Subscription Addiction: Hello Fresh Vs. Blue Apron
It’s been nearly a year since peer pressure and culinary hubris convinced me to try Blue Apron, the cook-at-home subscription service. Much to my surprise and chagrin, I hated it. I found the portions small, the recipes frustrating, and the results too often bland. In response, readers and friends asked, “What about Hello Fresh?” I failed to see how Blue Apron’s very similar seeming rival would fare any better with a home chef who admittedly isn’t much for following instructions, no matter how many times she pores over the Vincent Price cookbook. (It’s real and amazing.) But when I got an invite to try one week for 50% off, the deal-hunter in me couldn’t resist. So here we go.
How It Works
Hello Fresh is a food delivery service that once a week sends you inventive recipes, complete with precise ingredients. They have the Classic Plan, The Family Plan, and the Veggie Plan, with the ability to toggle number of people (2-4), and recipes per week (2-4). I opted for Classic, three recipes for two people. From there, you enter your address, payment info, preferred day of deliver, and recipe preferences.
Then you get to check out the menu for your first week. I was offered eight options. Which you can see below.
I picked the three that say “In Box.”
How It Went
I requested Monday delivery, and the box arrived bright and early! I immediately cracked it open, anxious because my Blue Apron box was a tumble of ingredients that I hastily piled into my fridge to my great regret. You might remember the meat packaging was leaking, and so leaked ALL over the produce, some of which was not intended to be cooked. That was not the case for Hello Fresh. First off, the ingredients were divided into three separate paper bags, each clearly labeled. Awesome. I popped all three into my fridge without issue. Then beneath those in the insulated cardboard delivery box, I found a large ice pack that sat on top of my meats and the noodles for the Thai dish. These too I piled into the fridge, but only after carefully inspecting them to be sure of no leaking. Fool me once and all that, but no worries. Hello Fresh’s packaging was secure.
Also included were three recipe cards. In format, it seemed pretty similar to Blue Apron. But these didn’t boast any confusing culinary lingo that had me racing to my phone for clarification. I looked over the recipes and their drool-inducing glamour shots of the finished dishes and sent those to my Mister, asking what he’d like for dinner that night. I was actually excited to give these a go!
Adobo Loco Steak with a Poblano, Corn, and Crispy Potato Hash
Part of Hello Fresh’s “Hall of Fame,” this popular dish involved cooking a steak on the stovetop then in the oven, and making a potato hash. The directions were easy to follow, and while the prep took me longer than estimated, I really enjoyed the experience. This was not wildly outside of my comfort zone. I’ve made steak. I’ve sautéd veggies. Making a hash was a first, and I’d never made an adobo sauce before. But since neither was exceptionally complicated, this was a great recipe to get my confidence up. And the final dish was damn delicious.
I’ll admit, when I looked at the ingredients, I worried one potato and two small steaks would not be enough to satisfy my husband and me. But I underestimated the corn and poblanos. We gobbled up every bite, and were full. And while I lament the lack of leftovers, it was a dish easy enough to learn that I could totally repeat it on my own. (Especially because they sent enough adobo sauce for several attempts!)
I love pasta and Asian flavors, so this seemed a no brainer. This time the recipe wasn’t quite as well thought out. It suggests you start your water boiling first, and that was bubbling away while I was still three steps away to adding noodles. So I shut it off until I was ready. From there, some of the wording was jarring. For instance, in the previous recipe, I was told to core the poblano and remove the seeds. For the hot chili pepper in this dish, the instructions read, “Finely chop chili, removing ribs and seeds for less heat.” Which. I read, “Finely chop chili.” Did that. And then saw, “removing ribs and seeds for less heat.” So then I was delicately plucking out seeds so as not to blow out my tastebuds.
All in all, the recipe was easy enough. The results? I was less ecstatic. The noodles are pretty thick and starchy and felt out of place with the ingredients. I wondered if a noodle made of red beans or something might have worked a bit better. Plus, I’m not much for broccoli. So this was good, but probably not something I’d repeat. But upside: The servings were generous, so there were leftovers that made for several more meals!
Pineapple Poblano Beef Tacos with Lime Crema, Cilantro, and Warm Spices
We love love love tacos in my house. Over the years, I’ve made a variety of my own spice blends and meat and veggie combos. Taco night is always a happy night. Since my Mister was working late the rest of the week, we decided to save this dish for the weekend when we could really relish.
The recipe was simple enough, though it could have used an editor. For instance this direction: “Combine 2 TBSP onion, ¼ cup poblano, tomatoes, half the cilantro, pineapple, and a squeeze of lime in a medium bowl.” I read ahead, because as this is grouped, I was unsure if ¼ cup applied to the poblanos and tomatoes, or not, and if I was to use half the cilantro and half the pineapple. A more accurate instruction would have been: “Combine tomatoes, pineapple, 2 TBSP onion, ¼ cup poblano, half the cilantro, and a squeeze of lime in a medium bowl.” But this bump wasn’t much to navigate, and the meal was damn tasty. It made 6 generously stuffed tacos, and taught me how to make crema. (Which is way easier than I’d ever imagined.) I’d definitely make this again. Though, I’d shift the proportions to be a bit more to our taste preferences. (Less tomatoes, more every other veggie!)
Considering how similar Hello Fresh and Blue Apron seem, I was confounded that I enjoyed one so much after loathing the latter. I felt the Hello Fresh recipes were easier to follow, their food more flavorful, and the dishes less hoity-toity. This made for a fun and educational cooking experience instead of an infuriating one that I ultimately pawned off on my Mister.
Another thing I really enjoyed is the Hello Fresh App. It’s free and easy to find in the iTunes store. The app makes it easy to edit your order, change preferences, and peruse the recipes. After the first night with the Adobo Loco Steak, I was so pleased with myself I scrolled through recipe after recipe, imagining what I might conquer next. I also decided to pick the dishes for my next delivery. At $9.99 per serving, Hello Fresh is not cheap. But with our schedules being madness lately, dinner is often hasty takeout, which is rarely cheap, and often woefully unhealthy. Or it means I rush to make a big, big meal one night that we’ll have as leftovers the rest of the week. But often this leads to an excess of ingredients, or leftovers left to rot. With Hello Fresh, I get fresh ingredients in non-intimidating portions, and a game plan for the week. So there’s less waste. I found the recipes familiar enough to make them easy to follow, but inventive enough that it doesn’t feel like I could have just made them up on the fly. Now, not every ingredient was as fresh as I’d like. But even cutting the bad bits away, I had enough for the recipes.
All in all, I earnestly recommend Hello Fresh if you’re looking for a way to spice up dinner, or make a stressful schedule a bit easier.
Offer: I’m sharing with you my personalized “add a friend” offer. Get $40 off your first shipment at this link. You get the discount, and (full disclosure) I get a discount on my next shipment for the referral. No, that does not make this a sponsored article. Hello Fresh had no idea I was reviewing the box they sent. I paid for my order and liked it. If you want to give it a shot, this is the best coupon I found. In the past Subscription Addictions, I didn’t share such deals because they seemed more beneficial to me than the user. But in this case, it can be win-win.
Check out Subscription Addiction reviews for Level Up, Stitch Fix, Try The World, Darby Smart, Treatsie, Chococurb, Loot Crate, Candy Club, Blue Apron, Bright Cellars, Julep, Bright Cellars Cheese, CauseBox, Tasting Board, and Box2Bake. In the comments, tell us which subscription service you’d like to see reviewed next.