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When you grow up with spaghetti and meatballs,
it can be hard to start eating more plants. Purple Carrot is an exclusively
vegan meal-kit subscription service. Each
week, it sends you the recipes and ingredients to make a few plant-based meals. You
choose the recipes from a creative menu, where sometimes vegetables are the
star (stuffed sweet potatoes), and sometimes there’s a twist on an old meat
favorite (General Tso’s tofu, kimchi quesadillas). We’ve tested Purple Carrot and can tell you that it’s a
wonderful service for getting more plants in your diet and for learning how to cook
and eat well as a vegan.

If you aren’t sold on this animal product-free
service, you might try one of our Editors’ Choice services. Green
Chef
offers plant-forward meals that appeal to vegetarians,
pescatarians, and carnivores. Blue Apron is the best meal kit to
try if you’re a novice cook. HelloFresh has a little bit of
everything for everyone. And if you’re already fairly experienced in the
kitchen, Hungryroot (which offers a vegan option) is a fun choice that sends you groceries and recipe
suggestions. It’s up to you whether you follow them or veer off course.

Purple Carrot Pricing

All in, a Purple Carrot shipment costs
somewhere in the range of $72 to $120. Dinners cost between $8.99 and $10.99
per serving. The more servings you order per box, the lower the cost per
serving. You can also add breakfasts (four servings at $4.49
per serving) and lunches (two servings at $8.99 per serving) to any shipment. The options there are limited, however. There are vegan
snacks, too—cookies, granola, mushroom-based jerky—which have à la carte
pricing.

When you sign up for a subscription, your
choices are to get recipes with two servings or four. If you get two servings
per recipe, you can choose to get either three or four recipes per week. If you
get four servings per recipe, you must choose either two or three meals per
week.

A delivery fee tacks on an additional $5.99 to
$11.99. The shipping cost depends on the size of the shipment. The smaller and lighter the box, the less
you pay.

With a lot of meal subscription services,
shipping is free with the first order. Keep in mind that your total price for
future kits will be higher as a result.

How Much Do Other Meal Kits Cost?

Most meal-kit subscription services cost
between $9.99 and $12.99 per serving. That leaves Purple Carrot’s prices just
barely below average.

Two services charge much less, however. EveryPlate ($4.99 per serving) and
Dinnerly (around $4.99 per serving) both use ingredients that are
inexpensive and easy to get. Think mushrooms and macaroni rather than quinoa
and dragon fruit. That’s part of how they keep prices low. Depending on what
you like to eat, you might find that paying a little more gives you a better
experience. Dinnerly has more vegetarian options than EveryPlate, but neither
is vegan-friendly.

Sun Basket costs more
at $10.99 to $12.99 per serving. HelloFresh and Green Chef charge between $9.99
and $12.99 per serving, depending on how much food you order. All three charge
a flat $7.99 shipping fee.

Hungryroot is a little different. This company
sends a selection of groceries based on your preferences and includes suggested
recipes. If you follow the recipes, the meals work out to be between $8.49 and
$9.99 per serving. You get snacks and other foods, too. For a single box, you
can expect to pay a minimum of about $75. Shipping is free if you qualify for
ground delivery. Otherwise, it’s an additional $10 per box.

Most meal services mentioned so far ship a
minimum of two servings per recipe. Single-serve meals are available, though
the companies making them tend to offer ready meals rather than cooking kits.
Freshly, Splendid
Spoon
, and Daily Harvest are all good examples. Freshly
($7.99-$11.50 per serving) makes meals that look a whole lot like TV dinners.
Splendid Spoon ($9.50-$13 per meal, shipping included) does premade soups,
bowls, and smoothies. Daily Harvest ($6.99-$7.75 per meal) sends frozen
ingredients prepacked into cups or bowls to make smoothies, soups, and a few
other items.

Purple Carrot Meal

Vegan food has come a long way since the days
of putting an entire portobello cap on a dry bun and calling it a burger.
Purple Carrot puts out thoughtful, modern vegan entrees.

When you scan the recipes, which you can do
before signing up, you see a recipe card for a variety of meals with a photo
and tags indicating whether it is high protein, quick and easy, gluten-free, soy-free,
nut-free, and so forth. It also shows prep time, calories, and a link to the
full recipe. You can even access the recipes and complete nutritional information.
You can see all this detail without ever creating an account, which is helpful
if you have serious food allergies. Some companies protect the full details
until after you make a payment.

Vegetables shine in Purple Carrot’s meals and are done up with
care. Dishes tend to have multiple components, like sauces and beds of greens
or flavorful rices. Purple Carrot uses a variety of non-meat proteins, such as
tempeh, seitan, and tofu, although you can always find meals that leave them
out if you prefer more veggies.

