Determining whether or not a tortilla will still make you a good taco
Tortillas are great because they can be used for so many different things; tacos, quesadillas, and chicken wraps are all viable options for a good lunch when you have a solid tortilla to help you make it. But unfortunately, no food lasts forever, and eventually, even a pack of tortillas will go bad and no longer be safe to eat.
We’d like to help you avoid any illness or health issues by consuming bad tortillas, so here’s everything you need to know about the different factors that affect tortilla shelf life, including the ingredients used, the type of processing involved, homemade versus store bought, and storage techniques, as well as the signs to look out for to determine whether or not your tortillas are stale or spoiled.
With this information, you’ll be able to maximize how long your tortillas last and reduce the chances of accidentally consuming spoiled food that could lead to serious health concerns.
What Kind of Factors Affect Tortilla Shelf Life?
Unfortunately, this question doesn’t have a simple answer; there are all sorts of factors that affect how long tortillas will remain safe to eat, and if you want to stay safe and avoid consuming bad food, you’ll need to know them all.
Thankfully we’re here to help with that, and it isn’t as complicated as it looks. Like most foods, tortilla shelf life is affected by how they are processed, what ingredients are in them, what type of tortillas they are, and how efficiently you store them.
#1 Homemade Tortillas Versus Store-Bought Tortillas
Unlike some other foods, the distinction between store bought tortillas and homemade tortillas is not as big of an influencing factor on the longevity of a tortilla, but there are still some details to consider when comparing the two.
Still, there are some things you need to keep in mind about the difference between tortillas you make at home and the ones you can buy in a neat package at your nearest grocery store if you want to keep track of tortilla shelf life.
Your homemade tortillas will generally last as long as the quickest expiring ingredient. There are so many different types of tortillas out there because you can put so many different types of ingredients into them; that being the case, you can’t really be faulted for putting whatever you want into tortillas that you make at home.
But you have to keep in mind that the shelf life of your homemade tortillas is only as long as the ingredient that expires first. So if you put in a certain ingredient that only stays fresh for a few days, your tortillas will only last a few days as well.
Preservatives may be unnatural, but they do extend the shelf life of all foods, including tortillas. A lot of people have the beef with added preservatives because they are usually an unnatural addition to the food they are purchasing. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to have preservatives in your food, but there’s no doubt about the fact that preservatives do exactly what they are intended to, and they significantly lengthen the shelf life of tortillas. With preservatives, most tortillas will last roughly a week without refrigeration, but unpreserved tortillas will only last roughly two-three days before they start to deteriorate.
Different types of tortillas have different lifespans based on their primary ingredients. As mentioned previously, there are all sorts of tortillas available, from flour and wheat to spinach and corn: because there is a different primary ingredient in each of these, they all have their own shelf life, and it helps to know the difference in their longevity.
That said, the distinction is thankfully so minor between flour, spinach, and wheat that it is practically the same, with each of them lasting roughly a week after opening without refrigeration. Corn tortillas last a moderately longer ten days in the pantry.
#2 How to Store your Tortillas to Increase their Shelf Life
It is a common truth that your food will last significantly longer if you store it properly, and this is still true even for simple products like tortillas. If you want tortillas of any brand, ingredients, or type to last as long as possible, the following storage tips will help you maximize the duration of their shelf life.
Keep your tortilla packages sealed, or store them in airtight containers. The biggest threat to tortillas when it comes to keeping them safe for consumption is mold, and mold likes to grow in wet places. Your tortillas will usually get wet from air moisture condensing in their packages more than anything else, so it pays to keep your tortillas in as airtight of an environment as possible when you are storing them; always try to get as much air out of whatever containers you seal them in as possible.
Keep tortillas refrigerated in combination with those airtight containers. Continuing from the above point, moisture condensation happens when the temperature fluctuates between hot and cold very quickly. For this reason, you are best off putting those airtight tortilla containers in your refrigerator, where it is both cold and dry.
Not only will the constantly maintained temperature prevent sudden increases or decreases in heat, but the dry air will mean there is less moisture to potentially condense even if something does happen, greatly reducing the chances of your tortillas getting water on them and starting to grow mold.
Tortillas kept in the refrigerator or freezer can be reheated without any negative consequences. Although we mentioned that sudden temperature change is the cause of moisture condensation, and that’s bad for your tortillas, this doesn’t apply to you reheating them when you are ready to eat one of those refrigerated tortillas.
