Tortillas are a staple food in Mexican and Central American cuisine. They are round, thin flatbreads made from wheat or corn flour that can be filled with various ingredients to make tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and more. Their versatility and importance in Hispanic culture means tortillas are mass-produced for global export. But can you freeze tortillas to extend their shelf life?
Can You Freeze All Kinds of Tortillas?
There are many varieties of tortilla, which leads some to question if certain types can be frozen successfully. However, the ingredients that go into a tortilla have little effect on its freezability. Authentic tortillas are made from just a few core ingredients:
- Ground maize or cornmeal – Used in corn tortillas
- Wheat flour – Used in flour tortillas
- Water – Hydrates the dough
- Salt – For flavor
- Fat/lard – Corn oil or butter for richness
As long as the primary component is a grain flour like wheat or corn, the tortilla can be frozen. Enriched wheat flour tortillas are most common in supermarkets, while traditional corn tortillas are popular throughout Mexico and Central America. Other varieties like spinach, tomato or flavored tortillas may use extra ingredients, but their base is still corn or wheat. So you can safely freeze any type of tortilla without quality loss.
Can You Freeze Raw Tortillas?
Some people may prepare homemade tortillas and want to freeze the raw uncooked dough. It is possible to freeze raw tortillas, but there is rarely a need to do this when cooked tortillas freeze so well.
To freeze raw tortilla dough:
- Coat both sides in flour – This prevents sticking and separation when freezing.
- Layer discs between parchment – Place wax paper between each raw tortilla before stacking.
- Store in airtight container – Place tortillas in a sealed freezer bag or container with all air pushed out.
Frozen raw tortillas will keep for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking. However, raw tortillas are less convenient than cooked ones, requiring more time to thaw and cook before use.
Do Store Bought Tortillas Last Longer than Homemade?
Many home cooks believe that fresh homemade tortillas taste better than store-bought versions. The superior flavor comes from using simple whole food ingredients and hand-shaping each tortilla. But homemade tortillas also spoil faster, usually within 5 days.
In contrast, store-bought tortillas contain preservatives so they can be shipped long distances and sit on store shelves for weeks without growing mold or bacteria. Common preservatives used include:
- Calcium propionate – Prevents mold growth
- Sorbic acid – Slows down yeast and fungi
- Ascorbic acid – Anti-oxidant that maintains freshness
Major tortilla manufacturers also produce them in very clean and sterile factories unlike home kitchens. And commercial packaging prevents air exposure and moisture loss better than homemade methods.
For these reasons, store-bought tortillas typically last 2-3 weeks compared to homemade ones lasting around 5 days. So if planning to freeze tortillas for long-term storage, store-bought versions have an advantage.
How to Freeze Tortillas
Freezing helps tortillas stay fresh for 2-3 months while retaining their taste and texture. Here is a step-by-step guide to properly freeze tortillas:
1. Cool Tortillas Before Freezing
Freshly cooked hot tortillas will create excess moisture in the freezer. Allow tortillas to fully cool after cooking for best results:
- Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour so no steam remains inside.
- Quick cooling in the fridge is OK too.
If tortillas still feel hot, moisture will evaporate in the freezer and make them dry out faster.
2. Dust with Flour to Prevent Sticking
Even when cooled, tortillas can still stick together when frozen in stacks. To prevent this:
- Spread flour on a plate. All-purpose flour or corn flour both work.
- Coat each side of the tortillas lightly with flour.
- Shake off any excess flour. Too much will dry them out.
The thin coating of flour fills microscopic pores in the tortillas and stops them fusing together.
3. Use Freezer Bags or Containers
To maintain freshness in the freezer, store tortillas in freezer-safe packaging:
- Freezer bags are ideal for a small batch under 20 tortillas. Press out air before sealing.
- For larger quantities, use rigid reusable containers with tight lids.
- Wrap pancake style tortillas into stacks then pack together to save space.
- Place packs in rear of freezer where temperature is most stable.
Proper sealing protects tortillas from ice crystals and freezer burn.
How to Thaw Frozen Tortillas
Thawing is important to preserve the texture of frozen tortillas. Avoid quick thawing methods:
- Do not thaw at room temperature – Leads to condensation and sogginess
- Avoid microwave thawing – Causes localized hot spots
Instead, use one of these methods:
The safest way to thaw tortillas is by placing the frozen pack in the refrigerator and leaving overnight.
- Move pack to refrigerator top shelf which is the warmest and driest area.
- Allow 8-12 hours to thaw with no temperature fluctuations.
- Change the refrigerator setting to the warmest temperature for fastest thaw time.
Refrigerator thawing prevents any moisture from forming on the tortillas.
For quicker results, the microwave can be used to safely thaw tortillas:
- Place frozen tortillas in a microwave-safe dish. Do not over stack.
- Heat at 30 second intervals using defrost mode at low power.
- Turn tortillas over between intervals for even heating.
Check that no ice crystals remain after microwaving. Let tortillas sit 1 minute before using.
Tortillas are a versatile staple of Mexican cuisine that can indeed be frozen for long-term storage, retaining their flavor and flexibility. Both flour and corn-based tortillas freeze well with minimal preparation – simply cool, flour lightly and seal in a freezer bag or container. Thaw using the refrigerator or microwave to prevent condensation. With proper freezing technique, tortillas will keep frozen for 2-3 months before needing to be discarded.