CookUnity review: Celebrity chef-made meal delivery at an affordable price

I bet you didn’t think you could get Jean-Georges Vongerichten to make and deliver dinner to your door for just $10. Well, you can’t really, but CookUnity promises something sort of, kind of similar in its prepared meal service that’s also a “collective” of some seriously celebrated chefs. 

The three-year-old meal delivery operation has dedicated a healthy slice of brand ethos to providing an avenue for chefs — both of the famed and up-and-coming variety — to peddle their food when folks can’t make a reservation. Each and every one of CookUnity’s ready-to-eat meals has a chef’s name attached to it; the inference being that the chef has created the recipe you’re eating at your dining table or over the kitchen counter. Among some newer names, there are heavy hitters available for order, including Einat Admony (Taïm, Balaboosta), John DeLucie (Waverly Inn, Lumaca) and the aforementioned Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean-Georges).

Like

  • Meals were all prepared well and tasted either good or better (no duds!)
  • A enormous selection of diverse meals to choose from
  • Lots of options for folks on a special diet including plant-based, keto, Whole30 and more

Don’t Like

  • Expensive unless you order more than 6 meals per week
  • Some portions were on the small side

Having tried a good many of the prepared meal delivery services available, and having liked quite a few of them, I decided to give CookUnity a go. As you might expect from a service with recipes emanating from dozens of chefs, each with their own background, the CookUnity meals, which start at about $10, were equally diverse. 

Overall, I found the quality of CookUnity food high and the platform easy to use. Here’s a run-down of how CookUnity works and what I liked and didn’t like about it.

Editors’ note: Before you dive into the full review, note that CookUnity is currently available in the areas highlighted on this map (27 states as of today). A rep for the brand ensures me that delivery is expanding rapidly so check back if your ZIP code isn’t included now. 

CookUnity pricing

Meals per week Price per meal Price per week
4 $13.49 $54.00
6 $11.99 $72.00
8 $11.49 $92.00
12 $10.99 $132
16 $10.49 $168

How CookUnity works

This is a meal subscription service, so you’ll choose either four, six, eight, 12 or 16. You can always add, pause or skip deliveries easily or change your plan at any time but remember that meals will keep coming if you don’t and you’ll be charged for them. Meals are delivered chilled with ice to keep them that way but never frozen. Most can be easily frozen if you can’t get to them by the date recommended on the side of the box, but I’d contend some will freeze better than others.

header-cu

My six-pack of CookUnity meals arrived fresh and not frozen.


David Watsky/CNET

You can pick your meals each week from a rotating menu of over 150 meals or let CookUnity decide for you and be surprised when you tear open the box. When picking meals, you can sort via filter for specific diet plans, including vegan and vegetarian, keto, low-calorie, Whole30-friendly, gluten-free and many more. You can also see the complete nutritional information and ingredient list as well as reviews from others before you put something in your cart.

CookUnity will choose an initial delivery day but you can change that if needed and also schedule within a certain window to ensure someone is home to pop those meals in the fridge. 

tofu

CookUnity has tons of plant-based options and meals to meet the needs of just about any special diet or nutrition plan.


David Watsky/CNET

When the meals arrive they come with simple heating instructions on the side of the box, often with both a chef’s recommendation and a quick-heat option — which generally means using the microwave. Spoiler alert: You’re going to want to follow the chef’s recommendation even if it means having to spritz a nonstick skillet after or use a small piece of aluminum foil. 

What I ate and how I liked it

I chose six meals and tried them all fresh within a few days of arrival. None of them seemed like particularly good candidates for freezing, unlike some other services I tried, some of which seem tailored for that. Overall, I found the quality very high and, while some were better than others, I didn’t dislike any of them. 

Chicken tinga tacos with cilantro and guacamole: The pulled chicken that came in these tacos was incredibly tender and full of smoky, slightly spicy flavor. The corn tortillas were not the freshest but they didn’t spoil the meal entirely. 

chicken-tinga

There’s a good amount of information on the package and a QR code to find even more.


