Everything You Need to Know About This Smart Oven + Meal Delivery Combo
In a sea of meal delivery subscriptions, Tovala is different. Instead of simply signing up and getting food sent to your doorstep, the barrier to entry here is higher: you have to purchase the Tovala smart oven, which scans your meals and pulls cooking instructions (time, temperature, method) from the cloud. If you've ever had mediocre results microwaving or baking a frozen meal, you can probably understand the draw here. Tovala's recipes are designed and prepped by chefs, and the meals are shipped fresh. The oven is the final step that ensures your food is cooked just so and that all the work that goes into creating the meal truly pays off. Using a combination of cooking techniques, the oven cooks your meal perfectly; all you have to do is scan the provided QR-code, place your meal in the oven, and press start.
We review a lot of different subscriptions here at MSA, and it's rare that something utterly new crosses our desk. Tovala is pretty unique. In this Tovala review, we'll give you everything you need to know about this oven/meal kit subscription hybrid, and we'll take a look at the cost, food, packaging, value, and convenience to help you determine if Tovala is right for you. Now, let's dive into this Tovala review!
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
Tovala Pros & Cons
- The Tovala oven is amazing.
- Tovala's meals are tasty.
- Hands-on cooking time is practically zero.
- Meals are ready in 20 minutes or less.
- Food is fresh, never frozen.
- The oven can be used for non-Tovala meals.
- You can try risk-free with Tovala's 100-day trial.
- There's a significant upfront investment.
- 2.4 GHz WiFi and a smartphone are required.
- Tovala's meals do not support all special diets.
- Portion sizes are sufficient, but not ample.
All About Tovala
How does Tovala work?
In this Tovala review, we'll go over all the things you need to know about this oven and prepared meal delivery service, but let's start with the basics. The first thing to know is that Tovala is not your standard subscription. In order to enjoy Tovala's meals, you'll need to purchase the oven. The meals and oven are specially designed to work together, and while you could theoretically cook the meals in a regular oven, they're designed to be scanned by the Tovala and utilize several different cooking techniques. On the flip side, if you want the oven but not the meals? That's no problem. There are deals available that may entice you to give the meals a try, but you're by no means required to be a long-term subscriber. The oven is a great piece of machinery that stands alone.
If you do decide to sign up for the oven AND the meal delivery service, keep in mind that you're signing up for a recurring subscription. You'll enter your credit card information when you join, and you'll continue to be charged until you decide to cancel. Here are the steps you can expect to follow when you sign up for Tovala meal delivery:
- Choose your plan and personalize it: when you join Tovala, you'll set up the parameters of your subscription. How many people do you need to feed? Do you have any special dietary restrictions? Personalize your plan to make sure it works for you.
- Set your weekly delivery day: most subscribers will have several different delivery days to choose from. Some people prefer to receive meals at the very start of the week, while others like to receive deliveries mid-week. You can select your preferred weekly delivery day when you join.
- Pick your meals for the upcoming week: after you enter your dining preferences, Tovala will automatically pick meals for you each week that fit your style of eating. However, you can always log in, override your auto-picks, and hand-select your own meals.
- Check back regularly to skip weeks or set your menu for upcoming deliveries: don't want to receive a box every single week? No problem. Log into your account to manage your upcoming deliveries. In your account portal, you'll be able to skip shipments, pick out what meals you'd like to receive, or cancel your subscription.
How much does Tovala cost?
When you sign up for Tovala, you'll need to decide if you want the entire Tovala experience (oven + meal kits) or just the oven. While it's absolutely possible to purchase the oven on its own, we recommend at least trying the meal kits. If you think you'll enjoy them and are willing to commit to 6 deliveries in the first 6 months, you'll receive significant savings on the cost of a Tovala oven. Here's what pricing looks like:
- $299- Tovala Starter Kit (includes oven + accessories), purchased without meal subscription commitment
- $199- Tovala Starter Kit (includes oven + accessories), with a commitment to purchase at least 6 meal deliveries within 6 months
Once you have the oven, you can sign up for weekly meal deliveries. Here's the pricing info for the meals:
- $11.99- cost per Tovala meal. Shipping is free when you order 6 meals or more. Shipping is $5.99 if you order fewer than 6 meals. The smallest meal plan is 3 meals per week (each meal serves 1).
Does Tovala have different plans available?
Tovala does not have a selection of different plans available, however, you can adjust the number of meals you'd like to receive. Meals are ordered individually; you can order as few as 3 and as many as 16 per week. Every week, Tovala has around 13 meals to choose from. (Some entrees allow for customization, which opens up different meal possibilities.) All of the meals are preservative-free, shipped fresh, and last for between 3-7 days in the refrigerator.
Where and how does Tovala ship?
Tovala ships to the contiguous United States. (They do not yet service Hawaii or Alaska.)
