7 Best File Powder Substitutes You Can Try

Note- This post may contain affiliate links, we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs.

I see you are here for the file powder substitutes. If you are a fan of cooking Gumbo, I am sure you must know about one of the most vital ingredients of the cuisine. I am talking about file powder, of course!

File Powder

However, has it ever happened to you that you need file powder but you can’t find it anywhere? In that case, don’t go to grocery stores looking for them! Instead, use a substitute! This article will help you with the best file powder substitutes.

I am sure at this point you must be wondering, what are good substitutes for file powder? The best file powder substitutes are okra, roux, nopal leaves, corn starch, root beer, arrowroot powder, and eggplant.

However, before I start discussing the substitutes with you, let me help you understand file powder a little better. This will help you understand its flavor profile and where to use it better. So, let’s get started! 

Quick Peek: File Powder

File Powder

This section will help you understand all about file powder. You will get to know what it is, its flavor and texture use, and nutritional information. Read on to know all about file powder!

What Is File Powder?

Gumbo file is another name for file powder which belongs to the spicy herb family. It’s prepared from sassafras tree leaves that have been dried, a North American native. Other than the leaves, no other part of the tree is suitable for human consumption. On the other hand, file powder has been approved for human consumption after significant deliberation.

File powder is used as a flavoring and thickening agent. It was originally used mostly for therapeutic purposes. It has, however, become a common household spice in some parts of the world.

Describing File Powder: Flavor And Texture

File powder has an olive green color and flour-like texture. File powder has a very strong aroma. Its smell is very similar to the eucalyptus. Hence it gives a distinct aroma to whichever dish it is added. Its texture is quite similar to cooked okra. 

When we talk about taste, file powder has a tangy and “root beer” like taste. It has an earthy flavor combined with a savory taste. When added to stews and sauces, file powder thickens the dish and lends a special flavor. 

Do not add file powder while cooking. If it’s boiled, file powder will produce a stingy smell which might ruin the dish. It is always advisable to add it as the last part of cooking. If not, you can just sprinkle this powder as a seasoning over your favorite cuisine.

Uses Of File Powder

File powder is very widely used in the American subcontinent. While tempering broths, soups, and other recipes, file powder is usually added at the end. The powder imparts its flavor best when used as a seasoning.

File powder is extremely popular, especially for making Gumbo. Commonly known as gumbo powder, file powder is the hero of various dishes. These include staples like Louisiana rice and jambalayas. 

However, due to the flavor it imparts, file powder is being used way beyond the Unites States. The raw leaves from the sassafras tree are also safe for consumption. File powder is not only restricted to vegetarian dishes or salads. It can also be used in meat dishes and beverages.

File Powder On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

File powder is commonly used in little amounts in a variety of recipes. As a result, they don’t provide a lot of essential nutrients. However, we cannot fully disregard the health benefits of this unique ingredient.

For a long time, file powder has been utilized as a medicinal component. It aids in the relief of arthritis and the maintenance of eye health. It can also help reduce blood pressure. File powder is reported to be useful in removing kidney stones and in the maintenance of liver health.

Externally, file powder is also utilized for medical purposes. It is, for example, applied to cuts to relieve inflammation. It’s also great for a variety of skin problems.

According to certain research, file powder aids in the management of diabetes and blood sugar levels. It also aids in hunger control and thereby helps in weight management.

Why Use A Substitute For File Powder?

This is a question that for sure may have popped into many of your minds. Why use a substitute when you can just use file powder. There are a few reasons you can consider using a file powder substitute!

First off, file powder is not too easily available. Most of the substitute alternatives given in this article are much easier to find. Moreover, the slimy texture and unique taste might not suit everyone’s palate. 

In that case, using one of the substitutes from the list might be helpful. Lastly, why go about running to the grocery store when you are all out? You can just use a substitute and save yourself some time! These are valid enough reasons to consider substituting file powder. 

At this point, I feel you must have got enough information about file powder and why you can consider using a substitute. Now, let us explore the main part of this article, the best file powder substitutes!

Other Food Substitutes You Can Try

7 Best File Powder Substitutes

This section will help you with the best file powder substitutes. Moreover, you will also get to understand how to use each substitute. So, here are the best file powder substitutes.

1. Okra


Okra has a similar slimy texture to that of file powder. Hence, it makes a great substitute for file powder. Okra is a popular vegetable known as a lady’s finger in many parts of the world.

Okra reproduces almost the same thickening effect as that of file powder. However, unlike file powder, okra should be added to the recipe while cooking, as it takes some time to cook and reproduce the slimy texture.

It can be safely added to any dish that demands file powder. It works great with soups and sauces. But okra has a very different taste from that of file powder. If you are very particular about the taste of your dish, then do not substitute file powder with okra.

2. Cornstarch

Corn Starch

Corn starch has a neutral flavor, and it also helps in thickening. Hence it can be used as a safe substitute for file powder. If you are looking for the best thickening agent other than file powder, think no more. 

