Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Dotenv for Elixir

Build Module Version Hex Docs Total Download License Last Updated

This is a port of @bkeepers' dotenv project to Elixir. You can read more about dotenv on that project's page. The short version is that it simplifies developing projects where configuration is stored in environment variables (e.g. projects intended to be deployed to Heroku).

WARNING: Not compatible with Elixir releases

Elixir has an excellent configuration system and this dotenv implementation has a serious limitation in that it isn't available at compile time. It fits very poorly into a deployment setup using Elixir releases, distillery, or similar.

Configuration management should be built around Elixir's existing configuration system. A good example is Phoenix which generates a project where the production config imports the "secrets" from a file stored outside of version control. Even if you're using this for development, the same approach could be taken.

However, if you are using Heroku, Dokku, or another deployment process that does not use releases, read on!

Quick Start

The simplest way to use Dotenv is with the included OTP application. This will automatically load variables from a .env file in the root of your project directory into the process environment when started.

First add :dotenv to your dependencies.

For the latest release:

defp deps do
    {:dotenv, "~> 3.0.0"}

Most likely, if you are deploying in a Heroku-like environment, you'll want to only load the package in a non-production environment:

{:dotenv, "~> 3.0.0", only: [:dev, :test]}

For master:

{:dotenv, github: "avdi/dotenv_elixir"}

Fetch your dependencies with mix deps.get.

Now, when you load your app in a console with iex -S mix, your environment variables will be set automatically.

Using Environment Variables in Configuration

Mix loads configuration before loading any application code. If you want to use .env variables in your application configuration, you'll need to load dotenv manually on application start and reload your application config:

defmodule App.Application do
  use Application

  def start(_type, _args) do
    unless Mix.env == :prod do

    # ... the rest of your application startup

Elixir 1.9 and older

If you are running an old version of Elixir, you'll need to add the :dotenv application to your applications list when running in the :dev environment:

# Configuration for the OTP application
def application do
    mod: { YourApp, [] },
    applications: app_list(Mix.env)

defp app_list(:dev), do: [:dotenv | app_list]
defp app_list(_), do: app_list
defp app_list, do: [...]

Reloading the .env file

The Dotenv.reload!/0 function will reload the variables defined in the .env file.

More examples of the server API usage can be found in dotenv_app_test.exs.

Serverless API

If you would like finer-grained control over when variables are loaded, or would like to inspect them, Dotenv also provides a serverless API for interacting with .env files.

The load!/1 function loads variables into the process environment, and can be passed a path or list of paths to read from.

Alternately, load/1 will return a data structure of the variables read from the .env file:

iex> Dotenv.load
%Dotenv.Env{paths: ["/elixir/dotenv_elixir/.env"],
 values: %{"APP_TEST_VAR" => "HELLO"}}

For further details, see the inline documentation. Usage examples can be found in dotenv_test.exs.

Copyright and License

Copyright (c) 2014 Avdi Grimm

This library is released under the MIT License. See the file for further details.