Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

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File’ Spice Powder or Gumbo File’

May 15th, 2008 · 3 Comments

File' PowderFile’ (pronounced fee-lay) spice powder is a unique ingredient used primarily for making a good gumbo, and it is a necessity for cooking authentic Cajun cuisine. Quite simply, file’ is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, it has a faint smell like eucalyptus. Long before the use of file’ powder for Creole and Cajun cooking, Choctaw Indians of the Gulf coast pounded sassafras leaves into a powder and added them to soups and stews. In addition to contributing an unusual flavor, the powder also acts as a thickener when added to liquid.

Typically I will add the file’ powder toward the end of making a gumbo, but before I put it into the hot gumbo I will mix the fine file’ powder with a small amount of cool water until it is dissolved creating a thick slurry. I then fold in the file’ slurry into the hot gumbo. This prevents the file’ powder from clumping and keeps it smooth in the gumbo. File’ does really help thicken up a gumbo and it adds a unique flavor profile too.

Here is a link to an interesting article on General Horticulture.com about how to make your own file’ powder. It has some good background on the sassafras plant.

Tags: Ingredients · Spices

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 South of the BorderNo Gravatar // May 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Wondered what filé was, now I know.

    When I was a very young kid, the song ‘Jambalaya” was popular on the radio. Talk about confused. As a northern boy I had no idea what most of the words to the song meant. Filé, gumbo, crawfish, not to mention poling a pireau down a what? A bayou.

  • 2 Ryan BoudreauxNo Gravatar // Jun 1, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Hey Ed, yes the ole tune “Jambalaya” is still a favorite among Cajun dance bands and can still be heard almost every weekend in Louisiana.
    “…jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo, me got to go me oh my oh…”

  • 3 QueLindaNo Gravatar // May 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Hi, how can I get fresh File’? I know there are farms in LA that sells it but I am in UT who can I talk to get the freshest File’ without having to travel there? Thanks QueLinda