit delivery service for your needs, tastes, diet preferences and health goals, regardless of whether you're vegan, on a keto diet or just a picky eater and looking for a healthy meal. And yes, we've personally tested every meal kit service on this list and update it periodically.

Read more: The best seafood delivery services in 2021

Chowhound

Sunbasket not only has the best meal kits, by our admittedly subjective calculations, but they're also some of the best for you too. Healthy and fresh are common favorite meal kit descriptors, but Sunbasket goes a step further with lots of organic, non-GMO, sustainably and responsibly raised ingredients. Basically, the box took the trip to the farmer's market for you and the thoughtful meals are as delicious as they are interesting. In a test of all the leading meal kit services, Sunbasket came out on top.

Sunbasket's recipes are developed by Justine Kelly, a San Francisco chef known for her work at the James Beard Award-winning Slanted Door restaurant and it shows. Many of Sunbasket's easy and delicious meals made with organic ingredients are nutritionist-approved (500 to 800 calories per serving) and most meals take only 30 minutes to prepare.

The meal kit service gives you options for these nutritious meals too -- you'll be able to choose from a selection of six to 18 different organic meal recipes each week, including paleo, vegan meal, vegetarian and gluten-free meals, so you'll always get what you want. Sunbasket delivery is available in 36 states and shipments arrive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Beyond the great meal kits, Sunbakset offers premade "Fresh and Ready" meals ($9 per meal). There's also an enormous market of grocery items that can be added to your weekly order including meats, fish, cheese, snacks, breakfast foods and more. See how much we loved the meal delivery service in our full review of Sunbasket.

Subscription: For three Sunbasket meals each week, you'll pay $74.93 for the two-person plan (or the $11.99 price per serving) and $143.87 for the four-person Sunbasket plan ($10.99 per serving), with a $5.99 shipping fee either way.

Home Chef

Home Chef boasts over 38 meal kits to choose from in any given week -- more than any other service -- including oven-ready meals and one-pan dinners. I tested Home Chef myself and loved how much customization you can do from week to week like swapping the protein in your meal choices from chicken to pork to fish or double the protein if you're feeling especially carnivorous. You can even double the portion size of an entire meal if you're planning on entertaining the following week or just want more leftovers for lunches and snacks. 

These flexible features make Home Chef stand out from the pack. Other modifications from the meal delivery service include ordering antibiotic-free protein instead of the standard version or adding plant-based meats like Impossible Beef instead of regular meat. Meal kits, recipes and ingredients are pretty standard in their offering (which is what keeps Home Chef an efficient meal delivery kit for the masses). Examples include meal kit options such as Chipotle Chimichurri Mini Pork Meatloaves with Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Peppercorn Salmon Scampi with Garlic Cream Gemelli and Broccolini. 

One new and unique offering from the meal delivery service is their oven-ready meals, which come with everything you'll need to make the meal including the cooking tray (no messy kitchen and no dishes). See an example of an oven-ready meal from Home Chef here.

Subscription: Starting at $7.99 per serving with additional premium Home Chef recipes offered at market price. 

Freshly

A few of these meal kit service options provide fully cooked, ready-to-eat meals to your doorstep. Freshly is a good one if you desire wholesome, tasty comfort foods such as peppercorn steak, penne bolognese or chicken and rice pilaf. The oven ready meal options are prepared right before delivery and are never frozen. With minimal reheating required by you, it's like having Mom cook dinner for you in your kitchen, without having Mom live with you. (Sorry, Mom.) Read our full review of Freshly to learn more about the prepared meal delivery operation.

Subscription: $8.99 to $12.50 per serving, with up to 12 servings per week. Shipping is free.

At just $5 per serving -- even cheaper with a sign-up offer -- and an emphasis on delicious, hearty meal options and generous portion sizes, EveryPlate is the best cheap meal kit service I tried. EveryPlate keeps overhead costs low by offering just eight easy meal kit recipes to choose from weekly, which mostly excludes vegetarians and those on special diets, but the eight available meals are full of variety and flavor otherwise. 

You can expect a lot of comfort food from this meal delivery service such as meatloaf, burgers and pasta dishes but everything I made was solid. Best of all, you can score 18 meals for only $3.33 each, with free shipping on your first order. You'll also have the ability to skip or cancel anytime. Check out this full review of EveryPlate to find out how much I liked the affordable meal kit service.

Subscription: Each serving is only $4.99. Each weekly box includes three recipes with either two or four servings apiece. Snag a sign-up offer and get meals starting as low as $2 per serving.

Read more: The 6 cheapest meal delivery services

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is largely accepted to be the granddad of meal kit delivery programs in the US. The eight weekly menu choices available range from simple pastas to delicious international options, with a seafood and vegetarian option always available. With even the simplest recipes, you might find an unfamiliar component or two on the recipe card, and the website often highlights these ingredients as an educational opportunity. 