Corn starch is something most of us have at the house all the time. It has a very neutral taste and won’t change any flavor profile of the dish; however, it is very bland that it won’t add any taste as well. So if you want a flavoring agent, corn starch is a big no! 

One tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a half cup of water will be enough to thicken one cup of Gumbo. But depending upon the quality of cornstarch, it will change. Therefore use accordingly.

3. Arrowroot Powder 

Arrowroot Powder in a spoon

Arrowroot powder, just like corn flour, is an excellent thickening agent. Therefore it can be regarded as a file powder substitute. Arrowroot is gluten and vegan alternative we can try.

Arrowroot is also very bland in taste. It won’t add any flavor to your food. However, arrowroot powder is extremely thickening. It makes the food bind stronger, and this bind will stay longer.

If you plan to prepare food that you intend to freeze for some time, try arrow powder. However, be very careful while adding it as a little goes a long way.

4. Eggplant


Eggplant, also known as brinjal, is another reliable file powder substitute. It provides flavor as well as a slimy texture to the food.

You can substitute eggplant as it is or make a pure out of it. Just like okra, eggplant has to be added while cooking and should be cooked for some time in the heat.

The amount of eggplant one should use will depend on the quantity of the dish and your taste preference. If you want a thick consistency and strong flavor profile from your dish, add more eggplants to it.

5. Roux


Roux is an excellent thickening agent and can be regarded as one of the most used substitutes for file powder. Roux is made by combining fat and flour. This fat can either be the fat of animal or simply butter. Roux can be prepared in three colors; white, brown, or dark brown.

While using it as a substitute for file powder, cook the roux until it is dark brown. You can simply add this to any dishes, and voila! Your favorite dish is ready with perfect consistency and scrumptious flavor.

6. Nopal Leaves

Nopal Leaves

Nopal leaves belong to the cactus family and have a very slimy texture. It is an excellent thickening agent and can be used as a file powder alternative.

Nopal leaves are commonly used in Mexican cuisines. Even though it is a good thickening agent, it has a tart flavor to it. You can add nopal leaves as it is while cooking. It works the same as that of okra and eggplant. The more time it is cooked, the slimier it gets.

7. Root Beer

Root Beer

Root beer is a carbonated drink with a hint of sassafras flavor. Therefore when it comes to flavor, no other is good enough as a file powder substitute as root beer.

Root beer is an excellent file powder replacement when it comes to taste. It can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. But it has an extremely thin watery consistency. Therefore take caution while adding to dishes like soups where consistency is important. 

But if you want to get the perfect file powder flavor and consistency, try mixing root beer into cornstarch or arrowroot powder! Your dish will almost reproduce a thick consistency and flavor as that of file powder. Next time when you cook, try this out. It works for me all the time!

Short Recap For Best File Powder Substitutes

Those were a couple of substitutes for both file powder. However, after reading so many substitutes, are you confused about which one would work best? For that, I have broken it down further. Have a look!

Most Suitable: The most suitable substitute for file powder is okra.

Easily Available: The most easily available file powder substitute is corn flour.

Best Flavor Profile: Roux will give the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for file powder. 

How To Use File Powder Substitutes In Your Recipes

File Powder

File Powder Substitutes

Many ingredeints work as substitute for file powder if you are out of file powder.The best file powder substitutes are okra, roux, nopal leaves, corn starch, root beer, arrowroot powder, and egg plant.
No ratings yet


  • Okra
  • Corn Starch
  • Arrowroot Powder
  • Egg plant
  • Roux
  • Nopal Leaves
  • Root beer


  • Go through the substitutes and see which one seems fit for the recipe.
  • Collect your ingredients and use your preferred substitute.
  • Use the substitute in the required amount and proceed to make the dish according to the recipe.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Final Word

As we have come to an end, I hope this article has helped you find the best substitute for both file powder. File powder does have a lot of health benefits. However, most of the substitute options given above are also extremely nutritionally dense. 

All the substitute options given above make worthy alternatives worth consideration, as per your flavor profile and what the recipe demands. Try using one of them the next time you want a substitute, and I am sure you will end up cooking a great meal!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can I use instead of file powder?

The best file powder substitutes are okra, roux, nopal leaves, corn starch, root beer, arrowroot powder, and eggplant.

Is file powder necessary for Gumbo?

File powder is an important ingredient for gumbo owing to its distinct flavor and thickening property. However, if you don’t have it, you can safely rely on its substitutes.

Can I use cornstarch instead of gunpowder?

Yes, cornstarch is an excellent thickening agent and reliable file powder substitute. But corn starch is very bland and won’t add any flavor to the dish.

Where do you find file powder?

File powder can be found in groceries stores or supermarkets. If not, you can always get them from online stores.

What does file powder taste like?

File powder has a minty flavor like that of eucalyptus.

Is file powder illegal?

No. File powder which is made from the leaves of sassafras is fit for consumption.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating