What is file powder? Gumbo recipe

Maryellen Pearson


petitbleu May 28, 2013
Yes, it's the leaves of the sassafras tree, which is easy to distinguish in the forest because it has three different leaf shapes on the same plant--one, a smooth entire ovoid shape; two, a mitten shape (2 lobes, one small one large); three, a "turkey foot" shape. You can forage the leaves yourself, dry them, and powder them. Or just buy it at the store. And it shouldn't be added to the gumbo until at the table--if you add it to the gumbo while still on the stove, file can turn the whole batch into a stringy, gummy mess. Have it at the table for sprinkling on individual portions.
PazzoNico May 26, 2013
Okra is a good (thickening) substitute if you can't find it. But the flavor will be different; there really is no flavor substitute for file powder (it's used as more of a condiment at the table; it's sort of the parmesan of the gumbo world).
WileyP May 26, 2013
Filé powder, which is ground from the leaves of the sassafras tree, is a spice used in Creole and Cajun cooking. Most often associated with gumbo, that wonderful Louisiana stew, file not only adds a very special flavor, but also acts as a thickener.

There are those who are not very fond of the flavor, and it certainly can be overdone, but a little file sprinkled on and stirred in right at the end of cooking or during the serving is indeed a great addition.
jmburns May 26, 2013
It can generally be found in the spice section in most southern grocery stores.

Voted the Best Reply!

pierino May 26, 2013
File is ground sassafras root. It's used as a thickening agent (along with okra) in gumbo.
Recommended by Food52