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Gumbo Help

Stew Aug 25, 2006 10:50 PM

Making Gumbo and don't have file powder.
Can anyone think of a worthy substitute?

  1. p
    pamd Aug 25, 2006 11:07 PM

    I don't think there really is a good substitute- it's made from sassafras. If you can't find any, you can always order online, but should be able to find in a store.

    1. frankiii Aug 25, 2006 11:12 PM

      some people may jump all over me for this but i have had and made plenty of gumbo without file and this is in southern louisiana

      1 Reply
      1. re: frankiii
        TexasToast Aug 25, 2006 11:15 PM

        Thank you, I was gonna say that! Last time I had gumbo in New Orleans (with file) I didn't like it. Leave it out. You'll be able to taste more . . . gumbo?


      2. rumgum Aug 25, 2006 11:46 PM

        I like okra in my gumbo. So I just leave out the file. Anyone use both okra and file at the same time? I was informed to use either or.

        4 Replies
        1. re: rumgum
          TexasToast Aug 25, 2006 11:51 PM

          Okra, no file is how I make it, but that's just because I don't like file. I didn't know about the "rule" rumgum.


          1. re: TexasToast
            rumgum Aug 26, 2006 12:00 AM

            I guess both okra and file can be used to thicken gumbo. So, theoritically you wouldn't need both at the same time. I'm not from the south, nor was anyone else who ate my gumbo. All raved but no one would have known otherwise about the file. I grew up eating okra in other dishes, so that's what I used. Didn't bother trying to find file.

          2. re: rumgum
            Kelli2006 Dec 17, 2011 03:27 PM

            Ive always heard that you use either okra or file' but never both. I don't like okra so I use file'.

            1. re: rumgum
              GH1618 Dec 17, 2011 03:57 PM

              Antoine's recipe for Creole Gumbo calls for okra and file. They describe their version as the "classic creole seafood gumbo" but say that there are many forms.

            2. Candy Aug 26, 2006 12:05 AM

              I have file on my shelf but when I can get good fresh okra I use it instead. The flie powder should be added just before serving for thickening. It loses power if you add it too early.

              Yeah, yeah, yeah! Some people would argue there is no such thing as "good fresh okra." They are misinformed.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Candy
                TexasToast Aug 26, 2006 12:06 AM

                Oh no, I'm sure there is Candy . . . in Kenya!


                1. re: TexasToast
                  Candy Aug 26, 2006 01:10 AM

                  Oh, I can get it in Bloomington, IN with no problem. Some people just have a preconceive attitude about the pod.

              2. Davwud Aug 26, 2006 01:09 AM

                I've made plenty of Gumbo and never use file. I don't like it. I either thicken with okra or with a roux. I get raves all the time.


                1. pitu Aug 26, 2006 01:18 AM

                  this must be okra season -- we're getting good fresh okra (at food coops and farmer market especially) in NYC right now

                  1. PBSF Aug 26, 2006 03:10 AM

                    Many gumbos are made without file powder. In fact, the great Paul Prudhomme makes many of his gumbos with neither file powder nor okra.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PBSF
                      JoanN Aug 26, 2006 07:10 PM

                      Indeed! Been making his seafood and andouille gumbo for years. No file, no okra. Outstanding gumbo.

                    2. j
                      jackackattack Aug 26, 2006 04:21 PM

                      Never heard of this file powder stuff but for the record I use okra too. And I have to ask why would anyone want to use a powder ingredient when you can add a veg instead??

                      1. frankiii Aug 26, 2006 06:14 PM

                        file (pronounced FEE-lay as in Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and file' gumbo
                        'Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio) is ground sassafras and a very traditional finish for gumbo. It's origins are in Native America cuisine, or so i have been told. I dont really like it all that much though and tend to side with the okra crowd. I think i have had the same jar of Zataran's brand sassafras for two years. Not really sure what else to use it in.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: frankiii
                          Hungry Celeste Sep 11, 2006 01:47 PM

                          Try adding a pinch or two of it to brown gravies at the very end. It will thicken, a little, and add a nice flavor.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste
                            Becca Porter Sep 11, 2006 03:36 PM

                            I love that idea HC. I love the taste of file`, but I never can think of another use. I'll try it.

                        2. h
                          howboy Sep 11, 2006 03:25 PM

                          I use both okra and file.
                          I add okra at two different times in the cooking, because I like to have two different textures of okra.
                          I add the file toward the end.
                          Gumbo, yum.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: howboy
                            Hungry Celeste Sep 13, 2006 01:50 PM

                            Okra AND file in a gumbo is like wearing a belt AND suspenders! But if you enjoy it, that's what matters.

                          2. e
                            elfinatree Jun 18, 2011 05:15 PM

                            made gumbo last night in a fit of late night creativity. It was already plenty thick because I begin with a roux, but when it was time to serve both my daughter and I agreed it was just missing that certain something that makes it gumbo and not just another stew. re-reading my recipe I realized it was the file, which I have never stocked in my pantry. One does not find file powder at a convenience store at midnight. Barq's Root Beer can be found almost everywhere, though. It took less than a quarter cup for about a gallon & 1/2 pot of sausage & chicken gumbo. I wouldn't make it my first choice, obviously file is preferable, but it saved the gumbo. Late afternoon today... vthe pot is nearly gone. The kids have declared it the best gumbo ever. (They have it fairly frequently at their bio-Mom's house, I usually make goulash when planning a filling "comfort food" meal)

                            1. g
                              Gtravis3 Oct 3, 2011 09:45 AM

                              We add the file in the bowl as desired. I never cook with it. I also add okra at the very last… just get it tender.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Gtravis3
                                MCGINNIS360 Dec 17, 2011 02:01 PM

                                Try using Annis instead of File. It might taste a little better, and give it a "zing" in your taste buds.

                                1. re: Gtravis3
                                  PeteSeattle Dec 17, 2011 02:18 PM

                                  Used to make my own file from hand-picked sassafras. Problem is that sassafras grows on the side of the road, and you need to get away from roads so your file doesn't taste like motor oil.
                                  When I've used my own file, it's not used as a spice, like a dusting of cayenne pepper, but as an ingredient in its own right, like Hungarians use paprika. (By the tablespoonful)
                                  For the stuff in bottles, it's too expensive to do that!
                                  Okra is good to use in gumbo, but frozen okra is seriously inferior to fresh okra.

                                  If you live outside of the area where sassafras grows, you might subsitute dried Egyptian Milookhiya. It's also a dried leaf used as a primary ingredient and not as a spice.

                                2. Perilagu Khan Dec 17, 2011 02:27 PM

                                  Can't stand okra. File is my gumbo thickener. Love the stuff.

                                  1. s
                                    sisterfunkhaus Dec 17, 2011 03:42 PM

                                    IMHO, you can leave it out and just use okra. I like it both ways, but prefer okra. Gumbo does not have to have file.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                      PeteSeattle Dec 18, 2011 01:29 PM

                                      For the United States, the Creole cuisine is designed by people who basically have very little to eat. When on the 80's TV sitcom "Designing Women" Cajun cuisine was described as "A biology lab spread out on a buffet table" it means that the foods offered in general take more work to consume than bigger, fatter foods. Okra and file instead of pumpkin and potatoes. (I'm a little foggy on Yankee cuisine) Shrimp and catfish and crawdads instead of cows and buffalo.
                                      Rice instead of wheat. (It grows in the warm wet better)
                                      Some things they got from the French, like love of frogs' legs. Some are from the Africans, like Okra. And some from the Indians, like file.
                                      But basically, it's what you can get that you eat.
                                      Or as Boudreaux and Thibodeaux said when they were running a trotline at night and saw a spaceship filled up with little green beings land on the levee: "What's dat?" "I doan know, but go get some rice!"
                                      There's one gumbo that should be scary: Gumbo z'herbes. When you've got nothing but rice and green stuff, and nothing else to serve. In Ethiopia in the 80's you'll remember massive starvation, where people could only get gumbo z'herbes and didn't even have rice or another starchy vegetable to serve with it. Hundreds of thousands starved, remember?
                                      So I'd say, if you got filé, and you like it in your gumbo, use it. If you've got nice okra and you like that in your gumbo, use it, and if you like both, who cares if someone who eats with a silver fork on a plate of gold cares whether it's authentic or not? Be glad you've got both and enjoy your food.
                                      If it'll make you slap your momma, that's important. (This is from the French phrase, "Celà est pour Maman" and to an English speaker SOUNDS like "Slap yo'Momma" but means that you could serve it to your mother and she would approve.
                                      Otherwise, don't worry about what others who aren't eating your food think!

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