Filé powder

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"Filé" redirects here. It is not to be confused with File. For the band, see Filé (band).

Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum),[1] native to eastern North America. Choctaw Indians of the American South (Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana) were the first to use dried, ground sassafras leaves as a seasoning, what is now called filé, or gumbo filé, used in Creole cooking. It is used in the making of some types of gumbo,[1] a Creole soup/stew often served over rice; other versions of gumbo use okra or a roux as a thickener instead. Sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a seasoning and a thickening agent, it adds a distinctive, earthy flavor and texture.[2] Filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season.[3] Filé translates to "string". [2] "Filé gumbo" is famously mentioned in the classic country song by Hank Williams Sr., Jambalaya (On The Bayou), as it is considered a staple of Creole cuisine.

Unlike sassafras roots and bark, the tree's leaves, from which filé is produced, do not contain a detectable amount of safrole.[4] This is significant because safrole is regarded by the U.S. government to be a weak carcinogen.[citation needed] The relationship between safrole and sassafras may be the origin of the widely reported belief that filé powder has a questionable effect on human health.


  1. ^ a b Zatarain's. "Gumbo". Zatarain's. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, Joy of Cooking, Scribner/Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997; p. 45.
  3. ^ Howard Mitcham (1978), Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz, ISBN 978-0882898704, as quoted in How to make Homemade File Powder at Nola Cuisine
  4. ^ Carlson, M; Thompson, Rd (Sep 1997). "Liquid chromatographic determination of safrole in sassafras-derived herbal products" (Free full text). Journal of AOAC International 80 (5): 1023–8. ISSN 1060-3271. PMID 9325580. 

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