Even we, as self-confessed restaurant obsessives on a mission to weigh up all the merits of the UK’s best restaurants, can’t deny the joys of a homecooked meal. Sure, eating out is a wonderful thing (and someone else deals with the washing up, crucially) but for a cosy evening in you just can’t beat a bowl of something comforting eaten on the couch – preferably in your pjs – in front of your favourite TV programme.
If you’re not blessed with natural abilities in the kitchen then help is at hand by way of one of the many best recipe boxes in the UK. These clever copouts come delivered to your door packed with all the ingredients and instructions you need to whip up something seriously tasty in no time at all. In fact, even if you are the next Gordon, Jamie or Nigella you might just need a night off and these meal boxes come in handy as a bit of a middleman, not quite eating out, not quite having to haul yourself to the shops to start from scratch. Recipe boxes are also a great way to discover new favourite dishes, cuisines or techniques as the people behind them pour hours of development time into every detail, making sure each instruction is perfected, honed and tried, tried, and tried again for delicious, fool proof results.
When weighing up the best recipe boxes the results differ depending on your needs. Are you looking for a food subscription box to feed a family or do you fancy giving your diet a bit of a reboot with a healthy helping hand? We’ve got ideas for all those and more. Plus, aside from recipe boxes there are also meal boxes on offer which send a few boxed-up dinners your way, ready to just heat and eat – a sort of homecooked, deluxe ready meal deal.
We’ve made our way through all the best recipe boxes we could get our hands on to come up with this list of tried and tested favourites. Some send you a few spices and sauces along with instructions for how to make them into meals, which allows you to cater to your individual dietary requirements, while others send you every last detail from the meat and veg through to the seasonings. Elsewhere the full meal food subscription boxes send you high-brow ready meals for when there’s a need for speed. Whatever you’re after, we’re pretty confident you’ll find it below.
The best recipe boxes
If you prefer to cook from scratch but want to scrap the shopping, then these are for you. Neatly packaged, perfectly portioned ingredients sent to your door with clear recipe cards make these some of the best recipe boxes in the UK at the moment.
Why: Mindful Chef claims to be the UK’s most highly rated recipe box and offers a lighter alternative to the typically carb-filled recipe boxes seen elsewhere. Each one of the meals is 100% gluten-free and dairy-free, so you won’t see bulky pasta dishes here, instead you might find grilled fish dishes or healthy stir fries. With lots of vegan options and any meat free-range or grass-fed this is great for those wanting to get stuck into eating ethically and healthily on a regular basis. Packages range from between two to five meals per week and there are typically 16 different dishes to pick between at any one time. Mindful Chef also runs a scheme to match every meal bought with a school meal for a child in poverty, so that you can do good while eating well.
We say: Lots of the alternative recipe boxes are carb-heavy and can feel a little stodgy, but Mindful Chef recipes are all gluten and dairy free as well as being refined carbohydrate free – bread lovers, look away now. With a whole selection of international recipes on offer each week, and a regularly changing selection, we didn’t miss the pasta or noodles which were replaced with nutritious ingredients like sweet potato wedges or black rice. Recipes are super easy to follow and mostly take under 30 minutes, which means they’re achievable after work. There’s also the added bonus of feeling smug about eating a healthy, homemade dinner each evening. We love that Mindful Chef helps you try new recipes when you’re in a bit of a rut, like the Keralan monkfish curry we were sent, which was creamy with coconut and fragrant from ginger, garlic, cardamom and turmeric.
How much: From £6.75 per portion
Buy it: Mindful Chef
Why: With plenty of flexibility as well as family favourite recipes, Gousto goes the extra mile to make sure it’s offering something to suit everyone. The precise measurements for each meal mean there’s no food waste and all meat is sourced from trusted UK suppliers. You’re able to pick the recipes you like the sound of from a weekly selection – with categories including deluxe versions for fancy fine dining or crowd-pleasing classics like sausage and mash for easy family eating – and you can order for either two or four people.
