In this Tovala review, you’ll learn how it’s unlike any meal delivery service I’ve encountered. It doesn’t just offer meals. It also has a microwave-sized smart oven. The oven is designed to take the guesswork out of cooking – all you need to do is scan a QR code to calibrate it to the correct settings.
You’re probably wondering if the foolproof meal prep justifies the extra cost and counter space. For one, the oven itself is priced at $249 (without discounts). I’d like to go over all the details with you, so you have a clear understanding of what exactly you can expect here.
Whether Tovala is worth the price depends on your particular needs. It’s great if you want fresh, prepared meals that can be on the table in less than 20 minutes. However, the cost of that smart oven seems to be a bit of a hurdle, at least in my eyes. But at least it has more functionality than simply heating Tovala’s own meals.
|Smart oven can be used for other meals||It’s an expensive service|
|Food is ready in 30 minutes or less||You have to buy the smart oven|
|The smart oven cooks multiple components||Filters tend to disappear|
|Current deal – Get a $49 tovala smart oven|
You’ll find 30+ meals to choose from each week at Tovala. This includes a good mix of chicken, pork, beef, and fish dishes. Most are single-serving recipes, though a few will serve 2.
Your subscription requires you to order a minimum of 4 meals per week, with a maximum of 16. There’s no discount for larger orders.
Is Tovala Good For This Diet?
Yes, there are lots of weekly options
Yes, you can get several options
Yes, you can usually get several veggie meals
Yes, there are usually many options each week
No, sadly there aren’t any keto meals
No, unfortunately, you can’t get paleo meals
No, this service is not suitable for vegans
The kind of cuisines on offer are mostly classic American or Tex-Mex style dishes. Think Buffalo Chicken Flatbreads, or Chicken and Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls, as well as some Italian and Asian-inspired recipes.
Just over half the menu is labeled as Calorie Smart, at least a few of the dishes will be vegetarian, and a few are tagged as Carb-Conscious. Some of them will also overlap. And while there’s some variation, you typically won’t have options if you’re a vegan. But if you’re after gluten-friendly recipes, you’ll usually find several of them on the menu every week.
It’s also important to note that the kitchens aren’t gluten-free by any means. I’d definitely be wary of this if you have a serious allergy. All info regarding ingredients, allergens, and nutritional value is available when you click through to each dish on the menu.
The heat-and-eat meal delivery service doesn't offer add-ons. Thus, you won't find any appetizers, snacks, or desserts on its menu. If you can't live without snacks and delicacies, like myself, I think that you'd find Factor a much better choice.
Some of the meals are customizable, and these are clearly labeled with a Customize tag. This usually means you can change the side dish, like replacing mashed potatoes with roasted green beans. Other times, it means you can add an optional dessert like the Sticky Toffee Cake.
You'll notice arrows with customizable recipes. Use them to research different versions of a meal that interests you. A meal I was checking out was Sesame-Crusted Salmon. And with a tap on those arrows, I stumbled upon variations like Sesame-Crusted Shrimp and Sesame-Crusted Chicken Breasts.
I found some dishes a bit basic, though they are nutritionally balanced. There’s a decent variety, and each dish includes proteins and veggies. However, I wish some meals were more interesting without having to pay an upcharge for add-ons.
You can also use various filters to narrow down your options. And they are Calorie Smart, Carb Conscious, Vegetarian, Spicy, Gluten Friendly, and Customizable. Plus, the oven itself offers a variety of ways to cook meals that are healthier than frying or sauteing. Ultimately, it’s up to you to look at the nutritional information on each dish and decide what works for you.
You may notice missing filters while browsing the menu for the upcoming weeks. The service shares its weekly menus 3 weeks ahead. But, by the time you hit that third week, some personalization options may disappear. For instance, I didn't see the Carb Conscious filter last time. But I guess Tovala needed more time to whip those dishes up.
The service doesn't accommodate ingredient replacement requests. So, carefully check if the meal contains foods you're intolerant to. If yes, all you can do is skip the meal.
Overall, there really aren’t many options in terms of customization. If you’re looking for more flexibility to customize your meals, I recommend checking out HelloFresh instead. Also, it advertises upcoming meals 6 weeks in advance. And its plans and personalization options stay put.
As our reviewer discovered, HelloFresh’s meals are far more customizable than Tovala’s. Read more about HelloFresh’s customizability feature in our full review.
