Blue Apron vs. Plated
Why order in when you could cook instead? There may have been a time when the answer to that (non-rhetorical) question included a cornucopia of excuses — grocery shopping is hard, cooking is hard, thinking of recipes is hard. But luckily for you (and for me), many of those problems have now been solved with the emergence of the meal kit.
Thanks to services like Blue Apron and Plated, cooking in rather than dining out has become a much more viable decision for dinner. With pre-portioned ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes, burgeoning cooks and seasoned chefs alike can spend more time in the kitchen (and in front of the stove, rather than the microwave).
Now, however, with so many options on the table, the real question is: How do you know what meal kit is right for you?
Both Blue Apron and Plated are well-known brands with loyal followers. Both founded in 2012, each company has quite a bit of experience when it comes to dreaming up delicious recipes and sourcing local ingredients. Both offer chef-inspired recipes, easy delivery schedules, and portions for just you and your boo or you and your whole family.
But there are certainly some aspects in which Blue Apron and Plated begin to differentiate themselves from one another, and that's really how you'll be making your decision.
I cooked meals with both kits to see which ones I preferred based on ease of use, variety, and other factors.
Ease of use
One of the key selling points of any meal kit is its convenience. Not only does a kit take all the thinking out of grocery shopping and meal planning, but it also provides you with step-by-step instructions for how best to prepare a delicious lunch or dinner. That said, there are certainly some meal kits that are a bit better-suited for more advanced chefs, and others that are better for folks who are just beginning their culinary journeys.
Blue Apron is, generally speaking, a bit more user-friendly than Plated. While both services offer extremely detailed recipes, Blue Apron rarely requires advanced techniques, and the recipes are almost always appropriate for folks who are just learning how to cook. If you can saute and bake, you're probably in good shape.
I also appreciate that Blue Apron gives you a time estimate of its recipes on its website, so you can quickly see how long you'll need to budget for before you even make meal selections for the week.
Plated, on the other hand, can get a bit more complex. You may have to do a bit more searing, a bit more roasting, and perhaps work with some trickier ingredients (scallops, for example, are a disaster if overcooked). That said, the tradeoff is that Plated recipes tend to be a bit more interesting, and the results are more unique than those of Blue Apron's meal kits.
Ultimately, if your goal is to get a delicious meal on the table quickly and without much fuss, I'd go with Blue Apron. If you're willing to devote a bit more time and energy to the cooking process, go with Plated.
Winner: Blue Apron
Recipe quality and creativity
I've never been outright disappointed by meals from Blue Apron or Plated, so honestly, you're in good hands either way in this category. That said, if you're looking to expand your horizons a bit further — stretching either your culinary abilities or your repertoire of techniques and ingredients — Plated has the edge.
Don't get me wrong, I think recipes like Blue Apron's Mushroom Tempura Rice Bowl with Avocado & Spicy Marinated Carrots is fantastic and certainly creative. But with Plated, you'll be able to experiment with untraditional takes on classic dishes. Take, for example, the Beef and Sweet Potato "Lasagna," which replaces pasta with sweet potatoes. You'll make your own tomato sauce, simmering it on the stove top for some time, and then create some beautiful layers before throwing everything in the oven.
In general, I've found that Plated really shines in the baking department. Whereas Blue Apron relies more on stovetop activities (great pastas and stir-fry dishes), at Plated, you may find something like the Savory Dutch Baby complete with prosciutto, ricotta, and snap peas. You'll create a popover-esque pancake in the oven, and then fill it to your heart's content.
Unexpected twists like this lasagna or the Dutch baby are what I've come to expect from Plated, and its kits certainly make for a fun date night activity.
Variety and dietary preferences
I'll make a potentially contentious statement here: I tend to think that too many options is just ... too many. And sometimes, that's where I run into trouble with Plated. With so many options to choose from (and a maximum of four meals delivered), I am sometimes paralyzed by indecision.
Blue Apron, on the other hand, has fewer options but is easier to navigate. If you're trying to narrow down your selection based on dietary restrictions, you can easily find the Vegetarian section; if you're trying to cook for more people, you can easily navigate over to the four-serving section.
Plated will let you slice and dice your menu options in more ways, however. You can filter by low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free, seafood, or a whole range of other preferences and restrictions. In short, no matter what you do or don't eat, you'll find something specifically catered to your needs.
Ah, taste. Ever important, but ever so hard to judge! When it comes down to it, I give the edge to Plated. That's thanks to its more creative menu curation, its use of more unexpected ingredients and recipes, and its constantly changing selection of food.
That said, I would also classify myself as a more adventurous eater, and have certainly come across friends who have preferred Blue Apron's more tried-and-true approach to dinner. If you're looking for classic meals and classic taste, Blue Apron is for you. If you're looking to explore the culinary landscape a bit further, you may want to opt for Plated.
The best way to compare meal kit prices is by meal and serving. To that end, Blue Apron tops out at $9.99 per serving and offers free shipping if you opt for three recipes a week.
Plated is more expensive. If you go for two servings a night, each serving will cost you $11.95, and you'll have to pay for shipping unless your order total exceeds $60 per week. Prices do come down if you opt for three or four servings per week — in that case, you're looking at $9.95 per serving.
Winner: Blue Apron
The bottom line: Plated is our winner
Ultimately, if I had to pick one meal kit to have for the rest of my life, I would pick Plated. While it's more expensive and a bit less convenient, it offers a wider range of recipes and ingredients and is better suited for folks who are interested in expanding their roster of techniques in the kitchen.