A Review of Pete's Real Food Healthy Meal Delivery (Formerly Pete's Paleo)
Pete's protein-packed, paleo-friendly meals impressed us with tasty eats made with only the good stuff.
Updated May 14, 2021 4:00 a.m. PT
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David WatskySenior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's logged more than a decade writing about all things edible, including meal kits and meal delivery subscriptions, cooking, kitchen gear and commerce. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the eats business from slicing and dicing as a sous-chef in Rhode Island to leading complex marketing campaigns for major food brands in Manhattan. These days, he's likely somewhere trying the latest this or tasting the latest that - and reporting back, of course. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
ExpertiseKitchen tech, cookware, small appliances, food innovation, meal delivery and meal kits.
According to followers of the paleo diet, cavemen and cavewomen had it right all those thousands of years ago. The general thrust of the eating plan goes as such: Eat only foods that were in existence during the Paleolithic era. That means true paleos avoid all processed foods such as dairy, grains, sugar, legumes and the strictest of paleo peeps avoid salt, booze and even coffee. (Count me out on cutting out those last three, thank you very much.)
A lot of paleo dieters also happen to be big into fitness. All those burpees, box jumps and wind sprints mean they've got that much less time per week to spend cooking. Enter Pete's Real Food (formerly called Pete's Paleo), a meal delivery service that sends precooked paleo-friendly meals to your door weekly or in a one-time order. While not a paleo dieter myself, I am rather well-versed in the healthy prepared meal market and Pete's caught my attention recently. Curious as I am, I decided to dive headfirst into the meal delivery service and bring you this firsthand review of Pete's Real Food.
As you might have gleaned from the name, Pete's sends healthy, premade meals that are centered around the paleo diet, sometimes called the "caveman" diet. Meals arrive fresh, not frozen and in them you'll find lots of lean meats and vegetables and very few (if any) processed foods such as grains, wheat, soy-based foods or dairy products.
Like many other meal delivery programs, to get started you sign up for Pete's by filling out some basic information and choosing a meal plan or order of meals that best suits your needs. Then the precooked and vacuum-sealed meals show up at your door ready to be heated and eaten or popped in the freezer for later.
The plans are a little more confusing than some other services and there are quite a few options to sort through. Here's a quick breakdown to help.
Pete's Real Food is the main hub for general meal subscriptions or one-time deliveries. You can choose either five, 10 or 14 meals to have sent weekly, bimonthly or as a one-time order. There is also a larger family plan that includes five large meals with four portions each. For nonmeat eaters, there's a veggies-only option that includes 10 plant-based meals per order.
You can make some alterations to the plan, such as doubling the protein or adding an extra side to each meal. You don't pick your meals but they are listed on the website each previous week. You can also request no pork in any of your meals.
Pete's Real Food Lite Plan is a meal plan with smaller portions and includes seven paleo meals per week, each with just 3.5 ounces of protein and five ounces of veggies. This can also be bought as a one-time order or a subscription, although the price doesn't change. You can have meals delivered weekly or once every two weeks.
Eat What You Love is Pete's a la carte menu and it's a bit of a hodgepodge. This page features some fancier fare, such as braised brisket, beef tenderloin and chicken gumbo, with individual meals priced anywhere from $15-$20. You can also snag a keto-friendly bundle of cauliflower rice bowls (six for $77) or a chef's choice bundle of 10 meals ($100).
If you know anything about the paleo diet you can likely take a stab at what's in Pete's Real Food meals -- lots of protein and nutritious vegetables with no pasta, wheat, dairy, beans or grains. For the most part, each meal consists of one main protein and one or two plant-based sides along with some mild sauce or seasoning. All meals are free from allergens like nuts, dairy, egg, gluten and soy.
Pete's uses high-quality ingredients including 100% grass-fed meat like chicken, ground beef, slow-roasted pork shoulder, turkey breast, beef chili and tri-tip steak. Pete's also uses only organic vegetables including lots of healthy greens such as kale, bok choy, spinach and broccoli, but there are starchier sides too, including butternut squash, roasted beets, cauliflower and potatoes.
Pete's borrows some international culinary influences in its recipes but most of the dishes will be largely familiar to the North American palate. When there is heat or spice used in recipes, it is never particularly overpowering.
The main menus change every week to keep things fresh and interesting but some a la carte meals are mostly always available.
