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16.4.5 • Public • Published
🎉 announcing dotenvx. run anywhere, multi-environment, encrypted envs.


dotenv NPM version


Dotenv is a zero-dependency module that loads environment variables from a .env file into process.env. Storing configuration in the environment separate from code is based on The Twelve-Factor App methodology.

js-standard-style LICENSE codecov

🌱 Install

# install locally (recommended)
npm install dotenv --save

Or installing with yarn? yarn add dotenv

🏗️ Usage

how to use dotenv video tutorial youtube/@dotenvorg

Create a .env file in the root of your project:


As early as possible in your application, import and configure dotenv:

console.log(process.env) // remove this after you've confirmed it is working

.. or using ES6?

import 'dotenv/config'

That's it. process.env now has the keys and values you defined in your .env file:



s3.getBucketCors({Bucket: process.env.S3_BUCKET}, function(err, data) {})

Multiline values

If you need multiline variables, for example private keys, those are now supported (>= v15.0.0) with line breaks:


Alternatively, you can double quote strings and use the \n character:



Comments may be added to your file on their own line or inline:

# This is a comment

Comments begin where a # exists, so if your value contains a # please wrap it in quotes. This is a breaking change from >= v15.0.0 and on.


The engine which parses the contents of your file containing environment variables is available to use. It accepts a String or Buffer and will return an Object with the parsed keys and values.

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const buf = Buffer.from('BASIC=basic')
const config = dotenv.parse(buf) // will return an object
console.log(typeof config, config) // object { BASIC : 'basic' }


Note: Consider using dotenvx instead of preloading. I am now doing (and recommending) so.

It serves the same purpose (you do not need to require and load dotenv), adds better debugging, and works with ANY language, framework, or platform. – motdotla

You can use the --require (-r) command line option to preload dotenv. By doing this, you do not need to require and load dotenv in your application code.

$ node -r dotenv/config your_script.js

The configuration options below are supported as command line arguments in the format dotenv_config_<option>=value

$ node -r dotenv/config your_script.js dotenv_config_path=/custom/path/to/.env dotenv_config_debug=true

Additionally, you can use environment variables to set configuration options. Command line arguments will precede these.

$ DOTENV_CONFIG_<OPTION>=value node -r dotenv/config your_script.js
$ DOTENV_CONFIG_ENCODING=latin1 DOTENV_CONFIG_DEBUG=true node -r dotenv/config your_script.js dotenv_config_path=/custom/path/to/.env

Variable Expansion

You need to add the value of another variable in one of your variables? Use dotenv-expand.


You need to keep .env files in sync between machines, environments, or team members? Use dotenv-vault.

Multiple Environments

You need to manage your secrets across different environments and apply them as needed? Use a .env.vault file with a DOTENV_KEY.


You need to deploy your secrets in a cloud-agnostic manner? Use a .env.vault file. See deploying .env.vault files.

🌴 Manage Multiple Environments

Use dotenvx or dotenv-vault.


Run any environment locally. Create a .env.ENVIRONMENT file and use --env-file to load it. It's straightforward, yet flexible.

$ echo "HELLO=production" > .env.production
$ echo "console.log('Hello ' + process.env.HELLO)" > index.js

$ dotenvx run --env-file=.env.production -- node index.js
Hello production
> ^^

or with multiple .env files

$ echo "HELLO=local" > .env.local
$ echo "HELLO=World" > .env
$ echo "console.log('Hello ' + process.env.HELLO)" > index.js

$ dotenvx run --env-file=.env.local --env-file=.env -- node index.js
Hello local

more environment examples


Edit your production environment variables.

$ npx dotenv-vault open production

Regenerate your .env.vault file.

$ npx dotenv-vault build

ℹ️ 🔐 Vault Managed vs 💻 Locally Managed: The above example, for brevity's sake, used the 🔐 Vault Managed solution to manage your .env.vault file. You can instead use the 💻 Locally Managed solution. Read more here. Our vision is that other platforms and orchestration tools adopt the .env.vault standard as they did the .env standard. We don't expect to be the only ones providing tooling to manage and generate .env.vault files.