Recipes are tagged with helpful keywords such as "customer favorite," "quick and easy," "great for grilling" and so on. Occasional promotions include a menu from guest celebrity chefs, or recipes that highlight popular travel destinations. An optional wine pairing service is also offered and Blue Apron is constantly launching special menus to help you prepare a festive spread for big food holidays like the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving.

See how Blue Apron compares to HelloFresh in our head-to-head review of the two popular meal delivery services or see my full review of the original meal kit service and how holds up in 2021.

Subscription: Price per serving ranges from $7.49 to $9.99, with options to prepare two to four recipes per week and two or four servings per recipe.

Brandy Yowell

Gobble takes the template from the old guard of meal delivery kits but speeds it up by prechopping and part-cooking many of the components so that all recipes have a prep time of 15 minutes or less. Despite the "fast food" angle, each menu from this food kit delivery service has a sophisticated and worldly vibe. Weekly recipe choices are cleverly categorized into From the Range, From the Ranch, From the Sea and From the Earth options. When I tested Gobble's meal kits they were a little hit or miss but the hits were big including a fantastic tofu pad Thai and a very tasty and quick salmon with cilantro pesto. You can also make substitutions to your recipes like swapping fish or steak in for chicken or upgrading to organic meats -- generally, at an added cost.

Subscription: Gobble meal kits are mostly $12 per serving and there is no complicated plans or pricing. You can select recipes for two to four servings of two or three (or more!) recipes but the difficult choices end there. It's certainly not the cheapest meal kit service we tried but with all the prep Gobble does for you, it is a solid choice for someone who wants to spend less time cooking and more time eating.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is all about making the customer happy no matter how particular. While you won't find high-end, gourmet food, it's all very good and the brand makes it easy on folks with special diets by tagging each recipe accordingly. Whether you are allergic to (or avoiding) dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and so on you can sort recipes very easily with HelloFresh. It also makes sticking to a diet plan like keto or paleo a snap.

HelloFresh's portion sizes are also generous, and it's pretty affordable if you order meals for a family. A "dinner to lunch" element is a unique twist that provides the home cook a variation on tonight's dinner to serve as a tasty portable lunch tomorrow. HelloFresh has a ton of recipes too so it's it should be easy to find something everyone will like. Plus, they'll allow you to make substitutions. Learn more about the convenient and flexible meal kit service in this full review of HelloFresh.

Subscription: Options range from $7.50 to $10 per serving, with options for two to four recipes per week and two or four servings per recipe, customizable along with Classic, Veggie and Family plans.

Green Chef

While it may be one of the pricier options, we like Green Chef for its versatility in the different specific diet plans available. The healthy meal kit service also boasts the most organic ingredients of any meal kit service including produce, meats and fish. Green Chef also offers paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, and vegetarian meals as well as gluten-free meal kit recipes and meals. No matter which diet you're following (for health or personal reasons) you'll be able to find a Green Chef plan that works for you, especially if eating organic food is important. 

Because it offers so many different diet plan choices, this also makes Green Chef one of the most versatile meal kit delivery services since you get a plethora of different tasty menu options per week. I tried a week's worth of Green Chef meals and while some recipes were better than others, you could definitely taste the higher caliber of organic ingredients.

Subscription: $12-$13 per serving for a two-person Green Chef subscription at three meals/week; $11 per serving for a four-person Green Chef subscription at two meals/week. 

Read more: The best meal kit for vegetarians and vegans in 2021

Purple Carrot

Best for vegans and vegetarians

Purple Carrot

Considering Purple Carrot's meal kits are all 100% plant-based, it's no surprise they took the top spot for vegans and vegetarians looking for easy meal kits.  

Purple Carrot takes its plant-based recipes pretty seriously and the goal is to help you create tasty and nourishing dinners the old-fashioned way, using fresh vegetables, grains, legumes and other whole foods. If you're new to veganism and looking for only some plant-based or faux meat products like Impossible Beef that imitates the real thing, you might be better off with a service like HelloFresh

There are about eight recipes to choose from each week. I tested a full week's worth of meals -- which you can read about in my full Purple Carrot review here -- and enjoyed everything I had. Out of all the vegan meal kits I've tried, Purple Carrot's provided me with the best knowledge of and practice for cooking vegan cuisine and its ingredient mainstays like lentils and grains. Purple Carrot also introduced me to some really interesting sauces and condiments like cashew cream and other nut-based "dairy" products.

A Sample menu might include Lemon-braised chickpeas with rosemary and cashew cheese, green curry lentils with brown rice and vegetables and broccoli and cheddar soup with miso garlic croutons. There are also breakfast meal kit add-ons starting at $6 per serving.

Subscription: Purple Carrot meals are between $9 and $12 per serving, depending on how many servings per meal you order. A box of three meals per week for two people will cost about $72. Shipping is free.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.