Nutrition

Sunbasket Review: The Best Meal Kits We've Tried (and We've Tried 'Em All)

This healthy meal kit service has loads of interesting and easy-to-follow recipes, but they come at a cost.

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Sunbasket meal kits were consistently tasty with interesting recipes that kept me wanting more.
Sunbasket

If you're looking for a meal kit service with inspired recipes that are easy to make, healthy and delicious, I put Sunbasket right at the top of the heap. Your meal kit options in 2022 are plentiful and they fall under a slew of categories: There are budget-friendly meal kits to feed the family for $5 a serving, others using mostly organic ingredients and 100% plant-based meal kits for those keeping to a vegan or vegetarian diet. After testing all of the top platers, Sunbasket impressed me the most with intriguing recipe options and an extremely high success rate.

9.0

Sunbasket

Like

  • Creative, interesting and healthy takes on classic dishes
  • Fresh, mostly organic produce
  • Lots of options for vegetarians and pescatarians
  • Affordable if you're eating mostly plant-based meals

Don't Like

  • One of the most expensive meal kit services around
  • A la carte pricing makes it even pricier for meat eaters

Following in the footsteps of the original meal kit operation, Blue Apron, Sunbasket launched seven years ago and has evolved into one of the best options for healthy meal kit delivery, using plenty of high-quality, organic ingredients and catering to an array of diets and nutrition plans including keto, paleo, the Mediterranean diet, vegans and vegetarians.

Sunbasket has added another element to its business model in the form of a nearly full-service online marketplace of grocery items, including fresh meat, fish and seafood, cheese, coffee, snacks and bread, all of which can be added to your box each week. The timing for this offering couldn't be better, with the pandemic causing many of us to make fewer trips to the store.

Read moreBest Healthy Meal Delivery Services for 2022

Sunbasket does slide in at a higher price than other meal kit delivery services like Home Chef, Blue Apron and EveryPlate, but that leaves me with a raft of questions. Are Sunbasket's healthy meals tasty enough to justify the extra cost? Are Sunbasket meal kits good or just healthy? Who are Sunbasket meal kits good for, and who are they maybe not so good for? And the answers are here: I tried a weeks' worth of Sunbasket meal kits, and my thoughts on the evolving healthy meal kit delivery service can be found below.

How Sunbasket works

The first thing you'll do is pick the number of meals you want each week and the number of servings per meal. Sunbasket now prices meals a la cart and so the cost is determined only by the meals you choose each week and won't change depending on how much or little you order. You can choose two, three or four meals per week with recipes serving either two or four people. It's also worth noting that you can adjust those quantities as you go, so don't worry about being locked into a plan.

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Sunbasket will tailor your weekly menu to a specific diet or nutrition plan that you might be following. 

Sunbasket

Next, you'll select a diet or eating plan if it applies (plant-based, gluten-free, pescetarian) so Sunbasket can filter out any meals that don't adhere but you can still order from the full menu each week. You can also do swaps and upgrades like chicken breasts in place of chicken thighs or change from pork to fish, sometimes for an added charge. 

Each week you select meals for the following week's delivery. Your box arrives on the doorstep on a day of your choosing in insulated packaging and you're ready to go. Sunbasket ships to nearly every US ZIP code excluding Alaska, Hawaii and parts of North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.

three sunbasket recipes with pricing pulled from website

Sunbasket recently moved to a la carte pricing. Plant-based options are as inexpensive as $11.49 per serving while some meat and fish recipes are as much as $18.  

Sunbasket

Sunbasket pricing: Now with a la carte pricing

Sunbasket recently moved from a fixed subscription model to a la carte pricing. Meals now range from $11.49 all the way up to $18 a serving. This means a bit of a price jump for those who eat meat since those recipes are now mostly $15 or $16 a serving. Those who choose mostly plant-based meals may see a drop in overall price since the bulk of vegan and vegetarian meals are around $12 or $13 per serving. 

This makes Sunbasket one of the more expensive meal kit services out there, but that's not surprising considering you're getting meal kits with organic produce and higher-quality meat and fish.

What are Sunbasket meals like?

Healthy, to be certain. Sunbasket has around 15 to 17 meals to choose from each week but they're nearly all recipes I would categorize as healthy with an exception of one or two. You won't find much greasy comfort food, as you do with some other meal kit companies such as EveryPlate or Home Chef. Sunbasket also claims to use roughly 99% USDA-certified organic produce, all of which I personally found crisp and fresh when it arrived. All of the nutritional information you could possibly want is made readily available both at the time of selection and when your meals show up. 

balinese-chicken
CNET/David Watsky

In terms of style, Sunbasket meals are creative and unique. While some meal kit services play it safe with familiar food and flavors, Sunbasket takes chances and delivers interesting and often healthy spins on global cuisine. Take this chickpea paella with artichoke hearts for example, or chicken Kiev with Russian salad topped with hard-cooked eggs. Sunbasket has lots of low-carb and keto-friendly options as well, with interesting side salads, veggies and healthy slaws.

The quality of ingredients was very high, and Sunbasket's meats and produce were some of the freshest of any meal kit service I've tested. Portions were also just right, in my opinion. I often had a bit of food left over, but never so much that I'd worry about it going to waste. 

Fully prepared meals for 'those nights'

In addition to traditional meal kit delivery, Sunbasket offers a variety of oven-ready, aka Fresh & Ready, meals that are fully prepared and require only heating and no prep, assembly or cooking. For example, the week I chose meals there were five Fresh & Ready meals: three pasta dishes, chicken tikka masala with rice and a Mexican-style quinoa bowl.

fresh-ready

Sunbasket's Fresh & Ready meals require no prep or cleanup.

Sunbasket

How easy are Sunbasket meal kits to prepare?

Sunbasket meal kits do vary but most are simple to prepare. Like many other meal kit services, Sunbasket has some more involved meal kits and some that are quick to make -- some take as few as 20 minutes -- which it categorizes as "speedy" or "preprepped." You won't find as many complicated recipes as you might with a service like Martha & Marley Spoon or Blue Apron, though, and extensive cooking experience isn't required. 

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Sunbasket

The recipes I cooked and how they went

Balinese chicken with cucumber-cabbage salad: Simple as it was, this was one of the best meals I've made since I started testing meal kits and it's a perfect encapsulation of Sunbasket's food. It only took 20 minutes but the nuanced heat of the turmeric-spiced chicken and cool crunchy salad with fresh mint felt like something I might order at a fancy al fresco lunch spot.

Pappardelle with wilted spinach, sweet peas and ricotta: This would have been difficult to mess up and thankfully I didn't. A light, healthy pasta dish you could eat in any season and one I would absolutely have again. 

Low-country shrimp and grits: The shrimp was fresh, the cheesy grits were simple to make and this hearty recipe was packed with flavor. This was one of Sunbasket's "heavier" meals, but it didn't send me into a full food coma.

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The Balinese chicken was light, spicy and satisfying.

CNET / David Watsky

Sunbasket support materials 

There is nothing extraordinarily good or bad about Sunbasket's recipe cards. I found them clear and concise with some helpful footnotes for beginners, like a brief explanation of what a roux is, for example. The Sunbasket app is useful, clear and mostly intuitive. You can place or change your weekly recipe selections through it, look up nutritional information for certain dishes and locate all  recipes past and present. 

Who Sunbasket meal kits are good for

Sunbasket is one of the best meal kit delivery options for someone looking for healthy meal kits that are anything but boring, but still easy to make. The culinary team has some creative takes on classic dishes using lean meats and fresh, organic produce. Sunbasket's weekly menus also include many meals that cater to many popular diets, including low-carb, keto, gluten-free and the Mediterranean Diet.

Sunbasket offers around four vegetarian options a week, so it's not a bad choice for those looking to go plant-based or add more meatless cooking to their routine. The menu also features a good number of quality seafood dishes each week, such as this poached cod in tomato broth with potatoes and raisins, making it one of the best meal kit services for fish and seafood eaters.

papperdelle

Sunbasket's pappardelle with wilted spinach, snow peas and ricotta.

CNET / David Watsky

Who Sunbasket meal kits are not so good for

Even though it offers a family plan that turns out to be a good value, I would say Sunbasket is probably not the best meal kit service for picky eaters, young or old. It's also not the best meal kit service if you're looking for rib-sticking comfort food like meatloaf, pork chops and mashed potatoes. For that, I might suggest EveryPlate. (Read my EveryPlate review here.)

Sunbasket packaging and environmental friendliness

Sunbasket is not much better or worse than other meal kit services when it comes to eco-friendly packaging. The meals were each separated in paper bags and not plastic. All the ingredients were thoughtfully packed without much egregious waste and coolers and ice packs were recyclable. 

ice-pack
Sunbasket

Changing, skipping or canceling a Sunbasket order

You can add, change or cancel meals easily through the app or through the website. You can also skip a week's delivery or cancel anytime prior to the weekly cutoff, which is the Wednesday before your next week's delivery at 12 p.m. PT. There is responsive customer service available during business hours by phone, email or chatbot if you have questions or concerns about your order.

The final verdict on Sunbasket

If you're interested in trying a meal kit service to make weeknight meal planning easier and money isn't a huge concern but eating healthy is, I would choose Sunbasket. I am the type who gets tired of eating the same thing and I loved the variety Sunbasket offers. Sunbasket's ingredients were also some of the freshest I've tried, which makes all the difference in a simple pasta dish or stir-fry. 

Sunbasket feels practical without feeling cheap in any way. Though some recipes are more involved than others, most of the Sunbasket meals are simple and unpretentious but still feel special. At between $12 and $18 a serving, Sunbasket isn't cheap, but if you care about organic produce and quality, healthy ingredients, it's definitely worth the extra bucks. 

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First published on Jan. 15.

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.