This is an independent review of HelloFresh. Heart of Pixie did not receive any compensation for this review.
Back in February, when COVID-19 seemed only a boogeyman an ocean away, we tried HelloFresh for the first time. My cousin sent out promo codes for free boxes, so I thought, “why not?” She showered the service with praise, and I was familiar with the HelloFresh brand: I’ve received unsolicited coupons in the mail, seen boxes featured by the best ASMRtists, and been advertised to relentlessly on Instagram and Pinterest. Plus, who says no to free food?
My free box, courtesy of my cousin’s racked-up points and generosity, came just in time for Valentine’s Day dinner. While there may not be as many vegetarian options as there are meat options, I was pleasantly surprised by the selection they did have. The website is really easy to navigate and it is possible to switch meals out, if, say, you’re not a pasta fan or have specific allergies.
I like a hearty Italian meal for romantic dinners, so I selected the “Cheese Baked Gnocchi” with the night of the 14th in mind. The other scheduled meals were the “Veggie Tagine Couscous Bowls” and a taco salad bowl that I switched for the “Roasted Veggie Farro Bowls,” because we make taco salad all the time and I’d actually never cooked farro so wanted to try it.
Dish One: “Cheesy Baked Gnocchi”
I’ve cooked homemade gnocchi and find it rather fun and relaxing to make, but it is rather time consuming, so I don’t make it too often. And I had a really bad experience once with a store-bought premade version (I don’t remember the brand), so I was skeptical but really pleasantly surprised.
This dish, with zucchini, ricotta cheese, and garlic bread, was simply delish! The addition of fresh parsley and chives to the ricotta, which is later dolloped on top, was clever and something I’d definitely try again. The garlic bread was very yummy, too, even though I baked rather than broiled (we recently had to buy a new stove, and apparently we needed to “season” the broiler, too, because the smell was unbearable). We upgraded with a delish Malbec.
Dish Two: “Veggie Tagine Couscous Bowls”
Super wholesome with the fun addition of the pita chips. The dish was packed full of flavor thanks to their Tunisian spice blend, which I wasn’t expecting, honestly. Our spice cabinet is full to the brim because we like our food really punchy with flavor, and I frankly expected their prepackaged ingredients to result in blandness. So, yet again I was pleasantly surprised.
Dish Three: “Roasted Veggie Farro Bowls”
Probably the simplest of the dishes, this one still provided interest with cranberries and pumpkin seeds. I also really like the nuttiness and chewy texture of the farro. It reminded me how much I like barley, which has a similar texture. And you can’t go wrong with roasted veggies in my book.
When I ordered the first box (which, you’ll remember, was free), I paused the delivery for the next few weeks, totally planning to come back later and cancel my subscription entirely.
You probably get where this is going, but um, I totally forgot to do that and was then surprised to get my bank alert after self-isolating for a week already. Like, what did I just buy that costs $66? I haven’t left the house?
I felt so bad to have ordered a non-essential delivery considering I had just gone grocery shopping for 14 days of self-imposed isolation (at this point I’ve been home since March 14, well before my state’s governor issued a kind-of-stay-at-home order). Anyway, I got a second HelloFresh box (oops!), and it worked out because I got two more delectable recipes that helped add excitement to the solitude.
Dish Four: “Crunchy Curried Chickpea Bowls”
This bowl is so much fun. It combines dry-roasted chickpeas with kale and pickled cabbage and is topped by plumped golden raisins. We really enjoyed this one, because the pickled cabbage and raisins aren’t ingredients we generally would pair.
Dish Five: “Balsamic Tomato Parmesan Risotto”
This one ended up being both of our favorite, by a landslide. I’ve actually always wanted to make a risotto ever since I was introduced to Giorgio Locatelli via The Big Family Cooking Showdown. Hearing him talk, especially when delivering his judgement as to whether a dish was “overcook” or not, was my favorite part of the show. The risotto was the most time-consuming of all the HelloFresh recipes we tried, but it was sooooo worth it. I get why Giorgio calls this comfort food; neither of us have a connection to Italy or an Italian grandmother, but we were instantly warm and full and smiling. Every single bite was a delight. Arborio rice is going to be a new pantry staple in our house now.
The Heart of Pixie Verdict
While it often initially looked to me to be too much food when it was in the pot, the meals are actually perfectly portioned for us. Each meal provides hefty helpings, generally, but definitely not enough for seconds or leftovers (but if you want leftovers, you can order for 4 and do it that way).
Top marks—every meal was tasty and simple enough to add to our repertoire. That said, here are our rankings, from tastiest to also tasty but we have to distinguish them somehow:
- “Balsamic tomato Parmesan Risotto” is the clear winner!
- “Cheesy Baked Gnocchi” was very yum!
- “Crunchy Curried Chickpea Bowls” was so clever and fun!
- “Veggie Tagine Couscous Bowls” was wholesome and tangy!
- “Roasted Veggie Farro Bowls” was comforting and flavorful!
For convenience and flexibility:
Top marks—You don’t have to think about or argue about what’s for dinner, you don’t have to run to the store to grab any extra items, and cleanup is relatively simple. On top of all that, you can switch out dishes in your schedule and pause your subscription for multiple months at a time. Just remember to cancel if you want or keep up with when your boxes are scheduled to resume!
Medium marks—you get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for here is convenience. In our calculations, the boxes end up costing much more than our typical groceries for the same number of meals (especially for items we tend to buy in bulk).
Generally pretty fair marks, but varies—some dishes take just half an hour, but others can take anywhere from 45-50 minutes (more if you dillydally); in all six meals, we found that their time estimates were rather spot-on, but this was with us usually working at a brisk hungry-right-now pace.
Low marks—probably by necessity, most items are individually packaged, and not all of the packaging is recyclable, even if they try to keep it minimal. In fact, not very many packages were recyclable besides the shipping box and ice packs. That said, they’ve got a whole page on their website dedicated to sustainability, and there they contend that their carbon footprint is 25% lower than meals made with grocery-shop-sourced ingredients.
Have you tried HelloFresh or a similar service? What was it like for you?