Huel Black Edition review TL;DR: a complete meal shake with increased protein and reduced carbs content for people who don't mind the 'earthy' aftertaste of meal replacement powders.
Huel is the household name in the meal replacement industry. Its plant-based complete food options dominated the market for a long time, the same way Fitbit is synonymous with fitness trackers. Both companies managed to survive the deluge of competition that materialised out of thin air in recent years, mainly because they established themselves as 'the' brand in their respective fields.
The subject of this review, the Huel Black Edition, is a variation on the theme: this is a little different to what you usually find in our best protein powder top 10, but it's also different to standard Huel. Mainly because it contains 50% fewer carbs and 33% more protein.
Is Huel Black Edition better than standard Huel or other complete food options? It's definitely different and might work better for certain people, like those who prefer not to spike their blood sugar levels with high-carb meals and those who need to include more protein and calories in their diet and can't stomach another portion of chicken, rice and broccoli.
We think the Huel black Edition is such an excellent supplement we awarded it the top spot in the 'Best Protein Powder or Snack' category at the T3 Awards 2021.
Huel Black Edition review – Price and availability
The Huel Black Edition can be bought directly from Huel US or Huel UK; prices start from $75/£55 when you subscribe. Bags can be bought separately (without having to subscribe), the price is slightly higher in that case ($83.34/£55.56).
Available flavours: Salted Caramel, Banana, Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee Caramel and Unflavoured. In the US, you can also get Peanut Butter flavoured Huel Black Edition. Regarding the 'unflavoured' version, it's actually far from being 'tasteless'. Even Huel says that "Unflavored & Unsweetened Huel Powder isn’t for everyone. The taste is very earthy, and most people prefer the taste of our flavoured versions. Vanilla is the best choice if you would like a neutral flavour to add your own flavours, too."
What is the Huel Black Edition?
Huel states that the Huel Black Edition is "a nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food with minimal impact on animals and the environment." It's essentially what used to be called meal replacement powder, but ever since such powders became widely available and accepted, they have been rebranded as complete food powders.
Fair play: most nutritionally complete shakes have a better micro-, and macronutrient profile than fast food and no one ever questioned why those haven't been renamed to 'harmful food items'. You can use the Huel Black Edition to 'replace' a meal – have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner – but even if you do, it will be a 'meal' and not 'replacement' for one.
Huel Black Edition review – Ingredients
The Huel Black Edition is 100% plant-based and therefore sources all its protein from plants such as pea, flaxseed (sometimes also called linseed) and brown rice. The blend also contains tapioca flour (gluten-free), sunflower oil powder (yummy), organic coconut sugar (sugar content is still very low) and a 'micronutrient blend' which contains a smorgasbord of added vitamins and minerals (detailed in the next section). You also find MCT powder (sourced from coconut), green tea extract powder and kombucha powder in the mix.
The sweetener used in the Huel Black Edition is steviol glycosides, which is essentially stevia, "a chemical compound responsible for the sweet taste of the leaves of the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana" (from Wikipedia).
Huel Black Edition review – Micro- and macronutrient profile
Different flavour options of the Huel Black Edition contain slightly different amounts of the below ingredients, but they are generally in the same ballpark. One 90-gram serving of the Huel Black Edition is 400 calories and contains 40 grams of protein, 18 grams of carbs, 17 grams of fat (14.4 grams of the good mono- and polyunsaturated variety) and roughly 6 grams of fibre.
In the blend, you'll also find all the 26 essential vitamins and minerals in varying quantities. Some vitamins are in abundance in the mix, such as vitamin D2 (400% RI), vitamin C (375% RI) and folate (200% RI), meaning that at least some of it will leave the body without being used, but that's inevitable when using natural ingredients. There is no way you can come up with a concoction of natural ingredients that contain bang-on 100% of your recommended daily intake of all essential vitamins and minerals. At least right now, maybe machine learning will help this too in the future.
It's also worth mentioning that this blend doesn't take into account your genetic profile, so if you are deficient in metabolising and utilising certain micronutrients, even by taking larger quantities, you might not cover your body's actual needs. We recommend using the NGX DNA test and Bodyfuel for that purpose.
As well as vitamins, you'll also get a generous serving of minerals with the Huel Black Edition, including magnesium (117% RI), phosphorus (257% RI) and iron (321% RI), among other things. There are also Omega 3 and Omega 6 found in the Huel Black Edition, as well as a probiotic bacteria called bacillus coagulans.
Huel Black Edition review – Taste and flavours
Nutritionally complete shakes such as the Huel Black Edition have a distinct taste. Some, like the bulk 1 Complete Food Shake, manage to not taste too earthy, but that is not the case here. Even the flavoured version of the Huel Black Edition has an unmistakable earthy aftertaste, not to mention the thick texture of the mix.
Don't get me wrong: you don't want to have a plant-based shake that doesn't mix well/gets thick when shaken. I had the chance to try shakes that mixed poorly before, and they are just the worse. Luckily, the Huel Black Edition mixes well, and the shake is anything but thin. It might be a bit too thick if anything, but in a good way: having a portion actually fills you up and makes you less hungry. If you find it too thick, add some more water (you might need a huge shaker for this process, though).
Huel Black Edition review – How to use
Just add water! Half a litre (500 ml/17 fl oz) should do the trick but as I mentioned above, if you find the shake too thick you might want to add some more water. don't mix the Huel Black Edition with milk or milk substitute, that's just result n a thick sludge, not a shake. You can add some milk/milk substitute as well as water to the mix, that might not be too terrible.
Given the high protein/moderate carb content of the Huel Black Edition, it's a great post-workout meal option but if I would also recommend substituting standard protein powder with the Huel Black edition for 'hard gainers' too. An easy way to add 400 calories to your diet.
Huel Black Edition review – Verdict
The Huel Black Edition has an amazing micro- and macronutrient profile which puts it among the best nutritionally complete shakes available to buy today. The higher protein and reduced carb content mean that technically, the Huel Black Edition can be included in a keto diet, but definitely in a low-carb diet.
As for taste, the Huel black Edition is certainly more palatable than how meal replacement shakes used to taste, but it's a far cry from being scrumptious. It's manageable, though, especially if you are not completely unaccustomed to the taste of these types of shakes.
Best of all, even without having to subscribe, the price of the Huel Black Edition is very friendly: a 400-calorie portion will only set you back $2.45/£1.63, and considering the nutritional value in each shake, it's an absolute bargain.
Huel Black Edition review – Also consider
The Bulk 1 Complete Food Shake is one of the tastiest 'meal replacement' options on the market today. It has a range of vitamins and minerals and a balanced nutritional profile, as well as being convenient enough to whisk up on the go. Perfect to curb cravings when hunger strikes.
Jimmy Joy's Plenny Shake v3.0 (retailer link) is the third iteration of the company's complete meal shake. Each bag contains 10 400-calorie portions, each portion containing 20 grams of protein, a whopping 43 grams of carbs and 15 grams of fat (only 2.3 grams saturated). The Plenny Shake comes in some exotic flavours such as Mango, Chai Latte and Coffee.