Learn more at dotenv-vault: Manage Multiple Environments

🚀 Deploying

Use dotenvx or dotenv-vault.


Encrypt your secrets to a .env.vault file and load from it (recommended for production and ci).

$ echo "HELLO=World" > .env
$ echo "HELLO=production" > .env.production
$ echo "console.log('Hello ' + process.env.HELLO)" > index.js

$ dotenvx encrypt
[dotenvx][info] encrypted to .env.vault (.env,.env.production)
[dotenvx][info] keys added to .env.keys (DOTENV_KEY_PRODUCTION,DOTENV_KEY_PRODUCTION)

$ DOTENV_KEY='<dotenv_key_production>' dotenvx run -- node index.js
[dotenvx][info] loading env (1) from encrypted .env.vault
Hello production
^ :-]

learn more


Note: Requires dotenv >= 16.1.0

Encrypt your .env.vault file.

$ npx dotenv-vault build

Fetch your production DOTENV_KEY.

$ npx dotenv-vault keys production

Set DOTENV_KEY on your server.

# heroku example
heroku config:set DOTENV_KEY=dotenv://:key_1234…

That's it! On deploy, your .env.vault file will be decrypted and its secrets injected as environment variables – just in time.

ℹ️ A note from Mot: Until recently, we did not have an opinion on how and where to store your secrets in production. We now strongly recommend generating a .env.vault file. It's the best way to prevent your secrets from being scattered across multiple servers and cloud providers – protecting you from breaches like the CircleCI breach. Also it unlocks interoperability WITHOUT native third-party integrations. Third-party integrations are increasingly risky to our industry. They may be the 'du jour' of today, but we imagine a better future.

Learn more at dotenv-vault: Deploying

📚 Examples

See examples of using dotenv with various frameworks, languages, and configurations.

📖 Documentation

Dotenv exposes four functions:

  • config
  • parse
  • populate
  • decrypt


config will read your .env file, parse the contents, assign it to process.env, and return an Object with a parsed key containing the loaded content or an error key if it failed.

const result = dotenv.config()

if (result.error) {
  throw result.error


You can additionally, pass options to config.



Default: path.resolve(process.cwd(), '.env')

Specify a custom path if your file containing environment variables is located elsewhere.

require('dotenv').config({ path: '/custom/path/to/.env' })

By default, config will look for a file called .env in the current working directory.

Pass in multiple files as an array, and they will be parsed in order and combined with process.env (or option.processEnv, if set). The first value set for a variable will win, unless the options.override flag is set, in which case the last value set will win. If a value already exists in process.env and the options.override flag is NOT set, no changes will be made to that value.

require('dotenv').config({ path: ['.env.local', '.env'] })

Default: utf8

Specify the encoding of your file containing environment variables.

require('dotenv').config({ encoding: 'latin1' })

Default: false

Turn on logging to help debug why certain keys or values are not being set as you expect.

require('dotenv').config({ debug: process.env.DEBUG })

Default: false

Override any environment variables that have already been set on your machine with values from your .env file(s). If multiple files have been provided in option.path the override will also be used as each file is combined with the next. Without override being set, the first value wins. With override set the last value wins.

require('dotenv').config({ override: true })

Default: process.env

Specify an object to write your secrets to. Defaults to process.env environment variables.

const myObject = {}
require('dotenv').config({ processEnv: myObject })

console.log(myObject) // values from .env or .env.vault live here now.
console.log(process.env) // this was not changed or written to

Default: process.env.DOTENV_KEY

Pass the DOTENV_KEY directly to config options. Defaults to looking for process.env.DOTENV_KEY environment variable. Note this only applies to decrypting .env.vault files. If passed as null or undefined, or not passed at all, dotenv falls back to its traditional job of parsing a .env file.

require('dotenv').config({ DOTENV_KEY: 'dotenv://:key_1234…' })


The engine which parses the contents of your file containing environment variables is available to use. It accepts a String or Buffer and will return an Object with the parsed keys and values.

