My family isn’t big on Thanksgiving. We usually celebrated with a modest Cuban dinner (rice and beans, roast pork and boiled yucca, for example), and I never had any complaints as a kid. But eventually, I found myself longing for a run-of-the-mill holiday dinner, one that I’d only tasted in my head or vicariously through my friends. I’m talking a golden-brown turkey, light-as-air mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing and a mountain of cranberry sauce. So, when I got the chance to try HelloFresh’s Traditional Turkey Thanksgiving + Sides Box ahead of the holidays, I fastened my apron and set out to scratch a lifelong itch for an old-school feast. But would I be able to pull it off, given that I’d never cooked a whole bird before? Read on for my honest review.

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hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review vertical spread w score
Taryn Pire

Overall score:

  • Value: 19/20
  • Ingredients: 18/20
  • Convenience: 19/20
  • Recipe Ease: 19/20
  • Taste: 18/20
TOTAL: 93/100

The Methodology

My plan was simple: Follow all of HelloFresh’s instructions to a tee. I wanted to see how easy their handy manual really was to follow because IMO, it’s not that helpful to have a company do all your grocery shopping if you have no idea how to use the ingredients. I also followed their Get It Done in One Day cooking plan, which is meant to help you pull off the whole feast in just five hours (it took me longer if you include all the prep and produce-slicing). Then, I rated each dish in the box based on the following, averaging them to create my overall score:

  • Value: Is it worth the money and convenience? Could you have gotten the same (or better) ingredients yourself for the same price or less? Could it really feed eight to ten people, as the box claims?
  • Ingredients: Are they good quality? Do the amounts called for make sense?
  • Convenience: How low lift is the dish really? Can it be easily reheated if made ahead?
  • Recipe Ease: Is the recipe easy to follow? Are the steps logical? Do any instructions make your life more difficult than they have to?
  • Taste: Does the recipe taste good and like its name implies?

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review meal kits
HelloFresh

HelloFresh’s Thanksgiving Box (and Other Holiday Kits on the Market)

The Turkey + Sides Box includes a chef-crafted, gourmet entrée plus all the fixings and dessert (there’s also a cranberry Brie crostini add-on available for $20 more). It’s meant to feed eight to ten people for $17 a serving, and the recipes are supposed to be easy enough for any newbie to tackle. Despite HelloFresh being a meal subscription service, there’s no subscription required for the Thanksgiving box. You get to choose your own delivery date sometime in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving—as long as you order by November 18, the goods will get to you in time.

HelloFresh is the gold standard as far as Thanksgiving meal kits go, but there are others out there that could be better for you, depending on your needs. For instance, Purple Carrot has a plant-based box (that’s right—no turkey) for four available for $75, while Blue Apron has a kit for six to eight starring a turkey roast instead of a whole bird and a slew of fancy-ish sides for $110. If Sidesgiving is more your style, Dinnerly has biscuits, stuffing and more on its virtual shelves. If you want to skip the cooking altogether, lean on Williams-Sonoma’s precooked dinner for four for $190 or Harry & David’s Gourmet Turkey Feast for $230.

Before You Start

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind before you start cooking:

  • Plan your schedule ahead. Timing is everything on the big day. You want to make what you can a day or so ahead, if possible, and have the rest of your sides hot and ready to go by the time the turkey is ready to carve. Read over HelloFresh’s manual and suggested itinerary in advance, so you have a full grasp on how much you can make in advance, what will be in the oven when and what needs to sit out before cooking.
  • Thoroughly sort your ingredients. My kit arrived in two shipments: One box with a 14-pound turkey on ice (it’ll take you about four days to defrost the bird, so make room in your fridge ahead of your delivery) and one box with all the produce, mix-ins and most of the dairy (you’ll need to use your own butter, cooking oil, cooking spray, sugar, salt and pepper, but everything else is provided). There are lots of tiny bags of nuts, sour cream and more among the produce, and if your fridge looks even a little bit like mine, they can disappear quickly if you don’t organize them.
  • Read the recipes before you start cooking. The better grasp you have on your game plan, the easier it will be to execute. Make your mise en place before cooking each recipe, and ensure you have all the right amounts laid out before you begin.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review turkey in pan
Taryn Pire

1. Main: Roast Turkey with Garlic-Herb Butter Rub

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ingredients: 18/20
  • Convenience: 19/20
  • Recipe Ease: 17/20
  • Taste: 18/20
Not to be dramatic, but I feel unexpectedly vulnerable sharing my first turkey with you, reader. All in all, it was so much easier than expected (and it was no doubt my biggest concern going into this project). It really can be as simple as slathering butter (garlic-herb butter, that is) all over the bird and calling it a day. Let other first-timers be warned though: I was *not* mentally prepared for pulling the loose turkey neck and giblets out of the turkey.

