Filé Powder (Gumbo Powder)
Filé Powder is an herbal thickening agent made primarily from ground sassafras leaves. Filé Powder has a flavor that is reminiscent of anise and lemon, and smells like citrus with a bit of eucalyptus. It’s got bitter notes that may remind you of root beer, and that’s because sassafras roots were that soda’s principle flavoring agent. Ground sassafras is mixed with ground thyme in our Filé Powder to enhance the herbal lemon flavor to this blend. Sassafras leaves have an essential oil content of about 2% to 3% and exude a natural mucilage, the thickener that gives the powder its name.
Ground sassafras is called Filé Powder because of its popularity with 18th-century Cajuns. Cajuns migrated to the American South from the Acadia region of eastern Canada; “Cajun” is a slang abbreviation of “Acadian”. French-speaking Cajuns linguistically impacted their adopted homeland by renaming items with French words, which brings us to Filé Powder. The French verb filer means “to make into threads.” When Filé Powder is added to gumbo at the right time and in the right amount, it thickens it up. If too much is added, if the gumbo is too hot, or if it’s added too soon, Filé Powder will coagulate into sticky ropes, making the gumbo stringy and inedible.
Filé Powder should be used sparingly as it is very potent. If you add too much, cook it for too long, or cook it at too high a heat, your dish will likely turn stringy and gummy. While it is most commonly used to thicken gumbo, Filé Powder can also be used to season shrimp and grits. It’s great with stews, like crawfish etouffee, and can be a recipe rescue if you have a chowder that’s too milky. Give heft to vegetable gravy. Use as a thickener instead of roux, but be prepared for the final product to reflect the flavor of the changed ingredients.
Note: The bark of the sassafras plant contains an oil called safrole that has been outlawed for use in food in many countries because it is thought to cause liver cancer. Filé Powder, made from leaves, is not harmful to consume.
This product is a blend of ground sassafras powder and ground thyme.
Our Filé Powder is cultivated in the USA.
This product is certified kosher.