Tortillas are a flat and often circular form of bread originating from many parts of South America as well as Mexico. Made of mashed and wetted corn or grain, tortillas are easy to produce in large quantities and in short amounts of time1.
Because of this, it is not uncommon for chefs and business owners to have an excess of tortillas, potentially leaving them to spoil.
Tortillas, being relatively simple and low in moisture, can be stored for up to two weeks with no other forms of preservation other than keeping them sealed in an air-tight container. It is best to leave the tortillas in the container they were purchased in, if you did not bake them yourself.
How Long Do Tortillas Last Out of the Fridge?
Tortillas can last as long as two weeks when stored outside of the fridge, though this is affected by a variety of factors that must be accounted for if wishing to store the tortillas with this method.
First, ensure that the tortillas are kept in an air-tight bag. If purchased from a grocery store, a packet of water-absorbent material – such as silica gel – may be present. Transfer this to the new bag as well.
Keep the tortillas in a dry and cool environment like that of a pantry, ensuring that it is far from any sources of moisture or air-flow, as these will encourage bacteria and fungi to grow on the tortillas.
Asides from water and heat, also ensure that the room is kept far from direct sunlight or other strong sources of light, as this will dehydrate the tortillas as well as possibly cause condensation within the bag.
Can You Refrigerate Tortillas?
Far preferable to simply leaving the tortillas in a cupboard, choosing to refrigerate tortillas will extend its shelf-life to as long a time as four weeks, double that of outside a fridge.
In the correct conditions, the tortillas will last up to a week past their sell-by date if purchased from a market. To ensure that the tortillas last this long, keep in the fridge and inspect for signs of spoilage when removing them.
Keep in mind that these numbers are simply the average length of time, and extrinsic factors like excess moisture or extra ingredients will affect the tortillas’ shelf life.
How to Refrigerate Tortillas
In order to begin refrigerating tortillas, all that is needed is a tissue and a plastic bag large enough to contain the bread without rolling or crushing. A resealable container or similar kitchen storage equipment can also work, though the excess air present will make the tortillas stale faster.
Place a thin sheet of tissue along the bottom of the bag or container to prevent the tortilla from sticking to its container in the event that moisture makes its way inside.
Pile the tortillas carefully into the bag or container and place in the fridge, ensuring that they will not be crushed beneath anything else in your fridge.
How Long Do Tortillas Last in the Freezer?
If kept in the freezer instead of the fridge or in your pantry, tortillas will last as long as two months, though there are certain drawbacks to this method.
Freezing tortillas will have a marked effect on their texture, especially if kept soft after thawing. To avoid this, it is best to defrost them slowly, to keep the tortillas in multiple batches and to toast or otherwise cook them after thawing.
If excess moisture condenses within the bag or if the tortillas themselves possess a higher-than-normal water content, they will grow chewier after freezing. On the other end of the spectrum, if too much water has evaporated from the tortillas, they will become crumbly and dry when defrosted.
How to Freeze Tortillas
To freeze your tortillas, you will need a parchment or wax paper lined baking tray, resealable plastic bags, tissue or wax paper and a freezer capable of reaching around 32°F.
First, place the tortillas evenly along the baking sheet. Make sure that they are relatively dry to the touch before placing the tray with the tortillas in the freezer for two hours. Depending on the size of the tortillas and your freezer, this may need to be done in batches.
After the two hours have passed, remove the tortillas from the freezer and pile into your resealable plastic bag. Place a single piece of tissue or wax paper between each tortilla to prevent them from sticking together when they thaw.
Put the bag of tortillas in the freezer, ensuring they are kept away from any direct source of cold air, as this will cause freezer burn. It is also advisable to place it in a location that prevents them from being crushed by other objects stored in the freezer.
Can You Store Uncooked Tortillas?
In the event that the tortillas you wish to store were purchased raw or if you have made them yourself, it may be prudent to choose to store them in their cooked form, though certain things must be kept in mind.
Much like freezing, separate the individual uncooked tortillas with a bit of wax paper or plastic film. This will prevent them from sticking together.
After separating, place the individually-separated tortillas in a plastic bag and store in the fridge for up to two weeks or until signs of fungal infestation begin to present.
How to Know if Tortillas are Bad
Tortillas, being a yeastless bread product, tend to last somewhat longer than its rising counterpart, though it is no less susceptible to developing bacterial and fungal colonies if stored in the wrong conditions.
The first and most obvious sign of spoilage that tortillas may present is an alcoholic or otherwise putrid odor. Tortillas, if made with no extra ingredients, have a nearly-unnoticeable scent, so if any unusual odors are emanating from them, it is best to dispose of the tortillas.
Visually, dark or green spots may be present along the surface of the tortilla. This does not necessarily mean the entire pack of tortillas has begun to spoil, however, and it is possible to consume the rest of the tortillas if they do not show the same moldy spots.
Keep in mind that tortillas will develop brown spots if baked at high temperatures. This is entirely normal and is not a sign of spoilage.
1. Winter, Marcus (1992). Oaxaca: The Archaeological Record (2nd ed.). Minutiae Mexicana