Top 5 Best Gumbo File Powder Alternatives

If you enjoy gumbo, you’ve probably used file powder. The taste of this powder is peculiar. Most people compare it to root beer, but the fact is that this single ingredient embodies the many ethnicities that make up the cuisine of Louisiana. This one ingredient unites your recipe’s Native American, African, and European influences.

It is, nevertheless, difficult to locate due to its rarity. You don’t have to abandon your ambitions to make a fantastic gumbo or another Louisiana dish since specific alternatives may add flavor without changing the recipe.

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At the very least, that’s part of the idea. Gumbo is both personal and communal. It’s both unique and familiar. At least a little mystical, but usually reasonably practical. It encapsulates the essence of society and civilization and the essence of the United States of America and, more particularly, the importance of Louisiana.

Filé powder is a classic thickening and seasoning in Louisiana gumbo, but here’s the thing: it’s not what you think it is. Some individuals find it offensive, while others cannot locate it on the racks of their local supermarkets. So, what are you doing if you want to make gumbo? Both want the same consistency of stew that filé powder would provide – except without the filé powder?

The first item we need of you is that you remain calm. Sure, filé powder is customary in some gumbos, but it isn’t in the whole of them. If you’re trying to thicken your stew, we’re pretty sure people all over the globe have been doing it in their ways for generations without access to filé powder’s magic. So, unwind. When it comes to file powder replacements, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a moment to learn about filé powder, wherever it originates from, what it can do for a gumbo. This way, we’ll be better prepared to grasp the impacts we want to add into the un-filéd gumbo.

What Is File Powder, Exactly?

This powder, also referred to as gumbo file, is prepared from the dry and pulverized leaves of the sassafras tree, a North American native. When the Cajuns came to the Louisana region, they used this powder to enhance stews, soups, and gumbos, which the Choctaw Indians had used for generations.

Since it is a particular product in certain countries, it will be challenging to locate if you are not in the United States. If that’s the case, you may wish to search online. But, if things have to hurry forward, don’t worry; there are still solutions available.

We propose that you try the following file powder substitutes:

 The okra

Gumbo is traditionally thicken with file powder, however, it may also reduced with okra in rare situations. Many claim that okra was historically utilize first, so whatever the case may be, this vegetable produces mucilage, a soluble fiber. If not cooked properly, this fiber appears slimy, yet it is the element that will thicken your gumbo.

There may not be a precise amount, you may try substituting two cups of okra for 1 tbsp of fine powder. The only difference would be that okra does not have the same taste as fine powder, but it has a similar texture.


A roux is a frequent ingredient in Cajun cooking, and it may also found in gumbos. A roux is a thickening agent prepared from flour and fat, in this example, wheat flour and butter. The coloring of the roux is determined by how long it is fry. Tthe taste of your food is also affected.

A roux may thicken a meal, but it can also use in conjunction with other components, such as okra. You’ve probably cooked a roux before, especially if you like sauces like Bechamel or Veloute.


You can thicken your gumbo using cornstarch in a pinch without affecting the taste. If you can’t locate any okra or don’t want to go to cooking a roux, cornstarch is a good substitute.

To incorporate it into your dish, whisk together the cornstarch and water, then add it at the finish of the cooking time. Because cornstarch might dilute the flavor, start with a bit of amount and evaluate as you go.


Although it might seem strange, eggplant works well as a file powder alternative. Eggplant use in a range of flavors, from Italian and French to Middle Eastern, which may employ in this scenario.

Slice the eggplant into medium-sized slices, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with oil before roasting for flavor.

Once eggplant is done, you can either ground it or puree it together. It may be added to a stew or gumbo and cooked for the last few minutes.

Powdered Arrowroot

Although not an original option, arrowroot powder is an acceptable substitute since it has a neutral taste.

When arrowroot powder add, it may preserve its clear look, but the thickness may be altered. Before using this powder, try freezing it to have a more significant thickening effect and general taste.

For every cup of stew or gumbo you prepare, combine one tablespoon of arrowroot flour with one tablespoon of water. Arrowroot has recently acquired favor as a healthy thickener that does not add calories but creates a creamy mouthfeel.

Helpful Hints on Using File Powder

It might be intimidating to use file powder for the first time since it has such a strong perfume and smell, but there are a few things you can do to help the procedure go more smoothly. First, keep in mind that file powder is quite powerful, so start with a bit of quantity and add more as required, but don’t go above what you want or need.

Just before serving, add the file powder to your gumbo or stew. If you add it too soon, the texture may become slimy and stringy, so wait until the very last minute to add it. If you’re preparing ahead, you may want to wait until you reheat and serve.

It’s also worth noting that safrole, which is now recognized as a carcinogen, is found in the sassafras root bark. While commercialized file powder does not include this chemical, it is always a good idea to double-check before purchasing.


Is it against the law to use file powder?

The FDA has declared safrole to be a carcinogen and harmful substance, and items containing it are no longer available on the market. Commercial file powder, on the other hand, does not include this, hence it should not be considered unlawful. It’s usually a good idea to double-check your local laws, since they may differ.

What is the flavor of file powder?

File powder has a strong eucalyptus and sugar fragrance, yet it feels like root beer. It has a comparable scent and taste like thyme when put into a sauce.

What provides gumbo its distinct taste?

What you put in it determines the taste. A roux and file powder, or a roux and okra, are standard components in gumbos. The fat also provides flavor since most people utilize animal fats such as lard and butter to enhance the flavor.

What Else Can You Do?

If you reside in the southwest and therefore feel daring, nopal leaves may be used in filé powder. The Nopal cactus is a kind of cactus that is often used in Mexican cuisine. Its leaves have such a mucus-like consistency and a fresh and acidic taste, akin to okra.

Add that to your gumbo as a thickening at the finish of cooking once peeled and diced. Collecting nopal leaves, eliminating spines, and stripping them is an expedition in and of itself! You may purchase canned and bottled varieties of nopal if you’re not feeling brave but want to test this ingredient.

Your Best Friend

You have a hidden weapon if the filé powder substitute leaves you wanting that signature gumbo taste. Root beer, of course! And besides, sassafras is the root beer’s original ingredient.

Sassafras is no longer used in commercial root beer. While root beer isn’t beneficial as a thickener, you may try substituting it for a few water or other liquids in the dish.


Because finding file powder might be difficult, particularly if you’re not in Louisiana, rather than crossing gumbo off, why wouldn’t you try these alternatives? Taste everything first, and keep in mind that certain things are best added to the finish of the cooking period.

Cooking professionals propose the top 5 filé powder substitutes mentioned above when looking for the best filé powder substitution. These should be your go-to substitutes when you can’t use the actual thing. They also offer the added advantages of being gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan-friendly.

Don’t worry if you can’t locate any of the suggested alternatives mentioned below. Potatoes and rice, for example, are high in starch and make a terrific ingredient to any soup or stew. If you still want that authentic sassafras taste, consider mixing the cornstarch with root beer instead of water, or lowering the roux as you cook.

You’ll get to experience the nostalgic and delicious sassafras flavor, as well as all of the other advantages of these top 5 filé powder replacements.