Authenticating users

Knowing what's what and who's who

Almost every application needs to know who's calling it, whether the user represents a person in a consumer-facing app or an organization in a B2B app. Encore supports both use cases in a simple yet powerful way.

As described in the docs for defining APIs, each API endpoint can be marked as requiring authentication, using the option auth: true when defining the endpoint.

Authentication Handlers

When an API is defined with auth: true, you must define an authentication handler in your application. The authentication handler is responsible for inspecting incoming requests to determine what user is authenticated (if any), and computing any other associated authentication information.

The authentication handler is defined similarly to API endpoints, using the authHandler function imported from

Like API endpoints, the authentication handler defines what request information it's interested in, in the form of HTTP headers, query strings, or cookies.

A simple authentication handler that inspects the Authorization header might look like this:

import { Header, Gateway } from ""; import { authHandler } from ""; // AuthParams specifies the incoming request information // the auth handler is interested in. In this case it only // cares about requests that contain the `Authorization` header. interface AuthParams { authorization: Header<"Authorization">; } // The AuthData specifies the information about the authenticated user // that the auth handler makes available. interface AuthData { userID: string; } // The auth handler itself. export const auth = authHandler<AuthParams, AuthData>( async (params) => { // TODO: Look up information about the user based on the authorization header. return {userID: "my-user-id"}; } ) // Define the API Gateway that will execute the auth handler: export const gateway = new Gateway({ authHandler: auth, })

With this in place, Encore will provision an API Gateway that will process incoming requests to your application, and whenever a request contains an Authorization header it will first call the authentication handler to resolve information about the user.

Rejecting authentication

If the auth handler returns an AuthData object, Encore will consider the request authenticated. To instead reject the request, throw an exception. To signal that the credentials are not valid, throw an APIError with code Unauthenticated.

For example:

import { APIError } from ""; export const auth = authHandler<AuthParams, AuthData>( async (params) => { throw APIError.unauthenticated("bad credentials"); } )

Understanding the Authentication Process

Encore's authentication process proceeds in two steps:

  1. Determine if the request is authenticated
  2. Call the endpoint, if permissible

Step 1: Determinining if the request is authenticated

Whenever an incoming request contains any of the authentication parameters (defined by the auth handler), Encore's API Gateway calls the auth handler to resolve the authentication data.

This happens regardless of the endpoint the request is for. Importantly, it happens even when calling an endpoint that does not require authentication.

There are three possible outcomes from calling the auth handler:

  1. If the auth handler succeeds, by returning AuthData, the request is considered authenticated.

  2. If the auth handler throws an APIError with code Unauthenticated, the request is considered unauthenticated, exactly as if there was no authentication parameters in the request to begin with.

  3. If the auth handler throws any other exception, the API Gateway aborts the request and returns the error to the caller.

Finally, if the request does not contain authentication data, the request is considered unauthenticated.

Step 2: Calling the endpoint, if permissible

Once the API Gateway has determined whether the request is authenticated, it checks whether the API Endpoint being called requires authentication data.

If it does require authentication, and the request is not authenticated, the API Gateway aborts the request and returns an "unauthenticated" error to the caller.

In all other situations, the API Gateway proceeds by calling the target endpoint.

If the request was successfully authenticated, the authentication data is passed along to the endpoint, regardless of whether the endpoint requires authentication or not.

Using auth data

If a request has been successfully authenticated, the API Gateway forwards the authentication data to the target endpoint. The endpoint can query the available auth data from the getAuthData function, available from the ~encore/auth module.

This module is dynamically generated by Encore to enable type-safe resolution of the auth data.

Propagating auth data

Encore automatically propagates the auth data when you make API calls to other Encore API endpoints using the generated ~encore/clients package.

Please note

If an endpoint calls another endpoint during its processing, and the target endpoint requires authentication while the original request does not have any authentication data, the API call will fail with error code Unauthenticated.

This behavior preserves the guarantee that endpoints that require authentication always have valid authentication data present.