April 16, 2021

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Outstanding health & fitness

Sunbasket review: Healthy and creative meal kits with fresh market add-ons

sun-basket

Sunbasket

If you’re going to launch a meal delivery or meal kit service these days, you’d better have a good angle. By that I mean there are plenty to choose from — 10 or 12 by my count — with many of them stepping on each other’s toes in a quest to deliver a “unique” meal kit experience or the absolute best meal kits for a specific type of home chef. But if you’re looking for healthy meal kits and other wholesome foods delivered every week as a means to eat better in the new year, Sun Basket would like your attention. 

The six-year-old San Francisco-based meal kit service has evolved into one of the top options for healthy meal kits, using mostly organic ingredients and catering to niche diets and eating habits (how very San Francisco). That includes vegetarian and vegan meal kits along with gluten-free options and recipes that adhere to specific diet plans such as keto, paleo and the Mediterranean diet, among others.

Like

  • Creative, interesting and healthy takes on classic dishes
  • Fresh, mostly organic produce
  • An enormous marketplace of grocery items you can add to every box

Don’t Like

  • On the pricier side due to higher quality ingredients

Sunbasket just introduced another wrinkle into its business model as well, in the form of a nearly full-service online marketplace of grocery items, including fresh meat, fish and seafood, cheese, coffee, snacks, bread and more that can be added to your box each week. The timing for this offering couldn’t be better, with rising COVID-19 cases and many of us trying to make fewer trips to the store.

Read more: This meal kit service is just $2.49 per serving if you sign up right now

Sunbasket slides in at a higher price than other meal kit delivery services like Home Chef and EveryPlate, but that leaves me with a raft of questions. Are Sunbasket’s healthy meals good enough to justify the extra cost? Are Sunbasket meal kits good or just healthy? Who are Sunbasket meal kits good for, and who are they maybe not so good for? Thankfully, the answers are here: I tested Sunbasket over the past few weeks, and my thoughts on the evolving healthy meal kit service are below.

How Sunbasket works

Sunbasket operates much like Blue Apron — the original meal kit service — and offers a range of meal kit delivery plans that vary depending on the type of food you’re looking to cook, how many people you’re cooking for and how often you want meal kits delivered. You can choose two, three or four meals per week with recipes serving either two or four people. It’s also worth noting that you can adjust those choices as you go, so don’t worry about being locked into a plan.

Sunbasket pricing at a glance

Meals per week Price per serving
2 $11
3 $12
4 $13

Next, you’ll select a meal plan type, which you can also change later. Sunbasket has quite a few options including Chef’s Choice, which will give you a bit of everything. You can also select Lean & Clean, Vegetarian, Pescatarian plans or diet plans such as Carb-Conscious, Keto-Friendly, Diabetes-Friendly, Gluten-Free and even the Mediterranean Diet (the only service I’ve seen to offer this one.) There’s also a Family Plan with more kid-friendly meal kits. If you choose one of the niche plans, Sunbasket will filter out any meals that don’t fit. You can also do swaps and upgrades like chicken breasts in place of chicken thighs or change from pork to fish, sometimes for an added charge. Or you can add meat to any plant-based meal — an option I appreciated.

Each week you select meals and market add-ons (more on this later) for the following week’s delivery. Your box arrives on the doorstep on a day of your choosing in insulated packaging and you’re ready to go. Sunbasket ships to nearly every US zip code excluding Alaska, Hawaii and parts of North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.

What are Sunbasket meals like?

