How to Make New Orleans Gumbo File Powder

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File powder is ground from the dried leaves of a Sassafras tree. The Choctaw Indians taught early Cajuns about file powder, which they used to thicken soups. In Louisiana today, file powder is primarily used to thicken a traditional stew called gumbo, a spicy, rich dish of gravy with meats and seafood. File powder can also be sprinkled on gumbo at the table. Making the powder is quite simple; you need to have access to some Sassafras branches and some time.

Things You'll Need

  • Sassafras branches
  • Blender
  • Cut the Sassafras branches in the fall, before they have a chance to change color. Place them in a cool, dark place to dry. You do not want the branches to dry in sunlight because it will affect the color of the leaves as they dry.

  • Remove the leaves from the stem when they are completely dry. Crush by hand. Grind the crushed leaves in a blender until a fine powder forms.

  • Sift the powder to remove any large pieces. Store in an airtight container. Homemade file powder keeps longer if refrigerated and kept dry.

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