Corn Tortillas
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How To Keep Corn Tortillas From Breaking

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How annoying it is when you are ready to assemble your tacos and all your corn tortillas start to crack and break?

This happens when the corn tortillas are dry or stale. So, should you give up the idea of making a Mexican meal, or is there a way to solve this problem?

How do you keep corn tortillas from breaking? Luckily, there are ways to keep corn tortillas from breaking. First and foremost, get fresh tortillas and store them properly. If the tortillas are dry or stale at the time of using them, warm them up or use damp paper towels to soften them.

Keep reading to learn about the reasons tortillas break, how to prevent it from happening, how to fry corn tortillas for taco shells without breaking them, and more!

Why Do Corn Tortillas Break?

Stack of Homemade Corn Tortillas on a Background

Corn tortillas break when they are too stale or dry. Tortillas that are a few days old will most likely break or tear when you try to bend them. 

This may not be a problem when you are making enchiladas or making crushed tortilla chips. However, it can be a problem if you are making tacos, burritos, and anything that involves rolling and folding corn tortillas. 

Another reason corn tortillas break is that they are naturally gluten-free. The more gluten is in the dough, the more elastic it is. Due to the absence of gluten, corn tortillas tend to easily break when they cool. 

How To Keep Corn Tortillas From Breaking

As you already know, corn tortillas break if they are dry or stale. Here are some things you can do to prevent corn tortillas from cracking and make them roll and bend easily for all your Mexican-style dishes!

1. Buy Fresh Tortillas 

Before you use any tips and tricks to soften corn tortillas and make them pliable, it is important that you get fresh tortillas.

The best option would be to make corn tortillas at home. Making corn tortillas at home is not difficult at all! All you need is masa harina, water, salt, and a tortilla press

If you don’t have the time or skills to make corn tortillas yourself, the next best thing would be getting freshly made corn tortillas from a tortilleria.

Tortillerias are tortilla bakeries native to the countries of Central America and common in Mexican-American communities. 

If you can’t get fresh corn tortillas and buy the ones that come in bags, check the production date to make sure you are getting fresh tortillas. 

2. Store Them Properly

Storing tortillas in proper conditions is crucial if you want to prevent them from breaking when you use them!

Unopened corn tortillas can be stored in their original packaging so long as it is undamaged and airtight. Once you open the bag of tortillas, reseal it after each use.

You can also store homemade or store-bought corn tortillas in sealable plastic bags. When you put the tortillas in bags, push out the excess air to prevent the tortillas from drying out.

Corn tortillas stored at room temperature should last up to 10 days. The fridge extends the shelf life of corn tortillas to 6 weeks and longer. 

Freezing is another great way to store corn tortillas. Corn tortillas last 2 months and longer when stored in the freezer. 

3. Warm Up The Tortillas 

Warming up corn tortillas just a little makes it easy to bend and roll them. You can warm up tortillas using a pan, grill, microwave, or oven.

However, it is important that you don’t overheat the tortillas as they may become too crispy and brittle.  

When warming up corn tortillas in the microwave, cover them with slightly damp paper towels. Microwave for only 30 seconds to make tortillas warm, moist, and perfectly soft. 

4. Cook Briefly In Oil 

A clever way to make corn tortillas more bendable is to cook them briefly in oil. Heat a few inches of neutral cooking oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, use a pair of tongs to put the tortilla in it.

Because the oil is hot, it will immediately start to bubble as you submerge the tortilla into it. 

Remove it from the hot oil after 5-6 seconds — you don’t want to fry the tortilla!

The goal of this method is not to fry the tortilla and make it crispy but to make it pliable and easy to work with. 

5. Keep Tortillas Warm While You Cook

If you are making fresh corn tortillas for dinner, use a tortilla warmer to keep the tortillas warm while you are preparing the rest of the dishes. 

In case you didn’t know, a tortilla warmer is a round container with a lid. It can be made of different materials, including plastic, silicone, and terracotta.

Line the tortilla warmer with a clean cloth and stack the freshly baked tortillas in it. The tortilla warmer will keep the corn tortillas warm and soft for around 20 minutes. 

If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and keep them in the oven preheated to 250°F until you are ready to use them. 

How To Fry Corn Tortillas For Tacos Without Breaking Them

Buying crunchy taco shells is easier than frying them yourself. However, on many occasions, you open a box of taco shells to only find out broken bits of corn tortillas. This can be a dealbreaker for a taco night!

Tortillas fried at home are so much better. Here’s how to fry corn tortillas for tacos without breaking them:

  1. Pour oil into a frying pan and turn the stove to medium heat. 
  2. When the oil is hot enough, place a corn tortilla in it using a pair of tongs. The oil should already be heated to 375°F — if it’s cold, the tortilla will soak up too much oil. 
  3. Fry the tortilla for 15 seconds. 
  4. Flip the tortilla. Fold and fry for 15 seconds. 
  5. Flip again to fry the other half of the folded tortilla. 
  6. Remove the tortilla from the pan and put it on a wire rack in the oven preheated to 200°F. As you will be frying one tortilla at a time, you need to keep the fried shells warm until you are done frying all of them. 

How To Roll Corn Tortillas Without Breaking Them

If you want to roll corn tortillas without them breaking or cracking, use a steamer basket to steam the tortillas. Steaming will soften the tortillas — it will also make them more pliable and easy to roll!

When putting the tortillas in the basket, be sure that they are not touching the boiling water underneath. Steam the tortillas for 20-25 seconds or until they are soft enough to be rolled without breaking. 

How To Use Stale Corn Tortillas 

If you have corn tortillas that are stale, but not bad enough to be discarded, use them up in recipes where you won’t be folding and rolling them. 

Here are some ways to use stale tortillas:

  • Soups. Fry stale corn tortillas to make tortilla soup! Corn tortillas work especially well as a thickener for soups. Simply crush the tortillas into the soup. As the soup cooks, the tortilla bits will break down into smaller pieces and make the soup thicker and heartier.
    • Corn tortillas can go into any other soup too — they work just as well as flour or cornstarch.
    • For a creamier consistency, use an immersion blender to blend the tortilla into the soup. 
  • Tortilla Chips. The easiest way to use up stale tortillas is to bake them into chips. To do this, simply cut the corn tortillas into triangles, brush lightly with oil, season with salt, and bake until crispy. 
  • Casseroles. Make a lasagna-inspired casserole using stale tortillas! Layer the tortillas with enchilada sauce, cheese, and your favorite fillings. 
  • Chilaquiles.  Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican breakfast dish made with corn tortillas, salsa, cheese, beans, eggs, etc. As the tortillas need to be cut into smaller pieces for chilaquiles, they are a perfect dish to make with corn tortillas that are falling apart. 
  • Taco Salad Bowl. If you are in the mood for tacos, but your corn tortillas are too stale, make a taco salad bowl instead! Prepare all your taco ingredients. Cut the corn tortillas into small pieces and bake or fry them. Put all ingredients into a bowl and enjoy. 

How Do You Know If Tortillas Are Stale Or Have Gone Bad?

Corn tortillas last longer than flour tortillas. However, they do get stale after a few days of opening the bag. Homemade tortillas go stale even sooner! 

When tortillas go stale, they begin to stiffen though they remain safe for consumption. But how do you know if tortillas are stale or if they have gone bad?

Tortillas should be discarded if there are traces of mold on them or if they are overly hard and unpliable. 

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