Is Purple Carrot worth it? I am sure that’s a question you’ve asked yourself time and again as you’ve hovered over the checkout button. I know I asked myself more than once. That was several years ago now, when they finally convinced me to I’ll get to the big question at the end of this article, but first, lets look at the service and what you get for your hard earned dollars.
What is Purple Carrot?
First up what the heck is Purple Carrot? It’s one a range of contemporary meal kits in the post subscription services. The unique twist with Purple Carrot is that the meals and recipes delivered are 100% plant based. The service is aimed at vegans and vegan-curious alike. I’m firmly in the latter camp; I’m always looking for more interesting dishes to cook, and always happy to eat healthier – as long as I’m not sacrificing flavor!
Purple Carrot packaging
I’ve used the service on and off now for two years. Over the time the packaging has evolved quite a bit. As I write it feels like the company has settled on a final product that works best for them. Its a sturdy box, lined with a spongy insulating packing foam. Each of the weeks meals is bagged up individually and kept cool with two or three thermal cooling packs. Purple Carrot state that everything is recyclable which is a huge plus point. You don’t need to feel any guilt about having the products shipped to you.
Generally speaking, the packaging quality is first rate. Over the course of two years I’ve never found an item missing and only a few times had damaged items. Purple Carrot are quick to respond to these incidents and I’ve always received a generous account credit. There’s no doubt this is a premium service, and they’re obviously keen to keep you as a customer.
Another plus point is that the packaging always comes labeled with a sticker showing the origin of the ingredients. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s nice to see so much produce coming from regional sourcing (at least for me).
Purple Carrot recipe cards
As part of every order with Purple Carrot you’ll get a recipe card for each meal in the order. The front of the card shows how the completed dish should look and a bit of an overview about the idea behind the dish or a main ingredient. The reverse has the ingredient list, nutrition and cooking instructions. The cards are printed on decently sturdy card stock, which means when you inevitably spill on them as you go along, they won’t detioriuate. Indeed, when you find a recipe you really enjoy you can stir the card away for sake keeping; I have recipe cards I go back to time and again, each time splattered again and again – they remain perfectly usable.
For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at the box I received for the week of March 26th. Here are the three cards I received, click for larger images. Under each, you’ll see my own completed effort of the dish in question:
How hard are the Purple Carrot recipes to follow?
My number one recommendation for this meal delivery service, and indeed all others, is that you read the recipes more than once. I like to glance through them when I receive the box to identify any general issues. Some might need a kitchen tool you don’t have (blender for example) or some might need a little extra cooking time – and you have a busy week so need to schedule.
From there, before I start cooking read through at least twice. I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve finished cooking only to find an ingredient still sat on the counter. Oops. Read through the recipe, imagine it in your mind, does it all make sense? Are all the ingredients there, does the recipe card mention them all? More than once I’ve received cards that forget to use an ingredient – it’s not hard to work out how and where to use the ingredient – but again planning is everything.
Actually, planning is the key word here. My second piece of advice is to prep as many ingredients before you start cooking as you can. The recipe cards try to make each dish sound as simple and easy as possible. They’ll have you overlapping one part of the dish with another and before you know it, you’ll be a sobbing mess, huddled the corner. I’m a fairly experienced home cook and find some of the recipes a little breezy on timing. Just shallow fry this thing in oil while preparing a light sale over here. No. Mise en place is everything here. I like to make any sauces, salads or dips ahead of time, and chop/dice/peel everything I can. I guarantee you will have moments where you will think, “wait, what did the recipe say again”. At this point you’ll thank yourself for building some breathing time into the cooking process with the earlier prep.
What kitchen tools/ingredients do I need to cook Purple Carrot?
A typically stocked kitchen can usually cope with most of the meals Purple Carrot send through. The notable tool that you might not have is a quality blender. I find the recipes call for a blender fairly regularly and it’s hard to guess ahead of time which ones will or won’t require it. In the above rotini recipe, I’d never have guessed in advance that a blender would be needed for the sauce.
Ingredients wise, the recipes assume you already have salt, pepper and cooking oil in your kitchen; actually make that olive oil and a general purpose cooking oil.
How big are Purple Carrot meals?
They can actually vary in size quite a bit. A broken rice congee meal we cooked some time ago could have happily fed an army, whereas a few weeks later, a noodle dish seemed a little scant. As a general rule, anything that comes as a grain or rice seems to go along way.
Purple Carrot issues
I can’t say I have that many grumbles, but these are the few I have:
* No meal options. If you don’t like a particular weeks menu, you’re out of luck. The menus are set in stone, you can’t drop one dish and add another like some services. If you do decide to skip a week, Purple Carrot does try to upset you their TB12 (their sponsored program with Tom Brady) box for the week. As these meals are usually quite similar (albeit with more focus on protein) I’ve yet to bite.
* No recipe preview. I’m amazed that Purple Carrot won’t show you a preview of the recipe to come. I find myself skipping weeks way more than I probably need to; simply because I can’t verify if a dish uses ingredient X or Y in advance. Whether it’s due to an allergy or personal preference at the price of these meals, I can’t risk receiving a meal I can’t or won’t cook.
Purple Carrot did previously offer this facility and it has now been removed. My only guess is they don’t want people logging in, grabbing the recipe and shopping for the ingredients themselves. I think that’s a really short sighted move if true.
What’s the Purple Carrot customer service like?
In a word, fabulous. I’ve had cause to contact them maybe 3-5 times over the past two years. I usually lodge any issues I have by email and they’re almost always wrapped up the same day. No fuss at all, just a can do attitude from their team. They really want to retain your business and it shows. One time my delivery was delayed by a single day, not only did they warn me in advance but they sent along a $20 credit for the inconvenience too.
Are Purple Carrot meals actually any good?
But how does all this taste you might ask? I’ve had a good success rate, I’d say at least 8 out of 10 meals are good to great. Only once in a blue moon do I receive something I think is a real stinker. More often than not, even if a dish doesn’t knock my socks off I’ll learn that I’m not a huge fan of ingredient X or technique Y. And of course, I’ve found a ton of things I had no idea I liked; from plant based pesto sauces to new weird and wonderful ingredients.
Is Purple Carrot worth it?
Yes…with some caveats that will be personal to you. The elephant in the room is price. The box described above – three meals with ingredients to serve two, comes in at $72 – $12 a plate. It’s unquestionably cheaper to source these from your local grocery store; and in this day and age, you can find pretty much any recipe you want online. Viewed through this lens, some might find the product expensive. But this is only half the story.
I look at Purple Carrot as education and entertainment, not just groceries in the mail. I love to cook, its more fun than chore for me – especially when I’m learning something new. Sure I could go to to the store and grab some acorn squash and find a recipe online, but what the heck is an acorn squash anyway? With Purple Carrot you can be confident that the recipe cards are tried and tested. They’ll help you to get to grips with a new technique, a new product or a new way of looking at a dish entirely. One you’ve received that acorn squash in the mail, cooked it through with the Purple Carrot recipe, you’ll be armed with enough knowledge to go and buy the squash yourself, and create your own recipes. I’ve done this countless times with Purple Carrot and can definitely say my own repertoire of knowledge and skills has been improved from the service.
When I first signed up to Purple Carrot I’d order quite a lot. These days I’ve slowed to buying once a month, or maybe once every two months. Through their website, Purple Carrot let you know the details of upcoming meals several weeks in advance. I’ll wait until an upcoming week comprises three dishes that look really great, and look like I’ll learn something new. The online control panel lets you skip any given week or pause your service in general, great if you’re headed out of town, or know you won’t be around.