Way back around the time the world ended in 2012, I worked at a vegan magazine for a few years. Overall, it was an amazing experience; in addition to being my first full-time job in print media, there was a never-ending rotation of plant-based chips, dairy-free cookies, and innovative condiments to sample (I won’t get into all the absolutely crazy interpersonal shit that happened there among the publishers—it turns out that vegans are absolutely not impervious to drama). But let me tell you firsthand, vegan food has come a looooooooong way over the past decade. Whilst vegetarians were once cornered at gunpoint into eating flavorless, hockey-puck-like frozen Gardenburgers, or given nary an option at TGI Fridays besides a plain green-leaf salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, these days, they’re sitting next to Travis Barker’s booth at Crossroads Kitchen, feasting on almond-ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms with an Aperol spritz in hand.
I stopped being vegetarian (a.k.a. “broke veg”) in 2013, but even if I now fall face-first into the occasional plateful of prime rib, my affinity for plant-based dining remains. I won’t get into all the reasons why we should all be eating more vegetables and less meat—hopefully, you already know those by now; the big three are health, environment, and animal welfare—but it’s interesting to see how far vegan cuisine has come, and also makes my body happy to load up on nutrients and fiber.
Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles four years ago, I received a promotional pamphlet in the mail for a plant-based meal delivery service called Sakara. I’m not huge on meal delivery services; I live more on the flip-flop between cooking the same eight meals on a loop and going out for shrimp Caesar salads and penne alla vodka. But something about the branding (and the generous discount code) really caught my eye: The meals, despite being vegan and healthy, actually looked… good? It was neither vegan junk food (i.e. seitan Sloppy Joes) nor rabbit fodder (raw seed crackers). Instead, I spotted lentil pasta bolognese made with adzuki bean tempeh; a tuna-less take on a Niçoise salad served with maitake mushroom-paté smeared toast; and moo shu lettuce wraps with creamy sesame sauce. When a month or two later it came time for a break from my diet of spicy jalapeño margaritas and tuna melts, I decided to give Sakara a shot.
After doing a little bit of Googling, I discovered that Sakara was already a cult-fave thing among bougie, health-conscious women. Gwyneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, supermodel Lily Aldridge, and Hilary Duff are just a few of the brand’s high-profile fans. To be clear, it’s not the most affordable meal delivery service, nor is it trying to be. In fact, it’s downright Tesla-expensive. This food (and service) is for the Erewhon crowd; make no mistake.
I’m not a huge breakfast person, so I saved a few bucks (and calories) by doing the five-day meal program with just lunch and dinner. A couple of months later, I did it again with an entirely new menu. Here’s my honest review of Sakara, the vegan meal service of the #coastalelites.
You can view the menu for each week on Sakara’s website, so I planned ahead to make sure I was getting my plan on the most delicious-looking weeks possible. Some are better than others! If I’m dropping $25 on a salad, I’d like it to taste like it was crafted in a large, beautiful, subway-tiled kitchen by Lord of the Rings elves (and like something I couldn’t make myself). Green flags for me: pasta dishes; dishes with lots of plant protein (from lentils or beans), and dishes with healthy fats so that I’m not hungry again in an hour. I also like salads with lots of interesting textures combined (creamy, crunchy, etc.). The menu changes every week, and gets a significant overhaul every season to make the most of the produce that’s in tip-top shape that month. I most recently had meals from Sakara in June and September, so the specific dishes I mention below might not return for a while.
The deliveries arrive in the middle of the night (truly the middle, between 1 AM and 6 AM—frankly, a bit annoying if you’re concerned about your packages being stolen, which I am, because so is everyone in Los Angeles) on Monday mornings and Thursday mornings, kept cool with ice packs and with dressings on the side and any other wet/dry elements separated as well. Everything is packaged very clearly and I appreciate that the full ingredients are printed right on the labels of each component.
The lunches are all meant to be eaten at room temperature (or straight out of the fridge), but all of the dinners can be heated (and, in my experience, should be). It’s nothing complicated—just heat them in a pan for five minutes over the stove or roast them for a few minutes in a 350-degree oven, depending on what the label says. It’s truly foolproof, even when I had days when I felt super wiped from the pains of modern existence and normally would have turned to the allure of DoorDash.
How are the meals?
Honestly, the food is really good—and my standards are high! I was a food writer for a solid decade and can be a bit of a snob (hamachi crudo is basic bitch shit—sorry, not sorry), but I really think Sakara does a great job with its menu for what it is (it also sometimes has guest chefs design dishes for inclusion, so there are a variety of influences playing into each week’s menu).