Once you place your order, your oven should arrive within 2-5 business days. Meal orders are placed every Wednesday at 6 pm CT for delivery the following week.
Good to know:
- Delivery days vary by area, but most subscribers will have several options to choose from. You can change your preferred delivery day at any time.
- A signature is not required, and you don't have to be home to accept the box.
- Food is kept cold in transit with insulated liners and frozen gel packs.
How is a Tovala delivery packaged?
From the Tovala box to the packaging materials that keep the meals safe in transit, Tovala's packaging is 100% recyclable.
What are Tovala's meals like?
Every week, Tovala offers a selection of approximately 13 meals to choose from. (Some entrees can be customized, which expands the selection.) All of the meals are preservative-free, shipped fresh, and last for between 3-7 days in the refrigerator.
The meals rotate weekly, but here are some examples of what you can expect to see on the menu:
- Italian Sausage Meatballs with Cauliflower Rice, Roasted Peppers & Giardiniera
- Greek Veggie Lentil Salad with Crumbled Feta, Almonds & Pickled Red Onions
- Jamaican Jerk Pork Chop with Coconut Beans & Rice
- Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna with Roasted Broccoli & Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Bacon Swiss Chicken Melt with Honey Mustard Green Beans
How do I cook Tovala meals?
This is the fun part. All of the meals are designed to be cooked in your Tovala oven, and the cooking instructions are communicated to the machine via a QR-code that comes printed on the meal. When you're ready to eat, all you do is press the "scan" button on your oven, hold up the code so it can be read, pop your meals in the oven, and press "start." The oven will automatically set the timer and bake, broil, and/or steam your meal according to the recipe. Clean up is easy, too. You can recycle the provided baking trays or wash and reuse them.
Theoretically, you could sign up for a Tovala meal subscription and cook the food in your own home oven; however, this is not recommended. The Tovala oven uses a combination of cooking techniques to make sure your meal is cooked properly. Meals do not come with separate instructions, and success in your own oven is not guaranteed.
What's the Tovala oven like?
The Tovala smart oven is such an integral part of the Tovala experience, so let's take a look at what it can do.
First of all, how big is it? As you can see in the above graphic, the oven measures 18.5"(L) x 12.32"(D) x 11.75" (H). It fits nicely on the countertop, and it's comparable in size to your standard toaster oven. The interior space is large enough to cook a 4-pound chicken, a 10" pizza, or 4 Tovala meal trays.
In addition to the Tovala meals, you can make your own recipes— basically anything that you'd cook in a convection oven or toaster oven. It's easy to manually select your cooking method (toast, bake, broil, or steam), temperature (up to 450 degrees), and time. You can make toast, roast veggies, cook fish, bake muffins, etc., etc., etc.
But this is a smart oven, and when it comes to cooking Tovala meals, this machine really shows off its brilliance. All you have to do is scan the QR-code that comes with the meal, put the trays in the oven, and press start. You can then sit back and wait for a push notification to come through on your phone telling you the meal is ready to eat. But the "smart" part of this smart oven doesn't stop there.
You can use the oven to do any cooking you'd normally do in your conventional oven. You can also steam, toast with 5 settings, reheat, cook from the app's library of recipes, and Scan-to-Cook hundreds of brand name grocery products—like Eggo® Waffles and Pop-Tarts®!
You can "scan-to-cook" lots of different brands, and this feature has worked like a charm. You can make pizza, Pop-Tarts, crescent rolls, Bagel Bites, and meals from Trader Joe's all with a quick scan of the product barcode.
You can also use the Tovala app to communicate cooking instructions to your oven. If you enjoy cooking from scratch, you'll find a number of recipes in the Tovala app that you can make at home using your own ingredients. The app provides recipe instructions that help you prep your meal, and when your food is ready to cook you can press a button in the app that will send specific cooking instructions for that dish to your smart oven.
Will Tovala work with my special diet?
Here's information from Tovala about which special diets are currently supported:
Every week, we offer at least 3 gluten-free meals and at least 2 vegetarian meals (some of which overlap). You can find the nutrition information for our meals on our menu page. When you order and on our meals’ packaging, we specify nutrition information, allergens, and dietary meal tags (including calorie smart and carb conscious).
Does Tovala accommodate dietary restrictions like allergies?
Have food allergies? Here is some information from Tovala about how allergy information is conveyed:
We clearly list the allergens in every meal when you order and receive them, but you should know that our meals are packaged in a facility that handles milk, wheat, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and gluten.
What is the nutritional info for a standard Tovala meal?
Calorie content varies by meal, and most will come in between 400-800 calories. (Some meals are as low as 320 calories and others as high as 820.) Nutrition information is accessible online, and it's also printed on the card that comes with every meal.
Is Tovala's food tasty?
We've been consistently impressed with the quality of Tovala's ingredients, and most of the recipes are delicious. The meals that feature simple recipes, like chicken and veggies, are solid, but Tovala's prepared meals (like pasta and chicken stew) are where the food truly shines. The recipes are delicious, and Tovala's cooks clearly know how to construct a tasty dish. It's clear the meals are thoughtfully designed, and the meals + oven combo allows for feats of cooking that other delivery services could simply never pull off. (Like freshly baked biscuits cooked in the same oven as braised chicken? Whaaaat?) The fact that these meals come out the way they do with so little hands-on prep time is incredible.
Are Tovala's portion sizes large?
Portion sizes tend to vary between meals, but it's fair to say that most are on the small-ish side. Volume eaters who enjoy large portions and substantial meals may want to supplement some of Tovala's meals with a side salad, some extra veggies, or some bread.
Is Tovala convenient?
Without a doubt, we can say with 100% certainty that Tovala is convenient. When you receive meals from Tovala, you'll save time meal planning and grocery shopping, and picking meals from an online selection helps streamline the weeknight dinner process. If you ever struggle to plan a menu for the week, feel like you're stuck in a run of cooking the same handful of meals, or don't have time to make up a shopping list and shop for groceries, Tovala will most certainly add convenience to your routine. There's nothing quicker or easier than simply scanning a meal and letting your oven cook it for you, and with a Tovala meal subscription, the meals will show up on your doorstep like clockwork. What's more convenient than that?
What information is available in the Tovala app?
To connect your oven to WiFi, you'll need to download the Tovala app, which is available for Android and iOS. The app allows you to order meals, look up recipes, and even control your oven. You'll also get notifications on your phone when your food is done cooking; really, this oven is like living in the future.
What do MSA reviewers say about Tovala?
In preparation for this review, I was sent a Tovala oven with a shipment of meals to try. Before I dive in to my review, I’ll share a little bit about my review experience and my drinking profile.
My Tovala Review
- Review expertise: I've been writing food reviews for My Subscription Addiction since 2014, and I love to explore new meal subscriptions. I'm a professional baker, so I know my way around the kitchen, and I tend to approach meal delivery services with a critical eye. I love to eat, and I'm always on the hunt for my new favorite recipe.
- Eating profile: I eat anything and everything, though my favorite meals tend to feature global flavors and interesting techniques. I'm also a sucker for comfort foods like pizza and tacos. I love to cook, but I'm also always on the hunt for meal solutions that help streamline dinner service.
- Tech profile: It feels like we're smack dab in the middle of a kitchen appliance renaissance; air fryers, fancy multicookers, and smart ovens are revolutionizing the way we prepare meals. But unlike my friends (who are often raving about their shiny new gadgets), I've always been fairly old-fashioned when it comes to outfitting my kitchen. I do most of my cooking on the stove, in the convection oven, and in my toaster oven. I tend to take a minimalist approach to new contraptions in my own kitchen, but the truth is that I'm quite the techie. I've been intrigued by some of the smart ovens that have recently come onto the market, I just wasn't sure that they were right for me. (Were they really any better than my toaster oven?) When my Tovala oven arrived, I wasn't sure I'd love it. I wasn't sure it was necessary. But I was excited to give it a whirl.
- Thoughts on the Tovala oven: Let's talk about toast. Both my husband and I eat toast pretty regularly, so that's a decent chunk of what we use our toaster oven for. It made sense to start with a basic "toast test." Tovala's toast setting allows you to choose your level of toastiness, from 1 (light) all the way to 5 (very dark). I'm probably a 2 or 3 kinda gal, and my husband is a 4. My expectations for this test weren't crazy. Really, I was just trying to set out a basic challenge that would allow me to try out the oven. I mean, toast is toast, right? Wrong. This machine makes awesome toast. Because Tovala uses a combination of heat and steam when cooking, every piece of toast (light or dark) is perfectly toasted on the outside and nice and soft in the middle. No brittle, dry toast here, folks. It might seem like a small thing— and I even feel kind of silly making a big deal out of it— but this alone has added a little bit of joy to my morning routine. I seriously love the toast that comes out of my Tovala oven. I suppose I can't tell you whether or not you'll love this oven, but I can tell you that I sure as heck do. When I first received the oven, I wasn't sure it would live up to the hype. I was perfectly happy with my standard, run-of-the-mill toaster oven, and I wondered if this might just be the same thing with flashier lights. I am so pleased to tell you I was wrong. The scan-to-cook function is clever and useful, but bells and whistles aside, this is just a fantastic cooking machine. The Tovala steam function is a real game-changer. This oven makes great food.
