Review: We Tried Home Chef's Meal Kits And Got Varied Results

Just about everyone enjoys cooking at home, but life can quickly get in the way of the best-laid meal plans. Whether it's grocery shopping or dish duty that deters you from whipping up homemade dinners regularly, it's easy to give up on dining in altogether and opt for takeout instead. Luckily, several time-saving meal delivery kits have popped up to make cooking at home easier than ever. And one company in particular has attracted the attention of discerning foodies: Home Chef. 

It provides users with a wide assortment of gourmet meal kits to peruse — from keto-friendly Dijon steak au poivre to "gluten-smart" blackened shrimp —streamlining culinary adventures with the click of a button. According to its official website, the Chicago-based subscription service boasts the highest customer satisfaction score of any leading meal kit distributor. And it's even inspired the creation of some unofficial fan groups, like the Home Chef subreddit.

Yet, with so many meals to choose from each week, beginning the journey with Home Chef can pose a challenge for new subscribers. As such, Tasting Table set out to explore some of the company's newest and most beloved dishes to determine which were worth adding to your menu rotation. From jerk-style tofu and coconut rice to steakhouse-style meat and potatoes, we dabbled in virtually every option Home Chef had to offer. So, without further ado, let's dive into some of our top selections from Home Chef's culinary collection.

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

How we selected the best Home Chef meals

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to meal planning, and services like Home Chef are well aware of this fact. The meal kit company offers an array of kits designed to suit special diets, as well as traditional-style fare. Furthermore, there are customizable steps provided along the way as you prepare each recipe — though we'll touch on that more later. In order to fairly assess the delivery service, we tried a broad selection of offerings from Home Chef, including meat, seafood, and vegetable-based courses. Occasionally, Home Chef also gives subscribers the ability to swap out meat for a plant-based meat alternative or fish, which comes in handy for vegetarians or pescetarians.

Beyond experimenting with special dietary offerings from the lineup, we also made sure to sample meals with varying levels of skill involved. Not everyone is interested in producing a complicated creation from scratch, so we tested everything from one-bowl dinners to elaborate multi-step affairs. To assemble our ranking, we then rated each entrée based on multiple factors, from user-friendliness to overall taste and presentation. Through our trials, we learned that many of Home Chef's easiest entrées to prepare also happened to be some of the tastiest of the bunch.

Buffalo-style pork meatballs

Home Chef's Buffalo-style pork meatballs were the first project that we attempted out of the lot. As part of Home Chef's Oven-Ready recipe collection, it's a relatively simple course to prepare. However, it certainly wasn't our favorite of the lineup. To us, the most glaring issue was that the Buffalo-style pork meatballs didn't live up to their fiery name. The meatball recipe consists of ground pork, saltine crackers, and half a bottle of ready-made buffalo wing sauce — but even with the maximum amount stirred into the mixture, it wasn't nearly enough to turn up the heat. It seems that the company underestimated the needs of us fervent buffalo sauce fans, whereas spice-averse foodies can simply choose to cut down on the sauce as they see fit.

Not only were the meatballs bland, but they also tasted stodgy on our tongues. In fact, we preferred the accompanying green beans over the meaty main attraction. Despite roasting the lanky beans slightly longer in the oven, they remained firm and juicy. The crema sauce carried far more heat and added some tang to the meatballs, but it couldn't perform miracles. As such, we'd recommend keeping a bottle of Frank's Red Hot — or whichever hot sauce you prefer — handy if you're in need of more buffalo flavor in this dish.

One-Pan Mongolian-Style Beef Take-Out Noodles

We should have learned by now not to judge books by their covers. Still, this didn't stop us from putting the one-pan Mongolian-style beef take-out noodles on a pedestal before we took a stab at it. Homemade take-out noodles sound like a dream come true, but once we got down to cooking them, we swiftly realized that Home Chef's take wasn't for us. We tried it both with the provided cooked spaghetti and with an alternative stir-fried noodle and weren't terribly impressed with either option.

The first issue we found with Home Chef's beef and noodle recipe was the inclusion of ground beef over sliced meat. The taste of the crumbled meat was chewy and off-putting against the other ingredients, and the sauce was oddly sweet. While our dinner companion seemed overly fond of this meal — revisiting it for leftovers later the same evening — we found ourselves plagued with visions of Hamburger Helper as we chowed down. All in all, the beefy feast left us yearning for noodles from our local takeout spot, giving it a tragically low score against its competition.

Creamy Mustard Shrimp Cavatappi

Out of all the kits we tried from Home Chef's lineup, the creamy mustard shrimp cavatappi was among the most pleasant to prepare. Zesting citrus is one of our favorite kitchen tasks, and shrimp is a quick-cooking protein. However, we developed suspicions about this entrée as we heated up its colorless sauce. We found ourselves adding extra black pepper to the recipe for a cacio e pepe-like effect, though our attempts at improving it flat-out failed once we got to taste testing. Worse, the addition of fresh lemon zest and juice did little to elevate our cavatappi, which resembled a dejected potluck platter of under-seasoned mac and cheese. Furthermore, by this point in our Home Chef trials, we had enough of the cream sauce base. It may sound blasphemous to Home Chef fans, but the shrimp cavatappi was one of the worst dishes for us, despite our lifelong devotion to shrimp.

Although Home Chef has some undeniable home runs in its recipe catalog, we wouldn't consider the shrimp cavatappi one of them. That said, the meal earned a few bonus points for the semi-homemade garlic bread, slathered in fresh butter and chopped garlic prior to crisping up in the convection oven. The shrimp and pasta were satisfying on their own, but the dull white sauce was a major weak point. It needed a tremendous amount of help, and we would have added something like capers to give it some much-needed zing.

Garlic-Lemon Mahi-Mahi

We were intrigued by the garlic-lemon mahi-mahi, one of Home Chef's only pescatarian kits in our shipment. Per Home Chef, subscribers can choose to substitute the entrée's mahi-mahi for salmon, though we chose to stick with the original protein, instead. The recipe bag includes plenty of fresh ingredients like lemon, garlic, and asparagus. It's also one of Home Chef's "expert"-level entrées, meaning that it requires slightly more skill in the kitchen than other meals offered by the company.

Considering this was one of the most labor-intensive options that we whipped up, we found it fairly underwhelming for the time that we invested into it. It's not to say that it didn't taste good — but quite a few recipes outshone it with a fraction of the effort involved. The fresh lemon gave our orzo some delicious brightness but tasted slightly bitter when drizzled over the asparagus. We wished there were some sweet vegetables diced into the mixture, like carrots or red peppers, to mellow its acidity. The mahi-mahi, on the other hand, was tender and paired nicely with the citrusy dressing. Ultimately, while we can see the novelty of whipping up a gourmet-style dinner from a meal kit, we'd prefer to save on time with a service like Home Chef instead. As a result, the garlic lemon mahi mahi landed squarely in the middle of our ranking.

Pork Medallions and Sweet Onion Demi

As the second pork-based selection that we tried from Home Chef, we could only hope that it would outperform the first. The Buffalo-style pork meatballs weren't our favorite, but the pork medallions and sweet onion demi seemed like a more promising idea from the start. This kit arrived with some of the most interesting components in its bag, like a tiny jar of onion jam for its gravy. Home Chef's pork medallions belong to the Express Plus recipe category, meaning that the dinner should take no longer than 30 minutes to prepare. We added a few minutes of prep work in order to soak our vegetables, but can attest that this is a fair time estimate.

When we tucked into our plate of pork medallions, we were most surprised by the gravy. We could taste the onion jam in the final result, though it didn't dominate the rest of the velvety sauce. Its rich, smooth flavors worked wonderfully atop the juicy cuts of meat. Our only suggestion? While the gravy contained a good amount of flour, we would have loved some type of potato on our plate to mop it all up with.

Jerk-Style Tofu and Coconut Rice Bowl

As tofu fanatics, we were excited to try Home Chef's take on one of our favorite plant-based protein sources. The jerk-style tofu and coconut rice bowl sounded scrumptious from the moment we laid eyes on its recipe card. However, you'll have to handle your tofu with extra care to achieve the best texture for this dish. Pan-frying tofu is not a quick process, and getting a golden brown exterior can take a while, but the crisp, chewy skin is well worth the wait. We also love sweet plantains, so we added some extra from our stash and fried them according to Home Chef's instructions.

If not for a few hiccups, the jerk tofu would have been one of our top-scoring meals. We prepared the rice according to the directions given, yet we felt the ratio of rice to coconut cream was off. The end result was a little too rich for our liking, and some extra rice in the mix would have solved things in a heartbeat. Everything else — from the chewy plantain to the sweet, sticky tofu — was incredible. Bean curd may not be for everyone, but this vegan-friendly bowl was one of our most memorable bites.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Say hello to Home Chef's chicken tortilla soup, part of its aptly named Fast & Fresh recipe collection. It's incredibly easy to assemble, as you only need to open each ingredient and stir. With that, it did have one minor drawback that led to point deductions. After some initial confusion, we realized the soup was meant to be microwaved in a plastic container provided by Home Chef before being served. We weren't too interested in nuking a "homemade" meal, even if it consisted of little more than dumping prepared ingredients together, so we placed our mixed ingredients in a saucepan, instead.

To warm the chicken tortilla soup up on the stove, we set it at medium heat and allowed it to come to a simmer. Once it cooled and we gave it a taste, we thought it came together beautifully. The soup was nice and balanced, with tender pieces of chicken throughout. The sweetness of the corn and the tortilla topping complemented the rest of the bowl well, and we couldn't help but note how tasty it was for such an effortless recipe. From our point of view, this Home Chef pick would be excellent to have on hand for sick days, as it requires only slightly more work than canned soup while providing far fresher ingredients. Given its foolproof instructions and solid execution — well, with some tweaks — Home Chef's Chicken Tortilla Soup soared toward the top of our list.

Cauliflower Curry Rice Bowl

It can be difficult to win over meat eaters with vegetarian fare, but the cauliflower curry rice bowl from Home Chef is capable of doing just that. On that note, it's worth pointing out that much of this meal's allure comes from its dairy-based cream sauce. Unless you amend the recipe, the cauliflower isn't suitable for vegans — but there are some home chef meals that fit the description. Plus, vegetarian subscribers can often select plant-based protein options to customize meals that may contain meat.

As for Home Chef's cauliflower, it surpassed our expectations. More importantly, the cruciferous main managed to attract compliments from picky taste testers with a preference for meat and potatoes. The cauliflower was sweet and tender with a good amount of bite left to it, and the sauce was phenomenal, thanks to diced tomatoes, cream, and curry powder. Still, we felt it needed more heat, so we added our favorite condiment — hot sauce. Our biggest qualm with the dish overall was its cream sauce. Considering other Home Chef recipes use coconut cream, we would have preferred a dairy-free alternative to this veggie-centric dish. In any event, we'd happily make this one again and again, earning it a favorable position on the list.

Chicken Breast with Cilantro Butter

From its visual presentation to its zesty ingredients, the chicken breast with cilantro butter was hands-down one of the best plates we had from Home Chef. Pan-searing the poultry gave each filet a gorgeous, golden-brown skin that tasted heavenly beneath pats of warm cilantro butter. "It's hard to make chicken breast exciting, but this is quite flavorsome," raved one of our taste testers. It's true — chicken breast can get a bad reputation for being dry or flavorless, but Home Chef's was nothing of the sort. In fact, we found ourselves going back for seconds almost immediately after trying it.

Of course, the seared chicken breast isn't the only star of the show here. The red pepper Mexican-style street corn salad offered the meal some color and sweetness without being overly filling, and lime wedges acted as the perfect garnish for the tricolored medley. Like many Home Chef dishes, it goes easy on the spice, but its ingredients are fresh and flavorful enough that we didn't mind. Thanks to a harmonious arrangement of textures, flavors, and colors, the chicken breast with cilantro butter took second place in our ranking with ease.

Filets Mignon Steak Frites with Truffle Aioli

You can't really go wrong with steak and potatoes, and Home Chef's filets mignon steak frites with truffle aioli didn't disappoint us. There are few bells and whistles involved, so as long as you know how to cook a good steak, you'll find this recipe refreshingly easy. Compared to dishes like the Buffalo-style pork meatballs, Home Chef's Steak requires far less effort and produces a more satisfying meal. If we could change anything about it, we would suggest using an air fryer to cook your steak fries. While they'll certainly crisp up in the oven, you can get even better results in less time with an air frying device. Plus, you won't need to worry about turning your fries, either — you can simply pull out the fryer basket and give them a shake instead.

Although we baked our fries in the oven, leaving them slightly less crisp than we would have preferred, everything about this steak dinner was delicious. The green beans were fresh and snappy, the truffle aioli tasted superb, and the beef was the most enjoyable protein we had all week. Thus, the filets mignon steak frites with truffle aioli earned first place in our roundup of Home Chef meals.