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  • Writer's pictureNina Dudko

Unboxing Hello Fresh

I want to start with a disclaimer that this review is not sponsored by Hello Fresh and I am writing this of my own capacity with the full intent to be completely honest. I actually received a $30 gift card from Hello Fresh in one of my Chegg textbook shipments, so I decided to give it a shot. With regular prices at $60, why not try it for a reduced price, right?

The meal delivery services are really taking households by storm offering convenience and ease of going grocery shopping, while introducing new foods to people who wouldn’t otherwise buy certain items. I tried Blue Apron about a year or so ago and can attest that I would never buy Swiss chard at a grocery store, but because of Blue Apron, I experimented with this leafy green.

Hello Fresh is slightly different. So first thing you need to do is to make an account (duh), which is fine since I had the discount gift card for my first delivery. Once I settled the account information, I picked my menu for my shipment. At first glance, the menu items seemed pretty standard from what I would buy at a grocery store, just not in that specific combination. I ordered pork chops with dried cherries and couscous, jerk chicken thighs with pepper mango salad and sweet potato fries, and tilapia with roasted asparagus and ciabatta toast.

Another nice thing about these home delivery services is that they send you the exact quantity of the ingredients you need. They do expect you to have the staples like salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter, but otherwise they provide everything else from the protein to the two tablespoons of sour cream you may need for a recipe. It definitely saves you money on spending $5 for a small container of jerk seasoning spices that you may only use once.

First off, let's talk packaging. I like how well insulated the box is. The refrigerated products were still pretty cold when I picked up the package from my mail room, and they had been sitting in the box for at least a few hours. I also appreciated how the recipes were packaged in recyclable bags and separated neatly. That way all I needed to do was take out the items that needed to be refrigerated and kept everything else in the bag until it was time to cook.


Jerk Chicken with Pepper Mango Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

Delicious and simple, I really enjoyed this recipe. The instructions were very clear from start to finish, except for the mango. As someone who has never dealt with mango and usually doesn’t because I find them super sweet and mushy, I had no idea how to peel/slice/pit the darn thing. Thank goodness for Google because I would’ve hacked away at the fruit completely improperly. Also, the mango itself was unripe (says the person who’s never worked with mango). Very hard and difficult to slice, even my recently sharpened knives had trouble slicing through this yellow monstrosity.

The sweet potato fries were very easy to cook. I opted not to peel mine since I like crispy skin. The potatoes probably could’ve stayed in the oven a bit longer than the recipe suggested, but the sweet potato fries coated in the jerk seasoning were pretty delicious.

Hello Fresh provided skinless boneless chicken thighs, which were very easy to cook, and tasted delicious--very moist and tender. The salad (even with the mango) was bright and colorful and the vinaigrette paired perfectly with the fruit and veggie. I admire that their salad only comprised three things. You don’t need to be fancy with your salads. Just some leafy greens, crunch, and something bright and flavorful with an acidic dressing is all you need.

I liked this recipe and would replicate it again, but avoid the mango.


Crispy Tilapia with Roasted Asparagus and Toasted Ciabatta

Not a huge fan of fish, but I’ll eat it from time to time. Honestly, this was my least favorite recipe in my box and no, it’s not because it was a fish recipe. The fish was actually pretty tasty, but I wasn’t a fan of the preparation or the recipe itself. There was a lot of personal error in cooking this to be frank, so I partially blame myself for not liking it.

I love asparagus. Don’t care about the fact it makes a certain something smell, it’s delicious. The asparagus Hello Fresh sent me were a little on the limp side and the stalks broke far too easily. I drizzled some olive oil, salt, and pepper (keeping it simple, I like that) and threw them in the oven at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes. Well—I actually kept them in a bit longer but with the oven off because I my life is a whirlwind and I was doing maybe 5 things at once. They look super sad and I owe a formal apology to this asparagus because it deserved better than this treatment by me. I still enjoyed the way they tasted.

So let’s talk about this tilapia. The fish itself when cooked was very flaky and didn’t have that super fishy taste that some fish has. However, the panko breadcrumb coating did not adhere to the fish filets well at all. The recipe called for half of the sauce to be used as glue, and I coated those filets pretty darn well, but once they went into the pan, the crust just crumbled and was soggy.

The flavor of the dish as a whole wasn’t terrible. I slathered the filets with the delicious chive lemon sour cream sauce that came with the recipe. I have to say, citrus is one of my favorite flavor profiles.

Overall, this recipe fell flat for me. Oh wait, I forgot to talk about the ciabatta toasts. Well—there’s not much really to talk about I guess. The semi-decent ciabatta toasted in the oven with melted butter and chives (though I substituted in shallots)—it just ended up being okay toast.

I will not be making this recipe again.


Pork Chops with Dried Cherries and Couscous

This was my favorite recipe of the three I tried. It was also the most labor intensive actually. This recipe came with a lot of moving parts. First, you needed to prep the couscous and then you needed to soak the cherries in some hot water. Then you need to chop and dice things but pay careful attention to the order of the ingredients because some items are eaten raw and others need to be cooked down a bit.

I’m being melodramatic, but I’m allowed to be every now and then, aren’t I? The sauce was the star of this dish for me. Sweet, tangy, and tart from the cherries and cherry preserves, it really tied the dish together. The couscous needed to be fluffed every now and then, but it didn’t clump up or dry out. The couscous granules soaked up the sauce and pork juices really well too.

I enjoyed the cherry tomatoes with this recipe, too. The firmness adds a pleasant textural element to your bite—without it the recipe would just be mushy and almost like baby food. I also like the moment when you bite into a cherry tomato and you get a delightful burst of tomato in your mouth.

I loved this recipe so much I can’t wait to make it again!


Closing Thoughts

Hello Fresh is a convenient service for those who are new to the world of cooking and want to get their toes wet in the kitchen with different techniques and ingredients. For me, I can’t justify the price of $60 per week for three meals. You do have the option of skipping weeks, but since the delivery arrives on Thursdays, you’re cooking them during the weekend. And I like a little liberty with my meals on the weekend. What if I decide to go out to an impromptu dinner with friends? I don’t want to waste the food or not be able to at least enjoy part of the meal fresh.

This service is also good for people who don’t have time to shop for groceries every week. I personally enjoy grocery shopping (I’m an anomaly and enjoy chores for some reason). I buy impulsive ingredients from time to time, and it’s cheaper than what it would probably cost me using the meal delivery service.

The recipes themselves are a bit difficult to follow. The formatting is awkward and the instructions are a bit all over the place. I was cooking the pork dish and halfway through it told me to mince the shallots while sautéing the pork chops and I’m scrambling on my counter trying to do both things at once. The recipes also call for you to salt and pepper at almost every step along the way, so be mindful on your salt amounts—for pepper I don’t mind as much because I looooove pepper. Note: Blue Apron also had the salt issue for me too—use the salt sparingly. I found it best to season your meats lightly (as you always should do) and then adjust seasoning at the end.

I’m glad I tried Hello Fresh. It was a culinary experience and I’m happy I had the opportunity to try it at a discounted price. Cancelling my subscription was very easy, though Hello Fresh corporate has been calling and emailing me a lot trying to get me to come back. I finally answered one of their phone calls and responded to their service. I felt bad for the surveyor—my political communications and survey research class made me a big softy for those conducting phone research. I cut him some slack and helped him out.

Are you thinking about trying Hello Fresh? Have you already tried it? What were your experiences? Let me know in the comments!

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