We say: Gousto’s recipes are probably among the more sophisticated offerings out there when it comes to recipe subscription boxes, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means they’re difficult to make. We found the likes of sticky ginger beef noodles remarkably easy to rustle up (a 10 minute job overall), while the light spice of Indian-style chicken and grains was tempered by lashings of turmeric yoghurt. We also loved that veg was incorporated into practically every meal, without ever feeling dull – great for convincing little ones to eat their greens.
How much: From £2.99 per portion
Buy it: Gousto
Why: A recipe meal kit that’s made for foodies, Dishpatch offers top tier boxes created by top tier chefs. Have your dinner created by the likes of Rick Stein, Michel Roux Jr and Andi Oliver – seriously. Whether you’re looking to impress dinner party guests, or simply fancy treating yourself to a not-your-everyday meal, then Dishpatch is for you. Some recipes kits include one show-stopper dish, while others include full-on menus. We love the sound of them all, but one particular highlight is the Beef Wellington Family Banquet complete with sourdough and butter, chicken liver parfait with brioche and caramelised onions, Champagne and saffron soup with poached scallops and brioche bread and butter pudding for dessert. YUM.
We say: We tried the Cafe de Paris Monkfish kit put together by the ever-brilliant Paul Ainsworth (The Mariners and Paul Ainsworth at No. 6). This is certainly a meal kit for a special occasion; the quality of ingredients and all-round execution of each element promises restaurant quality food within the comfort of your own home. The kit included three standout courses, starting with mackerel pate on sourdough, followed by a generous fillet of monkfish with baby potatoes, cafe de paris butter and a herby pangrattato. We loved how easy the mackerel pate was to assemble - simply mix in a bowl and garnish - which left more time to focus on nailing the main course. We finished with a soft centred chocolate cake served with orange and vanilla Chantilly, which came out the oven perfectly cooked with a molten centre. In fact, the cooking instructions were all spot on, ensuring beautifully soft fish and crispy roasted new potatoes for the middle dish. At £89 for the box, it's more expensive than others in this list, but you really do get a restaurant quality meal for that price.
How much: Menus from £27.50 per portion
Buy it: Dishpatch
Why: Simply Cook brings a slightly different format to the fore, with its offer of spice and seasoning kits instead of a system where you receive every ingredient you need to make your meal. These non-perishable boxes include recipe cards and allow you to store them up to use at your leisure. This means you’re able to buy your own meat, vegetables and other ingredients (you’ll receive shopping lists, so you know what to get for each) and allows you to tailor each of the recipes to your liking, whether that’s buying all organic or snapping up that veg on special offer.
We say: Simply Cook is made for those to wish to have greater flexibility and control over what they eat. It’s really easy to tweak each recipe to suit you, and each recipe card includes suggestions for clever swaps or upgrades. It’s also the cheapest option in this list. For us, Simply Cook was really helpful for sprucing up weekday meals, and taking the legwork out of having to decide what to eat for dinner.
How much: From £2.50 per serving
Buy it: Simply Cook
Abel & Cole
Why: It might not sound the most appetising of attributes, but Abel and Cole’s packaging really sets them apart from the rest of the recipe boxes we’ve seen on the market. While pre-portioned everything is nice, there is of course a lot of waste. The team here go some way to combatting that by making sure all packaging is returnable and recyclable. You’ll be picking between 15 recipes each week which are made up of organic ingredients, and there’s a specific emphasis on making sure there is plenty of veg in each.
We say: We're yet to put Abel and Cole's box to the test. As soon as we've had a go at cooking up a storm with its recipe box, we'll update you here.
How much: From £6 per portion
Buy it: Abel & Cole
Why: If eating organic food is important to you then Riverford could be the answer when it comes to a recipe box that suits your lifestyle. Having jumped on the recipe box bandwagon following the successes of people like Gusto and Hello Fresh, Riverford came up with a slightly fancier foodie-focused offering with recipes that are still family-friendly. Each week the Riverford team comes up with 15 seasonal recipes that are created using fresh, organic produce. You’re able to pick as many recipes as you like, so aren’t restricted to a prescribed amount and these boxes have the highest rating of any in our roundup on Trust Pilot, so it’s safe to say they’re popular with punters.