Generally, you’ll be heating the tortilla so fast that any moisture will evaporate before it has the chance to do anything bad, and if you’re heating it in the first place you’ll probably be eating it long before any moisture had a chance to provide a breeding ground for mold.
Always remember that unopened packages last much longer than opened ones regardless of storage. Once you open a package of tortillas, regardless of their ingredients, type, or origin, they will generally last only about a week to ten days before starting to go bad, even if they are refrigerated in airtight containers. But unopened packages of any kind of tortilla will last exponentially longer, especially if they are refrigerated: unopened packages of tortillas can stay fresh anywhere from three to four weeks, and corn tortillas can last an even longer six to eight weeks, so keep those packages unopened if you are looking for maximum long time storage.
Tortillas can be frozen if you want to get the absolute longest shelf life out of them. It may sound a little odd, but you can put your tortillas in the freezer if you really want to extend their life and freshness as long as humanly possible. There’s no concrete way to judge how long a frozen tortilla will stay good if the package has already been opened, but it is undoubtedly far longer than any other type of storage, and unopened packages of tortillas that are frozen can stay good for up to eight months. There’s no doubt that the freezer is the way to go for the long haul.
#3 How to Tell if Your Tortillas Are Rotten, Bad, or Spoiled
Even if you store your tortillas in the proper recommended fashion, they will eventually go bad if you keep them around long enough. Unlike a lot of other spoiled foods, tortillas generally don’t smell like much of anything even when they go bad, so you have to use different methods to determine if they are still good to eat after some time in storage.
Don’t confuse the best by date with the expiration date. Most products sold in grocery stores these days have a date on them that is labelled the ‘best by’ date, and many customers assume this is the date by which the product expires. This is actually not the case: the best by date is simply an indicator of when the seller believes the product will no longer be its best quality, and you can usually still eat nearly any food, including tortillas, a few days or even a week after a best by date.
Of course, once this date is passed the tortillas are definitely on the downward slope towards spoilage, so it is still safe to make extra sure it isn’t spoiled before eating and to not wait too long past the best by date.
If you find mold on anyone tortilla, you need to discard the whole package it came from. Mold is extremely dangerous if ingested and can cause all sorts of very hazardous problems in the human body, so when you find mold somewhere, you have to play it extra safe and guarantee that you’ve gotten rid of all of it.
If you find even a little bit of mold on a tortilla, you should throw away the whole package it came from; even if you don’t see any mold on the other tortillas, it is extremely likely that the bacteria is already present in either the packaging or the other tortillas, and they just haven’t grown large enough to see yet. Never eat any part of a tortilla that has mold on it.
Ten days is a soft limit if you want to always play it safe when it comes to opened tortillas. Many tortillas will stay good for about a week before they start deteriorating, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t physically safe to eat after the fact. Generally speaking, you could still eat tortillas that are eight or nine days old without any drawback (other than them probably being a bit stiff and stale), but at around ten days you should probably toss them just to stay safe.
They may still be safe to eat at that point, but by then they could turn any day, so it is safer to just get rid of them (note that corn tortillas last around ten days compared to the usual week of flour, wheat, etc., so you could probably drag those out a little longer).
Always trust your senses and your instincts. Tortillas are not as easy to eyeball or sniff to determine spoilage, at least not compared to a lot of other foods. Even so, don’t be afraid to use those senses to make a judgment call on whether or not a tortilla is still good to eat; if it looks unusual (especially if it looks significantly different than it did before) or smells strange, then chances are it is probably not a good idea to eat it, and you should just throw it away to be absolutely safe.
Why Is It Important to Know Any of This?
Eating spoiled food is a major cause of dangerous and even deadly foodborne illnesses in the world. Knowing the average lifespan of all the foods you purchase, even tortillas, helps ensure that you aren’t eating any food that is no longer safe to consume. Furthermore, knowing what signs to look for in regards to food spoilage helps keep both you and your family safe from the hazards of serious risks like mold and the bacteria that causes it.
On top of that, knowing how to store your tortillas for the longest possible shelf life provides a variety of benefits. That too keeps you and your family safe by reducing the risk of spoilage, but it also helps you save money by cutting back on how often you buy more tortillas, and it even helps the environment by reducing how much food gets wasted every year. In the end, knowledge about the longevity and potential spoilage concerns of your favorite foods is just a good thing to have.