by mars


Heroku Buildpack for create-react-app

Deploy React.js web apps generated with create-react-app. Automates deployment with the built-in bundler and serves it up via Nginx. See the introductory blog post and entry in Heroku elements.


This buildpack deploys a React UI as a static web site. The Nginx web server provides optimum performance and security for the runtime. See Architecture for details.

If your goal is to make a single app that combines React UI with a server-side backend (Node, Ruby, Python…), then this buildpack is not the answer.

Check out these alternatives to use React with a server-side app:


Quick Start

Ensure requirements are met, then execute the following in a terminal.

✏️ Replace $APP_NAME with the name for your unique app.

npx create-react-app@3.x $APP_NAME
heroku create $APP_NAME --buildpack mars/create-react-app
git push heroku main
heroku open

Once deployed, continue development 🌱

For explanation about these steps, continue reading the next section.


Generate a React app

✏️ Replace $APP_NAME with the name for your unique app.

npx create-react-app@3.x $APP_NAME
  • as of create-react-app v3, it automatically performs git init and an initial commit
  • npx comes with npm 5.2+ and higher, see instructions for older npm versions
  • if yarn is installed locally, the new app will use it instead of npm

Create the Heroku app

✏️ Replace $APP_NAME with the name for your unique app.

heroku create $APP_NAME --buildpack mars/create-react-app

This command:

  • sets the app name & its default URL https://$
  • sets the app to use this buildpack
  • configures the heroku git remote in the local repo, so git push heroku main will push to this new Heroku app.

Deploy ♻️

git push heroku main

…or if you are ever working on a branch other than main:

✏️ Replace $BRANCH_NAME with the name for the current branch.

git push heroku $BRANCH_NAME:main

Visit the app's public URL in your browser

heroku open

Visit the Heroku Dashboard for the app

Find the app on your dashboard.

Continue Development

Work with your app locally using npm start. See: create-react-app docs

Then, git commit your changes & git push heroku main ♻️

Push to Github

Eventually, to share, collaborate, or simply back-up your code, create an empty repo at Github, and then follow the instructions shown on the repo to push an existing repository from the command line.


Use create-react-app's built-in Jest testing or whatever testing library you prefer.

Heroku CI is supported with minimal configuration. The CI integration is compatible with npm & yarn (see bin/test).

Minimal app.json

Heroku CI uses app.json to provision test apps. To support Heroku CI, commit this minimal example app.json:

  "buildpacks": [
      "url": "mars/create-react-app"



Heroku apps may declare what processes are launched for a successful deployment by way of the Procfile. This buildpack's default process comes from heroku/static buildpack. (See: πŸ™ Architecture). The implicit Procfile to start the static web server is:

web: bin/boot

To customize an app's processes, commit a Procfile and deploy. Include web: bin/boot to launch the default web process, or you may replace the default web process. Additional process types may be added to run any number of dynos with whatever arbitrary commands you want, and scale each independently.

🚦 If replacing the default web process, please check this buildpack's Purpose to avoid misusing this buildpack (such as running a Node server) which can lead to confusing deployment issues.

Web server

The web server may be configured via the static buildpack.

The config file static.json should be committed at the root of the repo. It will not be recognized, if this file in a sub-directory

The default static.json, if it does not exist in the repo, is:

  "root": "build/",
  "routes": {
    "/**": "index.html"

Changing the root

If a different web server "root" is specified, such as with a highly customized, ejected create-react-app project, then the new bundle location may need to be set to enable runtime environment variables.


πŸš₯ Client-side routing is supported by default. Any server request that would result in 404 Not Found returns the React app.

πŸ‘“ See custom routing w/ the static buildpack.


Enforce secure connections by automatically redirecting insecure requests to https://, in static.json:

  "root": "build/",
  "routes": {
    "/**": "index.html"
  "https_only": true

Strict transport security (HSTS)

Prevent downgrade attacks with HTTP strict transport security. Add HSTS "headers" to static.json.

⚠️ Do not set HSTS headers if the app's hostname will not permantly support HTTPS/SSL/TLS. Once HSTS is set, switching back to plain HTTP will cause security errors in browsers that received the headers, until the max-age is reached. Heroku's built-in hostnames are safe to use with HSTS.

  "root": "build/",
  "routes": {
    "/**": "index.html"
  "https_only": true,
  "headers": {
    "/**": {
      "Strict-Transport-Security": "max-age=31557600"
  • max-age is the number of seconds to enforce HTTPS since the last connection; the example is one-year


Proxy XHR requests from the React UI in the browser to API backends. Use to prevent same-origin errors when CORS is not supported on the backend.

Proxy URL prefix

To make calls through the proxy, use relative URL's in the React app which will be proxied to the configured target URL. For the example URL prefix of /api/, here's how the proxy would rewrite the requests:


You may choose any prefix and may have multiple proxies with different prefixes.

Proxy for deployment

The heroku/static buildpack (see: πŸ™ Architecture) provides Proxy Backends configuration to utilize Nginx for high-performance proxies in production.

Add "proxies" to static.json:

  "root": "build/",
  "routes": {
    "/**": "index.html"
  "proxies": {
    "/api/": {
      "origin": "${API_URL}"

Then, point the React UI app to a specific backend API:

heroku config:set API_URL=""

Proxy for local development

create-react-app itself provides a built-in proxy for development. This may be configured to match the behavior of proxy for deployment.

Add "proxy" to package.json:

  "proxy": {
    "/api": {
      "target": "http://localhost:8000",
      "pathRewrite": {
        "^/api": "/"

Replace http://localhost:8000 with the URL to your local or remote backend service.

