Hello Fresh vs Blue Apron: What’s the Real Difference?
We review all of the most popular meal kit delivery services here at MSA, including two of the biggest names in the game—Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Both boxes include recipes and fresh, pre-portioned ingredients that let you create restaurant-quality meals at home with little waste. They’re also priced almost identically, with weekly meals starting at $9.99 per serving.
But there are some subtle differences between these two fan-favorite subscription boxes that’ll determine whether you’ll love the box you pick or cancel it after your first delivery. Which box is best for your tastes? We’re breaking down the details, including the style of food, the packaging, and much more!
Remember: You can always check out our Blue Apron reviews and Hello Fresh reviews for more specific info. Already know which box you want to try? Save $50 off your first 2 Blue Apron boxes here OR save $30 off your first Hello Fresh box here!
The Differences between Hello Fresh and Blue Apron
Here’s what we’ve found to be the most notable differences (and similarities) between these meal kit services:
What’s the food like?
Obviously, the biggest question when shopping for a meal kit is “Is the food any good?” Both of these services have tickled our tastebuds, but there are some nuanced differences between the recipes they feature week to week.
In our experience, Blue Apron recipes feel like they’d be right at home at a hip bistro. Think classic flavors with a gourmet twist. Blue Apron recipes often feature at least one unexpected ingredient or combination that we’ve never tried before. We’ve made bowls of classic Italian gnocchi topped with fresh roasted corn, baked chicken coated in harissa sauce, and stir-fry mixed with coin-shaped Korean rice cakes. The recipes are usually just as easy to whip up, but the unique flavors are a bit more tuned to adventurous palates.
With Hello Fresh, the feeling is more healthful “cozy cafe” than “chic new restaurant”. You’ll still get new, exciting ingredients (like za’atar spices and hazelnut crumbles) and out-of-the-ordinary combinations (like yellow squash flatbreads and wonton pasta), but the resulting dishes strike us as slightly more playful and family-friendly compared to the culinary vibes we get from Blue Apron.
Blue Apron does do some cool partnerships, creating limited-edition recipes with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, programs like Whole30, and even the show Bob’s Burgers!
Do I choose the recipes I get each week? How many options do I have?
HelloFresh and Blue Apron are very similar in this way. Both services change up the menu week to week, and both let subscribers make their own selections ahead of time. Each menu includes some well-reviewed or popular dishes returning on occasion as well as plenty of new options. Blue Apron does emphasize seasonal dishes, so you’ll see certain ingredients more regularly in winter vs. summer.
Hello Fresh offers 15 recipes per week and allows subscribers to see and edit upcoming menus several weeks in advance. Classic Plan subscribers can change what recipes arrive in your box (or choose to skip a week) up to 5 days before your scheduled delivery. Unfortunately, there’s not yet the flexibility for Veggie Plan members to choose their preferred meals—they’ll just get what veggie meals are available that week.
Blue Apron offers 8 recipes per week and also allows subscribers to see and edit several weeks of upcoming menus at a time. You can choose to change the meals you’re set to get in your box (or skip the week) up until the “Changeable Date” listed in your account page. (Usually midnight a few days prior to your scheduled delivery.) You can see and update your Changeable Date using the info on this page. Unfortunately, Family Plan members will receive preset recipes that can’t be changed. (You can, however, still skip a week whenever you’d like.)
Note that for both programs, the more restrictions you set during sign-up, the fewer options you’ll have to choose from when picking your meals each week.
How easy are the recipes?
None of us here at the My Subscription Addiction test kitchens would call ourselves great cooks, but somehow, these meal kits make us seem much more experienced than we are!
Hello Fresh breaks down each of their recipes into one of three categories:
- Level 1: Simple and familiar, these recipes involve little multi-tasking and not a lot of equipment (think 1-2 pans).
- Level 2: Recipes that require a little more multi-tasking and may include some less conventional cooking techniques or ingredients.
- Level 3: These recipes usually require you to keep a few pans or components going at once and get the most adventurous with cooking methods and ingredients.
All of that said, even Level 3 dishes are made with new cooks in mind. Having the pre-portioned ingredients and thorough recipe cards make it easy to make something impressive. They do tend to take the longest to cook, FYI, so if you’re worried about time, opt for a Level 1 or 2.
Blue Apron doesn’t have a scale per se, but they will list when a recipe is “Quick & Easy”!
In both cases, we recommend checking out the full recipe before adding the dish to your weekly box!
Both Blue Apron and Hello Fresh include large recipe cards (about the size of a standard sheet of paper) in their boxes. Both brands’ cards are formatted in about the same way. One side shows a plated version of the dish in question (so you know what the finished product should look like), while the other side lists out the instructions. The cards also include basic details like calorie counts, estimated prep times, and descriptions of the dishes. We really love that both boxes include photos of steps in the process for a little extra guidance. Blue Apron’s instruction list even has checkboxes by each step, so you can keep track of where you’re at!
The recipe cards also list out the ingredients you should have received in your box, as well as any additional ingredients you’ll need to supply from your own pantry. Blue Apron gives a visual list with little images of each product. (This is super helpful for newbie cooks who don’t yet know their scallions from their chard.) But we really love that Hello Fresh also lists which kitchen tools you should “BUST OUT” before starting each recipe. Nothing’s worse than getting halfway through a dish and saying “Wait, I need a zester? Do I even have a zester?!”
Do they accommodate special diets/food allergies?
Both services let you tailor your subscription to a certain extent. HelloFresh has 6 different menu preferences to pick from, and Blue Apron lets you choose what meats you eat, or if you’d like to get exclusively vegetarian plans.
About half of Blue Apron’s 2-person weekly menu options tend to be vegetarian. If you choose “vegetarian” as a preference during the sign-up process, Blue Apron will automatically select meatless recipes for your box. Unfortunately, Blue Apron doesn’t currently offer a vegetarian option for their Family Plan.
Some Blue Apron recipes can be made vegan by omitting or substituting certain ingredients like cheese or mayo with your own non-dairy alternatives.
Hello Fresh provides a meat-free Veggie Plan. And again, you can always omit or substitute ingredients you don’t eat/enjoy as you’re cooking.
Note that you’ll have to do that on your own—neither service will leave out or swap individual ingredients for you prior to shipping. We’ve also found that many of the vegetarian dishes these companies offer prominently feature cheese/dairy/non-vegan ingredients, so omitting these components can leave some dishes feeling a little incomplete. (If you’re looking for a good vegan meal kit, we recommend checking out Green Chef instead.)
Unfortunately, Blue Apron doesn’t recommend using its service if you have severe food allergies. Its ingredients are packaged in a facility that also processes milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.
Hello Fresh ingredients are stored in facilities segregated by packaging that results in protection from cross-contact. That said, Hello Fresh doesn’t offer ways to tailor meals around specific allergens.
Both services do disclose ingredients and nutrition information so that customers can make the best choice for them before they place their weekly order. Read through the recipes thoroughly and use your best discretion, especially if your allergies are severe!
Keto, Paleo, Low Carb, & Other Special Diets
Both of these services are unfortunately lacking in options for those following a strict diet or nutrition plan.
Hello Fresh announced earlier this year that they plan to begin offering more keto-friendly, gluten-free, and paleo options, but these options don’t yet appear to be part of the regular menu (or aren’t yet clearly labeled as such). Blue Apron has periodically featured special diets, like a Whole 30 menu in early 2018, but those are not a regular fixture of their menu.
If you’re looking for a meal kit that will fit into your low-carb diet of choice, check out this list which breaks down all of the services by diet and trend.
How do they source ingredients?
Blue Apron is loud and proud about its commitment to responsible agriculture. Many of their ingredients come from sustainable fisheries, farms, and purveyors. According to their site, their boxes are completely GMO-free, and their meats are free from added hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. They also use a more seasonal approach to cooking, which you can see in the different types of produce that appear in their menus throughout the year.
Hello Fresh appears to be less stringent. While they do use some organic ingredients, they say their main focus is on helping customers “take the necessary steps to add in more fruits and veggies in their everyday lives.” The poultry is antibiotic and hormone free. The pork is hormone-free. Their seafood is both wild-caught and farm-raised. Their FAQ page asserts that the meats are raised domestically for the most part, and that Hello Fresh works with produce partners committed to sustainable, seasonal veggies.
How much packaging is there? Is it recyclable?
Blue Apron provides guidance on how and where to recycle your packaging via a Recycling page in every subscriber’s account. They even have tools to help locate recycling centers nearby if you don’t have curbside service.
Blue Apron orders ship inside large cardboard boxes with the ingredients individually wrapped inside of an insulating bubble-wrapped foil bag. (The #7 foil is recyclable, but only in some areas.) Smaller ingredients, which Blue Apron calls “Knick Knacks” are bagged according to the recipe they’re used in. Larger ingredients arrive loose or bagged separately.
You can expect packaging like bottles and caps (plastic #2/#5), plastic cups (#5), clamshell containers (#1), and baggies (#4). Beneath everything in the foil bag, Blue Apron includes ice packs to keep your food fresh and cool during its travels. The plastic wrappers can be recycled, but the material inside should be thrown out.
