Setting up a react app with API using dokku

July 09, 2021

I’ve recently discovered dokku. I was setting up some of my personal projects in a DigitalOcean droplet like a caveman and was looking for alternative. Dokku appeared in my search results like a blessing.

I followed the getting started guide and set up the demo application in my server easily. So I then moved to host one of my react projects in cloud.

I looked around to see if there is any ready-made solution supported by Dokku. But I could not find any solution specific to react. Dokku provides a buildpack for deploying a static site. It also supports building the static assets! While that is nice, it was difficult to deploy the react app along with the API.

I found heroku-buildpack-static which is provided by Heroku. It is way more easily configurable and fit my use case perfectly.

Setting up the stage

We actually need 2 buildpacks. First buildpack will build the react app and the second one will deploy the static files.

So, add a .buildpacks file and put the following content in the file is the buildpack for working with NodeJS files. As the react app uses NodeJS, simply adding this buildpack will take care of building the application. buildpack will take care of configuring the nginx and other stuffs after the app is built.

Configuring the deployment

The cool thing about heroku-buildpack-static is that it supports lots of different settings. We just need to add a static.json file at the root directory of the app.

Here’s a simple example,

  "root": "build/",
  "proxies": {
    "/api/": {
      "origin": ""

root specifies the root folder of the static files. React apps by default output the build files at the build directory. So this will configure the nginx to treat the build folder as the root.

The proxies option makes it easy to communicate with the API and avoid CORS. The example above will proxy all <app-url>/api calls to

This makes it really easy to separately deploy the fronend and backend.

What I would really like is to avoid specifying a public URL. My backend is also running in the same server. So, I would like to proxy my calls to the internal URL of the backend without routing it through a public URL.