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Hugo Starter Theme with Tailwind CSS

Starter files for a Hugo theme with Tailwind CSS.

  • set up to use Tailwind CSS - v2.0+
  • includes the @tailwindcss/typography plugin for styling of markdown content
  • use Hugo Pipes to build and load css based on dev or build environment
  • purge unused css classes with PurgeCSS for build, but not in dev
  • works as separate theme repo or as a local theme folder within a Hugo site
  • basic template setup with an index page, an about page and a posts category
  • responsive navigation header with minimal javascript with pure css to hide the nav on small screens
  • to keep that s***er down, the theme features a sticky footer
  • included helper partials to show Hugo parameters and Tailwind CSS breakpoints during development

Live long and code.

What this theme is NOT

This theme is a starter setup theme to aid in developing Hugo themes using the Tailwind CSS framework. It is not a standalone theme ready to use.


Make sure to install postcss-cli and autoprefixer globally in your environment, as Hugo Pipe’s PostCSS requires it. This is mentioned in the Hugo Docs.

npm install -g postcss-cli
npm install -g autoprefixer

Make sure to use a minimum Hugo version of v0.69.0 and above.

Set the writeStats option in your Hugo config file, so that purging of CSS classes works in production. See /exampleSite/config.toml as a guideline.

  writeStats = true

Basic usage to develop a separate Theme repo

  • clone and rename the repo
git clone new-theme-name
  • to make that theme your own, switch into the newly created folder, remove the git history from this starter repo and initiate a new git repo
cd new-theme-name
rm -rf .git
git init
  • now install the necessary node packages
npm install
  • edit the config.toml file in exampleSite/ to reflect the new-theme-name
# in config.toml
theme = "new-theme-name" # your new theme name here
  • start a server to develop with exampleSite
hugo server -s exampleSite --themesDir=../.. --disableFastRender

Usage directly within a Hugo repo as a theme package

  • start a new Hugo site
hugo new site new-site
  • switch into the theme folder an clone the starter repo
cd new-site/themes
git clone new-theme-name
  • switch into the newly created theme folder, remove the git history from this starter repo and install the node packages
cd new-theme-name
rm -rf .git
npm install
  • edit the config.toml file in new-site/ to reflect the new-theme-name
# in config.toml
theme = "new-theme-name" # your new theme name here
  • switch to the root of the new-site repo and start a server to view the index site
cd new-site
hugo server --disableFastRender

Your content should go into new-site/content, the development of the site layout is done within new-site/themes/new-theme-name/layout.


Included are the following helpers for the development phase (not visible in production):

  • /partials/dev-parameters.html, which shows basic Hugo page parameters
  • /partials/dev-size-indicator.html, which displays a floating circle in the upper right corner to indicate the Tailwind CSS responsive breakpoints

If you don't need any of these helpers anymore, just delete the corresponding line from /layouts/_default/baseof.html.

Deploy to Netlify

If you use this starter theme and want to deploy your site to Netlify, you MAY encounter a build error which contains the following line:

ERROR {your deploy time here} error: failed to transform resource: POSTCSS: failed to transform "css/styles.css" (text/css): PostCSS not found; install with "npm install postcss-cli". See

That is, Netlify doesn't know the npm dependencies of this starter theme yet. For this to fix, please add a package.json file to the root of your repo with the content:

    "name": "my-site",
    "version": "0.0.1",
    "description": "that is my-site",
    "repository": "",
    "license": "MIT",
    "devDependencies": {
        "@fullhuman/postcss-purgecss": "^3.1.3",
        "@tailwindcss/typography": "^0.3.1",
        "autoprefixer": "^10.2.0",
        "postcss": "^8.2.3",
        "postcss-cli": "^8.3.1",
        "postcss-import": "^14.0.0",
        "tailwindcss": "^2.0.2"
    "browserslist": [
        "last 1 version",
        "> 1%",
        "maintained node versions",
        "not dead"

This introduces the dependencies Tailwind CSS and PostCSS need, Netlify will run the installation automatically on deploy.

Environment variables

To make the distinction between development and production environments work, add an environment variable HUGO_ENV = "production" to your site settings under SettingsBuild & deployEnvironment.

Or use a netlify.toml for a file-based configuration.

How does that work anyway?

Within postcss.config.js a purgecss function is defined, which is only called based on the environment variable HUGO_ENVIRONMENT === 'production'.

const themeDir = __dirname + '/../../';

const purgecss = require('@fullhuman/postcss-purgecss')({
    // see
    content: ['./hugo_stats.json'],
    defaultExtractor: (content) => {
        let els = JSON.parse(content).htmlElements;
        return els.tags.concat(els.classes, els.ids);

module.exports = {
    plugins: [
            path: [themeDir]
        require('tailwindcss')(themeDir + 'assets/css/tailwind.config.js'),
            path: [themeDir],
            grid: true
        ...(process.env.HUGO_ENVIRONMENT === 'production' ? [purgecss] : [])

During the build process Hugo Pipes checks this variable too and build the styles.css with some additional minification. This snippet is located in /layouts/partials/head.html.

{{ $styles := resources.Get "css/styles.css" | postCSS (dict "config" "./assets/css/postcss.config.js") }}
{{ if .Site.IsServer }}
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="{{ $styles.RelPermalink }}">
{{ else }}
    {{ $styles := $styles| minify | fingerprint | resources.PostProcess }}
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="{{ $styles.Permalink }}" integrity="{{ $styles.Data.Integrity }}">
{{ end }}


Documentation for Hugo's PostCSS setup.