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Does Corn Masa Expire? (What you need to know!)

I love fresh corn masa and always have a bag of Masa Harina in my pantry. But I don’t make corn masa very often, so I began to wonder does corn masa expire?

Fresh corn masa, sometimes called masa preparada, can be stored up to 3 days in a refrigerator. Masa harina, also called corn flour or by the brand name of Maseca, lasts between 9-12 months stored in a cool, dark place such as a pantry. Once they are past those freshness dates, they should be discarded.

But there’s more to know about corn masa, masa harina, shelf life, and freshness, so let’s dig in!

What is corn masa?

Not to be confused with the bags of corn flour commonly called masa harina or corn flour, of which the most recognized brand is Maseca.

Corn masa, also known as masa preparada, is a prepared dough made from masa harina mixed with either lard or water. But in some cases, it might be made from hominy which is made from dried corn kernels that have been soaked in lime (the mineral, not the fruit).

In either preparation, corn masa is then used to make corn tortillas, tamales and a host of other Mexican treats.

Sometimes if you’re lucky enough to be able to purchase fresh corn masa, you’ll see both coarse ground and smooth-ground masa.

The smooth-ground is what you want for tortillas and the coarse ground works better for tamales.

How long is masa good for?

Fresh corn masa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Keep it well covered, and discard after those 3 days. However, if you’re making your corn masa for tortillas, it works much better at room temperature. The tortillas will be much less apt to split and crack when it’s relatively warm as opposed to cold.

The downside to keeping your tortilla’s masa at room temperature is that is it then needs to be discarded within 12 hours.

In either case, make sure and keep the masa well covered either in a Tupperware container or wrapped in saran wrap.

One thing that’s GREAT to know if you’re using corn masa is the comal.

The comal, if you don’t already know, is a staple item in every Mexican kitchen. Here in America, we mostly think of it as a way to heat up tortillas. But honestly, that’s just the beginning of all the Ways of Using a Comal (click to see my post).

So once you master working with corn masa, make sure and get yourself a comal and check out my article for the tips you won’t want to miss!

How long does Maseca flour last?

Maseca is a leading brand of corn flour, otherwise known as masa harina; the building block of corn masa.

Maseca is sold in bags like any type of flour and kept in your pantry just like any other flour. The good news is that Maseca lasts longer than wheat or other types of flour.

Maseca, or any brand of corn flour or masa harina should last at least 9 months, and in most cases, up to 12 months.

Just make sure you store your flour in a cool dark place such as a pantry. Pour it into a container with a lid for the best freshness and protection from bugs.

While you could put whole wheat flour in the refrigerator, white flour or corn flour should NOT go in the refrigerator as it could start to get too moist and possible mold.

Most bags of flour have a “best before date” on it. That’s different than an expiration date in that it doesn’t mean it goes bad after that date; it just is better when it’s fresher.

But once opened, try and use your Maseca within 12 months.

How can you tell if corn flour is bad or spoiled?

For corn flour/masa harina, the biggest culprit is not usually age, it’s bugs.

Specifically, it’s weevils.  Often times 1 will get into a bag of flour or grain and lay eggs. Then, those little buggers start to infest everything around it in your pantry.

If that happens, while you could freeze the bag to kill them, just take it straight to the trash. Then, completely clean out your pantry from head to toe.

Check every open bag or box, tossing anything that looks infested.

Then thoroughly clean the shelves with spray cleaner to ensure no eggs are hiding waiting to hatch the next time you get a hankering for tamales!

How can you tell if corn tortillas are bad?

In terms of going bad, corn tortillas in a pantry should last 7-10 days or in the refrigerator 6-8 weeks. Freeze them for a maximum shelf life of 6-8 months.

The biggest sign a tortilla is bad will be mold spots.

That’s not the same as the brown or black marks some tortillas have from the griddle they were cooked on. So look carefully.

If you see any mold, however small, discard the entire package as the mold spores will have infected everything even if it’s not visible on all the tortillas yet.

If you do have some older, tougher corn tortillas, while I wouldn’t make a taco with them, you can still soften them up and make some great enchiladas with them.

And if you’re worried about calories and fat, you might be wondering Do I Have to Fry the Tortillas for Enchiladas? (click to see my post).

Check out my article to see the suprising results from other methods.

How long do fresh corn tortillas stay fresh?

Corn tortillas, unlike their flour compadres, don’t last very long.

That’s not to say they go bad, per se. But they start to get tough and leathery pretty quickly. That’s the reason I don’t buy corn tortillas at the store unless they make them in that store on a daily basis.

In most cases, I prefer to buy fresh corn tortillas from a local Mexican restaurant (and I’m lucky enough to have a great one for tortillas in Wimberley where I live).

So when I buy fresh corn tortillas, I discard them if I don’t use them that same day (actually I feed them to the deer in my yard).

If you don’t have a great local restaurant to buy fresh ones at, then learn from the best and make them yourself. Despite the fact that he’s not Mexican, my favorite all-time Mexican food chef is Rick Bayless. Check out his killer recipe for fresh corn tortillas.

Can I freeze prepared masa?

The short answer is yes, but why would you?

I would much rather make prepared, but not steamed, tamales and freeze those. Or even roll out fresh corn tortillas and freeze those (with a layer of wax paper in between).

Fresh corn masa, masa preparada is so relatively inexpensive to buy at Mexican markets or gourmet grocery stores, I just don’t see the need to freeze it.

If you are making your own from masa harina corn flour, then just make the amount you need for that meal. You can always make more later.

Can you refrigerate masa for tamales?

Yes is the short answer.

You can refrigerate prepared corn masa for up to 3 days. Just make sure it’s well covered either in a container or in plastic wrap.

Technically you can refrigerate fresh corn masa for anything; not just tamales. Just remember for making fresh tortillas using a tortilla press, it works much better to have it stay at room temperature once made.

And speaking of tortillas, making fresh corn tortillas is a whole lot trickier than flour.

So if you’ve tried and failed, or have been too scared to try, I break down everything you need to know about How to Use a Tortilla Press (click to read my post).

It’s a step by step guide for fool-proof corn (and flour) tortillas every time!

Final thoughts

In this article, we took a fairly quick look at the world of fresh corn masa, masa harina corn flour, and freshness.

We explored how long they last and what you can do to extend the shelf life. Then we also looked at whether or not freezing or refrigerating is a good idea.

Ultimately we answered the question of “does corn masa expire?” with a definite yes. Fresh corn masa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

What’s your favorite way to use fresh corn masa?

Jeff Campbell