Corn tortillas are a staple to Mexican and Central American cuisine. They form the delicious vessel for tacos, cradling the savory meat and toppings to create a perfect, yet simple shell.
Like bread, they store in pantries or on kitchen counters, but for how long? Sometimes it’s tricky to tell exactly when corn tortillas go bad, but one method of storage helps extend their shelf life.
Do corn tortillas need to be refrigerated? The simple answer is no, they do not. Corn tortillas last up to a week in the pantry. However, corn tortillas last longer when refrigerated, extending their shelf life up to 3 or 4 weeks.
Quality corn tortillas
The sell by date listed on a package of corn tortillas informs you when the manufacturer expects their quality to drop off. That doesn’t necessarily mean the corn tortillas become inedible or spoiled after that date. They merely suggest consuming them in advance of that date. You know corn tortillas went bad when mold starts to grow on them.
However, corn tortillas become rigid and stale before they spoil. After a week sitting out, they start to harden, growing stiff and less pliable. Once this happens, you won’t be able to curl them into neat tacos anymore. Instead, they break or flake, not an ideal state for a tortilla.
Mass produced tortillas sometimes retain their quality for over a month, but the best, freshest tortillas undergo this hardening process much sooner, usually within a week.
In either event, refrigerating the corn tortillas keeps them from going hard. When stored in cool temps, corn tortillas extend their shelf life by weeks. This is handy for anyone buying in bulk or expecting leftovers after a big meal.
How to tell if tortillas went bad
The tell-tale signs of bad tortillas match similarly to bread. For example, tortillas host mold just like bread products. When you find little dots or patches of green or blue, mold took up residence on your tortillas. Additionally, if they smell funky or have a lime-like taste, that is a sign they are most likely bad.
You can also tell by cooking them. When heating a bad tortilla, the dough won’t expand. Good tortillas rise a little when heated because of their dough. When they go bad, they don’t rise anymore. When a tortilla spoils, best to throw it out. Don’t take the risk of ingesting some food borne illness.
How long do corn tortillas last frozen?
While you generally shouldn’t freeze tortillas as it detracts from their flavor, it does extend their shelf life. While refrigeration extends their natural shelf life up to four times as long, freezing may extend it well beyond that, up to six months.
In order to freeze corn tortillas, you want to ensure they’re stored in air tight containers, like well-sealed ziplock freezer bags. However, keep in mind that when thaws they won’t taste as good as when you first bought them. The best option is always to eat within a week or two of purchase.