While some meal kits send premade sauces,
Purple Carrot does not. Here, you make what you eat. There are two big
advantages to making sauces. One, you know what’s in them and won’t get caught
off guard by stabilizers and other unnecessary ingredients. Two, making sauces
helps you learn to cook. If you’re really invested, you can look through Purple
Carrot’s video tutorials for learning more advanced kitchen skills, like how to
supreme citrus or how to season a cast-iron skillet. Blue Apron also offers a
lot of video tutorials, but it focuses more on basic skills, such as how to
dice an onion.

Purple Carrot teaches you to make a spicy
cashew salsa to drizzle onto mushroom tacos, provided you have a blender. You
can whip up a sticky apricot sauce with a handful of ingredients and a hot pan.
Even a falafel dish on Purple Carrot’s menu requires making it from scratch.
(The recipe uses canned chickpeas, whereas dried chickpeas, soaked in water but
not cooked, work better, we swear.) In any event, this is real cooking, not
some heat-and-eat assembly.

Purple Carrot Lunch

Packaging

If you decide to buy into a meal subscription
service, you need to think about packaging. How much of it will you receive,
and how much of it can you reuse or recycle?

No meal delivery company is a beacon of
environmentalism in this regard. Some do better than others to minimize their
impact, and others package every item into plastic and every recipe into yet
more plastic for convenience.

Purple Carrot seems to generate a little more
waste than is necessary, but the majority of its pieces are recyclable. There’s
an insulating liner made of post-consumer waste, which resembles dryer lint.
Ingredients are, for the most part, grouped into plastic bags, one for each
meal.

We had heard the company might move to water-based
freezer packs, but it seems as if Purple Carrot still uses gel. Gel freezer
packs are very commonly used in meal delivery. To dispose of them, you must let
them thaw, which takes a day or two, and then pour the plasma-like substance
into a trash can—not down the drain. It can leak. It’s heavy. It gets messy.

Some companies that ship their meals frozen
(such as Splendid Spoon, Daily Harvest, and Ramen Hero) use dry ice instead of gel packs.
Dry ice simply evaporates. The only problem: It burns skin. You have to be
extremely careful with it.

Purple Carrot has a thorough page of
information about all its packaging
and how to recycle it. It uses a variety of materials, and the plastics are #1,
4, 5, 6, and 7, which you need to know if you’re going to try and recycle them.
The site also has a video with ideas for up-cycling. You can reuse some of the
rigid plastic bottles and containers as planters, travel-size toiletry bottles,
and so forth.

Purple Carrot Packaging

The Purple Carrot Experience

When you create an account on Purple Carrot,
you can choose to see meals that are high in protein, quick and easy, or
gluten-free. You can also choose none of the above and see everything. Note that the cooking and eating portion of this review
took place in 2018. The experiences reflect the meals available at that time.

Some of the recipes we tried include:

  • lemon garlic orzo
  • pasta ratatouille
  • portobello fajitas
  • roasted sweet potato tacos
  • sweet potato fritters
  • vegetable Panang curry

All meal-kit delivery services, including
Purple Carrot, ask that you supply salt, pepper, cooking oil, and standard
kitchen tools. It’s a good idea to look at the recipes online before making
your weekly selections to make sure you don’t need something you don’t have,
like a food processor or blender.

Purple Carrot Meal

In addition to the ingredients, Purple Carrot
also sends you the printed recipes.

Purple Carrot’s food is tasty and satisfying.
We enjoyed the fajitas, which had a delicious filling, as well as the orzo and
curry dishes. The sweet potato fritters were also tasty but didn’t hold
together well. The meals don’t feel like they’re trying too hard to mimic
meat-based dishes. We also like that most recipes call for a few different
vegetables. Some of the more meat-and-potatoes meal kits send you
three-component plain Janes: chicken, broccoli, and rice; or steak, mashed
potatoes, and green beans, for example.

You can pause and reactivate your subscription
at any time. It’s all self-service from your online account. Customer service has been responsive in our
experience. Once, we received a box that was missing an ingredient. We sent a
note by email and heard back quickly with an apology and a $15 credit. Needless
to say, that more than made up for the missing shallot.

Would You Eat It Again?

Purple Carrot offers excellent variety, and we
love the attention this company pays to making high-quality, plant-based
recipes. We’d certainly eat Purple Carrot’s meals again. It’s a true meal kit
in the sense that it requires hands-on cooking. Other vegan food
companies market themselves more on convenience. Daily Harvest, Splendid
Spoon, and Veestro all come to mind.

Hungryroot also offers a vegan option while
including options for animal products, too. And seeing as Hungryroot’s box of
groceries has more flexibility than a straight-up meal kit, it might be a
better pick for mixed households where not everyone wants a vegan meal. Green
Chef is another top choice for plant-forward meals, although it uses dairy in
many of its vegetarian recipes.

Purple Carrot Meal Delivery Service Specs

Price Per Serving $4.49-$10.99
Shipping Fee $5.99-$11.99
Vegan Options Yes
Vegetarian Options Yes
Paleo Options No
Pescetarian Options No
Gluten-free Options Yes
Dairy-free Options Yes

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