Some of my fave Sakara dishes:
La Dolce Vita Sunchoke Pasta
This basically tastes like a particularly al dente version of good ol’ farfalle (bow tie pasta) in a garlicky Alfredo sauce (made with cashews and sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, which have a creamy, potato-y texture when pulverized), with a small smorgasbord of vegetables thrown in there for good measure. There are florets of purple cauliflower and bites of wilted kale mixed in with the pasta for a well-balanced, healthful meal that doesn’t feel restrictive in the slightest.
Served with a chili cashew “créme” and coconut "bacon," Sakara’s signature burger is, in my opinion, super satisfying. It isn’t like Impossible or Beyond, attempting to mimic the grilled, bloody bite of a real beef burger, but is mightily tasty in its own Topanga-Canyon-vibes right, with a bean and sweet potato base; definitely hippie food, but if you order Sakara, you’d better be mentally prepared to hit farmers’ markets and switch to natural deodorant. The rich, tangy créme and crispy coconut bacon are essential for achieving the right moisture level and textural synthesis, and it comes with a simple side salad so that you get your greens with this meal, too.
Moo Shu Lettuce Wraps
There is absolutely nothing authentically Chinese about this dish; to be clear, Sakara was founded by two very blonde, very Gwyneth-y white women and a lot of the more “ethnic” [cough] dishes on the menu bear no resemblance to the recipes for which they’re named. I could go into all of the cultural stuff that plays into that, but that’s really not why you or I are here. You’re here to find out whether this health food delivery service is ultimately worth the high price tag, and I’m here to tell you whether it tastes good. I’ll just say that there are some cringe aspects to the branding, and if you can get over that, the food is enjoyable in its own right, including these veggie wraps which are somehow dubbed “Moo Shu.” Really, it’s more like a chop suey of vegetables (rainbow carrots, adzuki beans, purple cabbage) served in a cassava coconut wrap (kind of like a bendy, gluten-free tortilla) and best when doused in its accompanying sweet, creamy, sesame-based sauce.
Classic Cobb Salad
I’m a freeeeaaaaak for traditional Cobb salad, which is extremely un-vegan, and so I tried to minimize my expectations for this rendition, but honestly, I dig it! In lieu of bacon, it has those crunchy, smoky coconut flakes and herb-roasted shiitakes, as well as Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, vegan feta, and a creamy ranch-esque dressing. Sakara gets its dressings very right, which is crucial to enjoying a big ol’ pile of salad. There are a lot of bad salads out there in the world, and this is decidedly a Very Good Salad™. Again, you’ll need to use your imagination a bit to compare it to the Cobb salad you’d get at a proper diner or steakhouse, but the mere suggestion that it’s a Cobb goes fairly far psychologically.
Wildcrafted Salad with Bioactive Honey Vinaigrette
This salad would be super mid (it’s a kind of weird jumble of mixed greens, cannellini beans, peaches, cucumbers, edible flowers, and almonds) BUT it comes with these really tasty (despite looking kind of like dog food) white bean cakes to go on top that you can smear with a lavender-almond “ricotta” that has a flavor somewhere between cream cheese and hummus. When it comes to healthy vegan food, you want stuff that will keep you full, and this dish delivers in that respect despite being another “salad.”
Classic Chopped Salad
This reminded me of when you get a Chipotle burrito with a small scoop of rice and a ton of lettuce, so it’s sort of a bowl/salad hybrid. It also has a crunchy blend of shredded carrots, cauliflower, beets, radishes, and cucumbers, as well as dried cranberries for a little chewy sweetness. But the reason it slaps is because of the “magic mushroom dressing,” which is tahini-based and genuinely delicious. The “magic” mushrooms are not psilocybic, but reishi, which allegedly boost the immune system.
Anti-Inflammatory Veggie Masala
If it’s anti-inflammatory, great, but after several days of salads, a classic warm, comforting veggie curry really just hits. It’s loaded with feel-good stuff if you peruse the ingredients list—turmeric, ginger, and hawthorn berry powder beyond just the veggies.
Balancing Macro Plate
Remember when macrobiotic eating was ~*~thee~*~ chic celebrity commodity diet? Very Kabbalah-bracelet-era Madonna. Anyway, it’s not bad if you like seaweed, brown rice, and brown things in general. For real, I LOVE the crunchy lotus root in this dish, and the sesame seeds and avocado-shiso dressing make it a filling but feel-good Japanese-inspired meal. Makes you feel like you woke up either on a tatami mat or in a $9 million beach house in Malibu. (I don’t have a pic of this one unfortunately.)