You’ll get your Tovala oven before your meals – within 3 to 5 days of signing up. As well as the oven itself, you’ll also get these items:
Metal baking tray
Measuring cup (for use with steamer function)
Your first shipment of meals will arrive a week or so after the oven, giving you time to set it up and familiarize yourself with it. Don’t forget, you can also use it to cook more than just Tovala’s own meal kits.
The meals arrive fresh and individually packed in trays that are kept cool in transit with ice packs. Nothing should arrive frozen – and the food isn’t intended to be frozen at home. Instead, you should store everything in the fridge, where it’ll keep for around 3 to 7 days.
The packaging is pretty clear and contains all the information you’ll need to store and cook everything – from the best-before date to the QR code that you need to scan to get cooking.
I was delighted to discover that everything was recyclable, too. The cardboard box is curbside recyclable, but most of the rest of the packaging is recyclable as well.
Tovala meals couldn’t be easier to prepare. The ingredients arrive prepped but raw – and the oven is designed to cook them to perfection. This means you only have to do the bare minimum, such as add a splash of oil or toss the ingredients in a prepared marinade.
Simply assemble the components in the included aluminum trays. Most dishes call for 2 trays: one for the protein and another for the side dish. You can also cook multiple components at once, making this smart oven much more than just an overpriced microwave.
You only have to scan the QR code, and Tovala’s oven does the rest. It uses Wi-Fi to access the chef-created cooking cycle for your dish and includes several different cooking methods, like baking, broiling, toasting, steaming, and more.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prepare Tovala’s meals without the smart oven. In fact, if you want to try Tovala’s meals, you have to commit to purchasing the oven, too.
The meals usually take around 20 minutes to cook, depending on the dish. For the process to work, you’ll need to install the Tovala app on your phone and connect the oven to your Wi-Fi network. Then, you’ll get a notification when the meal is ready.
You can also use the app to create cook cycles or make meals from the app’s library. You can scan to cook more than 850 brand-name grocery products, too, including Eggo® Waffles and Pop-Tarts®.
If you love tech, you’ll probably enjoy the app. But using the oven relies on you having a stable internet connection. For a lot of people, it’s much more convenient to order from a standard meal delivery service like Home Chef and use your usual oven.
Even with all that in mind, there’s still plenty to love on the Tovala menu. In particular, I love the sound of the BBQ Bacon Cheddar Chicken Sandwich, and the Cheesy Braised Pork & Veggie Quesadilla. These are all from the regular menu, though.
If you filter the menu by the Calorie Smart tag, for instance, there’s still lots of choice. The Lemongrass Braised Beef & Carrot Stew and the Gnocchi Bolognese are great examples of meals that look and taste hearty, despite being low in calories.
I can recommend a couple of veggie dishes, too. I like the Sweet Corn, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta or the Roasted Veggie Burrito Bowl. While there’s not enough choice for full-time veggies, the menu has some great options for people who just want to eat tasty meat-free meals a couple of times a week.
|$9.99 per portion||4 meals per week for 1 person||$9.99 (or free on orders of 6 meals or more)|
|$249 for Smart Oven||1 oven 1 person||$9.99 or free with introductory discount|
$299 for Smart Oven Pro
1 oven 1 person
The $249 oven (plus $9.99 shipping) is easily the biggest expense when signing up for Tovala. With the number of competitors out there these days that don’t require you to make such an investment, I really don’t see the point of it.
With that in mind, Tovala meals are individually priced, so you may pay as little as $9.99 per serving for something like Penne Alla Vodka. Premium dishes, on the other hand, like the Filet Mignon, are upwards of $22.98 per serving. Shipping is free as long as you order at least 6 servings, otherwise it’s $9.99.
However, the company frequently offers discounts that let you get the oven at a far lower price. When you commit to buying a certain number of meals over the course of a set number of weeks, you can sometimes get it for much less too. I always check for these deals. The latest active one I found is: Get a $49 tovala smart oven.
This all puts Tovala at the pricier end of the meal delivery service scale, and there are other options out there that offer similar-style, easy-prep meals for a lower cost. My recommendation is Fresh and Easy, where prices start at $7.99 per serving – with no required equipment purchase, as discussed in our official Fresh and Easy review.
You can pay for the service’s dishes and the oven with a credit card.
Tovala accepts returns for its meals and ovens. Return unused food in its original packaging up to 14 days post-delivery. You can send back the smart oven within 100 days from purchase. But note that it has to be fully operational and in its original packaging. Initiate the return of both meals and an oven by contacting the service's customer support.
Tovala ships to all 48 contiguous states. You check your zip code at the start of registration just to be sure.
You can use the app to make changes to your order, but any changes have to be finalized by 6 pm CT on Wednesday the week before your shipment. You also need to choose your meals by this time, otherwise, Tovala will pick them for you (unless you pause your subscription).
The service delivers Monday through Friday, and you will likely be able to select your delivery day from a few choices. Note that your options may be limited depending on your zip code and your proximity to Tovala’s Chicago headquarters.
It’s easy to sign up for Tovala. But managing your subscription can be more complicated, depending on your commitment status.
Click on Get Started. Enter your zip code and email address to begin the process.
Enter your zip code and email address.
Add the smart oven to your order.
Choose your favorite number of meals. Once you choose the number of meals, select your preferred delivery date.
Enter the rest of your information. Once entered, continue to the checkout and order your first meals.
Tovala makes it easy to change the size of your order, skip a week, or cancel your subscription. These tasks can all be performed directly in the app.
But here’s the catch: you need to commit to 6 weeks of meals for a discounted oven. You’ll have to pay full price for the oven if you don’t want to be forced to make new orders. Make sure you understand the policy if you want to try this service.
Thankfully, canceling is easy aside from the 6 weeks requirement. You can cancel your Tovala plan in just a few clicks on the website or in the app. Returning the Tovala smart oven, however, is more complicated. And, to be able to cancel, you’ll need to buy out of this commitment by paying full price for the oven.
If you change your mind, you can only return the oven during the initial 100-day trial period. You’ll also have to contact customer service directly via email to start the return process. You can read more about canceling your Tovala subscription in this short blog post. It includes step-by-step instructions on how to cancel, as well as some useful alternatives.
Most other meal delivery services I’ve reviewed are much more flexible. You can skip, pause, or cancel at any time without having to commit to a certain number of meals or weeks.
When dealing with Tovala, I found it a little difficult to get some questions answered. The chief issue is that it’s not easy to get in touch with a real person. There’s a phone number and a chat feature, but both have limited hours of support.
Tovala also offers email support as well as a customer service request form that includes the option of a video or audio recording – not something I’d seen before. This method allows you to clearly outline your question and even show the Tovala team the issue (or issues) you’re having.
This makes it easier for Tovala’s customer support experts to understand your query and aid you in the best way possible. But again – I found it to be super unusual, and kind of annoying, quite frankly. The top meal delivery services offer customer service via chat. For instance, HelloFresh’s live chat team generally connects with you in less than a minute.
I also tried out the customer support email address and received a response within 48 hours. Although the chatbot and phone options may be quicker, the lack of specific information on when live service agents are available makes me reluctant to suggest that route.
I suggest emailing or sending a video for the most reliable assistance if you need to get in touch with Tovala regarding a specific problem – particularly if it pertains to your oven. The FAQ page is also a useful resource for some DIY tech support, meal info, and more.
Tovala could be an okay option if you’re specifically in the market for a smart oven. But with the number of competitors out there offering equal – and often, better – quality meals without the added expense, I personally don’t believe it’s worth it for most people.
While it has some features that can make your life easier, the oven can’t replace your microwave. For example, you can’t boil water or make popcorn in the Tovala oven.
This service is best for busy individuals who want meals with minimum effort since the dishes are all single-serving. I’d say that it’s not ideal if you’re cooking for a large family. Tovala is also not suitable for all budgets.
It really depends on a few specific factors. For instance, Tovala’s meals are good quality but they’re also expensive. On top of the initial cost of the oven ($249 without discounts), I found Tovala’s meals to be at the pricier end of the scale, starting at $9.99 per serving.
You’ll also find that many of the more substantial meals are more expensive than that – typically around $12.99 per serving.
To get Tovala’s meals, you’ll have to sign up for a subscription and purchase its own smart oven. However, you can pause or cancel your subscription at any time, as long as you haven’t purchased the oven at a discounted rate.
If you took advantage of the oven offer, you’ll have to commit to a set number of meals and weeks before you can cancel.
Yes, the oven can be used to cook non-Tovala food. It also works for baking, broiling, steaming, toasting, and more. However, only Tovala’s meal kits offer the convenience of pre-programmed cooking cycles. Tovala’s oven also comes with recipe cards to guide you when it comes to cooking other foods.