Purple Carrot review: Healthy plant-based meal kits with no smoke and mirrors

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1688834704 purple carrot.jpg
1688834704 purple carrot.jpg

Product details

  • Pricing

    Starts at $11/serving

  • Type

    Meal kits

  • Recipes per week

    8

  • Good for

    Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, low-calorie

Meal delivery comes in all shapes and sizes in 2023, and that includes great meal kits for vegans and vegetarians. You can find tasty plant-based recipes on the menus of most meal kit companies, but Purple Carrot is one of the only completely vegan meal kit services available. That means no meat at all, so if you’re an intensely carnivorous type, turn back now. Beyond this point lies ancient grains, legumes, nuts and plenty of wholesome vegetables. But Purple Carrot is betting it can turn even the meatiest of men and women on to its healthy, plant-based fare.

With many of us looking for ways to eat better, cooking vegetarian cuisine even for a few nights a week has become a battle-tested way to get more good greens and less processed food into the rotation. But for seasoned meat eaters, eating and cooking plant-based food has its challenges. It’s one of the reasons Purple Carrot has become a popular meal kit option and a user-friendly way to ease the vegan-curious cook into the deep end. But questions about Purple Carrot loom: Will these vegan meal kits satisfy carnivores? Or is the food better suited for a small woodland creature? 

I aimed to see how Purple Carrot’s plant-based meal kits fared in a real-life taste test so I cooked my way through a week’s worth of vegan and vegetarian recipes. Despite the glaring lack of chicken, beef, pork or fish, Purple Carrot turned out to be one of the best meal kit services I’ve tried — and I’ve tried them all — with extremely high-quality ingredients, clever recipes and big portion sizes that kept me fed all week.

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Purple Carrot now offers prepared meals that require no cooking. We will definitely sample some in our next round of testing.

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

Here’s how Purple Carrot works and a firsthand review of the vegan meal kit service.

How Purple Carrot works

Purple Carrot works like many other meal kit companies in that it sends all the ingredients and instructions to make lunch or dinner recipes at home. Because it’s all vegan, plant-based cuisine, you don’t have to choose from a slate of meal plans — just one. It’s also worth noting that Purple Carrot is a subscription service, meaning meal kits will come every week, but you are free to cancel or pause anytime with no penalty, so don’t be deterred if you want to try it out.

Editor’s note: Purple Carrot now offers prepared meals in addition to meal kits but did not at the time of this original writing. We plan to test them soon and will incorporate our findings into this review.

The only big decision you’ll make upon signing up is how many servings per meal and meals per week you’d like to try. If you pick just three recipes per week and two servings per meal, it’s $13.25 per serving. Choose a two-serving meal plan with four recipes per week and the price drops down to $11 per serving. The four-serving plans are $11 per serving whether you choose three or four recipes.

From there, you’ll have eight vegan dinner recipes to pick from each week for the following week’s delivery, which is less choice than most meal kits but considering this is vegan food only, it felt like enough of a selection to me. While those may be the weekly dinner meal minimums, Purple Carrot also allows you to add breakfast and lunch meal kits as well as vegan snacks to your weekly shipments if you choose — more on this later.

Purple Carrot pricing

Servings per meal Price per serving Total per week (3 meals)
2 $13.25 $79.50 (6 servings)
4 11 $132 (12 servings)

Unlike some meal kit services, Purple Carrot picks your shipping day based on your proximity to fulfillment centers. Ingredients arrive in cooler bags and are said to keep for as long as 72 hours. That’s longer than most meal kits and likely due to them not containing any meat. Shipping is always free, which helps offset the higher overall price 

What are Purple Carrot meals like?

Purple Carrot meals are 100% vegan and healthy, although not necessarily low-carb or low-calorie. Most are centered on whole foods and vegetables with no meat, dairy or animal products of any sort. That might sound like a given, but I’ve noticed that many meal kit companies have incorporated plant-based meat alternatives like Impossible Beef and Beyond Meat into their vegan and vegetarian recipes. Not so with Purple Carrot. You’ll find some tofu-based proteins like tempeh and tofu but not a lot of the newfangled lab-produced imitators.

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Purple Carrot

Expect lots of hearty bowls filled with grains, nuts and veggies from Purple Carrot, as well as filling lentil soups and rib-sticking stews like vegan chili or West African peanut stew. There are also generally a couple of delicious-looking vegan pasta dishes on a given week’s menu including lemon zucchini pasta with cashew cream sauce and artichoke hearts. There’s often a plant-based taco recipe or sandwich option to choose from. While some meal kit companies play it safe with familiar flavors, Purple Carrot takes some big swings with flavorful curries, sauces and spice mixes to add some welcome pizazz to its vegetarian recipes. 

