BETA: Automatic Let's Encrypt TLS Certificate installation for dokku
Latest commit d98d399 Jan 10, 2017 @joshmanders joshmanders committed on GitHub Merge pull request #95 from Yggdrasil/patch-1
Tiny syntax fix in Readme

dokku-letsencrypt (Beta)

dokku-letsencrypt is the official plugin for dokku that gives the ability to automatically retrieve and install TLS certificates from During ACME validation, your app will stay available at any time.

Note: If you want to automatically renew the certificates, please use dokku letsencrypt:cron-job --add to add an auto-renewal cron-job to the crontab of the dokku user. This is supported starting from the plugin version 0.8.2 which only works with Dokku 0.5 or later.

Note: By running this plugin, you agree to the Let's Encrypt Subscriber Agreement automatically (because prompting you whether you agree might break running the plugin as part of a cronjob).

Note: If you like Let's Encrypt, please consider donating to Let's Encrypt.


# dokku 0.5+
$ sudo dokku plugin:install

# dokku 0.4
$ sudo dokku plugin:install --committish dokku-0.4

Upgrading from previous versions

# dokku 0.5+
$ sudo dokku plugin:update letsencrypt

# dokku 0.4
$ sudo dokku plugin:update letsencrypt dokku-0.4


$ dokku letsencrypt:help
    letsencrypt <app>                       Enable or renew letsencrypt certificate for app
    letsencrypt:auto-renew                  Auto-renew all apps secured by letsencrypt if renewal is necessary
    letsencrypt:auto-renew <app>            Auto-renew app if renewal is necessary
    letsencrypt:cleanup <app>               Cleanup stale certificates and configurations
    letsencrypt:cron-job <--add|--remove>   Add or remove an auto-renewal cronjob
    letsencrypt:ls                          List letsencrypt-secured apps with certificate expiry
    letsencrypt:revoke <app>                Revoke letsencrypt certificate for app


Obtain a Let's encrypt TLS certificate for app myapp (you can also run this command to renew the certificate):

$ dokku config:set --no-restart myapp DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAIL=your@email.tld
-----> Setting config vars
       DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAIL: your@email.tld
$ dokku letsencrypt myapp
=====> Let's Encrypt myapp...
-----> Updating letsencrypt docker image...
latest: Pulling from dokkupaas/letsencrypt-simp_le

Digest: sha256:20f2a619795c1a3252db6508f77d6d3648ad5b336e67caaf801126367dbdfa22
Status: Image is up to date for dokkupaas/letsencrypt-simp_le:latest
-----> Enabling ACME proxy for myapp...
-----> Getting letsencrypt certificate for myapp...
        - Domain ''

[ removed various log messages for brevity ]

-----> Certificate retrieved successfully.
-----> Symlinking let's encrypt certificates
-----> Configuring SSL for /var/lib/dokku/plugins/available/nginx-vhosts/templates/nginx.ssl.conf.template)
-----> Creating https nginx.conf
-----> Running nginx-pre-reload
       Reloading nginx
-----> Disabling ACME proxy for myapp...

Once the certificate is installed, you can use the certs:* built-in commands to edit and query your certificate.


dokku-letsencrypt uses the Dokku environment variable manager for all configuration. The important environment variables are:

Variable Default Description
DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAIL (none) REQUIRED: E-mail address to use for registering with Let's Encrypt.
DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_GRACEPERIOD 30 days Time in seconds left on a certificate before it should get renewed
DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_SERVER default Which ACME server to use. Can be 'default', 'staging' or a URL

You can set a setting using dokku config:set --no-restart <myapp> SETTING_NAME=setting_value. When looking for a setting, the plugin will first look if it was defined for the current app and fall back to settings defined by --global.

Redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS

Dokku's default nginx template will automatically redirect HTTP requests to HTTPS when a certificate is present.

You can customize the nginx template if you want different behaviour.


dokku-letsencrypt gets around having to disable your web server using the following workflow:

  1. Temporarily add a reverse proxy for the /.well-known/ path of your app to$ACMEPORT
  2. Run the simp_le Let's Encrypt client in a Docker container binding to $ACMEPORT to complete the ACME challenge and retrieve the TLS certificates
  3. Install the TLS certificates
  4. Remove the reverse proxy and reload nginx

For a more in-depth explanation, see this blog post

Dockerfile Deploys

When securing Dockerfile deploys with dokku-letsencrypt, be aware of the proxy mechanism for dokku 0.6+.

For Dockerfile deploys, by default, dokku will determine which ports a container exposes and proxies all those exposed ports in the Docker container by listening on the same port numbers on the host. This means that both the proxies for HTTP port 80 and HTTPS port 443 to the app's container need to be manually configured using the dokku proxy:ports-* commands in order for certificate validation and browsing to the app via HTTPS to work.

A full workflow for creating a new Dockerfile deployment with dokku-letsencrypt would be:

  1. Create a new app myapp in dokku and push to the remote. This guide assumes that the Docker container will be listening for connections on port 5555 so replace container port numbers accordingly if necessary.
  2. On the dokku host, use dokku proxy:ports-add myapp http:80:5555 to proxy HTTP port 80 to port 5555 on the Docker image
  3. On the dokku host, use dokku letsencrypt myapp to retrieve HTTPS certificates.
  4. On the dokku host, use dokku proxy:ports-add myapp https:443:5555 to proxy HTTPS port 443 to port 5555 on the Docker image
  5. (optional) On the dokku host, use dokku proxy:ports-remove myapp http:5555:5555 to remove a potential leftover proxy that was automatically configured on first deploy.

After these steps, the output of dokku proxy:ports myapp should look like this:

-----> Port mappings for myapp
-----> scheme             host port                 container port                                     
http                      80                        5555                                               
https                     443                       5555  

Note: Step 2 and step 4 cannot be joined together since a configured HTTPS proxy will include a ssl_certificate line in the app's nginx config that will cause nginx config validation to fail because no valid HTTPS certificate is available until step 3 is completed.

Dealing with rate limit

Be aware that Let's Encrypt is subject to rate limiting. The limit about the number of certificates you can add on a domain per week is a concern for dokku because of the default domain added to your new applications, named like <app>.<dokku-domain>: using dokku-letsencrypt on all your applications would create a certificate for each application subdomain on <dokku-domain>.

As a workaround, if you want to encrypt many applications, make sure to add a proper domain for each one and remove their default domain before running dokku-letsencrypt. For example, if your dokku domain is and you want to encrypt your foo app:

dokku domains:add foo
dokku domains:remove foo
dokku letsencrypt foo

While playing around with this plugin, you might want to switch to the let's encrypt staging server by running dokku config:set --no-restart myapp DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_SERVER=staging to enjoy much higher rate limits and switching back to the real server by running dokku config:unset --no-restart myapp DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_SERVER once you are ready.


This plugin is released under the MIT license. See the file LICENSE.