- Thoughts on Tovala meals: The food is really tasty! The pre-prepared dishes were the highlights for me, but all of the food was good. It's clear the meals are thoughtfully designed, and the meals + oven combo allows for feats of cooking that other delivery services could simply never pull off. My favorite meal was the Creole Tomato-Braised Chicken with Freshly Baked Biscuits. The biscuits themselves were fantastic. (You can't really beat freshly baked biscuits.) The Creole Braised Chicken was delicious, too, and the flavors were surprisingly bold. The dish was savory and a little spicy. When I first looked at the portion sizes, I wasn't sure the ratio was quite right. Initially, I thought I might prefer just one biscuit and more stew, but I ended up being very happy with the meal just the way it was. My husband loved the Sweet Corn, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta with Basil Vinaigrette, and I agreed the flavors were on point. He felt the portion size might be a little on the small side, but he thought it was delicious. The Smoky BBQ Salmon with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes wasn't my favorite flavor-wise, but I was impressed that both the salmon and potatoes came out perfectly cooked in the same amount of time.
- Verdict: I've tried A LOT of meal subscriptions in my day, but never a service quite like this one. I won't lie, I was initially skeptical. Requiring a special oven to cook meals seemed... pretentious. But the truth is that I fell in love with the oven and enjoyed the convenience of the smart scan-to-cook meals. I use my Tovala every single day for all kinds of different things (not just the Tovala meals), and I'm obsessed with it.
Are there alternatives to Tovala?
There's nothing quite like Tovala, but if you want just a smart oven or just a meal delivery service, there are a few competitors that might be a better fit.
Tovala vs. Home Chef
Home Chef is a meal kit delivery subscription that provides delicious, crowd-pleasing meal kits to cook at home. Recipes can typically be made in around 30 minutes, and most meals can be customized. While this can increase the cost, it's a simple way to double up on protein or swap ingredients. Let's outline some of the key differences between these two subscriptions:
- Customization: Both Tovala and Home Chef allow for customization. With Home Chef, you can tweak the recipes to feature a different protein, double protein, or even meat-free protein.
- Prep time: Home Chef is a meal kit, which means you'll receive all the ingredients you need plus a recipe that you'll cook yourself. Tovala meals are mostly pre-prepared, which means the hands-on cooking time is almost zero.
- Servings per recipe: Home Chef meals serve two or four people, so they're a natural fit for couple and families. Tovala meals are ordered individually.
Tovala vs. Freshly
Want meals that are cooked and ready to be reheated? Freshly has you covered. Both Tovala and Freshly send prepared meals that are ready to heat-and-eat. Let's take a closer look at the differences between these meal subscriptions:
- Price: Freshly meals start at $8.49, making them a bit less expensive than Tovala.
- Menu size: With only 13 items on each Tovala menu, you'll find a greater selection with Freshly, where there are over 30 recipes to choose from.
- Cooking Method: Freshly's meals are designed to be heated in any standard microwave. With Tovala, you'll need the Tovala oven.
Tovala vs. June Oven
If you're just looking for an oven, June Oven is a smart oven with lots of bells and whistles. Let's see how these two subscriptions stack up:
- Price: June Oven costs $599, making it over twice the price of Tovala.
- Meal plan: June Oven does not have an accompanying meal subscription. It's just the oven.
- Luxe-level: Tovala is a great oven with lots of features, but June Oven is super high-tech. It can bake, warm, toast, broil, reheat, slow cook, dehydrate, proof, air fry, and stone fry pizza (just to name a few). The touch screen display is intuitive and futuristic, and the June app allows you to preheat the oven, adjust the cooking time and temp, and even watch a live-feed video of your food cooking— all without leaving the sofa.
Is Tovala worth it?
We've covered a lot of info in this Tovala review, but one big question remains: is Tovala worth it?
Let's get the most important thing out of the way first: Tovala is truly unique in the subscription box world, and there's really nothing like it yet. The Tovala meals are specially designed to be cooked in the Tovala oven, and this comes with both pros and cons. On the plus side, the entire experience is high-tech and very cool. You scan a meal, pop it in the oven, and sit back and wait for your meal to be ready. The meals are tasty, and the programmed instructions allow things like stews and biscuits to cool side-by-side perfectly. The technology works. Of course, the biggest negative is that if you want to subscribe to Tovala's meal service, you'll need to buy a special oven, which is a substantial additional expense. As such, this subscription might be best for those who are already in the market for a smart oven and want the added bonus of an accompanying meal delivery subscription.
But despite the barriers to entry, there's a lot to love about Tovala. The meals are tasty (though a little on the small side), and the oven is great. Meals aside, the Tovala oven is a great machine that is sure to add a lot to any kitchen. The convenience of this oven + meal delivery combo is a thing of beauty, and if you're looking to purchase an oven and also want meals delivered, Tovala is an excellent option.
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Have you tried Tovala? Head to the comments section and let us know!