My main complaint is that the turkey could be better stuffed; the recipe calls for only half a lemon (IMO, all the produce was impressive besides the lemons, which I felt were far too small), two thyme sprigs, a shallot and a few cloves of garlic to be roasted inside the cavity. While the butter ensures that the turkey’s skin turns out crispy and flavorful, the meat itself was pretty one-note, albeit juicy. Of course, you can always supplement with your own produce and herbs, but I wanted to follow HelloFresh’s instructions as closely as possible for the sake of accuracy.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review turkey on cutting board
Taryn Pire

The timing of the recipe was also a bit off in my experience. The five-hour game plan recommended letting the turkey come to room temperature for an hour, then making the apple crisp, toasting the bread for the stuffing and roasting the squash. But all that extra work might not only take you longer than an hour, it’ll also may make your oven too full to accommodate the turkey—that’s worrisome food safety-wise. I’d suggest making the apple crisp and toasting the bread ahead, then roasting the squash and turkey at the same time since they both cook at 425°F. (It also helps to get all your slicing and dicing out of the way before the turkey ever leaves the fridge.)

I’ll also say that carving the turkey was sort of confusing for me, and more difficult than cooking it. I wish HelloFresh included tips for moving the bird from bowl to roasting pan (I used Viking’s 3-Ply Roaster with Rack and 2-Piece Carving Set, BTW) to cutting board, but YouTube came to the rescue (stick a wooden spoon in the cavity and use a wad of paper towel to hold the breast end of the turkey, then pick it up and transfer—ta-da).

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review mashed potatoes
Taryn Pire

2. Side: Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Sour Cream

  • Value: 18/20
  • Ingredients: 17/20
  • Convenience: 20/20
  • Recipe Ease: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20
They’re everyone’s favorite side for a reason, that reason being that they’re starchy, buttery and undeniably delicious. The recipe couldn’t be simpler, and all the action happens on the stove, leaving your oven free to cook other sides. I made the work even easier on myself by not peeling the potatoes but feel free if you want the mash extra smooth.

It starts with boiled Yukon Gold potatoes, which are known for their sweet, vegetal taste and slightly waxy texture. A dairy trifecta got them creamy, light and fluffy, but the only flavoring agents are salt, pepper and two cloves of garlic, so they turned out a little bland. Personally, two cloves seems like a wimpy amount for four pounds of spuds, but maybe I’m biased since I made NYT Cooking’s creamy double-garlic mashed potatoes last year. (Also, I’m not sure what you and yours consider a serving of mashed potatoes, but it wouldn’t be enough for ten people at my house…just sayin’.)

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review stuffing
Taryn Pire

3. Side: Ciabatta Stuffing with Chicken Sausage and Cranberries

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ingredients: 20/20
  • Convenience: 18/20
  • Recipe Ease: 19/20
  • Taste: 19/20
Stuffing overshadows just about every other Thanksgiving staple in my book. It’s flavorful, comforting and made mostly of bread—what’s not to like? I was psyched to try my hand at a stuffing that wasn’t cornbread-based, and it was also the first stuffing I made that didn’t use Italian pork sausage, but chicken sausage instead.

This was probably the fussiest recipe of the bunch since many ingredients require their own prep, bowls, baking sheets and dishes. Nevertheless, the steps are easy to follow. I might suggest using minimal or no cooking oil for the chicken sausage, so it has a better chance of browning; it did have a nice, fennel-laced flavor though. I loved that the recipe called for baking it with foil at first, then removing the foil halfway; this first steams the bread, so it’s returned to its soft former glory, then allows the top of the stuffing to crisp up. (Be sure to reheat it without foil so it doesn’t turn mushy again.) My one warning? Be careful not to mistake the chicken stock concentrate in your groceries for chicken demi-glace like I did.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review delicata squash
Taryn Pire

4. Side: Roasted Delicata Squash and Shallots with Walnuts, Parmesan and Parsley

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ingredients: 19/20
  • Convenience: 18/20
  • Recipe Ease: 18/20
  • Taste: 20/20
I never expected the veggie side to be my favorite dish of the lot, but here we are. Delicata squash is a great choice to serve guests over, say, butternut squash or sweet potatoes (even though I’m a sucker for mini marshmallows) because of its edible, pretty striped skin. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and soft texture when roasted that was impeccably balanced by sharp Parmesan cheese, crunchy walnuts and salty garlic-herb butter. I also thought the shallot wedges brought great flavor to the table, and their purple-pink hue is easy on the eyes to boot.

