Blue Apron Subscription Box Review + Coupon – April 2017
Blue Apron is a subscription meal delivery service. Every week, they send seasonal recipes created by their culinary team and the pre-measured ingredients you need to make them at home.
Check out all of our reviews of Meal Delivery Services to see every meal kit subscription box option!
In addition to their standard 2-Person subscription plan, which features three weekly seasonally-inspired meals for two, Blue Apron also offers a Family Plan that features kid-friendly recipes and family-style meals for four.
This is a review of the 2-Person subscription plan ($9.99 per serving, or $59.94 per week). I usually just cook just for myself, but I’m hoping I can turn the second servings into leftovers that I can use through the week.
This is also a review of Blue Apron‘s vegetarian option. I like to eat a vegetarian diet, so I was happy to find that Blue Apron, like many popular meal kit services, offers a veggie option. Each weekly menu has 6 recipes total to pick from, but be aware that only three are vegetarian! Like Blue Apron‘s other recipes, the veggie recipes have a gourmet air about them. They remind me of foods I’d find in a fancy restaurant or at least an upscale cafe. If you want to make your meals even classier, Blue Apron also offers a monthly add-on wine subscription. (You can find a review of that subscription here.)
I’m at the beginning of my cooking adventure. Though I’m so interested in food and food culture, I’m a total novice in the kitchen. I’ve been trying out meal kit subscription boxes to help teach myself some techniques and recipes—and stop eating out so much! Blue Apron, in particular, caught my eye, not just because their ads are everywhere these days, but because of their commitment to the health of the larger food system (and therefore, the satisfaction and well-being of their customers). Current practices in the food industry might get food to people’s mouths faster and cheaper, but they also dismiss a lot of the ecology needed to make those foods safe, tasty, nutritious, and valuable to our bodies. They can be really taxing on the environment, too.
Those considerations are definitely important to me, so Blue Apron‘s commitments to sustainability, high-quality produce, responsibly raised meats, the success of smaller farmers, and reducing food waste really compelled me to give it a try.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: Blue Apron
The Cost: $59.94 for 3 recipes on the 2-Person Plan, $69.92 for 2 recipes on the Family Plan, $139.84 for 4 recipes on the Family Plan.
COUPON: Get three free meals on your first order! No code needed, just use this link
The Products: Fresh ingredients and recipes to make healthy meals at home.
Ships to: U.S.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
Every meal kit is different in the ways they package or limit the packaging of their ingredients. Blue Apron‘s ingredients come packaged inside a silver, bubble-wrap-like bag with a big ice pack at the bottom to keep things fresh and chilled. Most of the ingredients are individually wrapped in lightweight plastic or cardboard, but they’re not grouped by recipe (which some other boxes do). That means I had to do a bit of digging to find what I needed, but I like that they’re leaving out excess waste. They do, however, group the smaller-sized ingredients (the “Knick Knacks” for the recipe) into individual recycled paper bags.
There’s an extra card in the box with tips for caring for a cast iron pan. There’s no cast iron pan in the box—this is more like an ad for the pan that Blue Apron is currently selling in its online shop. I don’t have a cast iron pan of my own (super-novice chef here), but if you do have one, maybe these cleaning tips are helpful!
On the back of the card, there’s a recipe for cornbread that you can make with a cast iron pan. I’m not that interested in the pan, but I could do a number on that cornbread!
Crispy Gnocchi with Fontina Cheese Sauce and Roasted Broccoli
Calories per Serving: 710
Total Time According to Blue Apron: 25-35 minutes
Actual Time: About 45 minutes
I’ve been trying to be more conscientious about getting nutritious veggies into my diet (and more of them), but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a hearty pasta dish from time to time! It’s been a minute since I’ve had pasta, and gnocchi is my absolute favorite, so I was thrilled to see this dish on the menu. I’ve boiled plenty of pots of pasta in my day, but I’ve never made my own cream sauce—I was a little nervous about putting that together. I gave the entire recipe a few reads to prepare, then got to work.
There is no greater feeling than seeing your name written across a package of pasta. Especially when the pasta is gnocchi and the gnocchi looks so fresh and fluffy and delicious… ooooo, I can’t wait to eat this!
The hardest part of making the gnocchi was waiting for the water to boil. But the trick to this dish is crisping the gnocchi in a frying pan before you finally plate them. At first, I was like, does this step really matter? But just seeing the gnocchi browning in the pan, covered in a confetti of parsley, I realized that oh yeah, these mere few minutes in the pan were going to take this recipe to the next level.
Between pasta cooking methods, I was also making my sauce. You make it in the same pot as you made the pasta in, which helps it soak up some of that flavor. The key seems to be constant whisking, which is a lot of work on your arm, but worth it when you see a smooth, creamy sauce develop.
There’s also a head of broccoli that acts as a side and helps to cut the richness of the gnocchi dish. Broccoli is my absolute favorite veggie. Has Blue Apron been spying on me? This meal is me to a T.
To the surprise of nobody, I was wild about this dish. The sauce actually isn’t terribly cheesy, but it’s the perfect creamy, salty complement to the pillow-soft gnocchi. Crisping the gnocchi gives them just the slightest bit of texture, which tastes so heavenly and gourmet. Again, I can’t believe such a simple, quick step made such an impact on taste! I ended up with plenty of sauce left over after eating the last gnocchi dumpling, so I swirled the broccoli around in it. Yum!
