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I’m So Obsessed With Freshly’s Tikka Masala That I Tried to Crack Their Recipe

Lindsey Morse
ByLindsey MorseJul 14, 2021 | 9 comments

No offense to pizza, but Indian food is my current takeout obsession. For me, it all comes down to flavor. I love heaping my plate full of cardamom-spiced biryani, creamy palak paneer, fluffy jasmine rice, and buttery garlic naan. I can’t get enough! I’m not sure I’ve met anything on the menu of my local Indian restaurant that I don’t like, but my favorite dish has to be chicken tikka masala. The combination of spices, the rich tomato gravy, the tender chicken? I mean, big time yums. 

If money and calories were no object, I’d happily order up food from my local spot a few times a week, but— sadly— there’s no way that would work for my wallet or my waistline. As such, I’m always on the hunt for healthier and more affordable ways to get my Indian food fix. 

 

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Freshly is a prepared meal delivery service that specializes in quick and healthy meals that are designed to heat and eat, and it’s one of my favorite ways to stock my fridge with meals that are ready in a snap. The menu features home-style classics and comfort foods, and there are a lot of dishes that I order regularly. My favorite, though? CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA!

Freshly’s version of chicken tikka masala features chicken thighs and chickpeas in a creamy masala sauce, and it’s served with a side of spiced veggie rice. It’s not quite as good as takeout, but it comes pretty darn close, and at only 570 calories, it’s easy for me to work it into my diet for lunch or dinner. When I order a big box of meals from Freshly, the cost per item is around $9.50 (including shipping). At first, I struggled to justify the price because I could pick up frozen meals at the grocery store for less, but the truth is that Freshly’s meals are a lot better. I also like that they’re fresh instead of frozen and made without any preservatives. 

 

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When I first signed up for Freshly, I’d order a box with a variety of different meals every few weeks, but before I knew it my order was getting heavier and heavier on the chicken tikka. When that day came that I placed an order that contained 50% of my fave dish, I figured maybe it was time to try making it for myself. I’ve never really been one for meal prepping, but I have a few friends who do, so I thought I’d give it a try. Why not, right? I freed up a Sunday afternoon, stocked up on reusable lunch-sized containers, and made plans to cook up a big batch of my very own tikka masala. 

The first step? I needed a recipe. (And I wanted it to be as close calorie and taste-wise to Freshly’s.) I started by checking out the nutritional information on Freshly’s website, which helped me identify the main ingredients and veggies in the dish, but I ran into my first snag almost immediately. When cooking up Indian curry, the spice blend is super important, and Freshly’s must be a closely guarded secret. On the list of ingredients posted on their website, all I got was “spices.”

I dug around and found a couple of highly-rated recipes online, and I used them to pull together a new recipe that I felt was likely to resemble Freshly’s. I made sure to incorporate as many of Freshly’s listed ingredients as I could: green beans, carrots, chickpeas, peas, chicken thighs, Greek yogurt, basmati rice, half & half, and lime juice, to name a few. Based on my recipe research, I mixed up a spice blend that I hoped would be similar. I opted to use a mix of garam masala, ginger, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, salt, and pepper. (Luckily, I had most of these in my spice cabinet already.)

 

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Come Sunday afternoon, I dove in. I prepped my ingredients, followed the recipe I’d created, and cooked up a big pot of chicken tikka masala. All-in, it took me about two and a half hours to make, and when I was done I portioned the food into dishes to save for the coming week. My version of the recipe tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t the same as Freshly’s (I’m CONVINCED there’s something special in their mystery spice blend). Here’s the thing: after factoring in the time it took me to shop, cook, and clean, my Sunday afternoon was pretty much shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking… but would I want to do this every single weekend? I don’t think so. 

Cost-wise, I definitely spent less cooking at home than I would have just ordering a box from Freshly, but I think I got a little bit lucky there. Since I already had most of the spices I needed, my grocery bill wasn’t as high as it would have been otherwise. 

So, what’s my takeaway from this little experiment? Well, I’m pleased that I was able to whip up a tasty tikka, and following the ingredient list used by Freshly, I was able to make similarly sized meals that were pretty close in calorie count. In terms of cost, I even saved money making the food myself. But I can’t get over the time I needed to make it happen. When I factor in shopping and cleanup, it probably took me 5 hours from start to finish. I value my free time on the weekends, and I don’t think I’m ready to give up an entire afternoon every Sunday to prep meals for the coming week. With all that in mind, I think I’m going to stick with Freshly. I might do some batch cooking once a month or so (and I’ll certainly still order my beloved Indian takeout from time to time), but I’m grateful to have discovered a meal delivery solution that keeps my refrigerator stocked full of chicken tikka masala. 

Want to learn more about Freshly?

Image via Freshly.

About Freshly

The Subscription Box: Freshly

The Cost:

  • 4 meals per week: $45.96 + $5.99 shipping
  • 6 meals per week: $56.94 + $5.99 shipping
  • 10 meals per week: $89.90 + $9.99 shipping
  • 12 meals per week: $101.88 + $11.99 shipping

The smallest plan available from Freshly delivers 4 meals per week (each meal serves 1), but if you order 10 or 12 meals per week, you’ll receive a reduction in the per-meal price.