Summer Sun Salad
This wasn’t my fave. I’m not huge on quinoa or “zoodles” (Sakara doesn’t call them that, but they’re zucchini noodles, which make me sad), and I don’t like too much fruit in my salads (this one has orange segments and dried cherries).
Kimchi and Buckwheat Soba Bowl
This is a “me” problem, but cold soba sometimes makes me feel like I’m eating a pile of worms that were plucked from the sidewalk after a rainstorm. I also love kimchi, but this isn’t really how I want it delivered (I prefer out of a banchan dish at Korean barbecue, with chopsticks, while arguing with a group of my friends about whether or not we should order pork jowl). Also, the bok choy comes as a whole-ass head that is really hard to eat without cutting it into smaller pieces (not a huge one, but just awkward to rip apart with your teeth). This dish just made me crave a hot, greasy pile of garlic noodles. (I also forgot to take a photo of it.)
Overall, the vast majority of the dishes are wins, or are at least “pretty good’—although I want to be honest about the ones that didn’t impress me, given the price point.
What rules about Sakara
I regret to inform you, dear reader, that I genuinely feel great when I eat this way (vegan, gluten-free, and with my plate loaded with fresh, crunchy plants). I can try to rattle off all of the excuses in the world to drink dirty martinis and eat birria tacos, but my body is absolutely happier when I’m eating a ton of vegetables and fruits, whether in the form of a salad or hidden in a bowl of creamy pasta. I don’t do Sakara for weight loss, but as a little bonus, I dropped four pounds in just five days, likely from detoxing from the healthyish but very salty food I tend to gravitate toward most of the time.
Sakara sends you samples of its herbal rooibos Detox Tea and probiotics with your shipment, and encourages you to sit down and properly savor your meal ceremoniously instead of scarfing it at your computer like a joyless slave to capitalism. When I did this, I found that yes, I felt more like a denizen of society with dignity, and less like a WFH heathen. I also received a sample of the brand’s Metabolism Powder with one of my shipments, and while I can’t attest to its health benefits, it made a great chocolaty smoothie that left me feeling energized and helped with my ever-present sugar cravings.
The convenience of the meal delivery service is also a huge plus. These dishes are either ready to eat immediately or in, like, five minutes, and that’s majorly motivating since one of the biggest things holding myself (and I presume) a lot of people back from eating healthier is the intimidating timesuck of having to cook everything from scratch. It’s refreshing to open my fridge and see a wall of veggie-packed meals instead of random leftovers, string cheese, and cold cuts.
I touched on it above, but the branding can be a little cringe at times. Like, can I trust that the founders actually know anything substantial about the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms or what makes the salad dressing bioactive? Probably not. Do these lettuce wraps honor the northern Chinese origins of moo shu pork? LOL, definitely not. But if the food tastes good, the ingredients labels are clean and wholesome, and you can Google that information yourself, do you really care? That’s for you to decide.
Also, there is a LOT of plastic packaging that goes into the meal plan—numerous containers that quickly stack up in your trash or “recycling” (I put that in quotes because we now know that recycling plastic is basically a lie and a joke). For a brand that otherwise feels Earth-conscious, it’s a bit weird to have a trash can full of non-biodegradable plastic after a couple of days of eating like a hippie. I do wish they’d find paper- or glass-based alternatives to some of the packaging.
If you can afford it, Sakara makes surprisingly tasty meals that feel like you’re getting the healthy ingredients you’re paying (top dollar) for. No wonder supermodels love this shit; after three days on Sakara, I can just feel all those “toxins” “detoxifying” and my mistakes melting away, baby! I’m a turmeric-dusted angel reveling in Earth’s fertile bounty.
While eating Sakara, I felt very adult, responsible, and self-care-driven having a fridge full of “macro plates” and anti-inflammatory vegetable bowls—the opposite of how I feel when I’m hungover and impulsively attempt to quell my existential angst with a quesadilla and a Coke (although, that does work). Overall, the portions are surprisingly generous for most dishes; despite being vegan and gluten-free, they’re designed to be a real meal and don’t feel like sad diet food. I tried not to snack during the weeks I was “doing Sakara,” and I rarely felt like I needed to eat between meals, but on occasion I’d have a piece of fruit or would add half an avocado to the salads for a little extra oomph.
If you’re looking to reset for a few days, and you’ve got a couple hundred bucks burning a hole in your pocket, this one of the most laziness-proof ways to make sure you get your veggies. It’s what your mom would have wanted, or at least, WGPWD (what Gwyneth Paltrow would do).
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.