There is a popular dish in India and East Africa, known as roti or chapati in either region respectively. They are made from whole wheat flour, mixed into a dough with water and fried on a pan with oil. The same technique used to make chapati is the same used to make tortillas. Tortillas are a thin, flat, circular unleavened flatbread made from maize flour.
Tortillas differ from chapatis in the fact that they are made from maize flour while chapatis are made from wheat flour. Regardless, they are natural foods that can also go bad and will most often end up in the trash. This article will dissect the tortillas issue and argue in favor of composting them as a way of positively getting rid of them.
Can Tortillas Be Composted?
Of course, tortillas can be composted. Like with bread, tortillas will soak up moisture and break down incredibly quickly while in the composting bin. Whether fresh, frozen or stale, tortillas can be added into the composting bin and have their nutrients added to the soil and plants. You only need to shred or chop them into tiny pieces so that they break down more easily.
To achieve similar results, consider placing them into the center of the compost or bury them if you have an open compost pile. The same also ensures that creepy crawlers in the form of pests, do not get a hint of the tortillas, where they will come in and interrupt the normal composting process, or straight out eat the foods.
If the tortillas are in chip form, crush them into small pieces and add them to the pile. Also, bury them deep inside for the same reasons as those that have just been outlined.
Tortillas are an example of green compostable materials, which are rich in nitrogen. They behave like dry carbon-rich materials by absorbing the moisture present in nitrogen-rich materials as well as the environment but are indeed greens.
In general, a compost pile will be most healthy and happy with significantly more carbon than nitrogen. Meaning, you cannot simply throw heaps of wet food waste into a compost pile week after week without adding a good amount of browns to help compensate and maintain balance.
Too much green material and your compost will start to stink like rotting trash, grossing everyone out as well as attracting pests. Also, too much nitrogen and moisture, combined with insufficient carbon, and you end up with an anaerobic compost or “without air.
Depending on the ingredients used to make the tortillas, they will introduce different nutrients to the compost and consequently the soil. Corn tortillas, for instance, are a good source of magnesium, an important element in the growth of plants, which can be passed down through the composting process.
Being that they are plant-based, tortillas will be an excellent organic addition to the compost bin. Whenever you compost tortillas, be sure to cover the composting bin. Remember birds might also behave like pests in an open setting.
If you leave the tortillas out in the open, birds will come in and have their way with them. You can also vermicompost tortillas, meaning you can add them to a composting bin together with worms. They can also be added to hot compost, although cold compost is enough to do the trick.
Do Tortillas Go Bad?
Of course, tortillas can go bad. The majority have a best-by or expiration date as a guide. However, their shelf life varies depending on how humid it is where you live and whether the tortillas are properly stored. Regardless, they can last up to a month refrigerated or up to 8 months when frozen.
To properly protect the quality of tortillas, store them carefully, while sealed against moisture and heat. If you purchase store-bought tortillas, it is best not to open their original packaging until you are ready to eat them. A manufacturer’s seal is the best protection against spoilage.
If you open them, ensure they are in an airtight bag and do not expose the opened bag to temperature fluctuations that could create condensation or any highly humid area. Moisture leads to mould and air exposure can dry out your tortillas.
Not only can tortillas go bad, but they also come with an expiry date. Like all other purchased foods, they have a best-by date stamped on the outside of the bag, giving directions as to how long they are going to be at their tastiest.
Corn tortillas have a longer shelf life than flour tortillas because corn itself is a heartier grain, more resistant to mould. The fact that a tortilla’s expiry date has come and gone, does not mean you cannot eat them.
The best-by date is actually not an expiration date but rather is simply an estimate from the manufacturer for how long they think their product will maintain its best quality.
Beyond that, the tortillas are edible, although maybe not as good as they were a day or two earlier. Moldy tortillas will be very unappetizing and you probably will not enjoy eating them, and they can make you sick. To avoid all the hustle, just buy fresh ingredients and then compost the stale tortillas.
Can Tortillas Be Frozen?
Definitely, tortillas can be frozen. Freezing them is one of the several ways that you can store tortillas safely without risking their quality. If you want to store them for quite some time, consider throwing them into the refrigerator or the freezer. Tortillas can stay fresh for about a week in the pantry or another temperature-controlled space out of direct heat.