Environment variables

REACT_APP_* environment variables are fully supported with this buildpack.

🚫🀐 Not for secrets. These values may be accessed by anyone who can see the React app.

Set vars on Heroku

heroku config:set REACT_APP_HELLO='I love sushi!'

Set vars for local dev

Requires at least create-react-app 0.7. Earlier versions only support Compile-time.

Create a .env file that sets a variable per line:


Compile-time vs Runtime

Two versions of variables are supported. In addition to compile-time variables applied during build the app supports variables set at runtime, applied as each web dyno starts-up.

Requirement Compile-time Runtime never changes for a build βœ“ support for continuous delivery βœ“ updates immediately when setting new config vars βœ“ different values for staging & production (in a pipeline) βœ“ ex: REACT_APP_BUILD_VERSION (static fact about the bundle) βœ“ ex: REACT_APP_DEBUG_ASSERTIONS (prune code from bundle) βœ“ ex: REACT_APP_API_URL (transient, external reference) βœ“ ex: REACT_APP_FILEPICKER_API_KEY (Add-on config vars) βœ“

Compile-time configuration

Supports all config vars, including REACT_APP_, NODE_, NPM_, & HEROKU_ prefixed variables.

☝️🀐 Use secrets carefully. If these values are embedded in the JavaScript bundle, like with REACT_APP_ vars, then they may be accessed by anyone who can see the React app.

Use Node's process.env object.

import React, { Component } from 'react';

class App extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <code>Runtime env var example: { process.env.REACT_APP_HELLO }</code>

♻️ The app must be re-deployed for compiled changes to take effect, because during the build, these references will be replaced with their quoted string value.

heroku config:set REACT_APP_HELLO='I love sushi!'

git commit --allow-empty -m "Set REACT_APP_HELLO config var"
git push heroku main

Only REACT_APP_ vars are replaced in create-react-app's build. To make any other variables visible to React, they must be prefixed for the build command in package.json, like this:


Runtime configuration

Supports only REACT_APP_ prefixed variables.

🚫🀐 Not for secrets. These values may be accessed by anyone who can see the React app.

Install the runtime env npm package:

npm install @mars/heroku-js-runtime-env --save

Then, require/import it to use the vars within components:

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import runtimeEnv from '@mars/heroku-js-runtime-env';

class App extends Component {
  render() {
    // Load the env object.
    const env = runtimeEnv();

    // …then use values just like `process.env`
    return (
      <code>Runtime env var example: { env.REACT_APP_HELLO }</code>

⚠️ Avoid setting backslash escape sequences, such as \n, into Runtime config vars. Use literal UTF-8 values only; they will be automatically escaped.

Custom bundle location

If the javascript bundle location is customized, such as with an ejected created-react-app project, then the runtime may not be able to locate the bundle to inject runtime variables.

To solve this so the runtime can locate the bundle, set the custom bundle path:

heroku config:set JS_RUNTIME_TARGET_BUNDLE=/app/my/custom/path/js/*.js

✳️ Note this path is a * glob, selecting multiple files, because as of create-react-app version 2 the bundle is split.

To unset this config and use the default path for create-react-app's bundle, /app/build/static/js/*.js:

heroku config:unset JS_RUNTIME_TARGET_BUNDLE

Add-on config vars

🚫🀐 Be careful not to export secrets. These values may be accessed by anyone who can see the React app.

Use a custom .profile.d script to make variables set by other components available to the React app by prefixing them with REACT_APP_.

  1. create .profile.d/

  2. make it executable chmod +x .profile.d/

  3. add an export line for each variable:

  4. set-up & use Runtime configuration to access the variables

For example, to use the API key for the Filestack JS image uploader:


npm Private Packages

Private modules are supported during build.

  1. Setup your app with a .npmrc file following npm's guide for CI/deployment.

  2. Set your secret in the NPM_TOKEN config var:

    heroku config:set NPM_TOKEN=xxxxx


  1. Confirm that your app is using this buildpack:

    heroku buildpacks

    If it's not using create-react-app-buildpack, then set it:

    heroku buildpacks:set mars/create-react-app

    …and deploy with the new buildpack:

    git commit --allow-empty -m 'Switch to create-react-app-buildpack'
    git push heroku main

    If the error still occurs, then at least we know it's really using this buildpack! Proceed with troubleshooting.

  2. Check this README to see if it already mentions the issue.

  3. Search our issues to see if someone else has experienced the same problem.

  4. Search the internet for mentions of the error message and its subject module, e.g. ENOENT "node-sass"

  5. File a new issue. Please include:

    • build log output
    • link to GitHub repo with the source code (if private, grant read access to @mars)

Version compatibility

This buildpack will never intentionally cause previously deployed apps to become undeployable. Using main as directed in the main instructions will always deploy an app with the most recent version of this buildpack.

Releases are tagged, so you can lock an app to a specific version, if that kind of determinism pleases you:

heroku buildpacks:set

✏️ Replace v6.0.0 with the desired release tag.

♻️ Then, commit & deploy to rebuild on the new buildpack version.

Architecture πŸ™

This buildpack combines several buildpacks, specified in .buildpacks, to support zero-configuration deployment on Heroku:

  1. heroku/nodejs buildpack
  2. mars/create-react-app-inner-buildpack
  3. heroku/static buildpack

πŸš€ The runtime web process is the last buildpack's default processes. heroku-buildpack-static uses bin/boot to launch its Nginx web server. Processes may be customized by committing a Procfile to the app.

General-purpose SPA deployment

Some kind feedback pointed out that this buildpack is not necessarily specific to create-react-app.

This buildpack can deploy any SPA [single-page app] as long as it meets the following requirements: