A review of Abel & Cole recipe boxes compared to Riverford

Which recipe box is the most tasty, which is the most nutritious and healthy, and which of the two companies provides the best recipe boxes overall...
A review of Abel & Cole compared to Riverford Organic - which is best?

The beginnings of Abel & Cole

Back in the 1980s, friends Keith Abel and Paul Cole were fresh out of university, broke and living in London. One day they went to Covent Garden market, where they met a man called Bernard who sold them some organic potatoes. Keith and Paul started selling these organic potatoes, door to door, to families across South London. People were incredibly curious about these new 'organic' potatoes - even Waitrose didn't stock organic produce back then.

The word of these exotic-sounding 'organic' potatoes soon spread. Demand grew. And people started asking not just for potatoes, but all sorts of other vegetables in their organic form too. From these humble beginnings emerged the Abel & Cole business we know today - now selling an extensive range of organic produce, as well as other groceries, to customers across the whole of the UK.

The beginnings of Riverford Organic

Meanwhile, down in the darkest depths of Devon, Guy Singh-Watson was hard at work on the family farm. After suffering headaches and nausea from using pesticides, he decided to start experimenting with growing some pesticide-free, organic veg in a small corner of the farm. Then, armed with his trusty wheelbarrow, he started delivering his fresh, homegrown organic veg to local friends and family. The veggies were a hit. Similar to Abel & Cole, the business soon grew, and these days Riverford own several other organic farms across the UK, as well as a farm in France.

"From one man and a wheelbarrow to 50,000 deliveries a week." - Riverford.

Riverford and Abel & Cole's organic recipe boxes

Both Abel & Cole and Riverford have now added organic recipe boxes (or 'organic meat-free meal kits,' as Abel & Cole likes to call them), to their range of product offerings.

Riverford recipe boxes

You may remember that I tried Riverford recipe boxes back in November last year. I absolutely loved those recipes; true to their 'slow grown for flavour' slogan, these were some of the most inspired and tantalisingly tasty dishes I've ever had the pleasure of trying.

Riverford founder Guy Watson talks about the ways in which Riverford grow their vegetables for maximum flavour and nutritional value.

Abel & Cole recipe boxes

I now feel that the time has come for me to try an Abel & Cole recipe box. I want to know how Abel & Cole compare to Riverford. I'm curious to know which recipe box is the most tasty, which is the most nutritious and healthy, and which of the two companies provides the best recipe boxes overall. Read on to find out more...

Abel & Cole recipe reviews

I've ordered 4 recipes in total this week from Abel & Cole, and to be fair, on paper at least, they all look really interesting, as well as nutritious and healthy. Let's see if these recipes can live up to the high expectations set by Riverford...

Recipe 1: Spice Roasted Carrot & Nectarine Grain Bowl with Tahini Sauce

The first meal of the week is the Spice Roasted Carrot & Nectarine Grain Bowl with Tahini Sauce. I have a sweet tooth, so any recipe including fruit appeals to me. This recipe is accompanied with brown rice - no simple, stodgy carbs anywhere in sight here, which is great. It's also low in calories, at only 501 calories per serving, and the recipe costs a very reasonable £11 (£5.50 per person).

There's a good range of veg in this too. Plus the green lentils are an excellent source of protein, fibre and iron. This meal is healthy, nutritionally dense, tasty & filling. If I were to make one small criticism I'd say the spices over the vegetables are a just little overpowering.

Recipe key points

+ Only 501 calories.
+ Only £5.50 per person.
+ High nutritional value.
+ Complex carbs only.
- Spices are a little overpowering.

Recipe 2: Coconut, Cashew & Broccoli Curry with Brown Basmati Rice.

Next up is the Coconut, Cashew & Broccoli Curry with Brown Basmati Rice. This recipe is £18 and works out at £4.50 per person (it's a 4 person recipe so I'll either be eating the same thing for a few days, or more likely sticking some in the freezer for a later date!) It's another low calorie choice, at only 543 calories per serving. Again, there are no simple white carbs in sight with this recipe, just nutritious brown rice and plenty of healthy veg - broccoli, vine tomatoes, spring greens & flat beans. Plus it's got garlic & ginger - my personal trainer is always raving about the healthy, healing properties of garlic and ginger, so I'm sure this recipe will meet with his approval.

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It feels like the chopping takes forever with this one. The actual cooking part is quick and easy though, and the end result is good. This vegetable curry is spicy and satisfyingly filling. It also feels good knowing that I'm getting so many different greens jam-packed into a single recipe. Again, if I were to make just one small criticism it would be that the curry spices are a little overpowering for the veg.

Recipe key points

+ Only 543 calories.
+ Only £4.50 per person.
+ High nutritional value.
+ Complex carbs.
- Spices are a little overpowering.
- A lot of chopping!

