Hungryroot, which launched on April 1, is the first company to deliver healthy, ready-to-cook packaged meals based on “noodles” made from zucchini, carrots, turnips, and more.
The idea is based on a simple healthy switch. “You feel like you’re eating a big bowl of pasta, but it’s actually a big bowl of vegetables,” says co-founder Ben McKean, who previously founded deal-scouring restaurant app Savored, which was acquired by Groupon.
McKean’s partners include co-founder Greg Struck and partner Franklin Becker, a renowned chef who has slowly transformed his personal brand from Top Chef Masters star to New York City’s top purveyor of good-for-you, gluten-free food with The Little Beet, The Little Beet Table, and his book Good Fat Cooking.
Becker’s food was actually McKean’s inspiration for Hungryroot; he wanted to bring the mouth-watering approach to cooking vegetables into people’s kitchens in a new, easy way.
“I had always seen vegetables as the broccoli florets on the side of your plate that you eat because you’re supposed to,” he says. “Now, they’re becoming the focus of the meal. They’re craveable.”
To harness that crave factor, the team wanted Hungryroot’s meals to feel as much like comfort food as possible, hence the emphasis on “pasta.”
Becker created a menu of six dishes using a different root vegetable as the base in each—like Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo and Zucchini Noodles with Sweet Basil Gremolata.
And the nutrition profile is pretty impressive. Each dish is under 500 calories and includes more than 30 grams of protein, plus lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals (from all of those veggies, obviously). The vegetables used to make the noodles are all organic (although the sauces and meats are not) and everything is gluten-free.
Hungryroot packages the meals in a plastic container that has the raw veggie noodles on one side and the additional ingredients—usually a sauce, protein, and garnish—on the other, in smaller containers. When you’re ready to cook, you dump the noodles in a saute pan with olive oil and then add the other pre-cooked ingredients a few minutes later. In seven minutes, you have dinner (or lunch, or a snack…).
I tried a few of the dishes, and they varied in terms of flavor. The Carrot Noodles with Tangy Sriracha Peanut were spicy, creamy, and satisfying; the Toasted Walnut Pesto on the Turnip Noodles was bright and fresh. But the Rutabaga Noodles with Roasted Mushroom Pistou came with a funny aftertaste my fiance and I couldn’t handle. The mix-in ingredients, like pre-cooked chicken or mushrooms, also came in tiny portions, so if you have a big appetite and this is your game plan for dinner, you may need to supplement.
For now, Hungryroot delivers everywhere east of the Mississippi, and their packaging keeps meals fresh for up to two weeks before you cook them. McKean says noodles are just the beginning of what they plan do with vegetables in order to get people to move produce to center of their plates. “Vegetables don’t have to be this perfectly sliced sideshow,” he says. “They can be exciting and messy.” —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit www.hungryroot.com