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const buf = Buffer.from('BASIC=basic')
const config = dotenv.parse(buf) // will return an object
console.log(typeof config, config) // object { BASIC : 'basic' }



Default: false

Turn on logging to help debug why certain keys or values are not being set as you expect.

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const buf = Buffer.from('hello world')
const opt = { debug: true }
const config = dotenv.parse(buf, opt)
// expect a debug message because the buffer is not in KEY=VAL form


The engine which populates the contents of your .env file to process.env is available for use. It accepts a target, a source, and options. This is useful for power users who want to supply their own objects.

For example, customizing the source:

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const parsed = { HELLO: 'world' }

dotenv.populate(process.env, parsed)

console.log(process.env.HELLO) // world

For example, customizing the source AND target:

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const parsed = { HELLO: 'universe' }
const target = { HELLO: 'world' } // empty object

dotenv.populate(target, parsed, { override: true, debug: true })

console.log(target) // { HELLO: 'universe' }



Default: false

Turn on logging to help debug why certain keys or values are not being populated as you expect.


Default: false

Override any environment variables that have already been set.


The engine which decrypts the ciphertext contents of your .env.vault file is available for use. It accepts a ciphertext and a decryption key. It uses AES-256-GCM encryption.

For example, decrypting a simple ciphertext:

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const ciphertext = 's7NYXa809k/bVSPwIAmJhPJmEGTtU0hG58hOZy7I0ix6y5HP8LsHBsZCYC/gw5DDFy5DgOcyd18R'
const decryptionKey = 'ddcaa26504cd70a6fef9801901c3981538563a1767c297cb8416e8a38c62fe00'

const decrypted = dotenv.decrypt(ciphertext, decryptionKey)

console.log(decrypted) // # development@v6\nALPHA="zeta"


Why is the .env file not loading my environment variables successfully?

Most likely your .env file is not in the correct place. See this stack overflow.

Turn on debug mode and try again..

require('dotenv').config({ debug: true })

You will receive a helpful error outputted to your console.

Should I commit my .env file?

No. We strongly recommend against committing your .env file to version control. It should only include environment-specific values such as database passwords or API keys. Your production database should have a different password than your development database.

Should I have multiple .env files?

We recommend creating on .env file per environment. Use .env for local/development, .env.production for production and so on. This still follows the twelve factor principles as each is attributed individually to its own environment. Avoid custom set ups that work in inheritance somehow (.env.production inherits values form .env for example). It is better to duplicate values if necessary across each .env.environment file.

In a twelve-factor app, env vars are granular controls, each fully orthogonal to other env vars. They are never grouped together as “environments”, but instead are independently managed for each deploy. This is a model that scales up smoothly as the app naturally expands into more deploys over its lifetime.

The Twelve-Factor App

What rules does the parsing engine follow?

The parsing engine currently supports the following rules:

  • BASIC=basic becomes {BASIC: 'basic'}
  • empty lines are skipped
  • lines beginning with # are treated as comments
  • # marks the beginning of a comment (unless when the value is wrapped in quotes)
  • empty values become empty strings (EMPTY= becomes {EMPTY: ''})
  • inner quotes are maintained (think JSON) (JSON={"foo": "bar"} becomes {JSON:"{\"foo\": \"bar\"}")
  • whitespace is removed from both ends of unquoted values (see more on trim) (FOO= some value becomes {FOO: 'some value'})
  • single and double quoted values are escaped (SINGLE_QUOTE='quoted' becomes {SINGLE_QUOTE: "quoted"})
  • single and double quoted values maintain whitespace from both ends (FOO=" some value " becomes {FOO: ' some value '})
  • double quoted values expand new lines (MULTILINE="new\nline" becomes
  • backticks are supported (BACKTICK_KEY=`This has 'single' and "double" quotes inside of it.`)

What happens to environment variables that were already set?