Recipe 3: Tandoori Aubergines with Nectarine Relish

The third Abel & Cole meal of the week is the Tandoori Aubergines with Nectarine Relish - another fruity recipe to satiate my sweet tooth! This recipe is again accompanied with brown rice, is similarly low in calories at only 527 calories per plate, and is very reasonably priced, at £12 (£6.00 per person).

I was unsure when I picked this recipe; I thought it looked a little plain and perhaps not very filling, but I was wrong on both counts - this is actually my favourite recipe so far. The roasted aubergine is surprisingly satisfying and filling. I'm not quite sure how to describe it - it's sort of both creamy and leathery at the same time. The aubergine is smothered in a warmly spiced and velvety tandoori sauce. I love the nectarine relish and how well the sweet juiciness of the nectarines contrasts with the strong, bitter bite of ginger and chilli.

As an added bonus this recipe is so quick and easy to prep and cook - always one of my top things to look for in a recipe! My only criticism is that one of the aubergines was starting to go mouldy so I had to buy my own replacement. Also, the nectarines were almost past their full ripeness and starting to go wrinkly-skinned - they still tasted delicious though, and exceptionally juicy.

Recipe key points

+ Only 527 calories.
+ Only £6.00 per person.
+ High nutritional value.
+ Complex carbs only.
+ Great contrast of flavours.
+ Quick and easy to prep and cook.
- Aubergines & nectarines were past their best.

Recipe 4: Sweet Potato Kibbeh

The last recipe is something completely different - Sweet Potato Kibbeh. It's £12 (£6 per person) for this one, and at 636 calories per portion it's a little more calorific than the previous recipes, yet I'd still consider this to be a low calorie dish.

According to the recipe description, "Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish typically made with bulgur wheat and ground meat". I do love bulgur wheat, but I've never heard of it being mashed up with sweet potatoes before, so I'm curious to try out this unusual sounding dish.

I have to admit that I'm slightly sad this is a veggie version, as I can imagine that the ground meat version would be very tasty. I do miss the fact that unlike Riverford, there are no meat options at all with Abel & Cole. Whilst I get that it's important to eat less meat, both for health reasons and environmental reasons, I do still like to have meat sometimes.

As it turns out, I needn't have been sad about the lack of meat - this vegetarian version is super tasty! The side salad is fresh, crunchy and easy to prepare, whilst the kibbeh is sweet and creamy, with plenty of texture from the bulgur wheat and nuts. Overall, a simple, calorie-controlled, yet satisfyingly filling meal, which I'd happily eat again.

Recipe key points

+ Only 636 calories.
+ Only £6.00 per person.
+ High nutritional value.
+ Complex carbs only.
+ Unusual dish with interesting taste and texture.
- No negatives that I can think of...

The verdict on Abel & Cole recipe boxes

Abel & Cole are a fantastic option for healthy eating and weight loss. Most meals on the menu are low in calories, averaging between 400 - 650 calories per serving, plus the recipes are nutritionally dense, packed full of plenty of fresh veg, and generally accompanied with complex carbs.

The even split of 2 person and 4 person meals on the menu means that everyone is catered for - there are meals suitable for families, couples and single people (assuming a single person buys the 2 person meals and saves the second portion for the next day).

Finally, the price point is excellent for what you get: for somewhere between £4.50 - £6 per person you get lean, filling, highly nutritious and healthy meals, made from fresh, locally grown produce.

Abel & Cole recipe boxes key points

+ Great for healthy eating and weight loss.
+ Only £6.00 per person.
+ Low cost per person.
+ Organic, locally grown produce.
+ Even split of 2 person and 4 person meals.
- No meat options.
- Some of the veg - on this occasion at least - was a little past it's best.

Abel & Cole vs Riverford

Now let's take a closer look at how Abel & Cole compares to Riverford Organic.


The table below shows the average cost per meal for each of the recipe box and prepped meal services I've reviewed. As you can see, Riverford are marginally more expensive than Abel & Cole. However, you do get a 10% discount for ordering 3 or more recipes with Riverford, which narrows the price difference. Also, Riverford offer some meat based meals, which are naturally more expensive, and this accounts for the price at the higher end of the scale.

Company Cost per 1 person portion Service Type
Gousto £3.14 - £4.37 Recipe box Read review
Mindful Chef (frozen meals) £4.50 - £5.50 Frozen meals Read review
Abel & Cole £4.50 - £6.00 Recipe box
Mindful Chef (recipe box meals) £5.81 - £7.75 Recipe box Read review
Riverford Organic £6.38 - £8.98 Recipe box Read review
MunchFit £7.49 - £9.99 Fresh prepared meals Read review
Balance Box £8.33 - £11.99 Fresh prepared meals Read review

Subscription models

With Abel & Cole you have to opt into a subscription before you pay for your order. As you can see from the screenshot below, Abel & Cole offer no option to just order a one-off recipe box. You have to select a recurring subscription.

Don't worry though, you're not tied into anything - as soon as you've made your purchase you can go into your account settings and cancel the recurring subscription option.

A screenshot of the recipe box checkout process with Abel & Cole.