Meal add-ons: Breakfast, lunch and snacks

In addition to the weekly meal kits, Purple Carrot has breakfast and lunch meal kits as well as snacks you can add to your delivery a la carte. Lunch meal kits are two servings and clock in at $9 per serving while breakfast kits, like tropical coconut pancakes with fresh fruit, are under $5 per serving but come in four-serving portions only. Snacks are priced individually and include sweet and savory munchies such as mushroom jerky, vegan chocolate and peanut butter truffles.

How easy are Purple Carrot meal kits to prepare?

Purple Carrot meal kits are not the easiest to prepare of the services I’ve tried, but in fairness, I was cooking some foods I don’t make as often — one of the reasons I was excited to try it. Whole grains, for instance, generally take a little more time and attention to cook so expect to hover over a saucepan with some regularity. Having said that, you’ll need no prior experience to make Purple Carrot recipes. Most Purple Carrot meal kits take about 30 minutes give or take and rarely longer than 45.

lentil-soup

Purple Carrot’s green curry lentils with brown rice and vegetables.

Purple Carrot

What I cooked and how it went

  • Green curry lentils with brown rice and vegetables: I had to psych myself up for this one since I like lentils but would be lying if I said they excite me. But it was so, so good. Amazing balance of sweetness and heat and a big portion. I joyfully finished the leftovers for lunch the next day. 
  • Butternut squash gnocchi: This one was also really tasty and very filling. It’s definitely a fall or winter meal for me. It was easy to prepare and had excellent flavor throughout.
  • Peanut and avocado Buddha bowl: This one was good but not terribly exciting. It was the only one I finished eating, considered the price, and then thought to myself, “Was this really worth the money?”

gnocchi

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot support materials 

There is nothing too extraordinarily good or bad about the recipe cards. I found them clear and concise with some helpful footnotes for beginners and helpful cooking tips I may not have considered otherwise. I also appreciated the quick little explainers for any unusual recipes. 

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Purple Carrot

Who should try Purple Carrot?

Obviously, these meal kits are great for vegans or vegetarians or folks trying to incorporate more plant-based cooking into their diet. For me, it was a good way to learn to cook vegan staples and work with some ingredients I’m not as familiar with like lentils, nori and butternut squash. 

Who should not try Purple Carrot?

Besides the obvious answer, meat eaters, Purple Carrot is also not great for those trying to keep to specific diet plans like keto, paleo, the Mediterranean diet or others. There aren’t tons of weekly choices and, despite being healthy overall, many of them contain a substantial amount of carbs, calories or both. It is also on the expensive side, though not the priciest I’ve tried. If you’re looking for a truly budget-friendly meal kit, see our list of the 7 best cheap meal delivery services in 2023. 

How much do Purple Carrot meal kits cost?

Purple Carrot meals are either $11 to $13 a serving, depending on how many servings per meal you order. A box of three meals per week for two people will cost about $79.50. Shipping is another $10 per box if the weekly order is under $100. If it’s more than $100, shipping is free. 

Most meal kit services offer a trial discount for new customers and Purple Carrot is no exception. If you’re new to the plant-based meal delivery service, they’ll knock an extra $20 off your first order.

Purple Carrot packaging and environmental friendliness

Purple Carrot is not too much better or worse than other meal kit services when it comes to packaging. The meals were each separated in plastic bags while some companies use paper but Purple Carrot’s cooler bags are recyclable and the ice packs are biodegradable. Get the brand’s full recycling breakdown here.

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Purple Carrot

Changing, skipping or canceling a Purple Carrot 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.

The verdict: Is Purple Carrot any good?

I enjoyed these meal kits quite a bit and even as a seasoned carnivore, I really didn’t miss the meat. Though I will occasionally substitute meat for Impossible or Beyond “meat” in some of my rotating recipes including bolognese and chili, I didn’t have a ton of prior experience cooking more traditional vegan food and I got a crash course from Purple Carrot. 

As a meat eater, I’m not sure I’d want to cook Purple Carrot meals every all week, especially since it’s a bit pricey. But since you can skip weekly shipments anytime you want, I love the idea of having recipes and ingredients for interesting vegan meals showing up semi-regularly. If you want a weekly stream of meal kits but don’t want to commit to eating 100% vegan, try Sunbasket or Blue Apron which have both excellent recipes both with and without meat. 

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise