a project

Getting Started

Welcome to Caddy! This tutorial will explore the basics of using Caddy and help you get familiar with it at a high level.


  • 🔲 Run the daemon
  • 🔲 Try the API
  • 🔲 Give Caddy a config
  • 🔲 Test config
  • 🔲 Make a Caddyfile
  • 🔲 Use the config adapter
  • 🔲 Start with an initial config
  • 🔲 Compare JSON and Caddyfile
  • 🔲 Compare API and config files
  • 🔲 Run in the background
  • 🔲 Zero-downtime config reload


  • Basic terminal / command line skills
  • Basic text editor skills
  • caddy and curl in your PATH

If you installed Caddy from a package manager, Caddy might already be running as a service. If so, please stop the service before doing this tutorial.

Let's start by running it:


Oops; without a subcommand, the caddy command only displays help text. You can use this any time you forget what to do.

To start Caddy as a daemon, use the run subcommand:

caddy run

This blocks forever, but what is it doing? At the moment... nothing. By default, Caddy's configuration ("config") is blank. We can verify this using the admin API in another terminal:

curl localhost:2019/config/

We can make Caddy useful by giving it a config. This can be done many ways, but we'll start by making a POST request to the /load endpoint using curl in the next section.

Your first config

To prepare our request, we need to make a config. At its core, Caddy's configuration is simply a JSON document.

Save this to a JSON file (e.g. caddy.json):

	"apps": {
		"http": {
			"servers": {
				"example": {
					"listen": [":2015"],
					"routes": [
							"handle": [{
								"handler": "static_response",
								"body": "Hello, world!"

Then upload it:

curl localhost:2019/load \
	-H "Content-Type: application/json" \
	-d @caddy.json

We can verify that Caddy applied our new config with another GET request:

curl localhost:2019/config/

Test that it works by going to localhost:2015 in your browser or use curl:

curl localhost:2015
Hello, world!

If you see Hello, world!, then congrats -- it's working! It's always a good idea to make sure your config works as you expect, especially before deploying into production.

Your first Caddyfile

That was kind of a lot of work just for Hello World.

Another way to configure Caddy is with the Caddyfile. The same config we wrote in JSON above can be expressed simply as:


respond "Hello, world!"

Save that to a file named Caddyfile (no extension) in the current directory.

Stop Caddy if it is already running (Ctrl+C), then run:

caddy adapt

Or if you stored the Caddyfile somewhere else or named it something other than Caddyfile:

caddy adapt --config /path/to/Caddyfile

You will see JSON output! What happened here?

We just used a config adapter to convert our Caddyfile to Caddy's native JSON structure.

While we could take that output and make another API request, we can skip all those steps because the caddy command can do it for us. If there is a file called Caddyfile in the current directory and no other config is specified, Caddy will load the Caddyfile, adapt it for us, and run it right away.

Now that there is a Caddyfile in the current folder, let's do caddy run again:

caddy run

Or if your Caddyfile is somewhere else:

caddy run --config /path/to/Caddyfile

(If it is called something else that doesn't start with "Caddyfile", you will need to specify --adapter caddyfile.)

You can now try loading your site again and you will see that it is working!

As you can see, there are several ways you can start Caddy with an initial config:

  • A file named Caddyfile in the current directory
  • The --config flag (optionally with the --adapter flag)
  • The --resume flag (if a config was loaded previously)

JSON vs. Caddyfile

Now you know that the Caddyfile is just converted to JSON for you.

The Caddyfile seems easier than JSON, but should you always use it? There are pros and cons to each approach. The answer depends on your requirements and use case.

JSON Caddyfile
Easy to generate Easy to craft by hand
Easily programmable Awkward to automate
Extremely expressive Moderately expressive
Full range of Caddy functionality Most of Caddy functionality
Allows config traversal Cannot traverse within Caddyfile
Partial config changes Whole config changes only
Can be exported Cannot be exported
Compatible with all API endpoints Compatible with some API endpoints
Documentation generated automatically Documentation is hand-written
Ubiquitous Niche
More efficient More computational
Kind of boring Kind of fun
Learn more: JSON structure Learn more: Caddyfile docs

You will need to decide which is best for your use case.

It is important to note that both JSON and the Caddyfile (and any other supported config adapter) can be used with Caddy's API. However, you get the full range of Caddy's functionality and API features if you use JSON. If using a config adapter, the only way to load or change the config with the API is the /load endpoint.

API vs. Config files

You will also want to decide whether your workflow is API-based or CLI-based. (You can use both the API and config files on the same server, but we don't recommend it: best to have one source of truth.)

API Config files
Make config changes with HTTP requests Make config changes with shell commands
Easy to scale Difficult to scale
Difficult to manage by hand Easy to manage by hand
Really fun Also fun
Learn more: API tutorial Learn more: Caddyfile tutorial

The choice of API or config file workflow is orthogonal to the use of config adapters: you can use JSON but store it in a file and use the command line interface; conversely, you can also use the Caddyfile with the API.

But most people will use JSON+API or Caddyfile+CLI combinations.

As you can see, Caddy is well-suited for a wide variety of use cases and deployments!

Start, stop, run

Since Caddy is a server, it runs indefinitely. That means your terminal won't unblock after you execute caddy run until the process is terminated (usually with Ctrl+C).

Although caddy run is the most common and is usually recommended (especially when making a system service!), you can alternatively use caddy start to start Caddy and have it run in the background:

caddy start

This will let you use your terminal again, which is convenient in some interactive headless environments.

You will then have to stop the process yourself, since Ctrl+C won't stop it for you:

caddy stop

Or use the /stop endpoint of the API.

Reloading config

Your server can perform zero-downtime config reloads/changes.

All API endpoints that load or change config are graceful with zero downtime.

When using the command line, however, it may be tempting to use Ctrl+C to stop your server and then restart it again to pick up the new configuration. Don't do this: stopping and starting the server is orthogonal to config changes, and will result in downtime.

Instead, use the caddy reload command for a graceful config change:

caddy reload

This actually just uses the API under the hood. It will load and, if necessary, adapt your config file to JSON, then gracefully replace the active configuration without downtime.

If there are any errors loading the new config, Caddy rolls back to the last working config.