COUPON: Limited Time Only! Save $60 over your first four boxes - automatically applied! No coupon needed - just use this link.

Ships To: Freshly delivers to all U.S. states except Hawaii and Alaska. However, there may be some areas in the lower 48 where delivery is not yet available. Type in your zip code on Freshly‘s website to confirm you are in the service area.

 


Are you a fan of Freshly? Let us know in the comments!

Freshly is a gourmet, prepared meal delivery service that is designed to help people eat healthier without the hassle of cooking or meal prep. They send out chef-made, fresh, never frozen, prepared meals each week. Freshly delivers meals that are all-natural, peanut-free and gluten-free. Each single... read more.
Lindsey Morse
Lindsey Morse
Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Lindsey Morse
Lindsey Morse
Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.
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9 comments

becca

Agreed with the other comments – this is clearly an ad for freshly as this meal was not that great and honestly MOST of the meals i’ve gotten (6 meals for 4 weeks) were NOT GOOD / wasn’t even able to finish them.

One week I got a completely different order(all 6 incorrect). I don’t order pork so that was a dead giveaway when half of the meals contained pork. They did do a full refund but I actually would have preferred them just send me the correct meals since I had used a coupon code for a discount on them and did want to try them.

The peppercorn steak and the sweed-ish meatballs were my favs.

Unfortunately I just didn’t like enough of the meals and wont be continuing the subscription.

Marion

I’m ticked off with Freshly right now.

I received a Buffalo Chicken + cauliflower mash meal in my box. I KNEW I didn’t order it, because I hate the cauli mash. I went to the website. It had Buffalo Chicken listed in my order. Weird, because I KNEW I wouldn’t order that. Checked my order confirmation email. Yahtzee. It was confirmed that I was set to receive the Red Pepper Chicken Pesto instead.

So I go to contact Customer Service. Even though I’ve emailed and gotten a good response before, I now cannot easily find the customer service email, so I have to use the chat bot. The not doesn’t understand what I want, so it sends me into a queue to wait for a human rep. The human rep gives me a refund for $5.25. I make a note of my frustration that the Buffalo chicken has also been substituted on the website, and I’d have no proof if I hadn’t saved my confirmation email. Rep says “I understand” and that my note will be passed on lololol. And that the Red Pepper Chicken Pesto is no longer on the menu. I note that I want a full refund for the meal I did not receive, since it’s 1/6 of my order. Rep says they’ve added a $10 credit to my account that will expire in 6 months. I say that’s nice, but I might not make another order within 6 months and I paid real money for a meal I did not receive, so I want real money back. Rep says (I took screenshots so I can quote this with 100% accuracy bc it’s what made me flip my lid), “We usually give half the value of the meal because you do receive a meal, even if it is not the one you ordered.” But, you know, “as a courtesy,” they refunded me the other half, too.

I canNOT believe the GALL to
– substitute an item with no notice
– cover it up by also substituting the item in my order info in their system
– ONLY refund half the money because they gave me some other stuff I didn’t want!

TLDR; please PLEASE keep your order confirmation emails from Freshly!

Marion

Whoa where’d the rest of my comment go???? There were PARAGRAPHS, you guys!

Anyway, Freshly made a substitution my order with no notice, changed the ACTUAL ORDER in my account, then tried to refund me only half the cost since ‘it wasn’t the meal you ordered, but you did receive a meal!’

They refunded me the full amount when I demanded it, but let this be a warning to SAVE YOUR ORDER CONFIRMATION EMAILS because they can, have, and will change what your order looks like on the website event after you receive your confirmation email, so that will be your only proof of what you actually ordered.

Marion

Okay, I guess the paragraph thing is what was the problem. So TLDR; SAVE YOUR ORDER CONFIRMATION EMAILS. Freshly can, will, and has changed orders on their actual site to substitute items. This happened to me this week, and at first they tried to refund me only half the cost of a meal, since I ‘did not receive the meal I ordered, but did receive a meal.’ They gave me a full refund for the cost of the meal when I demanded it, but, uh. It’s my opinion that I shouldn’t HAVE to demand it.

Beth in Oklahoma

I don’t mean to be critical, but it shouldn’t take you anywhere that long to make this dish. Unless you wanted to simmer it, which is fine. Im thinking 45 minutes tops, and if you happened to have an instapot, even less. I wouldn’t think there would be a big calorie difference between recipes, which you said you researched, unless you use cream instead of half and half. And chicken breasts, instead of thighs, would be less fatty (but more expensive).

Tracy

Thanks for this review which convinced me Freshly is not for me. How can they not disclose all the spices? What if a person has an allergy and needs to know this information? I get Sunbasket and fell in love with a recipe. I reached out to them and got the exact proportions of a sauce they provided and since then I have recreated the recipe several times. It really annoys me you had to guess which spices are in the Tikka Masala. Why can’t Freshly disclose this?

Tina

This has to be an ad because Freshly’s tikka masala is terrible.

Kristin

I was expecting to see your recipe based on title!

Aed

The freshly chicken tikka masala is one of the worst tasting ones out there..

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Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.