Creole Filé Gumbo Recipe

Enjoy this delicious Creole gumbo made with filé powder.

Creole File Gumbo

Creole File Gumbo Recipe by Lil' Dizzy's in New Orleans

Filé is a spicy herb seasoning made from ground sassafras tree leaves. It was first used by Choctaw Native Americans to both flavor and thicken many soups and stews. When the French settled in Louisiana, some began to use filé as a thickening agent in gumbo, rather than using okra, which was, at the time, the traditional method. Today, you’ll find everyone makes their gumbo differently — either using filé, okra or a little bit of both.

The recipe below hails from Lil' Dizzy’s Café in New Orleans, owned by the Baquet family, one of the most renowned Creole restauranteurs in the Big Easy. While their fried chicken has earned them a spot in local history books, their Creole Filé Gumbo is quite legendary, too!

Ingredients for Creole Filé Gumbo:

  • 1¼ pounds seasoning ham 
  • 1¼ pounds smoked sausage 
  • 1½ pounds chicken pieces
  • ½ pound hot sausage 
  • 1½ pounds peeled shrimp 
  • 6 to 8 gumbo crabs 
  • 1 dozen oysters 
  • 2 cups chopped onion 
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic 
  • 3 green onions, chopped 
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves 
  • 5 bay leaves 
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil 
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons flour 
  • 10 cups water 
  • Filé powder 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Hot cooked rice, for serving 

Method of Preparation:

  1. Cube ham and slice sausages. Heat oil in an eight to ten-quart pot. Add ham to brown.
  2. Add onions and cook until tender. Add chicken and sausages and brown. Add shrimp and other seasonings and cook five minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle flour over meats and seasonings and stir well. 
  4. Add water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Add gumbo crabs and cook on medium to low fire about 45 minutes. Add oysters and cook five minutes. Turn off heat. 
  6. Add filé powder (to taste) and stir into gumbo. Serve over cooked rice. Serves 10 to 12. 

Note: Seasoning ham is simply leftover baked ham, ham steaks, etc. chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. If your crowd doesn't care for heat, substitute your favorite breakfast sausage links for hot sausage; just make sure it isn't a variety that includes syrup or other sweeteners. Gumbo crabs are readily found in the freezer section of Louisiana supermarkets; they're the leftover crab after the jumbo lump meat has been removed from the body of the crab. If you do not have access to gumbo crabs, substitute 1 quart of boxed seafood stock for 1 quart of the water.

Recipe courtesy of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture magazine.

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