David Watsky/CNET

Vegetarian crepe with cheddar cheese: This was another good one with spinach and mushroom bursting from the flaky crepe. It could have used a little bit more flavor and was a tad soggy when reheated but altogether was not a nice lunch, and it was plenty filling.

Lamb kebab with roasted sweet potatoes, hummus and pickles: Super tender lamb jam-packed with flavors, including mint and garlic. The sweet potatoes were also cooked extremely well, having just begun to brown around the edges. This may have been my favorite and it heated particularly well as the oils from the lamb reroasted the kebab from the inside out. 

lamb-kebab

This lamb kebab and sweet potato might look a little bit like a high school cafeteria meal but it tasted a whole lot better.


David Watsky/CNET

Tofu with hemp seeds and sweet potato puree: The tofu was tender if not a little bland and the sweet potatoes were creamy and nicely seasoned. It was served with a bright parsley sauce which may have been the best part.

Miso cod with sauteed vegetables: The cod tasted fresh although the veggies left something to be desired — a tad boring I suppose. This was definitely a smaller portion than the rest, good for someone trying to cut carbs or calories but wasn’t enough to fill me up.

cod

Avoid the microwave at all costs when preparing food from a meal delivery service.


David Watsky/CNET

Beef bulgogi ramen: Solid dish with the noodles properly cooked and lots of tart kimchi flavor infused into the tender beef stir fry. Not the best bulgogi I’ve had by any stretch, but certainly not the worst either. 

How much does CookUnity cost? 

This service is on par with other high-end meal delivery services with meals ranging between $10.49 and $13.49 depending on how many meals per week you order. Others in the same category, including some of our top picks like Fresh n’ Lean and Pete’s Paleo, are actually a bit more expensive at $12-$15 per meal. There are cheaper options, however, including Freshly, which can be had for as little as $8.50 per meal when you order 12 per week.

bolgogi

Esther Choi’s bulgogi ramen was definitely a winner.


David Watsky/CNET

Who is CookUnity good for?

Because this meal delivery outfit has such a wide range of options, I’d this service is one of the best for someone with a curious palate and likes to try new dishes. The food is all over the map, quite literally, with dozens of world foods represented, but there is consistency in quality and all of the dishes I tried were at least solid or better. 

There are plenty of healthy, low-carb, vegan and paleo options so this is a good meal delivery service if you’re trying to stick to a specific eating plan.

CookUnity also a great option if you’re big into the celebrity chef scene and want to brag to your friends that you had Jean-Georges’ pizza for dinner last night. And yes, the French-born, James Beard Award-winning chef actually has a pizza recipe on the CookUnity menu. Go figure.

Who is CookUnity not as good for?

It’s probably not a great choice for families since the portions aren’t huge and things would get expensive if you were ordering for three or four people. It’s also not ideal if you have a very unpredictable schedule because I wouldn’t consider the freshly prepared food to be great for freezing and it is definitely best consumed a few days after delivery.

The final verdict on CookUnity

I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised by the high hit rate of this meal service. When I saw how many literal cooks were in the kitchen by way of the dozens of chefs they’ve culled recipes from, I was worried the service itself would be inconsistent. But in practice, each meal was well prepared with good flavor and I didn’t encounter a single real dud. The cod was the only meal I’d wished had been a larger portion but overall each lunch or dinner was satisfying. 

The most exciting thing about CookUnity is the sheer volume of meal options you can choose from, all originating from chefs of different backgrounds, culinary styles and levels of fame. As a bona fide restaurant junkie, I would think of CookUnity not only as a tasty way to keep myself fed without having to cook, but also as a fun way to learn about new chef personalities and restaurants for the next time I’m traveling to a new city or looking for a place to dine out locally.

Since you can pause or cancel the subscription any time, I say give CookUnity a try and see how you like it. 

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.

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