10 Best File Powder Substitutes With Images

file powder substitute

File Powder, also known as Gumbo file powder is a type of spice is made from dried ground sassafras leaves of the sassafras tree and it is then grinded to form a powder. It is usually used as a thickening agent and adds flavors to dishes like Gumbo (melting pot) and Jambalayas. But if file powder, as a traditional thickener is not available when you need it, not to worry because in this post are some of the best file powder substitutes that you can use. Read on this post for more details.

Best File Powder Substitutes

File powder is mostly used for Gumbo dish, a popular stew that is made with mixture of meats or shellfish, with vegetables, onions, bell peppers and celery. While Jambalaya on the other hand is a rice dish.


Okra is one of the the best file powder substitutes for your Gumbo if you do not have access to File powder. Aside from Okra as a great alternative for file powder, it has also been used as a thickener ingredient in other dishes as well most specially in soups and stews.

A fiber called mucilage, a component present in Okra is what makes any dish thickens when Okra is added to it. Generally, when okras are cooked for a longer period of time its texture becomes slimy and creates the thickening property.

Although, Okra basically has the same texture as that of file powder it does not provide the same flavor. Okra is a great substitutes in terms of their similarities with its texture however does not have the same flavor to your dish.


Roux is basically a mixture of wheat flour and butter that are heated. Roux is used as a sauce to thicken the dishes therefore another great alternative for file powder.

There are four different types of Roux: White, blond, dark brown and brown. The colors can vary depending on how it is being cooked. Generally, dark brown roux are cooked for the longest whilst white roux are cooked the shortest time. For gumbo dishes, the dark or medium brown version of roux is perfect ingredient because it does not overlap gumbo flavors but still provides the thickening property that the dish needs.

Nopal leaves

Nopal leaves are a type of edible cactus that comes from prickly pear cactus. It is popularly used in Mexican cuisine. If you are looking for file powder substitute, Nopal leaves is the right alternative.

It has the same thickening effect as that of an Okra. To create the mucilaginous texture, you can simply chop its leaves and add to the dish. Medium or dark green leaves are recommended for that solid and thick texture for your dish.

With a thickened gumbo dish, you can always add ingredients such as adding root beer for that earthly flavor or you can add eggplant for a more different taste and flavor.

With Okra Gumbo dish, you can also try Cajun Seasoning for that delicious Sausage gumbo and Creole gumbo experience.

Corn Starch

Corn starch is widely available and ready accessible anywhere. It is the most common ingredient and almost all pantries have cornstarch. It generally has a neutral flavor and are made from corn kernels.

Corn starch is another great substitutes for file powder since it is also commonly used as a thickening agent. In fact, its ability to thicken the dish is even better as compared to file powder and it can be used with any dish as well.

There are some who does not like the texture of Okra, you can use corn starch instead as it does not change the flavor.

Root beer

Root Beer can also be a great alternative to file powder because they are similar. Simply because, root beer is produced from the roots of the sassafras tree, while file powder also comes from the same sassafras tree but the latter is from its dried and ground leaves. With that, they both have the same sassafras flavor and taste.

Although both root beer and file powder are similar, root beer is not actually a thickening agent. It does not have the same texture as that of file powder. Most of the time, root beer and cornstarch goes well together in dishes such as gumbo. You can add cornstarch to the dish since root beer does not have a thickening properties.

Root beer is a carbonated drink that tends to be sweet.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is also known as Arrowroot starch. A white flavorless gluten free powder that is made from using cassava plant. If you cannot find file powder to prepare gumbo, arrowroot powder is a great file powder substitute because it has the same thickening properties as that of file powder.

But if you are planning to keep the dish frozen inside the refrigerator, it would be preferable to use arrowroot powder instead of corn starch or file powder.

Arrowroot powder is used as a thickening agent as an alternative to file powder for gumbo, stews and soups.

Another good thing about arrowroot powder is that cassava is gluten free, therefore if you are to have a gluten free dish or gluten free gumbo this is a great alternative for file powder.


Eggplant is also known as Aubergines. Considered to be a versatile ingredient and can be used in other dishes aside from stews, soups and gumbos. Most of the time, eggplants have different varieties of shape, skin color and sizes, there can either be oblong shaped and some have dark to purplish skin and others are white

Eggplants, similar to okra, gives your dish that thickening properties and helps in enhancing the flavor of the dish. However is you do not want the texture of Okra as a substitutes for file powder, eggplants are a great alternative.

To use eggplant as an alternative to gumbo file powder, you simply need to cut eggplants into medium sized cutting, add then cooked. Once eggplants are cooked, you can then add to your gumbo dish or other dishes. Keep in mind that when eggplants are not blended well, there will be too much thickening. Therefore, add eggplants piece by piece until the desired thickening properties is achieved.

Rice flour

Rice Flour is widely popular in Japanese cuisines but can also be used in other dishes as well. A gluten free thickening agent that can be used to thicken soups. Although Rice flour is not actually advisable to be used as an alternative to gumbo file powder, but you can still use rice flour to thicken soups as well.

Tapioca Flour

Similar to Arrowroot powder, is also made from ground and dried roots of the cassava plant. It is widely popular in African and Indian cuisine as flavoring and thickening agent therefore can be a great substitute for file powder. A great thickening agent that can provide a chewy and crispy texture.

Tapioca Flour can also be used to thicken dishes such as pies, soups, puddings and gravies. And since it also a gluten free flour, it can be used as a substitutes for cornstarch and file powder if you want a gluten free thicken gumbo.

Gluten-Free flour

Aside from the file powder substitutes mentioned above that are gluten-free, there are other gluten free flours also available in your local grocery stores and supermarkets that can be used to thicken soup, stews and gumbos.

It is advisable to use flours that are gluten-free to turn it into a roux flour. Generally, roux usually thickens when it is combined with fluid or liquid. Although it must be simmered first for at least 10 to minutes to achieved its thickening properties.

Tomato paste

Most of the time, gumbo dish has tomatoes as an ingredient. Therefore, tomato paste can also be used as a thickening agent for soups, strews and gumbos.

Tomato paste generally have a thick texture and can really add more flavor to the dish. Also, tomato paste is readily available and accessible in almost all of the grocery stores and supermarkets anywhere.

Aside from that, tomato paste is easier to use and easier to cook making it a great substitute as a thickener as a file powder.


What if File powder?

File powder is a type of powder that is generally made out of the ground and dried sassafras leaves from the sassafras tree. It is usually used to thicken and add flavor to Louisiana cuisine, especially the Gumbo dish. Aside from that, file powder can also be used in other dishes as well.

How is File powder made?

File powder is made using a simple process. To start with, bundle at least 5 to 10 sassafras leaves using either a rope and or rubber band. Then, hang the leaves in a dry warm place (indoor), preferably away from direct sunlight or direct heat. Most of the time, the leaves usually dries at about 1 week. Once leaves are dried, removes the leaves from its branch and then add to a food processor.

What if there are no file powder available, what can I used instead?

If file powder is not accessible to prepare for your gumbo dish, there are different file powder substitutes that can you can which are mentioned in this posting. The most common alternatives to file powder are Okra, roux or corn starch.

What does file powder taste like?

If you ever tasted root beer, then it is how file powder typically tastes like because file powder tends to have a sweet and mild taste just like that of a root beer.

How much file powder substitutes should you add for your gumbo dish?

If you want to use Okra as your substitute, you can add at least 2 cups of Okra to substitutes for at least 1 tbsp. of file powder.

If you want to use corn starch as a substitute, you can mix 2 tsp. of corn starch with at least 1-2 tbsp. of water to substitutes for 1 tbsp. of file powder.

How much file powder should I add to gumbo dish?

The amount of file powder that you should ask for every bowl of gumbo should be at least 1/2 to 1 tsp.

Will File powders expire?

File powder, just like with any other spices, usually lasts for years but always make sure to store in areas with no contact to direct sunlight and are placed in an airtight container.


File powders are a great ingredients used to thicken and add flavors to Cajun dishes. Despite the alternatives mentioned above, there isn’t really a substitute that can provide the same flavor as that of a file powder. Although, using substitutes is far more better than not using one at all for your dish.

The most common substitute for its flavor is definitely root beer but when it comes to thickening properties arrowroot, corn starch and okra works well.

We hope that this guide has helped you decide which substitutes for file powder to use whenever it is not available.

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