Swiss Chard and Potato Shakshuka with Sweet Peppers and Garlic Toasts
Calories per Serving: 600
Total Time According to Blue Apron: 45-55 minutes
Actual Time: 55 minutes
I can’t tell you how many shakshukas I’ve seen glide across my Pinterest screen! They look so awesome, and I’ve always wanted to try one. I was really impressed that Blue Apron included eggs in the box (not all meal boxes do). They come in a cute little egg car seat and lid made out of cardboard—high five to whoever developed it because those eggs arrived looking flawless!
Preparing the shakshuka was all about chopping. Chopping potatoes, chopping peppers, chopping chard, chopping a shallot… It’s a lot. But once that’s done, the process is basically just sauteeing veggies, then dousing them in crushed tomatoes. The whole thing smells amazing and looks brilliant.
Of course, what everyone recognizes about the shakshuka is the eggs! The trick to getting the eggs to sit neatly in the sauce is to create little “wells” in the veggies. Cracking the eggs into individual cups or small bowls rather than cracking them directly into the pan also helps you slip the eggs into the pan with more dexterity. Once the eggs are in, you slip the whole pan in the oven to bake the eggs in the sauce. I probably left my eggs in just slightly too long (the yolks weren’t as gooey as they’re supposed to be, I don’t think), but I tend to like medium-well eggs better anyway.
Look at this beauty! Again, the smell is scrumptious. The flavor of the sweet peppers brings so much to this dish that I didn’t expect—it tasted like a sweet spaghetti sauce beefed up with hearty, soft textures like the potatoes and the egg. You eat the shakshuka with bread (also included—Blue Apron had me toast it and rub it down with garlic before plating). It’s kind of the experience of eating a thick, tomato-y Indian dish with naan, but with European flavors like tomato and garlic and ciabatta. I’m saving this recipe for sure.
Chirashi-Style Rice Bowls with Tempura Mushrooms and Spicy Pickled Carrots
Calories per Serving: 670
Time According to Blue Apron: 40-50 minutes
Actual Time: About and hour and 15 minutes
Well, everyone, that brings us to the third recipe in this box. I was so excited to try this bowl. I love Asian-inspired flavors (most of my dining-out money goes towards Asian restaurants in town). I also had just made a “rice bowl” sort of dish with another meal kit service that was just kind of… meh… so my Asian-inspired food cravings had yet to be satisfied. Could this be the dish to do it?
The majority of the time I spend on this recipe, I spent preparing vegetables. There are lots to skin, slice, chop, de-stem, wash and gently wipe down. It probably took me a full 15 or 20 minutes just to get all of those elements ready. That probably seems slow, but remember that I’m newer to the kitchen, so my chopping isn’t quite up to standard speed yet!
Here’s the thing about this recipe. Once you get going, it feels like a crazy dance getting all of the elements ready. The recipe makes it seem like each step is its own definitive thing, but I did a lot of whirling around the kitchen and losing track of one thing or another. Some steps require the same pan to be rinsed, wiped out, and immediately used again—an especially tricky maneuver when you’re working with a big, hot pan and a not-so-big sink. There’s also a lot of “setting aside,” which doesn’t seem like a problem unless your counter space is limited. (I had a lot of bowls and pans either filled or waiting to be filled with ingredients all around my kitchen.) Given the resources I had, I felt a little bit like I was always playing catch up with the recipe.
I’ll also be honest—I’m bad at rice, gang. It came out okay, but only after the water boiled over onto the stove and the bottom layer of rice stuck like concrete to the bottom of the pot. I’m working on an electric stove, and I’ve never ever understood the whole gas-stoves-are-better thing until now. Each pad of the electric stove takes forever to heat up or cool down, which is not the kind of temperature control you want when making delicate rice.
Okay, so here’s the breakdown. The rice that didn’t stick to the pot was actually really good and tasted great with the furikake seasoning on top. The avocado was sprinkled with vinegar to keep it from browning, but the vinegar also woke up the flavor in a really tasty way. The “pickled” carrots had been soaked in a mix of sugar, vinegar, salt, water, and gochujang (a spicy, flavorful paste). I don’t think the carrots soaked up the flavors as much as I’d expected, but they tasted spicy and sweet and had just enough softness to them. The broccoli was roasted, but at the last minute, the recipe had me toss it in mirin and soy sauce. I love those flavors so much, but the amount of sauce they gave me turned out to be way too much for the amount of broccoli I was given. In other words, the broccoli seemed wet and was hard to taste through the sauce.
And last but not least, the mushrooms. Oh, those poor mushrooms. When I hear “tempura battered”, I think fully coated and crispy. But what I ended up with was partially battered mushrooms that ended up sticking to the pan. I followed the instructions really closely, but I did notice that there just wasn’t very much batter to work with. That meant that each mushroom was super lightly coated. And again, I’m pretty sure my stove’s version of “medium-high” heat is way hotter than these mushrooms needed. They tasted okay, but they lacked the pizzazz I expected.
Verdict: I was really into every recipe Blue Apron supplied in this box, but I’m not sure that I, as an amateur cook with limited resources, was ready to do these particular recipes justice. I enjoyed everything that worked out, but I feel like cooking each meal was more about me trying to keep up with the recipe rather than me absorbing the experience (and the techniques therein). The good news is that Blue Apron came through on their promise of delicious produce, and they offer a lot of great content for members on food and recipes. It’s a pretty middle-of-the-road price per serving, compared to Hello Fresh (which is cheaper) and Plated (which is more expensive). Just know that Blue Apron‘s customer seems to be someone who’s already comfortable in the kitchen, rather than a newbie who needs practice!
Do you subscribe to Blue Apron? Which meals did you pick this week?