By default, we will never modify any environment variables that have already been set. In particular, if there is a variable in your .env file which collides with one that already exists in your environment, then that variable will be skipped.

If instead, you want to override process.env use the override option.

require('dotenv').config({ override: true })

How come my environment variables are not showing up for React?

Your React code is run in Webpack, where the fs module or even the process global itself are not accessible out-of-the-box. process.env can only be injected through Webpack configuration.

If you are using react-scripts, which is distributed through create-react-app, it has dotenv built in but with a quirk. Preface your environment variables with REACT_APP_. See this stack overflow for more details.

If you are using other frameworks (e.g. Next.js, Gatsby...), you need to consult their documentation for how to inject environment variables into the client.

Can I customize/write plugins for dotenv?

Yes! dotenv.config() returns an object representing the parsed .env file. This gives you everything you need to continue setting values on process.env. For example:

const dotenv = require('dotenv')
const variableExpansion = require('dotenv-expand')
const myEnv = dotenv.config()

How do I use dotenv with import?


// index.mjs (ESM)
import 'dotenv/config' // see
import express from 'express'

A little background..

When you run a module containing an import declaration, the modules it imports are loaded first, then each module body is executed in a depth-first traversal of the dependency graph, avoiding cycles by skipping anything already executed.

ES6 In Depth: Modules

What does this mean in plain language? It means you would think the following would work but it won't.


import { Client } from 'best-error-reporting-service'

export default new Client(process.env.API_KEY)


// Note: this is INCORRECT and will not work
import * as dotenv from 'dotenv'

import errorReporter from './errorReporter.mjs' Error('documented example'))

process.env.API_KEY will be blank.

Instead, index.mjs should be written as..

import 'dotenv/config'

import errorReporter from './errorReporter.mjs' Error('documented example'))

Does that make sense? It's a bit unintuitive, but it is how importing of ES6 modules work. Here is a working example of this pitfall.

There are two alternatives to this approach:

  1. Preload dotenv: node --require dotenv/config index.js (Note: you do not need to import dotenv with this approach)
  2. Create a separate file that will execute config first as outlined in this comment on #133

Why am I getting the error Module not found: Error: Can't resolve 'crypto|os|path'?

You are using dotenv on the front-end and have not included a polyfill. Webpack < 5 used to include these for you. Do the following:

npm install node-polyfill-webpack-plugin

Configure your webpack.config.js to something like the following.


const path = require('path');
const webpack = require('webpack')

const NodePolyfillPlugin = require('node-polyfill-webpack-plugin')

module.exports = {
  mode: 'development',
  entry: './src/index.ts',
  output: {
    filename: 'bundle.js',
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
  plugins: [
    new NodePolyfillPlugin(),
    new webpack.DefinePlugin({
      'process.env': {
        HELLO: JSON.stringify(process.env.HELLO)

Alternatively, just use dotenv-webpack which does this and more behind the scenes for you.

What about variable expansion?

Try dotenv-expand

What about syncing and securing .env files?

Use dotenv-vault

What is a .env.vault file?

A .env.vault file is an encrypted version of your development (and ci, staging, production, etc) environment variables. It is paired with a DOTENV_KEY to deploy your secrets more securely than scattering them across multiple platforms and tools. Use dotenv-vault to manage and generate them.

What if I accidentally commit my .env file to code?

Remove it, remove git history and then install the git pre-commit hook to prevent this from ever happening again.

brew install dotenvx/brew/dotenvx
dotenvx precommit --install

How can I prevent committing my .env file to a Docker build?

Use the docker prebuild hook.

# Dockerfile
RUN curl -fsS | sh
RUN dotenvx prebuild
CMD ["dotenvx", "run", "--", "node", "index.js"]

Contributing Guide




Who's using dotenv?

These npm modules depend on it.

Projects that expand it often use the keyword "dotenv" on npm.

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