We say: Riverford haven't supplied a box to review yet, but once we're able to test its meal kit, we'll let you know what we think.
How much: From £7.25 per serving
Buy it: Riverford
Why: Passionate about pasta? So are the Pasta Evangelists, unsurprisingly. This recipe box subscription might not be the most diverse – so probably better for a one-off treat rather than a regular spot in your teatime setlist – but who can argue with pasta being akin to food of the gods? All the pasta is carefully crafted by Italian hands, while sauces are created with the best Italian produce for rich, comforting bowls of food. The recipe kits change from week to week, but examples include beef shin ragu lasagne, boar ragu with mafaldine and sea bass soli with tomato sauce and samphire. There are kids' options too, or order one of its bundles for a full-on feast.
We say: It’s easy to match the ingredients to the corresponding recipe in the nicely produced ‘This Week’s Menu’ booklet, which comes with a history of each dish and nutritional information. However, none of these recipes could be called challenging and wouldn’t have taken more than half an hour to cook from scratch; we wonder just how lazy or inexperienced you would have to be to order a pasta meal kit. That said, the ravioli, orecchiette et al had the authentically eggy taste of the best homemade pasta and were a welcome reminder to buy fresh rather than dried whenever possible – next time from the Pasta Evangelists kiosk in the Harrods Food Hall, perhaps, which would cut down on all the fiddly packaging this came with.
How much: From £6.50 per portion
Buy it: Pasta Evangelists
Why: The Cookaway specialises in serving different cuisines from all over the world, not only to get people cooking at home but to promote cultural education and inclusivity around global cuisines. It currently offers eight cuisines with options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and halal requirements, and every box comes with a main and side dish. From indulgent options to healthy midweek dinners, there really is something for everyone at The Cookaway.
We say: The recipes were easy to follow, and the portions were generous, with each box coming with a main meal plus two sides. We thought the sea bream with an almond crust was the best dish from the pick of healthy options, while the butternut and chimichurri orrechiette was the best from the Italian box. The only concern was the large packaging and all the waste it created. This being said, it was mostly paper rather than plastic and the team have gone above and beyond to ensure containers are 100% fully recyclable, with 95% of it coming from natural sources. The quality of the food was pretty good, although £11 per person seems a bit steep for raw ingredients plus a recipe card. Overall the concept of it is cool, so it will be interesting to see how the company evolves and if it can maintain authenticity of the cuisines (even more so given that there are soon to be Japanese, Spanish and Pakistani chefs coming on board). We think this box is best for treating yourself or if you're not a hugely confident cook and want to impress someone with a special meal.
How much: £8.50 per portion
Buy it: The Cookaway
Why: Hello Fresh does what it says on the tin, delivering healthy, fresh meals direct to your door. Targeted specifically at health-conscious eaters, these guys are perfect if you’re looking to take the stress out of midweek meal planning, or simply want to make more conscious meal choices. You can tweak your box to feed two, three or four people, and deliveries are weekly. It’s also excellent value with meals starting from as little as £3.15 per portion. Examples include king prawn and chorizo tagliatelle, chicken and mushroom pie, pork ragu with spaghetti and beef goulash.
We say: We can't report on Hello Fresh's boxes yet as we haven't given them a proper go. We'll let you know if that changes.
How much: From £3.15 per portion
Buy it: Hello Fresh
Cote at Home
Why: Popular French restaurant chain Cote also offers its very own recipe kits, so you can enjoy luxurous French dishes within the comfort of your home. These are best suited to a special occasion, be it a birthday, anniversary or date night in. Choose between Cote classics, seafood boxes, date night specials and breakfast. We like the sound of its beef Bourguignon, which comes with sourdough and salted butter, squash soup and harissa, and gratin potatoes. They’re easy to customise too, if you want to add a dessert for example.
We say: We loved that our Cote at Home box felt really high quality across the board, from the packaging to the way the products were served (out dessert came in little glass ramakins). We’d definitely recommend this one for a special occasion or celebration, or even as a lovely gift for someone. Portions were also super generous, so you really feel like you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck!