Hello Fresh has a recycling page that anyone can access. (See it here.) Recipes and ingredients arrive in a 100% recyclable cardboard box made of recycled and virgin fibers. Most boxes are insulated with honeycomb paperboard featuring pulper-safe metalized film, but the site notes that liners may vary to accommodate extreme weather conditions.
According to the website, “All metallic plastic (Winter FlexFoil) should be thrown in the trash. The Winter Kraft Paperlite™ is 100% curbside recyclable. To recycle Summer Jute and Cotton, please cut top of #4 plastic film and trash cotton interior first.”
Ingredients are sorted based on recipe and bundled in 100% recyclable bags. Separators (which sit between the ingredient bags and the ice packs) are made of 100% low-density chipboard which is curbside recyclable. The ice packs are filled with gel (which should be emptied in the trash) and wrapped in recyclable plastic.
What are the plans and pricing?
Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are both about $9.99 per serving. However, Hello Fresh offers a little more flexibility in terms of the number of meals and servings per week. Here’s how it breaks down:
Blue Apron Plans & Pricing:
- 2 Person Plans:
- 2 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $47.95 + $7.99 shipping
- 3 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $59.94 + FREE shipping
- 4 Person Family Plans:
- 2 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $79.92 + FREE shipping
- 3 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $107.88 + FREE shipping
- 4 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $143.84 + FREE shipping
Hello Fresh Plans & Pricing:
- Classic Plans (meat & vegetarian recipes):
- 2 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $39.96 + $7.99 shipping
- 3 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $59.94 + FREE shipping
- 4 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $79.92 + FREE shipping
- 3 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $119.88 + FREE shipping
- Veggie Plans (vegetarian recipes only):
- 3 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $59.94 + FREE shipping
- 3 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $119.98 + FREE shipping
- 4 Person Family Plans:
- 2 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $62.92 + FREE shipping
- 3 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $104.88 + FREE shipping
Can I skip a box or cancel my subscription?
The easy answer is yes! We were surprised by how simple it was to adjust our delivery schedule or stop our subscriptions with both of these services.
Hello Fresh allows you to skip or modify your weekly orders up to several weeks in advance. You have until 5 days before your scheduled delivery date to make your desired changes.
Similarly, Blue Apron also lets you see, skip, and modify weekly deliveries until your Changeable Date, a deadline listed in your account that’s a few days before your scheduled delivery.
Both meal kits can be canceled online if needed and can be easily reactivated in the future, too.
How do the boxes ship? What’s delivery like?
When you sign up for Hello Fresh, you’ll choose your preferred weekly delivery day. UPS delivers the box between 8 am and 8 pm on that day. If you’re concerned about being home, just specify that UPS can leave the package at your door in the Delivery Instructions you give when signing up. Hello Fresh ingredients are packed so that they can handle waiting on your stoop or under your office desk for a few hours, sans refrigerator.
Similarly, Blue Apron lets you set a preferred weekly delivery day when you sign up. Your delivery day options and shipping service will depend on your area, as will your ability to leave delivery instructions (to have the box left without a signature, etc.). Like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron ingredients are packed in a way that should hold up to a few hours outside the refrigerator, be that on your porch or waiting with you at work.
So, which box is best for you?
To be honest, it really depends on your specific needs. But here’s how we see it:
Price? Both boxes leave us full and happy for about the same price. But the fact that many of Blue Apron’s ingredients are sustainable, responsible, antibiotic-free, and GMO-free makes us feel like we’re getting even more value for the money.
Taste? We love the creativity of both boxes, but Blue Apron does feel ever so slightly more appropriate for folks with more adventurous tastes. In other words, Blue Apron tends to be a lot of fun for foodie couples we know. Hello Fresh‘s flavorful yet friendly options are best for families, pickier eaters, and those who want to find recipes they can easily replicate again with grocery store ingredients.
Convenience? Hello Fresh comes out on top here, if simply for small things like grouping ingredients by recipe (it’s so nice to just grab a bag from the fridge and go, versus having to dig around for everything you need), listing kitchen tools on their recipe cards, and offering a ton of options in terms of subscription levels. We should mention that both boxes have apps! It makes it easy to update your orders on the go!
The Verdict: We love recommending Blue Apron to couples (and singles—those leftovers are yummy!) trying to cut back on their weekly restaurant/takeout habit. But if you’re a family looking for a tasty and healthful timesaver, we say Hello Fresh is the way to go!
Ready to give one of these boxes a try?
Save $50 off your first 2 Blue Apron boxes here!
OR save $30 off your first Hello Fresh box here!
Have you tried one (or both) of these meal kits? Share your experience in the comments!