Going into this side dish, double-check that you don’t mistake your pecans for walnuts, then check again to make sure you’ve got all the tiny bags of walnuts. I ended up throwing pecans in after missing some meant for the apple crisp, but I thought the squash salad could use more nuts anyway. I’d also suggest waiting a while for the squash to cool before combining it with the other ingredients, even though HelloFresh doesn’t suggest it. The pretty half-moon squash slices can lose their shape and turn to mush quickly if you’re not gentle enough, and your shallot wedges may separate. If you wait until the squash is too cool to melt the butter, you can always warm the butter separately, then pour it in.

Reheating can be tricky for this one too, since it will likely change the integrity of the dish. The cheese will melt, but that’s mostly cosmetic rather than a flavor issue. And in case you’re wondering, I served the squash in Material’s reBowl in sand, which is made from recycled plastic and renewable sugarcane and is equipped with an angled bottom that makes it virtually spill-proof. You can thank me later.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review cranberry sauce
Taryn Pire

5. Side: Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Cinnamon

  • Value: 17/20
  • Ingredients: 16/20
  • Convenience: 20/20
  • Recipe Ease: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20
Personally, I love cranberry sauce. I’d even venture to say I prefer it over gravy when it comes to topping a slice of turkey. That said, I’m not a cranberry sauce snob, and I’m happy with both canned and fresh. But to be honest, I was sort of shocked when I found two cans of ready-to-eat cranberry sauce in my groceries, because making it from scratch is so mind-blowingly easy. It couldn’t be that much more expensive to send two bags of cranberries in their place, right?

Of course, it was nice making this side in like, two minutes and that it didn’t need to stay warm.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review gravy
Taryn Pire

6. Side: Classic Gravy with Fresh Herbs

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ingredients: 19/20
  • Convenience: 18/20
  • Recipe Ease: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20
There’s something about using drippings from a turkey you roasted that makes you feel like a total pro. (No? Just me?) More garlic and herbs couldn’t have hurt, but the gravy still turned out rich, savory and oh so meaty. It’s a smidge on the salty side but I’ll chalk that up to using a bit of extra chicken demi-glace in place of chicken stock concentrate that I accidentally used in the stuffing earlier on.

A fat separator is recommended for separating the drippings, but you can also just use a spoon once it’s cool enough. Be sure to get the drippings out of the roasting pan while they’re still warm so the fat can separate in the measuring cup where you’ll make the base for the gravy. That way, it’ll be easy to skim out.

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review apple crisp
Taryn Pire

7. Dessert: Apple Ginger Crisp with Cinnamon Pecan Crumble

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ingredients: 18/20
  • Convenience: 20/20
  • Recipe Ease: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20
I love that dessert is included in the kit and that it’s easy to get out of the way first, since it’s a cinch to reheat. The recipe is rich with fall flavors that your guests will welcome onto their plates. The ginger didn’t shine through as brightly as I wanted it to (and it was the sole piece of produce that had mold on it by the time my turkey was defrosted and ready to cook), but the tart-sweet Fuji apples didn’t disappoint.

I feel like a little brown sugar or oats in the crumb topping could have gone a long way in terms of caramelization and crispness, but the toothsome pecans helped. Be sure not to reheat this one with foil because it’ll turn the crumb topping soggy. Serve the crisp warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (but you already knew that).

hellofresh thanksgiving meal kit review plate
Taryn Pire

The Bottom Line: Is the HelloFresh Thanksgiving Kit Worth It?

For $169.89 plus $8.99 shipping (that’s about $179), you can avoid the crowded grocery store and get everything you need to feed your fam and then some (the kit is meant to serve eight to ten people, though I’m not sure some of the dishes could feed the high end of that range, specifically the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and roasted squash). There’s also a cheaper option available for $22.49 a person that serves four to six people; it’s identical to the turkey kit except it doesn’t include cranberry sauce and the main dish is peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin with sherry thyme jus.

No matter which kit you opt for, it’ll take the stress out of shopping, creating a menu and the cooking itself with step-by-step instructions complete with pictures. I’d say if you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, the kit is well worth the spend. If you’re already a vet, you may not need as much help, but some of the recipes are still worth adding to your repertoire (especially the roasted delicata and stuffing).

If you’d like a Thanksgiving box to minimize your holiday stress (and skip a hellish trip to the supermarket), you have until November 18 to place your order.

Buy it ($170 plus shipping)

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*Our final category scores were based on the average of the scores for each individual dish.

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what’s worth the spend and what’s total hype. Learn more about our process here.

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