10 Best File Powder Substitutes

Wondering how to thicken your dish when you have no file powder left in your cupboards? Let us help you out. Continue reading to know the most efficient substitutes for file powder. 

Prepared from the dried leaves of sassafras trees, file powder is used to flavor and thicken soups and stews. It has a distinct root beer taste, typically used in Gumbo and North American cooking. 

Its peculiar flavor and thick texture work wonders when added to your dish. And missing it out in a recipe can make your taste buds regret losing a good deal of its flavors. So, if you are stuck between cabinets without file powder and recipes that demand it, this article is for you.

Here is a list of the best substitutes for file powder that you can use in a pinch.


10 Best File Powder Substitutes

1. Cornstarch

File Powder Substitutes

One of the easiest substitutes for file powder is cornstarch. It is gluten-free and has a neutral taste that thickens the consistency of your dish without altering its flavors. 

Cornstarch thickens more effectively than file powder. It also helps you achieve a similar texture. However, it lacks the earthy taste of file powder. Hence, increasing the amount of other spices while using cornstarch in your recipe to achieve the same flavor would not be a bad option.

To preserve its wonderful texture, you should consume food prepared with cornstarch when it is still hot. On defrosting it from freezing, the sauce gets thinner.

How to substitute: One teaspoon of water mixed with two teaspoons of cornstarch works well to replace one teaspoon of file powder. 

2. Okra


Originating in Ethiopia, okra is a green, tube-like veggie that nicely replaces file powder. It contains a fiber called mucilage that thickens your recipe.  

Okras usually acquire a slimy texture and a thickening property when cooked for a long time. It is used in various ways including frying, grilling, and pan-roasting. 

While using okra as a substitute, remember to add it before turning the heat off as it takes a few minutes for it to become soft. It is a good source of antioxidants that can safeguard your health, lower the risk of acquiring diseases, and reduce inflammation. 

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How to substitute: Use two cups of okra to substitute one teaspoon of file powder.

3. Roux



Wheat and butter combined in equal proportions produce a smooth paste called a roux. It works as a fantastic alternative to file powder, providing a thick, flavorous, and even texture to your dish.

Roux comes in four distinct colorations; white, blond, dark brown, and brown. Depending on how it is cooked, the colors may vary. White roux is typically cooked for the shortest duration of time and dark brown roux for the longest.

The dark or medium brown roux is the ideal component for gumbo recipes as it does not overpower gumbo flavors while providing the necessary thickening.

How to substitute: Use a 1:1 ratio of flour and butter, and heat it to produce your desired color. Then add this mixture to your recipe to replace one teaspoon of file powder. 

4. Nopal Leaves

nopal leaves

Another efficient substitute for file powder is nopal leaves. It is an edible cactus that has its roots in Mexico. It has a mild, crisp, and acidic flavor with characteristics that add a similar thickness to file powder.

Nopales can be consumed raw or cooked in various soups, salads, stews, and other dishes. You need only chop the leaves of the plant and add them to the recipe to give it a gummy texture. Medium or dark green leaves are preferred to give your meal this substantial and thick texture.

Although the benefits nopales have on your food are similar to those of file powder, their preparation is not straightforward. Nopales must have their spines removed, and you must be cautious to prevent your fingers from becoming pricked.

How to substitute: Two cups of diced nopal leaves added at the end of the cooking process work best as a replacement for one teaspoon of file powder.

5. Root Beer

root beer

This might sound like a distant alternative to you, but in reality, it comes closest to replacing file powder. Derived from the root bark of the same sassafras tree from which file powder is obtained, it works as a good replacement for it.

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Not typical of the characteristics of other beers, root beer lacks alcohol and caffeine. It has a sweet, minty flavor that tastes the most natural and is similar to file powder. 

However, root beer is in a liquid form and would thin out your dishes. To have the ideal results and increase the consistency of your dish, consider adding cornstarch with root beer while substituting it for file powder.

How to substitute: Replace water for root beer in your recipe to acquire the flavors of file powder.

6. Eggplant

Also known as aubergines, eggplant is a versatile ingredient best utilized in stews, soups, and gumbos. Efficient as a thickening agent and also giving your food a fantastic flavor, eggplant is an excellent substitute for file powder. 

Eggplants come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors. They can be round or rectangular with skin color ranging from dark purplish to white. 

Remember that if the eggplants are not well mixed, it will lead to excessive thickening in your dish. To get the desired consistency, add eggplants piece by piece. 

How to substitute: Two cups of chopped eggplant pieces will satisfactorily substitute a teaspoon of file powder in any recipe.

7. Arrowroot Powder

arrowroot powder

If you wish to give a healthy edge to your dish, consider using arrowroot powder. Free of gluten, grain, corn, and dairy products, it is a fantastic substitute for file powder. 

Prepared from dried cassava, arrowroot is a white powder used as a thickening ingredient in a variety of cuisines like soups, stews, and gumbo. You can add it to cake recipes, such as pie fillings, pancakes, and custards. It is also a recommended ingredient to coat fried meals.

Arrowroot has a neutral taste and does not change the flavor of your dish. Hence you can use it without fearing the alterations it could make to your recipe.

How to substitute: Use one teaspoon of arrowroot powder mixed with two teaspoons of water to replace one teaspoon of file powder.

8. Rice Flour

Popularly used in Japanese cuisine, rice flour is one of the best thickening agents for soups. Its neutral taste and thickening properties make it another efficient substitute for file powder. 

Also Read:  15 Best Substitutes for Oregano

Although rice flour is usually not used to thicken stews, it has the advantage of adding no flavor and being gluten-free. Do not substitute rice flour for file powder when making gumbo, as it leads to a changed color and taste.

How to substitute: One tablespoon of rice flour mixed with two tablespoons of water can be used as a file powder substitute. 

9. Tapioca Flour

tapioca flour

Used in Indian and African dishes as a thickening agent, tapioca flour is prepared from cassava roots that are dried and powdered. Extensively used to flavor and thicken recipes, it is a perfect alternative to file powder. 

Tapioca flour works wonders in sauce, soup, and gravy thickening, providing a fantastic chewy and crispy texture. Additionally, you can thicken foods like pies, soups, puddings, and gravies with tapioca flour. 

Use a moderate amount of tapioca flour when replacing it with file powder as it can easily dominate the flavors in your dish. 

How to substitute: Use one tablespoon of tapioca flour mixed with two tablespoons of water to substitute file powder.

10. Tomato Paste

If you are in bad luck and cannot find any of the ingredients mentioned above, I am sure tomatoes must be at hand. A good thickener for stews, soup, and gumbo, tomato paste can be used as a file powder substitute.

Tomato paste is a thick, readily available ingredient that significantly increases the flavor of a meal. However, you either need to add another thickener like cornstarch or reduce the tomato paste to the desired consistency to achieve the ideal taste and texture of file powder. 

How to substitute: Use one cup of tomato paste to substitute one teaspoon of file powder.

The thick consistency and smooth texture of file powder is highly desirable. Not finding it in your dish might be a complete mood spoiler. But with these substitutes for file powder, you will never have to compromise on this magic ingredient. 

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