Do tortillas go bad? (3+ signs of spoilage)
In this article, we are going to answer the question “Do tortillas go bad?” and discuss what is the shelf life of tortillas, what affects the shelf life of tortillas, how to know if tortillas have gone bad and how to store tortillas to improve their shelf life.
Do tortillas go bad?
Yes, tortillas can go bad, especially when they are not properly stored. The shelf life of tortillas can vary, depending on many factors, such as the ingredients that the tortillas contain, and the storage conditions.
Although commercially packed tortillas can be stored at room temperature for a relatively long time (1), they can go bad and cause negative effects on health, when a spoiled product is consumed (2).
What is the shelf life of tortillas?
The shelf life of tortillas varies, depending on their ingredients and the storage conditions. A homemade flour tortilla has a shelf life of 2 to 4 days stored at room temperature (3), while commercially packed flour tortillas have a shelf life of 3 months (1).
In the refrigerator, commercial flour tortillas have the same shelf life, as refrigerated storage can reduce the texture and increase staling in baked products. However, freezing tortillas can increase their shelf life to 6 months.
Freeze-thaw processes significantly affect the texture of the tortillas and increase the harness. On the other hand, it halts microbial growth and reduces chemical and enzymatic reactions related to oxidative processes, resulting in an improved shelf life (4).
What affects the shelf life of tortillas?
The shelf life of tortillas is affected by many factors, including (2, 3, 4, 5):
The ingredients used to produce the tortillas: The addition of preservatives can inhibit microbial development and increase the shelf life, while the addition of hydrocolloids can reduce the loss of texture and reduce staling during storage.
Storage temperature: Reducing the storage temperature favours the shelf life, as previously mentioned in this article, due to both the inhibitory effect on microbial growth and retarding effect on chemical reactions.
The initial microbial contamination of the raw material: Flour is the main ingredient in tortillas and it can be contaminated by yeasts and moulds, as well as by spore-forming bacteria and their toxins. These microorganisms can survive after the production of the tortilla and reduce its shelf life.
Packaging: Modified atmosphere packaging can improve the shelf life of tortillas, as it reduces the oxygen concentration of the surroundings, limiting thus microbial growth.
How to tell if tortillas have gone bad?
To know if tortillas have gone bad, you should be aware of possible signs of spoilage in the product, such as changes in the odour and flavour, colour and texture (2, 3, 4).
The most common causes of spoilage in bakery products are staling and spoilage caused by yeast and moulds. Yeasts and moulds can manifest by coloured pigments and formations, off-odours and off-flavours.
Off-odours and off-flavours are generally characterised as sour, bitter, rancid or fermented. Discolouration can be black or brown, white or dark green.
Staling is noticeable by the loss of softness and loss of flexibility of the tortillas, increased stiffness and breakability.
Other FAQs about Tortillas that you may be interested in.
How to store tortillas properly?
To store tortillas properly to improve their shelf life it is necessary to protect them from external oxygen and possible microbial contaminations, in addition to protecting the tortillas from moisture loss, independently from the storage temperature (2, 3, 4).
If possible, choose commercial tortillas packed in modified atmosphere packages, which have an improved shelf life at room temperature.
Keep the tortillas in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight and sources of heat, such as electric equipment (5). The optimal temperature of storage is 50 to 70 °F (10 to 20 °C).
To improve the shelf life of tortillas, consider freezing them. For this, use a moisture-proof package or freezing bag or freeze the unopened package of tortillas.
However, freezing and thawing tortillas affect the texture of tortillas considerably, reducing their quality.
In this article, we answered the question “Do tortillas go bad?” and discussed what is the shelf life of tortillas, the factors that affect the shelf life of tortillas, how to know if tortillas have gone bad and how to store tortillas to improve their shelf life.
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Usda.gov. [cited 2023 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/data/EN/FoodKeeper-Data.xls
Doyle MP. Food Microbiology and Food Safety. Serie: Foodborne. 2009.
Anton A. Improving the nutritional and textural properties of wheat flour tortillas. Cereal research communications. 2008 Jun 1;36(2):301-11.
Weber RJ. Shelf life extension of corn tortillas.