Riverford does things the correct way around. As you can see from the screenshot below, there is a 'once only' option when you add a recipe to your shopping basket.

A screenshot of the recipe box checkout process with Riverford.

Riverford wins my approval when it comes to subscription models. I find the idea of being automatically opted into something I don't want, and then having to opt out of it, incredibly annoying!

Taste and flavour

It is over 6 months since I last tried Riverford recipe boxes. So just to be sure that my memory is serving me correctly, I decide to try a few more Riverford recipes (pictured below). These new recipes re-affirm my feelings that Riverford really are something special when it comes to taste and flavour. Abel & Cole recipes are good but they don't have the depth of flavour that Riverford have.

Which is best for weight loss?

If you're watching calories or trying to lose weight then Abel & Cole are the winners here. Both companies offer a mix of both lean, low calorie recipes, as well as some more indulgent options. Overall though, Riverford tend to be more indulgent with their ingredients - you're more likely to find to find the lean, low calorie options on the Abel & Cole menu.

Vegetarian or meat based diet?

The Abel & Cole menu is entirely vegetarian, whereas Riverford do include a few meat options each week. So if you like to eat at least a little bit of meat then Riverford are your best bet.

2 person or 4 person recipes?

Almost all of the Riverford recipes each week are for 2 people, with just the occasional 4 person sized recipe listed. In contrast, Abel & Cole split things evenly - 6 of the recipes each week are 2 person recipes and the other 6 are 4 person recipes. So if you're cooking for an entire family then Abel & Cole may be your best bet.


Delivery costs £3.50 with Abel & Cole and they have a minimum order value of £12.00. Delivery is free with Riverford Organic and there is no minimum order value with the recipe boxes.

Abel & Cole and Riverford both use their own network of delivery drivers. The drivers only operate on certain days in each area, so you'll have to put your postcode in to find out which day they deliver in your area.

The Abel & Cole drivers start out as early as 4am in the mornings - but don't worry, they won't knock if they arrive before 8.30am. They'll simply leave your delivery on your doorstep, or at the 'safe place' you specified in the delivery instructions. If however, you would prefer that they do knock on your door - even really early in the morning - you can state this in your delivery instructions too.

Similarly, the Riverford drivers start out from 'quite early in the morning,' according to the website. Their drivers will only knock if it is after 8am in the morning though (unless you specify otherwise in the delivery instructions).

Grocery shopping

Of course, both Abel & Cole & Riverford offer more than just recipe boxes. In fact, both companies are probably more widely known for their fresh fruit and veg boxes, as well as their online grocery shops, which stock a wide range of fresh, organic fruit and veg, as well as all of your other typical grocery shop items.

In particular, I wanted to give a quick mention to Llanllyr Source sparkling water, available from Abel & Cole. I first fell in love with this sparkling water when I tasted it on holiday in Malta a couple of years ago. They call it the 'champagne of sparkling water' and I definitely concur with that - even though it's 'just' water, somehow this is a really special sparkling water, with lots of taste, and really big, strong bubbles!

Before I started my weight loss journey I would often have a small glass of wine with an evening meal. Now though, I always have Llanllyr Source sparkling water - it's healthy, calorie-free and tastes just as luxurious as having a glass of wine.

Abel & Cole is one of the few places where you can purchase Llanllyr Source sparkling water online in the UK - I'd highly recommend giving it a try!

The verdict on Abel & Cole compared to Riverford

As you can see, both companies have their pros and cons, depending on what you're looking for. My personal preferences sway slightly more towards Riverford for the amazing taste and depth of flavours, but I'd say it's worth comparing the recipe menus for both each week, and going with whichever one appeals the most on any given week.

Abel & Cole 50% discount code

Sadly there are currently no offers available for Abel & Cole recipe boxes. However, if you'd like to try their fruit and veg boxes you can get a 50% discount on the 1st and 4th box ordered.

Just use the code VEGBOX4 at the checkout to get your 50% discount.

Get 50% off at Abel & Cole
Abel & Cole 50% discount T&Cs:
*To redeem offer, add a weekly, set contents Fruit & Veg Box (excluding Christmas and limited edition) to your basket and enter code VEGBOX4. Your first Fruit & Veg Box will be 50% off then after receiving 2 full price Abel & Cole deliveries with a Fruit & Veg Box, your 4th Fruit & Veg Box will also be 50% off. Each order within the offer (of 4) must be delivered within 4 weeks of previous, or the promotion will expire. £3.50 delivery fee applies. New customers only. Offer limited to UK residents with an address in an Abel & Cole delivery area.

Riverford £15 discount code

If instead you'd like to give Riverford a try, they offer a 5% discount when you order at least two recipes, and also a 10% discount when you order three or more recipes. This is a permanent offer for all customers, new and returning.

Additionally, if you use my referral code when signing up, you'll get £15 credited to your account to use against your second order.

Sign up to Riverford Organic recipe boxes

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