Do Tortillas Go Bad? Your Questions Answered

Tortillas are amongst some of the most delicious foods currently available on the market, the soft floury texture is very tasty.

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They also form the perfect wrap for pinto beans, black beans, chicken, lettuce and a whole host of delicious dressings and sauces.

But what about when tortillas go bad? We don’t mean that in a moral sense, because tortillas can only be a force of good in the world. We mean it in a sense of when can they go off.

You might have a few tortillas that have spent months in your cupboard and you now might be afraid to touch them.

If you have an upcoming barbeque or cooking session where you plan on hosting 20+ people, then you might be slightly nervous about buying corn tortillas in bulk. You can be certain that you’ll have plenty of these delicious wraps left over afterwards, and you might be concerned as to how long they’ll keep.

What exactly is the difference between corn and flour tortillas? What does this mean in terms of life expectancy? When will your corn tortillas start to go moldy? Is a flour tortilla safe to eat months after its sell-by date has elapsed? What are the best ways of preserving tortillas to make sure that they stay fresh and edible even after a few months?

Well, tortilla fans needn’t worry themselves too much, as we’ve got the answers to all your wrap-based questions. We’re going to go frankly too in-depth about your white and floury friends.

We’ll discuss what goes into tortillas, as well as whether they are safe to eat after expiration and how best to make tortillas last longer.

Tortillas - What Do They Want? What Do They Do?

Much like the pinto bean and fried rice, this food hails from the wonderful country of Mexico, which has a rich history of foodstuffs that have been exported with much success all across the globe. They are made from unleavened bread, which accounts for their flat shape.

Tortillas are traditionally made from wheat or corn flour, with corn being the more popular of the two. All it requires for you to make a decent tortilla is mixing your flour with some water and salt, kneading it flat over a warmed stove.

If you have ever tasted a burrito, then you’ll know that corn tortillas are an important part of the composition. Most burrito outlets stuff their burrito full of beans, guacamole and shredded chicken, with the tortilla somehow, miraculously, holding the whole thing together.

You can also use tortillas for tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas, all of which are very different compositions of foods. Tortillas are now also used by people on a diet as a substitute for bread, having drastically fewer calories than its thicker cousin.

Even though the making of your tortilla requires heat, the eating of it certainly doesn’t. We would recommend that you eat your burrito hot from the pan, but a lot of the tortillas bought at the store come in a sealed packet. You can eat them perfectly well at room temperature, in fact, some people even enjoy them like this.

You can even dry out your tortillas to make tortilla chips, which we have all probably sampled at the local cinema or restaurant. These chips are great salted and can be dipped in a whole range of different sauces, from garlic to salsa to tomato.

As you can see, tortilla is one of the most versatile foods out there, which probably is what has contributed to its enduring popularity. But now let’s ask the question that drove you here in the first place - can tortillas go bad over time?

Can Tortillas Go Bad Over Time?

Unfortunately, as much as it saddens us to tell you this, nothing lasts forever, and tortillas are no different. If you protect your tortillas by storing them in an airtight container after use, then you can expect them to last a lot longer, maybe even months after their original sell-by date has elapsed.

If you have bought your tortillas at the local grocery store, then they’ll probably come in their own vacuum-sealed packaging to preserve the flavor and keep out excess moisture and heat that will damage them.

Make sure that you don’t open these tortillas until you are ready to eat them, as the manufacturer’s seal is the best way to keep them fresh.

Once you have opened them, then you’ll want to keep their flavor and taste for as long as possible. Do this by keeping them either in a sealed Tupperware container or wrapping them tightly in saran wrap. Keeping them free from the air is one of the best ways of preventing bacteria also.

Your tortillas can also dry out very quickly when exposed to the air, especially if you are keeping them in the cupboard at room temperature.

Does The Corn In A Tortilla Have An Expiry Date?

Again, as we have already mentioned above, both corn and flour tortillas will eventually expire and become inedible.

If your corn tortillas are store-bought, then you’ll probably notice that there is a sell-by or best-buy date on the packet. This will be a more or less accurate method of helping you to judge when to eat them or not.

Generally, corn tortillas will only last around 1 week in your cupboard and up to 6 - 8 weeks in your fridge. They have a lot longer lifespan than a corn tortilla, simply because they have a better grain as their main ingredient, making them far more resistant to mold.

A flour tortilla will probably last you one week in the cupboard and then 3 - 4 weeks in your refrigerator. We would recommend buying flour tortillas only if you plan on using them within 24 hours of purchasing.

Can You Freeze Tortillas

Are Expired Tortillas Safe To Consume?

Unlike certain more volatile foods such as cheese and meats, you can eat tortillas after their best-buy date, although be prepared for it to be a lot chewier and to have less flavor than it would have if it was fresh.

This is also because the best-buy date does not indicate the date that the food goes off. It is simply an indication for your local supermarket when to take it off the shelves. It’s more of a legality issue, in case anyone tries to sue their supermarket for not distributing the freshest product.

Supermarkets obviously pride themselves on serving food that is the best quality, so they only stock the freshest foods at the back of the shelf, before rotating it to the front as it gets purchased.

You can usually tell if your tortillas have gone moldy. They give off a kind of musty odor as well as a horrible taste, although we hope that the smell will be enough to prevent you from taking a bite out of it.

If you do mistakenly ingest some moldy tortilla, then you won’t have to worry that much, as the acids in your stomach will do the trick of eradicating any harmful bacteria. However, if you are pregnant or have natural sensitivities to mold, then you might experience a mild stomach upset.

If you are worried about any adverse side effects from ingesting moldy tortilla, then we would suggest that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. Also, when it comes to tortillas, we would certainly recommend that if you suspect that they have gone moldy, that you throw them away and buy fresh ones from the local store.

There are ways of preserving tortillas in the long term, which is a method you might be looking into if you are strapped for cash. If you have mold along the edges of your tortilla, then we would recommend that you simply slice them off and consume the non-moldy parts as soon as possible.

If you have spots of mold dotted around your entire tortilla, then you can simply wipe them away with some kitchen paper soaked in vinegar. However, this might leave your tortilla with a slightly sour taste. Vinegar is a great way of killing the bacteria of mold, as well as eliminating the nasty taste and smell.

You can also cook your tortilla before eating it, as this will also kill the bacteria. If you soak it with vinegar and cook it afterward, then this is a surefire method of removing all harmful elements and possibly even restoring some of that delicious flavor.

Another way of masking the musty flavor of a slightly expired tortilla will be by loading up your burrito or quesadilla with tomato sauce or salsa, which should easily overpower the flour, although it might leave an aftertaste.

Tortilla Expiry Dates And When To Eat Them

We understand that tortilla packaging might not always be accurate or easy to understand.

If you are making your own tortillas, this also might make the task of tracking its freshness even harder.

However, here is a quick guide that will help you to know what types of tortilla keep for how long:

  • Flour tortillas - these keep for up to 1 week in the cupboard and 3 weeks to a month in the fridge.
  • Whole wheat tortillas - these keep for 1 week in the pantry and 3 weeks to a month in the refrigerator.
  • Spinach tortillas - Again, this will keep for around 1 week in the cupboard and 3 weeks to a month in the fridge.
  • Corn tortillas - these are some of the longest-lasting, keeping for 1 week or 10 days in the cupboard and 1 to 2 months in the fridge.
  • Homemade tortillas - because of their fresh ingredients, these will go bad real quick, lasting only 2 to 3 days in the cupboard and only a week in the fridge.

Most tortillas bought from the store will last you up to 1 week when kept at room temperature, and up to a month when kept in the fridge. Freezing tortillas is also an option, which should see them lasting around 8 months.

If you haven’t opened your packet of shop-bought tortillas, then you can expect them to last up to a week, although as we mentioned earlier, this could be even longer if you have bought corn tortillas.

You can also put your unopened packet of tortillas straight in the fridge. This way, you’re tortillas will last up to 1 month, possibly even 2 if you have bought corn tortillas.

Which Have The Best Lifespan - Corn Or Flour Tortillas?

