The Reason It's Not A Bad Idea To Refrigerate Tortillas

Tortillas are a staple of Mexican and Central American cuisine and are eaten throughout the world in a variety of hearty and flavorful dishes. While there is nothing like a freshly-made tortilla, the reality is that most of us don't have time to make them from scratch. Luckily, you can buy tortillas from the grocery store to make your favorite taco recipe at home.

Tortillas are often sold at room temperature (and occasionally in the refrigerated section) in packages that contain more than enough for one meal. Unfortunately, they can be prone to molding and going stale if you don't finish the package upon opening it. Aside from unsightly spots of mold on the tortillas, your plans for making quesadillas are ruined. 

While tortillas are shelf-stable at room temperature, to extend their shelf life and keep them soft and pliable, it helps to store leftovers in the fridge after opening the resealable bag. This will ensure you get the most meals and consistent quality from your tortillas as you work your way through the package.

Refrigeration extends the shelf life of tortillas

Tortillas are made using simple ingredients. Flour tortillas typically contain flour, water, fat, and salt. Leavening agents are sometimes added to packaged to fluff them up when they are baked, often in a gas-fired oven at temperatures of 350 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Corn tortillas have even simpler recipes, made of stone ground corn, water, and lime. On the retail level, both flour and corn tortillas can also contain food-grade gums like guar gum to help keep them pliable.

Water and fat are at the core of the tortilla formula, resulting in a soft flatbread that can hold up to a variety of fillings. The moisture imparted by these ingredients also makes the tortillas prone to oxidation and molding as they sit out. To extend the shelf life, some tortilla manufacturers add preservatives like potassium sorbate, calcium propionate, sorbic acid, as well as apple cider vinegar. While this helps, storing tortillas in the fridge keeps them from going stale and naturally slows mold growth. 

Once you open the package, it's also important to avoid leaving it out on the counter for a long time or transferring it back and forth from the fridge. Once chilled, moisture (which can promote mold growth) can condense in the package with fluctuations in temperature, so play it safe by keeping it in the fridge.

How to reheat your tortillas

While storing your tortillas in the refrigerator will make them last longer and keep them from going moldy or stale, you'll want to heat them to bring them back to a pliable texture before preparing fajitas or rolling up a batch of chicken enchiladas.

Reheat your tortillas in a pan or traditional cast iron skillet with a bit of butter to get them warm and toasty. You can also make store bought tortillas taste homemade by plunging them quickly in a bowl of water prior to heating them in a pan on the stovetop. This will help introduce steam and moisture as they heat in case they became stale. 

For a quick and convenient option, wrap your tortillas in a couple of moist paper towels and reheat them in the microwave. If you're cooking for a crowd, reheat stacks of five to 10 tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they are warm to the touch.