Healthy, to be certain. Sunbasket has around 15 meals to choose from each week but they’re nearly all recipes I would categorize as at least somewhat healthy, with an exception of one or two. You won’t find much greasy comfort food as you do with some other meal kit companies such as EveryPlate or Home Chef. Sunbasket also claims to use roughly 99% USDA-certified organic produce, all of which I personally found crisp and fresh when it arrived. All of the nutritional information you could possibly want is made readily available both at the time of selection and when your meals show up. 

balinese-chicken

CNET / David Watsky

In terms of style, Sunbasket meals are creative and unique. While some meal kit services play it safe with familiar food and flavors, Sunbasket takes chances and delivers interesting and often healthy spins on global cuisine. Take this chickpea paella with artichoke hearts for example, or chicken Kiev with Russian salad topped with hard-cooked eggs. Sunbasket has lots of low-carb and keto-friendly options as well, with interesting side salads, veggies and healthy slaws.

The quality of ingredients was very high for this meal kit service, and Sunbasket’s meats and produce were some of the freshest of any meal kit service I’ve tested. Portions were also just right, in my opinion. I often had a bit of food left over, but never so much that I’d worry about it going to waste. 

Fully prepared meals for ‘those nights’

In addition to traditional meal kit delivery, Sunbasket offers a variety of oven-ready or “Fresh & Ready” meals that are fully prepared and only require heating and no prep, assembly or cooking. For example, the week I chose meals there were five Fresh & Ready meals including three pasta dishes, chicken tikka masala with rice and a Mexican-style quinoa bowl.

fresh-ready

Then Fresh & Ready meals from Sunbasket require no prep or cleanup.


Sunbasket

An enormous market of grocery add-ons 

This is perhaps the one feature that distinguishes Sunbasket most from other meal kits. It was also one of my favorite features of the meal delivery service. In addition to your meal kit subscription, you can also other tons of market items. There’s breakfast stuff such as coffee beans, sous-vide egg bites, oatmeal cups and nut butter as well as lunchier items including premade empanadas, ready-made soups and quinoa bowls. You can even add loaves of bread, tortillas, fresh salmon, chicken breast, blocks of good cheese, fresh seafood, impossible beef, steaks and tons more.

Sunbasket has essentially rolled an entire market into its meal kit operation, which is perfect for people trying to make fewer trips to the store. While it doesn’t have everything, you could easily do most of a week or month’s worth of grocery shopping via Sunbasket if you wanted. Did I mention I love this feature? Because I do.

sun-basket-market

The many market add-ons might be my favorite thing about Sunbasket.


Sunbasket

How easy are Sunbasket meal kits to prepare?

Sunbasket meal kits run the gamut somewhat but most are simple to prepare. As with many other meal kit services, Sunbasket has some more involved meal kits and some that are super quick to make — some take as few as 15 minutes — which it categorizes as “speedy” or “preprepped.” You won’t find as many complicated recipes as you might with a service like Martha & Marley Spoon or Blue Apron and no extensive cooking experience is required. 

The recipes I cooked and how they went

Balinese chicken with cucumber-cabbage salad: Simple as it was, this was one of the best meals I’ve made since I started testing meal kits and it’s a perfect encapsulation of Sunbasket’s food. It took only 20 minutes but the nuanced heat of the turmeric-spiced chicken and cool crunchy salad with fresh mint felt like something I might order at a fancy, al fresco lunch.

Pappardelle with wilted spinach, sweet peas and ricotta: This would have been difficult to mess up and thankfully I didn’t. A light, healthy pasta dish you could eat in any season and one I would absolutely have again. 

Low country shrimp and grits: The shrimp was fresh and the cheesy grits were simple to make and this hearty recipe was packed with flavor. This was one of Sunbasket’s “heavier” meals, but it didn’t send me into a food coma.

img-2651

The Balinese chicken was light, spicy and satisfying.


CNET / David Watsky

Sunbasket support materials 

There is nothing extraordinarily good or bad about Sunbasket’s recipe cards. I found them clear and concise with some helpful footnotes for beginners like a brief explanation of what a roux is, as an example.

The Sunbasket app is useful, clear and intuitive. You can place or change your weekly recipe selections through it, add market items, look up nutritional information for certain dishes and locate all recipes past and present. 

What makes Sunbasket different from other meal kit services?

