We’re all well versed on the benefits of a recipe box by now. Not only do they save you a trip to the shops, provide you with a dose of midweek inspiration and ensure you don’t waste any food, they’re also incredibly convenient, with everything shipped straight to your door (or even through your letterbox).
And while on the face of it, they may seem similar, each brand has very different strengths. So whether you’re cooking for a family, have a specific dietary requirement such as gluten-free or perhaps you’re trying to only eat organic grub, there’s a box for that.
Another thing to consider is packaging. We were looking for boxes that used the least amount of single-use plastic possible. We’d much rather see a big brown paper bag, stuffed to the brim with great-quality, fresh seasonal veggies.
So who will win the battle of the box? We’ve put them to the test, here are our favourites.
Gousto: From £24.99 for two meals for two people, Gousto
Feeds: Two people, or two adults and two to three children
Delivery options: Every week, fortnight or month, delivered seven days a week
Of all the recipes we tried Gousto’s were some of the tastiest and they happened to be some of the quickest to throw together too. They also offer one of the largest menus, with up to 40 recipes to choose from each week.
The 10-minute meals were a midweek lifesaver, everyday favourites appealed to the whole family and the new Joe Wicks range was reliably healthy whilst still filling us up. Nutritional info was nice and clear, especially useful if you’re watching your calories, are plant-based or follow a gluten-free diet.
We loved the cheesy cod and spinach gratin with crispy potatoes on a drizzly Sunday night and we’ll definitely be making the satay chicken lettuce wraps again. Recipes were very easy to follow, with step by step guides including photos.
Simply Cook: £9.99 for four recipe kits, Simply Cook
Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly or monthly
Feeds: Two or four people-plus
Unlike some of the other boxes, a Simply Cook kit fits straight through the letterbox and all that’s left for you to do is grab between four and six easy-to-find fresh ingredients from your local shop. Each kit contains the herbs, spices and marinades to make your mid-week meals really zing. There about 100 core recipes to choose from (which should take you a while to get through before repeating yourself) but the website is nice and easy to use, with filters including family-friendly, vegetarian, low-calorie and gluten-free.
Each month it removes the lowest rated kits and adds a couple of newbies, so the range is constantly improving. Once you’ve collected your extra ingredients, a recipe should take you about 20 minutes to put together.
Riverford recipe box: From £11.20 for one meal for two, Riverford
Feeds: Two people
Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly, every three weeks or every four weeks
If we were giving out awards for the friendliest delivery drivers, Riverford would be top of the league (they don’t use couriers). Having visited the Riverford farm personally, we can really vouch for the incredible-quality, 100 per cent organic ingredients which go into each recipe, arriving still muddy in your box. With some of the longest use-by dates we encountered, we enjoyed cooking with items we’d never normally pop in our shopping trolley.
Pork medallions, apples and kohlrabi made their way into a tasty Vietnamese pork and pickle salad, whilst beautifully tender beef strips, gherkins and sriracha sauce spruced up our stir-fry. There are 12 new recipes to choose from each week, spanning everything from vegan through to prime cuts of meat. Delivery dates are dependent on your postcode.
Hello Fresh: From £29.99 for three meals for two people, Hello Fresh
Delivery options: Weekly
Feeds: Two to four people
Hello Fresh recipes were incredibly easy to follow thanks to the large photo-card with step-by-step instructions. We enjoyed all of our meals, from the dukkah spiced chicken with herby lentil salad, to the healthy but filling garlicky prawns with mini roast potatoes and walnut parsley pesto. Individual recipes are bagged up which makes it easy to find ingredients when you’re in a rush after work, but within that we would like to see a reduction of plastic.
We’d recommend these simple yet flavourful recipes to those that don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen or aren’t interested in attempting anything too challenging.
Abel & Cole recipe box: From £12, Abel & Cole
Delivery options: Every week, fortnightly, every three weeks, every four weeks or every eight weeks
Feeds: Two or four people
Each Abel & Cole recipe box will only ever contain 100 per cent organic or wild ingredients, with two of the recipes we tried (gnocchi with creamed kalettes and shepherdess pie with celeriac and parsnip mash) featuring seasonal veg, which means you’re tasting ingredients at their very best. We tried an easy-to-make fish pie/gratin-hybrid which, although comforting thanks to the nutmeg-scented creme fraiche sauce, was seriously calorific at 971 per portion.
Thankfully there are 15 new recipes each week to choose from, which can be filtered by meat, fish, veggie, vegan, foodie (for those more confident), simple (if you’d rather something quick and easy) and light (with dishes under 500 calories). You can pick however many recipes you like, with portions for either two or four people and your delivery date is dependent on your postcode. We found all the recipes easy enough to follow but would like to see a reduction in the plastic used.
Mindful Chef: From £20 for two meals for two people, Mindful Chef
Delivery options: Weekly or twice weekly with deliveries on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday across the country.
Feeds: One, two or four people.
If health is a priority when cooking, you’ll appreciate the Mindful Chef box which only ever offers organic recipes without refined carbohydrates. From the veggie-friendly spicy chickpea taco bowl to the balsamic and mustard beef with sweet potato mash, all recipes can be made in under 30 minutes.
They work with healthy experts such as Madeline Shaw and Olympic champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and source ingredients from award-winning suppliers. Not only that but with every meal you buy, they’ll donate a school meal to a child in poverty through the charity One Feeds Two.
Pasta Evangelists: From £13.90, Pasta Evangelists
Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly or monthly, delivered seven days a week
Feeds: You can order as many portions as you like.
No one makes a plate of pasta like nonna, but if you don’t have an Italian grandmother in your life, Pasta Evangelists is a very good substitute. These boxes fit through your letterbox with eight recipes of pasta perfection to try and decide from. Recipes really are incredibly simple as the pasta is made for you, so it’s really a case of assembling rather than cooking, with each dish taking no longer than five minutes to create.
Portions aren’t huge but are incredibly delicious and far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarket. The pulled pork stracotto with cavolo nero ragu had a wonderful depth of flavour you’d associate with restaurant cooking. We like the sound of a monthly subscription which we’ll be saving for date night.
Fish for Thought: From £32 for two meals for two people, Fish for Thought
Delivery options: Every week, every two weeks, every month or every two months (delivered Tuesday-Friday)
Feeds: Two, four, six or eight people
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside – but sadly living in central London, we’re a little far away from the nearest daily catch. Solving that problem is Fish for Thought, a delightful recipe box showcasing all that the Cornish coast has to offer. With nine sustainable seafood recipes to choose from each week, pescatarians will be delighted by these fishy suppers.
We often order a big bowl of mussels when we’re out at a restaurant but we’re ashamed to say we’ve never tried cooking them for ourselves – until now. Some instructions could have been more clearly explained, such as “debeard the mussels” but thanks to the pre-prepared components, like a pouch of butter-bean mash and Thai fish soup, overall this box made cooking shellfish and seafood a total doddle.
Little Cooks Co: £8.99 a month, Little Cooks Co
Delivery options: Once a month
Feeds: Each box makes between 12-24 portions of the recipe, so enough for a whole family to get stuck into
If you’re looking to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, Little Cooks Co is the one for you. Aimed at three- to 10-year-olds, boxes fit through the letterbox once a month and include a healthy snack recipe such as lemon and poppy seed energy balls (which will always be free from refined sugar) and the dry, organic ingredients to make them.
You’ll also receive a dinner recipe card (without ingredients) so they can get used to cooking savoury food as well – our veggie nuggets went down a treat. Cute added extras might include a packet of vegetable seeds so your kids can try planting and growing their own food. Not only is this a great activity for families to do together, for each Little Cooks Co box sold, a vulnerable schoolchild in the UK will receive a healthy breakfast through the charity Magic Breakfast. No kids yourself? Boxes can also be gifted, with Little Cooks Co recently winning Children’s Gift of the Year 2019.
Box’d Fresh: From £48 for three meals for two people, Box’d Fresh
Delivery options: Weekly, delivered on a Friday
Feeds: One, two or four people
While most recipe boxes aim to make things simpler and promise a meal on the table in minutes, Box’d Fresh does things a little differently. All the recipes are created by Michelin-star chefs, so expect less step by step guidance and a more impressive result at the end of it. These are recipes for the keen cook, those who are happy to spend a little extra time and effort slaving over a hot stove.
We loved that ingredients arrived loose in a large brown-paper bag, almost all of which come straight from the same small, organic farms and sustainable suppliers that the top chefs use. Vegetables were great quality and impressive in size with portions on the generous side – we received a whole block of butter to slather our crusty bread with. The menu changes weekly with six new recipes on offer, we tried our hand at a rustic ratatouille (which served four) crafted by Galton Blackiston and the date-night worthy duck breast with root vegetables and beetroot puree by Adam Simmonds.
Morrisons Eat Fresh recipe box: From £20, Morrisons
Delivery options: One off, weekly, every fortnight or once a month, delivered seven days a week
Feeds: Two or four people
Morrison’s is targeting the time-poor and as such, all of its recipes can be rustled up in under 30 minutes. We tried a lighter chicken katsu dish which was so spicy we think we must have made a mistake somewhere, as well as the more successful lean turkey meatballs with a side of healthy cauliflower rice. There were 18 recipes for us to choose from, although these aren’t updated every week. As one of the only supermarkets to offer a recipe box, it uses own-brand ingredients which you might be familiar with from your weekly shop.
Feast Box: From £20 for two meals for two people, Feast Box
Delivery options: Weekly
Feeds: Two or four people
If you’re keen to get out of a rut and try ingredients that would never normally make it into your shopping trolley, Feast Box is the one for you. Recipes are all inspired by authentic Asian and Middle Eastern flavours and as such our box contained ingredients we’d never find in our local supermarket. Crispy jackfruit pancakes anyone?
As with the other boxes, ingredients are pre-measured so there’s no waste – but this is particularly useful with such interesting herbs and spices which you might not necessarily find you use often. Of the 12 recipes on offer each week, four will always be vegan.
The verdict: recipe boxes
We’ve awarded our best buy to Gousto who we felt offered the most well-rounded box. However, if organic ingredients are a must (and we’d argue they should be!) then Riverford is your best bet. Its dedication to bringing customers the best organic meat and veg at a great price for everyone is truly inspirational.
Lastly, we’re really big fans of what Fish for Thought is doing – a great concept, bringing quality seafood to you wherever you are in the country. It’s just a small company at the moment, but we hope to see it grow.