Corn tortillas have a slightly longer lifespan, mainly because they are made from whole grains, which are remarkably resistant to mold and other harmful elements from the outside world.

If you have bought your corn tortillas from a store, then they should remain fresh for upwards of a week or even longer. If you keep them in the fridge, then you will double their lifespan.

Make sure that your corn tortillas don’t get too exposed to humidity, even in the packet, as this will allow bacteria and mold to proliferate.

Flour tortillas don’t possess as much of the healthy grains and will be far more processed, in the same way that white bread is less healthy for you than brown bread.

Flour tortillas also absorb a lot more moisture much quicker. This is why the chances of growing mold are significantly increased, especially if they’ve been opened from the packet.

You should try and consume your flour tortillas within a week of opening the packet. If you are making your tortillas fresh, then you’ll have to apply the same logic, depending on what ingredients that you’re using.

Do Homemade Tortillas Last Longer?

Sadly, the answer to this question would have to be no. Freshly made tortillas taste so delicious precisely because their ingredients are active and will only last a certain degree of time. You should expect your fresh tortillas to last no longer than 3 days after you have made them from scratch.

If you want to preserve your homemade tortillas for as long as possible, then we would suggest storing them in the fridge. This way you’ll kill off all the harmful germs that can often thrive at room temperature.

If you do store them in a cooler place, then you’ll want to make sure that you have an airtight container to keep them in.

The air in a fridge is very dry, which can drain a lot of the moisture out of your tortillas and make them very dry and brittle. However, when you do take them out of the fridge, then just warm them on a medium-heat pan for a little while to restore some of their former pliability.

But the best method of preserving your fresh tortillas is by putting them in the freezer. In much the same way as bred, these tortillas should freeze nicely without losing a lot of their flavor after you’ve thawed them out. Make sure that you add oil to the pan before frying them up again from their frozen state.

If you freeze tortillas, they should last you around 6 months after cooking. Place them in airtight, freezer-proof bags individually to avoid them getting stuck together when you remove them. This will also give you more control over how many you want to thaw out before cooking.

What Is The Best Method Of Finding Expired Tortillas?

One quick and easy of making sure that any food has gone off is by sticking your nose into the bag and taking a nice deep breath.

If they don’t smell too pleasant, having a nasty, stale odor, then we would probably suggest that you try one of the preservation methods that we’ve mentioned above.

You can also cast your eyes over your tortilla to see if you can spot any white or pale-green areas. This will be a surefire way of spotting any mold that is growing. Using your senses is one of the quickest and most effective ways of spotting an out-of-date or moldy tortilla.

You can also take a bite out of your tortilla if you’re feeling brave. If you can feel yourself gagging, then the chances are that your tortillas have indeed gone moldy and you should probably look to throwing them in the nearest waste bin.

If your tortillas taste a bit funny but are edible, then you might want to try frying them to restore some of their old flavor and texture

If they are slightly musty, then we would also recommend a good salsa or garlic dip to help you get rid of that slightly stale taste and help you to introduce a little bit of moisture to the dry bread.

Tortilla Mold - How To Spot It

You should be easily able to spot mold on your tortillas, appearing as they do in white/green patches that slowly spread around the surface of your bread. They usually appear where the bread has become exposed to excess moisture.

Mold can also appear as purely white spots, which might cause them to be difficult to spot from the regular constitution of the bread itself.

One of the earliest signs that your tortillas are starting to stale is when they change color, growing pale or developing a kind of yellowish hue. You can even see certain parts of your tortilla turning a very dark black. Once this has started, you’d better act fast, as it will soon spread to the entirety of the package.

The chances of salvaging this type of spoilage will be very difficult to do, even with the strongest vinegar. So, we would suggest that you throw this packet away and buy a fresh one from the store.

Storing Tortillas

Storing tortillas is not that difficult, although it all depends on how long that you want to keep them.

We would say that if you want to keep your store-bought corn tortillas fresh for longer than a week, then you should store them in the fridge.

Store-bought tortillas should keep for around 1 week if kept at room temperature, unopened, in the cupboard.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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