I don’t think it’s possible to declare any world cuisine ‘the best’, but Mexican food is certainly up there. One of the best things about Mexican food is the fresh homemade corn tortillas. Masa, the maize dough which you use to make them, is also used in other tasty dishes like tamales or gorditas.
However, masa is not just used in Mexican food. It’s quite prominent in Latin American cuisine in general.
While masa is pretty easy to make, it’s also easy to make too much of it. And since it’s such tasty and useful food, it’s also great to save it if you can. The reason it’s a great food to save via freezing is that the quality doesn’t suffer, provided it isn’t frozen for too long.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about freezing masa.
How Long Does Masa Last?
How long masa lasts comes down to a few factors and how it’s stored. It generally doesn’t have a very long lifespan, however.
Masa can only last up to 3 days when it’s stored in the fridge. Beyond that, it might be safe to eat but it may not be viable to use as it could be too dry to work with and to cook properly. While it can stay relatively fresh for 3 days, some recommend using fresh masa within 24 hours for optimal results.
To store it in the fridge properly make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then also put it inside of an airtight container. This is to keep it as fresh as long as possible. The cool temperature of the fridge and airtight container can help to keep it from growing mold quickly.
You can tell that masa has gone bad if there are signs of mold, if it’s too dry, or if it’s sour. This sourness is different from masa that is purposefully soured, however.
When masa is stored in the freezer it can stay fresh between three and six months.
Can you Freeze Masa?
As I alluded to earlier, yes, you can definitely freeze masa! It freezes very well, without compromising quality as long as it’s used quick enough.
Masa should be frozen for no longer than six months to avoid compromising the quality of the dough. As long as it’s carefully packaged and frozen properly it should still be in excellent condition and to be used normally after it’s been defrosted.
How to Freeze Masa
When you freeze masa you can shape it into tortillas, tamale dough or whatever you plan to use in the future. Or you can freeze the dough in its original form. Shaping is the most desirable as it has the most reliable and usually the best overall outcomes. However, freezing unshaped dough is still quite effective.
Freezing Shaped Dough
First, let’s talk about tortillas. If you plan on using the masa to make corn tortillas then you should press the dough before freezing it.
So, press or roll out and shape your tortillas and then get ready to freeze them. To do this simply separate each tortilla using plastic wrap or parchment paper. Stack them carefully inside a container or freezer-safe bag. A freezer-safe bag or vacuum-sealed bag is your best bet.
Separating each tortilla with parchment paper or plastic wrap is very important. This is because they will stick together into one huge clump if you don’t separate them. This can be devastating to the tortillas.
If you’re going to make dumplings, tamales, gorditas, or something else with the masa then it’s recommended to fully prepare them and freeze them uncooked.
You should first freeze them individually by spreading them out on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer. Once they are frozen, put them into a more practical and space-saving container or freezer-safe bag for long-term storage.
Preshaped masa will last for about 6 months in the freezer. For premade foods like tamales or dumplings, the earlier you use them the better. They will technically stay safe for consumption but the quality can suffer if they are frozen too long.
Freezing Unshaped Dough
Of course, you may not know exactly how you’ll use your masa. And that’s totally fine. You can also freeze the entire ball of dough if you’d like. However, I would not recommend freezing it as one big ball if possible. Instead, freezing multiple smaller balls allows for much more flexibility.
To do this you simply need to tightly wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap. Then, place them inside a container or freezer-safe bag.
While freezing unshaped dough allows you to use it for different things, the drawback of this is that it isn’t as malleable as it is when it’s fresh. This is because the freezing process breaks down some of the structure of the dough, which makes it slightly more difficult to handle and shape.
You should use it within 3 months as the longer it’s frozen, the less workable the masa becomes. And of course, the sooner the better.
How to Defrost Masa
You can defrost masa in a variety of ways depending on how you froze it. It defrosts the fastest when it’s been molded into tortillas. And it takes the longest if it’s in a large ball of dough.
To defrost masa that’s been shaped into tortillas you can simply just take them out of the freezer about 30 minutes to one hour before you want to use them. They defrost the fastest if you lay them out individually and not in a stack. If you keep it in a stack it can take much longer for them to defrost all the way through. So I suggest laying them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and leave it out on the counter and they should defrost rather quickly.
If you have prepared a dish like tamales or empanadas, you can either cook them directly when they are frozen or defrost them first. Personally, I like to defrost them first as usually do with other foods that are frozen. To defrost the prepared foods simply put them into the fridge the night before you plan on cooking them and they will be defrosted and ready to go the next day.
Lastly, if you’ve frozen a ball of dough, I highly recommend thawing it by leaving it in the fridge overnight. Other possible methods can reduce the quality of the masa or dry it out (microwave) or if you leave it on the counter, it may take a long time to fully defrost. And by the time it’s defrosted, the outer layer will have been exposed at room temperature longer than the safe amount of time in the “danger zone” for food, which can result in harmful bacteria on the dough.
How Long Does Masa Flour Last?
Masa flour, also known as masa harina, which literally translates to “dough flour”, is exactly like it sounds. It’s the flour that you use to make masa or “dough”. It can also be labeled as instant corn dough.
Masa harina has a similar, or even slightly longer, shelf-life than normal four. It can stay fresh for up to one year if it’s stored correctly. Whereas normal flour usually can only last for about eight months.
But, the correct storage of masa flour is vital. If it’s not stored the correct way then it could be rendered useless or spoil in less than one year.
To store it correctly, masa harina should be stored in an airtight container and the container should be kept in a dry location out of direct sunlight or exposure to dramatic temperature fluctuations. And unsurprisingly, it’s also very susceptible to moisture, so a dry place and a truly airtight container are very important.
Because of this susceptibility to moisture, it should not be kept in the fridge. While it’s cool and dark, moisture may infiltrate the container and cause it to spoil.
Can You Freeze Masa Harina?
Yes, you can certainly freeze masa harina. While it doesn’t do so much to extend the lifespan of the masa flour (maybe only one or two months), it can certainly help to keep out pests. Pantry weevils and other annoying pantry-dwelling bugs can easily find their way into almost anywhere. So if your pantry can be susceptible then it’s actually a good idea to freeze masa harina in the freezer as it’s inhospitable to such pests.
If you purchased multiple bags of masa harina then it can be a good idea to put the unopened bags in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. This can also be a good way to safeguard against any sneaky bugs hitchhiking into your pantry via the foods you bought as the low temperatures in the freezer can kill off anything that may be in the flour.
How to Freeze Masa Harina
I just alluded to freezing the masa harina in the same package that you bought it in, and this is also the best and easiest way to freeze masa flour. However, if it’s already been opened you can still put it in the freezer. But first, put it in either a freezer-safe bag or container and make sure that it’s properly sealed, and then put it in the freezer after it’s been labeled.
How to Tell if Masa Has Gone Bad
The easiest way to tell if masa has gone is if there is visible mold on the masa, if it goes sour, or it becomes hard and dry. But hopefully, you’re able to enjoy the masa before it gets to this point!