Of all the meal kits I’ve tested, Sunbasket had the most interesting healthy meal kit recipes. Instead of, say, plain grilled chicken breast with cauliflower mashed potatoes, as a low-carb or keto option, Sunbasket goes for something like lemongrass steak lettuce cups with pickled vegetables or spicy red curry chicken over a jicama-citrus salad

Sunbasket’s market, full of useful and equally healthy snacks and grocery add-on items distinguishes it from its rivals and makes sense if you’re avoiding the grocery store.

Who Sunbasket meal kits are good for

Sunbasket is one of the best meal kit delivery options for someone looking for healthy meal kits that are anything but boring and easy to make. The culinary team has some creative takes on classic dishes using lean meats and fresh, organic produce. Sunbasket’s weekly menus also include many meals that cater to any number of popular diets including low-carb, keto, gluten-free and the Mediterranean Diet.

Sunbasket is also great for those trying to make fewer trips to the grocery store, since you can cut out a ton of your weekly grocery shopping with the many add-ons available, from pita bread to fresh pasta, soups, sauces, snacks and more.

Sunbasket offers around four vegetarian options a week, so it’s not a bad choice for those looking to go plant-based or add more non-meat cooking into their routine. The menu also features a good number of quality seafood dishes each week, such as this poached cod in tomato broth with potatoes and raisins, making it one of the best meal kit services for fish and seafood eaters.

papperdelle

Sunbasket’s pappardelle with wilted spinach, snow peas and ricotta.


CNET / David Watsky

Who Sunbasket meal kits are not so good for

Even though it offers a family plan that turns out to be a good value, I would say Sunbasket is probably not the best meal kit service for picky eaters, young or old. It’s also not the best meal kit service if you’re looking for rib-sticking comfort food like meatloaf, pork chops and mashed potatoes. For that, I might suggest EveryPlate — you can read my EveryPlate review here.

How much do Sunbasket meal kits cost?

Sunbasket meals are between $11 to $13 per serving depending on how many you order each week. It’s $13 for two meals, $12 for three meals and $11 for four meals, plus a $7 flat-rate shipping fee for each box. This makes Sunbasket one of the more expensive meal kit services out there, but that’s not surprising considering you’re getting meal kits with organic produce and higher quality meat and fish. For example, two meals that serve two people and shipping would be about $52 total.

The Sunbasket market items are all priced differently but they’re on par with an upscale grocery store like Whole Foods or Wegmans. 

Sunbasket packaging and environmental friendliness

Sunbasket is not much better or worse than other meal kit services when it comes to eco-friendly packaging. The meals were each separated in paper bags and not plastic. All the ingredients were thoughtfully packed without much egregious waste and coolers and ice packs were recyclable. 

ice-pack

Sunbasket

Changing, skipping or canceling a Sunbasket order

You can add, change or cancel meals easily through the app or through the website. You can also skip a week’s delivery or cancel anytime prior to the weekly cut off which is the Wednesday before your next week’s delivery at 12 p.m. PT and 3 p.m. ET. There is responsive customer service available during business hours by phone, email or chat-bot if you have questions or concerns about your order.

The final verdict on Sunbasket

If you’re interested in trying a meal kits service to make weeknight meal planning easier and money isn’t a huge concern but eating healthy is, I would choose Sunbasket. I am the type who gets tired of eating the same thing and I loved the variety Sunbasket offers. Sunbasket’s ingredients were also some of the freshest I’ve tried, which makes all the difference in a simple pasta dish or stir fry. 

I also absolutely loved the market — especially in these odd and odious times — and I think having easy, healthy add-ons such as egg bites, yogurt and fresh fish at your fingertips encourages healthy eating. 

Sunbasket feels practical without feeling cheap in any way. Though some are more involved than others, most of the Sunbasket meal kits are simple and unpretentious but still feel special. At roughly $12 a serving, it’s not cheap but if you care about organic produce and quality, healthy ingredients it’s definitely worth the extra bucks. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.