You can get that duration extended to close to a month if you store the tortillas in the fridge. If you decide to freeze them in a freezer, you will extend their life by up to 8 times. They can stay fresh in the freezer for up to eight months, but be sure to store them as recommended.
Remember, there are some best practices to make sure you get the best results during and after freezing. Especially when opened, be sure to store the tortillas in an airtight bag that does not allow for a fluctuation of temperatures.
Flour tortillas are easy to freeze and taste just as good as they would have the day you brought them home. If you are planning on using the package all in one sitting, freeze them directly in the packaging they came in. If you would like to store them for use one by one, take the tortillas out of the packaging and slip a piece of parchment paper in between each tortilla.
Then, transfer the whole stack to a freezer bag, pressing as much of the air out as you can. Corn tortillas are also freezer-friendly and can be frozen at all times. You can freeze corn tortillas the same way you freeze flour tortillas, in their original packaging or a zip-top freezer bag.
How Long Do Corn Tortillas Last?
The duration upon which tortillas last before going bad is dependent on several conditions including where they are stored, the product making them and the expiry date printed on the pack carrying the tortillas. The good news is that they generally take quite a while before going bad and their lifespan can be elongated if they are stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Additionally, their lifespan varies depending on which type you purchased, how close they were to the printed best-by date, and whether they were opened or not. if you had opened the tortillas, they will last for several days before the air gets to them.
However, this duration can be extended if you wrap them in aluminum foil, although they will start to harden, smell bad and look moldy. At such a point, just throw them away.
Consider the following timelines:
- Flour tortillas: They can go for 7 days while opened and left on the cupboard. If refrigerated, they can last up to 4 weeks and if frozen, they can last up to 8 months.
- Whole wheat tortillas: Similar to flour tortillas, they can last up to 7 days on the cupboard, up to 4 weeks in the fridge and up to 8 months in the freezer.
- Corn tortillas: They can go for between 7 and 10 days on the cupboard. They have the longest lifespan when refrigerated for they can last up to 8 weeks. Like other tortillas, if frozen, they can last up to 8 months.
- Spinach tortillas: Like whole wheat and flour tortillas, spinach tortillas can last up to 7 days on the cupboard, 3 to 4 weeks in the fridge and between 6 and 8 months in the freezer.
- Homemade tortillas: These have the shortest lifespan of all types of tortillas. On the cupboard, they can last up to 3 days, up to 7 days in the fridge and up to 8 months in the freezer.
What Can You Do with Old Tortillas?
1. Fill them with enchiladas
If you have a ton of leftover corn tortillas, this party-ready dish is a great way to use them. You can try the classic Mexican way, dipping the tortillas in sauce, frying them, and filling them only with meat. You can also try the Tex-Mex version, which fills the tortillas with cheese, veggies and/or meat, then slathers them in sauce and cheese.
2. Make Migas
Migas is a breakfast game-changer where you mix scrambled eggs with corn tortilla pieces. This recipe adds rice and a Thai dipping sauce for an Asian-Tex-Mex twist of Migas fried rice.
3. Make your own chips
You can use old tortillas to make new ones. It could not get any easier to give your stale tortillas a second life. You can also use the chips to make chilaquiles.
4. Swap them for other bread
Pizza, Stromboli, stuffing, and fried chicken have one thing in common; each uses bread dough and crumbs, which can all be replaced by tortillas. At this point where we are thinking outside the box, try using tortillas in other ways like using the leftovers to make French toast, baked cups for a dip, or crispy wrappers for vegetables.
5. Use them in soup
Obviously, you can make tortilla soup, a soup often thickened by simmering corn tortillas into the broth and crisped tortilla strips are always sprinkled on top. Crunchy tortillas are also delicious stirred into a hot bowl of posole.
You should also not limit yourself to the Mexican fare; try using tortillas for fresh tomato soup, squash bisque or chowder, which could all be greatly garnished with crispy tortilla strips.
6. Layer them
This is similar to enchiladas, where other recipes can make great use of large amounts of leftover tortillas, to make the traditional layered tortilla lasagna and tortilla casserole.
7. Revive them
You can simply revive old or stale tortillas by wrapping them in damp paper towels and microwaving them for about 60 seconds. You can also cover them with a damp dishtowel and heat them in a low-temperature oven for about 20 minutes.