Do Tortillas Go Bad?

You bought tortillas in bulk and ended up with more than you need. You use one or two every now and then, but soon enough you start to wonder: do tortillas go bad?

Or maybe you bought a pack of tortillas to try making homemade tacos, enchiladas, burritos, or any other dish from the Mexican cuisine that calls for these flatbreads. And while the recipe you tried turned out delicious, it’s not like you can make it every other day. Such dishes take time, so they’re pretty much reserved for the weekend. And because of that, you need to find out what’s the best way to store tortillas and how to store them for the long term.

If you’d like to learn more about tortillas, their storage, shelf life, and going bad, this article is for you. Read on.

Tortilla curry wrap
Image used under Creative Commons from Bryan Ochalla

How to Store Tortillas

While most baked goods, like bread or baguettes, can be stored at room temperature, tortillas are a bit different. Generally, you should store unopened tortillas the same way they were stored in the store. If the package sat in the refrigerated section, make sure you put it into the fridge once you get home. If it wasn’t refrigerated, a cool and dry place away from heat is where you should keep it. That means a dark cabinet in the pantry or the kitchen.

Every producer of these flatbreads uses its own unique-ish formula. Some add some preservatives to make their tortillas shelf stable. Others choose to go preservative-free, and often even organic, and such products usually require refrigeration. Because of that, it’s best to stick with the recommendation on the label. However, if the label doesn’t specify how to store it, you can chuck the unopened package into the fridge. Tortillas better retain freshness at low temperature.

Once you open the pack, not all that much changes. First and foremost, wrap them tightly before putting back the leftovers into storage. If the original packaging is resealable, feel free to use it. If not, either transfer the tortillas to freezer bags or wrap with plastic or aluminum foil.

Now let’s talk about where to store the remaining flatbreads. If it was the sold-refrigerated variety, it stays in the fridge, obviously. If it was its sold-unrefrigerated counterpart, it depends. Some producers ask you to refrigerate their tortillas after opening, others don’t. Like with unopened packages, best if you follow the recommendations on the label. When in doubt, refrigerate for longer shelf life.

When it comes to homemade tortillas, store them in the fridge well wrapped.

Can You Freeze Tortillas?

The general consensus is that, by and large, you can freeze tortillas. Unless the manufacturer specifically says you shouldn’t do that, there’s no reason not to. While freezing slightly changes the texture, it’s usually not that big of a deal.

When it comes to freezing these Mexican flatbreads, the most important thing is to protect them from cold air. And that means they need to be wrapped well. The original packaging usually isn’t good enough, so go with freezer bags or aluminum foil. It’s best if you pack together as many tortillas as you need at a time. So if you usually need three flatbreads for dinner with your spouse and kids, make sure to put three in each package. If that varies from meal to meal, you can wrap each one separately. We pack the tortillas this way so we can defrost only as many as we need, instead of thawing the entire stack.

When it comes to defrosting, the fridge is the king. Thaw the wraps overnight and take out of the fridge 30 minutes before you need them. This way they should reach room temperature and be ready to go when you are.

Burrito
Image used under Creative Commons from Mr.TinDC

How Long Do Tortillas Last

Tortillas sold unrefrigerated usually come with a best-by date. And that date is usually a pretty good estimate of how long they retain quality. Of course, a few days past that date the quality should still be perfectly fine, but at some point, it will become pretty bad.

Once you open the package and store the leftovers properly, the flatbreads should stay fresh up to the date on the label. Or even a few days longer. If you open the package after that date, it’s best to either use all of the tortillas right away or freeze the rest if they are any good. If the producer doesn’t require you to refrigerate the flatbreads after opening, you can store them in the fridge to get up to 4 weeks of extra shelf life.

When it comes to tortillas sold in the refrigerated section, the ideas are quite similar. Usually, you can find a sell-by date on the package, and the flatbreads should stay fresh for maybe a week past that date. Opening the package doesn’t change much.

If you need to store the tortillas for more than a week past the date on the label, freeze them. And the sooner you freeze them, the better. For best results, follow the freezing guide earlier in the article.

Last but not least, homemade tortillas should retain freshness for about a week in the fridge. While it all depends on the recipe you’re using, a week is a pretty safe estimate. If you want to make them in bulk, leave as much as you need for the week in the refrigerator and freeze the rest.

PantryFridge
Tortillas (sold unrefrigerated)Best-by + 1 weekBest-by + 3 weeks
Tortillas (sold refrigerated)Sell-by + 1 week
Homemade tortillas1 week

Please note that the periods above are estimates only and for best quality.

How to Tell If Tortillas Have Gone Bad?

First off, check for the usual signs of spoilage such as mold, dark specks on the surface, discolorations, or an off smell. If any of these are present, throw the tortillas out. Chances are you either stored them improperly, moisture got to them, or they sat in storage for way too long. If neither of the signs is present and you don’t already store the tortillas for too long, they should be perfectly safe to eat. Now it’s time to warm them up.

If you’re not sure if they’re good enough to eat, cut out a small slice and taste it before you add any other ingredients to the tortillas. You don’t want to make a burrito or a curry wrap only to find out that the flatbreads are stale and the whole thing unpalatable.