Just about everyone loves tortillas. They are both healthy as well as extremely versatile in the kitchen. Their importance in Mexico and Central America is such that they have been used in the daily diet since ancient times. This continues into the present day. In modern times, storage methods have evolved somewhat.
Corn tortillas do not need to be refrigerated as they will last up to a week in the pantry. However, it is possible to preserve the quality of corn tortillas 3 to 4 times longer by refrigerating them. This way, they can be cooked in bulk and consumed over long periods of time.
Please continue reading to learn more about how to store tortillas to make them last the longest and how to know if they’ve gone bad.
Do Corn Tortillas Need to Be Refrigerated?
The magic of tortillas lasts as long as they’re soft and ready to make a taco or quesadilla (unless they’re meant to become tostadas).
That’s why it’s essential always to have them in good condition and to avoid letting them expire at all costs. Inevitably, as the days go by, they become hard and inedible if left solely in the pantry over a week. This applies to both corn and flour tortillas.
This is where cold becomes our best friend! Refrigerating our corn tortillas will keep them soft and edible for a long time. Of course, you can store them in the pantry or bread box, but if you don’t plan to eat them all in a few days, please refrigerate them.
If You Are Making Your Own Tortillas
Whether you’re going to refrigerate them or store them in the pantry, let your freshly made tortillas dry at room temperature after baking.
Peel the tortillas off the pan and leave them resting on a dry surface for at least 20 minutes (as they dry out and stop being so hot).
Remember that if you put them at a higher temperature than the inside of your refrigerator, they will decompose easily (and stick much more). Trust me; it’s a hot mess.
3 Ways to Store Tortillas
There are actually three good ways to store tortillas, depending on your needs. Here are a few general guidelines to follow to maximize their shelf life.
Storing in Pantry or Bread Box
The best way to keep both flour and corn tortillas in good condition at room temperature is in an airtight bag. Remember to always close the bag up tight when you grab one to avoid the rest drying out and getting hard.
Those of Latin American heritage will often hear an Abuela or tortilla chef sharing this ancestral knowledge: if you wrap the tortillas in a cloth, preferably allowing them to breathe, you will get a softer and softer consistency, even as the days go by.
However, I don’t recommend doing this in a modern kitchen. If you want to maximize how long they last, you should put tortillas in a plastic bag wrapped in a cloth immediately after they have cooled. If you put them inside the plastic bag without the blanket, homemade tortillas will most likely “sweat,” get wet, and spoil more quickly.
Storing in the Fridge
If you can, I recommend always store tortillas in the fridge.
Keeping them cold (without freezing) is hands down your best option. They will maintain their consistency and freshness more than twice as much as if you stored them in the pantry.
Pro Tip: If storing homemade tortillas in the fridge, let them cool first and separate them with cooking film or paper. If you separate the tortillas one by one, you’ll manage to reduce the possibility of fungus appearing between them as the days pass.
Storing in the Freezer
We understand that nothing can beat the taste of a freshly made tortilla, but your refrigerator is perhaps your tortilla’s best ally. However, if you have more tortillas than you can reasonably eat in a week, freezing them is always an option.
To store tortillas in the freezer, put them in an airtight container or ziplock bag. They will last for up to 6 months.
However, I strongly recommend that you don’t freeze them as a normal matter of course because the quality will be much lower once thawed out. They won’t necessarily be terrible, but they just won’t be quite as good.
The most likely thing is that in this case, crystals will form on the ice, and defrosting them will take away a lot of your tortilla’s soul.
Do Tortillas Go Bad?
As with any corn or flour products, they will spoil after a week or two. The exact timeframe depends mostly on the date of expiration and whether preservatives were added or not.
Just keep in mind that corn tortillas specifically are a magnet for mold, just like bread.
As they spoil, even if they don’t grow mold on their surface, they will lose their characteristic flavor and texture, becoming hard and chewy if they are stored in a dry place or sticky if there is a lot of humidity around.
How to Tell if Tortillas Have Gone Bad
Here are five things to look for:
- White Tortillas- A corn tortilla in bad condition will typically turn white. Edible tortillas retain their yellow color. And, if they look grey, be extra careful; they could contaminate other foods.
- Lime Taste- Even though most corn tortillas nowadays are made by adding lime, the flavor of a good tortilla should be corn, not lime. If they taste like lime, your tortilla has probably gone bad.
- Spots- If you notice that it has blue or green spots, avoid eating that tortilla. That’s because those spots are likely mold.
- Lack of Puffiness- When the tortilla is heated on the grill, it will puff up because the dough is still of good quality. If it doesn’t puff up and it hardens instead, you’re heating a bad tortilla.
- Odor- Smell is an important indicator since when tortillas spoil, they will almost always give off an unpleasant “aroma.”
Interesting Tortilla Facts
The tortilla can be defined as a flat, thin, round bread prepared from nixtamalized corn; nixtamalization is the process in which the corn kernels are cooked in boiling water with a lime base.
The process makes the corn take on a soft consistency for easy digestion, and further processing will turn the kernels into a uniform, yellowish-white dough or paste with which tortillas will be prepared. Tortillas can be made not only with nixtamalized corn but also with cornflour.
Corn tortillas are especially important in Mexican gastronomy, they are used to prepare tacos, tacos dorados, flautas, quesadillas, enchiladas, chilaquiles, totopos, chimichangas, mulitas, entomatadas or enmoladas.
They are also consumed in Central America, especially in Guatemala, where corn tortillas are part of the daily diet. In fact, they are consumed at every mealtime along with a variety of dishes. This is also the case in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
If there’s one thing a family can usually agree on, it’s that “taco Tuesday” is one of the best dinner nights of the week. In my family, we always preferred soft tortillas over hard ones. So yeah, we always had a bunch on hand. I kept them in the fridge long before it was “the thing to do.”
I hope this info has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.