How much: From £11.50 per pertion
Buy it: Cote at Home
Chefs for Foodies
Why: This highly-reviewed recipe kit service offers restaurant quality meals devised by top chefs – think Rohit Ghai (Jamavar), and MasterChef alumni Alex Webb and Aaron Middleton. Options range from 20-minute meals to Indian feasts, pizza kits and a show-stopping beef Wellington, with something for every cooking ability and occasion. Kits come packed with step-by-step instructions and video tutorials to make the cooking part as accessible as possible, and you can choose to enhance your meal with artisan items from the ‘pantry’ shop.
We say: We'll update this section as soon as we give Chefs for Foodies a proper road test.
How much: From £11 per portion
Buy it: Chefs for Foodies
Why: On the hunt for quick, healthy and easy plant-based recipes? Grubby is a vegan recipe delivery service that champions British produce to offer properly flavourful meals. There are more than 50 recipes to choose from inspired by cuisines from around the world, and they all take around 30 minutes to make. These guys take sustainability seriously too. All its packaging is 100% recyclable and if you live in London, your recipe kit will be delivered by bike. You can also filter recipes by cuisine or dietary requirements, so whether you want high-protein, low-calorie, quick and easy, or Italian recipes, they’re easy to find.
We say: We’ve yet to try a Grubby box, but we’ll update this page as soon as we do.
How much: From £6.50 per portion
Buy it: Grubby
The best ready meal food subscription boxes
Like homecooked comforts but can’t face a night slaving away over the stove? These food subscription services deliver you hearty, healthy recipes all boxed up and ready to heat and eat.
Why: Allplants is probably one of the most well-known vegan delivery kits out there, and we have lots of good stuff to say about them. The first thing to know is that, obviously, every meal is plant-based. Unlike other recipes boxes in this list, all meals are delivered frozen, so you don’t have to worry about eating them straight away and can instead fill up your freezer with ready-to-eat, healthy meals. Fan favourites include mac and greens in a creamy sauce, sticky teriyaki udon noodles and a protein power buddha bowl.
We say: Overall, we were really impressed with the six Allplants ready meals we tried. Miles ahead of any we've had from a supermarket, each meal was carefully thought through to include a variety of textures and flavours, which is something sorely lacking from the standard, sauce-heavy ready meals available elsewhere. We particularly enjoyed the spiced aubergine tagine, which was not only fragrant and warming but also wonderfully filling - a common factor among all the dishes we sampled. Our only gripe was the huge amount of packaging the meals came in, though in fairness to Allplants, it was necessary to keep the meals frozen and is all sustainably-produced.
How much: From £5.75 per portion
Buy it: Allplants
Modern Persian Kitchen
Why: Modern Persian Kitchen shows off the diversity of this Middle Eastern cuisine in its handy, ready to heat ready meals. Unlike most subscription boxes, the hard work here is already done for you, with the team having homemade each box before freezing and delivering it to you for perfectly fresh plates of food. As you might expect each recipe is richly perfumed with spices and there are plenty of options to choose from. Mains, stews, veggie and vegan mains are all on offer with a whole section of the site dedicated to rice sides to bulk out your meals with.
We say: We haven't had a chance to try a Modern Persian Box yet, but will let you know as soon as we do.
How much: From £3.50 per portion
Buy it: Modern Persian Kitchen
Why: Cook is a frozen meal delivery service serving award-winning meals and puddings across the UK. You can pick up a meal at one of its independent shops, or opt for delivery and have them delivered straight to your door. What sets Cook apart is its commitment to quality and doing things properly, with everything made by hand in four kitchens across the country. Subscribe to enjoy a regular delivery of your favourite meals, and easily edit your subscription at any time to suit you.
We say: Cook’s frozen meals really do taste like a home-cooked dinner, with each one made from quality ingredients with no added preservatives. We’ve tried a fair few of its products over the years, but there are some we keep coming back to: its classic fish pie, the yellow Thai prawn curry and the Thai steamed sea bass. Its puddings are really excellent too – perfect for a dinner party or celebration. Try the chocolate and salted caramel pavlova.
How much: From £5.50 per portion
Buy it: Cook
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