What I ate and how I liked it
I tried five of Pete's Real Food meals and liked them quite a bit. Everything was tasty and overall I'd rate the meals as above average compared with other meal delivery services. Pete's meals all seemed thoughtfully prepared and they looked appetizing upon arrival.
Yellow curry pork cheeks with sauteed bell peppers, onions, and broccoli: This was very good, overall. The curry flavor was mild and the pork was cooked until tender. My one complaint -- and it's a complaint I have more than any other -- is that the broccoli was mushy. I can't tell you how much broccoli I've tossed out in my meal delivery testing.
Mediterranean chicken with roasted cauliflower and spaghetti squash: Another one I really liked. The cauliflower was a maybe bit boring but the chicken had diced olives which added a nice salty punch of flavor.
Rosemary and thyme-crusted turkey with garlic collards and mashed cauliflower: A paleo take on Thanksgiving this one worked well. The turkey wasn't dry and the herbs really made it pop. The mashed cauliflower had a nice buttery flavor and creamy texture.
Grass-fed beef chili with sauteed kale and roasted butternut squash: This meal was hearty with lots of cubed butternut squash. I added some hot sauce to the chili but it had a good base flavor.
Balsamic roasted chicken with sauteed spinach and roasted beets: This wasn't bad but probably my least favorite if only because it wasn't very exciting. The chicken was cooked nicely but the vegetables had little flavor.
How I prepared Pete's Real Food meals
I try not to heat prepared meals in the microwave and suggest you do the same if you can help it, even when it's presented or suggested as an option (as it is with Pete's). For most of the Pete's Real Food meals, I simply tossed everything in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, covered over low heat along with the sauce before serving. Yes, you'll have a single pan to rinse, but I promise it's worth it. For meals with larger pieces of chicken, steak and pork, use the same low-and-slow skillet method but add a splash of water or chicken broth to bring some of that life and moisture back, or cover and heat them in your convection oven (also on low) or a smaller countertop oven.
How much does Pete's Real Food meal delivery cost?
Depending on the meal plan you choose your price per meal will change a bit, but most end up being somewhere around $14 per meal. As with other meal delivery services, the more food you order at once the cheaper things get, but oddly there is no discount for subscribing.
There are other prepared bundles of meals and a la carte options under the Eat What You Love section, so your best bet might be to peruse all the different meal plans and see if one seems like a good fit.
Who is Pete's Real Food good for?
Beyond the obvious -- someone keeping to the paleo diet -- Pete's is a perfect meal delivery option for athletes and folks heavily into fitness. The portions are good and meals are packed with protein but don't skimp on the good carbs you need when you're working out often and burning tons of calories.
It's also good for any busy person looking to have healthy meals on hand since you can place a one-time order and they all freeze particularly well. This is also a great meal delivery service for anyone with gluten, soy or dairy allergies or simply trying to avoid them since the recipes are free from all three.
Who is Pete's Real Food not good for?
Pete's Paleo probably wouldn't be a great pick for someone keeping to a keto plan since there is a fair amount of carbs, albeit healthy ones, in these prepared meals.
While there is a plant-based meal plan option, Pete's meats were the star of the show for me so I wouldn't recommend this service for vegans or vegetarians. For that, I'd check out CNET's list of the best vegan and vegetarian meal delivery.
Watch this: The best meal kit for you
Final verdict on Pete's Real Food
Pete's Real Food won me over as one of the best healthy and organic meal delivery services I've tried. While it's not particularly budget-friendly at roughly $14 per meal, it is actually cheaper than other meal services that use organic ingredients and quality meats. For what you're getting -- healthy food that is thoughtfully prepared and tastes pretty darn good -- Pete's Paleo isn't a bad deal at all.
Aside from some occasionally overcooked broccoli or underseasoned cauliflower, I found the food to be well-prepared. Meats were tender, the vegetables (mostly) cooked to proper doneness and all the flavors worked. If you like big, bold flavor and/or lots of heat in your food, you might end up adding a few doses of hot sauce or sprinklings of salt or spices but I thought most of the food had good balance.
If you're a fitness fanatic or athlete in training who needs filling meals with lots of protein or just someone who wants a few healthy-yet-satiating meals on hand for those busy days and weeks, Pete's Real Food should hit the spot. I'd say give it a whirl with a one-time order and see what you think.
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.