The powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, file powder smells like eucalyptus or juicy fruit gum. File powder is a necessary ingredient for Cajun cuisine, especially Gumbo. In addition to contributing an unusual flavor, the powder also acts as a thickener when added to liquid. Long before the use of file powder for Creole and Cajun cooking, Choctaw Indians pounded sassafras leaves into powder and added them to soups and stews.
Available in the spice or gourmet food aisle.
Store in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.
Stir into a dish after it's removed from the heat because undue cooking makes file tough and stringy.