Shrimp File Gumbo

Prep Time: 1 Hour
Yields: 12 Servings

Janie Luster of the Houma nation is not only a great historian helping to preserve her culture, but also she, like her parents before, is a great cook. The Native Americans in her area made a gumbo using file powder or the ground leaves of the sassafras tree as the thickening agent rather than the dark brown roux of the Cajuns and Creoles. A gumbo with no roux may sound strange at first, but I think you'll soon succumb to Janie's version.


2 and 1/2 pounds (70-90 count) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 tbsps file powder or ground sassafras leaves, divided
3 tbsps vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped mixed red, yellow and green bell peppers
2 tbsps minced garlic
3 quarts water or seafood stock
1/2 cup sliced green onion tops
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and black pepper to taste
granulated garlic to taste


In a large cast iron pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally, and cook 5-10 minutes or until wilted and golden brown around the outer edges. Do not over-brown. Add shrimp, stirring well into the onion mixture. Add 2 tablespoons file powder and stir constantly for 12-15 minutes or until shrimp are well-cooked and reddish pink. It is important to achieve color on the shrimp otherwise the shrimp flavor will be missing from the dish. Add celery, bell peppers, minced garlic and 2 additional tablespoons filé powder. Cook 3-5 minutes then add 3 quarts water or seafood stock. Bring water to a simmer and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions and parsley and season to taste using salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons file powder, immediately turn off the heat and blend well. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve gumbo over cooked white rice with an additional sprinkle of file as a garnish.