Verify requests containing HS256 or RS256 signed JSON Web Tokens (as specified in RFC 7519). Each of your Consumers will have JWT credentials (public and secret keys) which must be used to sign their JWTs. A token can then be passed through the Authorization header or in the request's URI and Kong will either proxy the request to your upstream services if the token's signature is verified, or discard the request if not. Kong can also perform verifications on some of the registered claims of RFC 7519 (exp and nbf).


  • API: your upstream service, for which Kong proxies requests to.
  • Plugin: a plugin executes actions inside Kong during the request/response lifecycle.
  • Consumer: a developer or service using the API. When using Kong, a Consumer authenticates itself with Kong which proxies every call to the upstream API.
  • Credential: in the JWT plugin context, a pair of unique values consisting of a public key and a secret, used to sign and verify a JWT, and associated to a Consumer.


Configuring the plugin is straightforward, you can add it on top of an API by executing the following request on your Kong server:

$ curl -X POST http://kong:8001/apis/{api}/plugins \
    --data "name=jwt"
  • api: The id or name of the API that this plugin configuration will target

You can also apply it for every API using the http://kong:8001/plugins/ endpoint. Read the Plugin Reference for more information.

form parameter default description
name The name of the plugin to use, in this case: jwt
jwt A list of querystring parameters that Kong will inspect to retrieve JWTs.
A list of registered claims (according to RFC 7519) that Kong can verify as well. Accepted values: exp, nbf.
iss The name of the claim in which the key identifying the secret must be passed.
false If true, the plugin assumes the credential's secret to be base64 encoded. You will need to create a base64 encoded secret for your Consumer, and sign your JWT with the original secret.
`` An optional string (consumer uuid) value to use as an "anonymous" consumer if authentication fails. If empty (default), the request will fail with an authentication failure 4xx


In order to use the plugin, you first need to create a Consumer and associate one or more credentials to it. The Consumer represents a developer using the final service/API, and a JWT credential holds the public and private keys used to verify a crafted token.

Create a Consumer

You need to associate a credential to an existing Consumer object. The Consumer is an entity consuming the API. To create a Consumer you can execute the following request:

$ curl -X POST http://kong:8001/consumers \
    --data "username=<USERNAME>" \
    --data "custom_id=<CUSTOM_ID>"
HTTP/1.1 201 Created
form parameter default description
The username for this Consumer. Either this field or custom_id must be specified.
A custom identifier used to map the Consumer to an external database. Either this field or username must be specified.

A Consumer can have many JWT credentials.

Create a JWT credential

You can provision a new HS256 JWT credential by issuing the following HTTP request:

$ curl -X POST http://kong:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt -H "Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded"
HTTP/1.1 201 Created

    "consumer_id": "7bce93e1-0a90-489c-c887-d385545f8f4b",
    "created_at": 1442426001000,
    "id": "bcbfb45d-e391-42bf-c2ed-94e32946753a",
    "key": "a36c3049b36249a3c9f8891cb127243c",
    "secret": "e71829c351aa4242c2719cbfbe671c09"
  • consumer: The id or username property of the Consumer entity to associate the credentials to.
form parameter default description
A unique string identifying the credential. If left out, it will be auto-generated.
HS256 The algorithm used to verify the token's signature. Can be HS256, RS256, or ES256.
If algorithm is RS256 or ES256, the public key (in PEM format) to use to verify the token's signature.
If algorithm is HS256 or ES256, the secret used to sign JWTs for this credential. If left out, will be auto-generated.

Delete a JWT credential

You can remove a Consumer's JWT credential by issuing the following HTTP request:

$ curl -X DELETE http://kong:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt/{id}
HTTP/1.1 204 No Content
  • consumer: The id or username property of the Consumer entity to associate the credentials to.
  • id: The id of the JWT credential.

List JWT credentials

You can list a Consumer's JWT credentials by issuing the following HTTP request:

$ curl -X GET http://kong:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
  • consumer: The id or username property of the Consumer entity to list credentials for.
    "data": [
            "rsa_public_key": "-----BEGIN PUBLIC KEY-----\nMIIBIjANBgkqhkiG9w0BAQEFAAOCAQ8AMIIBCgK .... -----END PUBLIC KEY-----",
            "consumer_id": "39f52333-9741-48a7-9450-495960d91684",
            "id": "3239880d-1de5-4dbc-bccf-78f7a4280f33",
            "created_at": 1491430568000,
            "key": "c5a55906cc244f483226e02bcff2b5e",
            "algorithm": "RS256",
            "secret": "b0970f7fc9564e65xklfn48930b5d08b1"
    "total": 1

Craft a JWT with a secret (HS256)

Now that your Consumer has a credential, and assuming we want to sign it using HS256, the JWT should be crafted as follows (according to RFC 7519):

First, its header must be:

    "typ": "JWT",
    "alg": "HS256"

Secondly, the claims must contain the secret's key in the configured claim (from config.key_claim_name). That claim is iss (issuer field) by default. Set its value to our previously created credential's key. The claims may contain other values.

    "iss": "a36c3049b36249a3c9f8891cb127243c"

Using the JWT debugger at with the header (HS256), claims (iss, etc), and secret associated with this key (e71829c351aa4242c2719cbfbe671c09), you'll end up with a JWT token of:


Send a request with the JWT

The JWT can now be included in a request to Kong by adding it to the Authorization header:

$ curl http://kong:8000/{api path} \
    -H 'Authorization: Bearer eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiJhMzZjMzA0OWIzNjI0OWEzYzlmODg5MWNiMTI3MjQzYyIsImV4cCI6MTQ0MjQzMDA1NCwibmJmIjoxNDQyNDI2NDU0LCJpYXQiOjE0NDI0MjY0NTR9.AhumfY35GFLuEEjrOXiaADo7Ae6gt_8VLwX7qffhQN4'

Or as a querystring parameter, if configured in config.uri_param_names (which contains jwt by default):

$ curl http://kong:8000/{api path}?jwt=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiJhMzZjMzA0OWIzNjI0OWEzYzlmODg5MWNiMTI3MjQzYyIsImV4cCI6MTQ0MjQzMDA1NCwibmJmIjoxNDQyNDI2NDU0LCJpYXQiOjE0NDI0MjY0NTR9.AhumfY35GFLuEEjrOXiaADo7Ae6gt_8VLwX7qffhQN4

The request will be inspected by Kong, whose behavior depends on the validity of the JWT:

request proxied to upstream API response status code
has no JWT no 401
missing or invalid iss claim no 401
invalid signature no 403
valid signature yes from the upstream service
valid signature, invalid verified claim (option) no 403
Note: When the JWT is valid and proxied to the API, Kong makes no modification to the request other than adding headers identifying the Consumer. The JWT will be forwarded to your upstream service, which can assume its validity. It is now the role of your service to base64 decode the JWT claims and make use of them.

(Optional) Verified claims

Kong can also perform verification on registered claims, as defined in RFC 7519. To perform verification on a claim, add it to the config.claims_to_verify property:

# This adds verification for both nbf and exp claims:
$ curl -X PATCH http://kong:8001/apis/{api}/plugins/{jwt plugin id} \
    --data "config.claims_to_verify=exp,nbf"

Supported claims:

claim name verification
exp identifies the expiration time on or after which the JWT must not be accepted for processing.
nbf identifies the time before which the JWT must not be accepted for processing.

(Optional) Base64 encoded secret

If your secret contains binary data, you can store them as base64 encoded in Kong. Enable this option in the plugin's configuration:

$ curl -X PATCH http://kong:8001/apis/{api}/plugins/{jwt plugin id} \
    --data "config.secret_is_base64=true"

Then, base64 encode your consumers' secrets:

# secret is: "blob data"
$ curl -X POST http://kong:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt \
  --data "secret=YmxvYiBkYXRh"

And sign your JWT using the original secret ("blob data").

Craft a JWT with public/private keys (RS256 or ES256)

If you wish to use RS256 or ES256 to verify your JWTs, then when creating a JWT credential, select RS256 or ES256 as the algorithm, and explicitly upload the public key in the rsa_public_key field (including for ES256 signed tokens). For example:

$ curl -X POST http://kong:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt \
      -F "[email protected]/path/to/public_key.pem" \
HTTP/1.1 201 Created

    "consumer_id": "7bce93e1-0a90-489c-c887-d385545f8f4b",
    "created_at": 1442426001000,
    "id": "bcbfb45d-e391-42bf-c2ed-94e32946753a",
    "key": "a36c3049b36249a3c9f8891cb127243c",
    "rsa_public_key": "-----BEGIN PUBLIC KEY----- ..."

When creating the signature, make sure that the header is:

    "typ": "JWT",
    "alg": "RS256"

Secondly, the claims must contain the secret's key field (this isn't your private key used to generate the token, but just an identifier for this credential) in the configured claim (from config.key_claim_name). That claim is iss (issuer field) by default. Set its value to our previously created credential's key. The claims may contain other values.

    "iss": "a36c3049b36249a3c9f8891cb127243c"

Then create the signature using your private keys. Using the JWT debugger at, set the right header (RS256), the claims (iss, etc), and the associated public key. Then append the resulting value in the Authorization header, for example:

$ curl http://kong:8000/{api path} \
    -H 'Authorization: Bearer eyJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiIxM2Q1ODE0NTcyZTc0YTIyYjFhOWEwMDJmMmQxN2MzNyJ9.uNPTnDZXVShFYUSiii78Q-IAfhnc2ExjarZr_WVhGrHHBLweOBJxGJlAKZQEKE4rVd7D6hCtWSkvAAOu7BU34OnlxtQqB8ArGX58xhpIqHtFUkj882JQ9QD6_v2S2Ad-EmEx5402ge71VWEJ0-jyH2WvfxZ_pD90n5AG5rAbYNAIlm2Ew78q4w4GVSivpletUhcv31-U3GROsa7dl8rYMqx6gyo9oIIDcGoMh3bu8su5kQc5SQBFp1CcA5H8sHGfYs-Et5rCU2A6yKbyXtpHrd1Y9oMrZpEfQdgpLae0AfWRf6JutA9SPhst9-5rn4o3cdUmto_TBGqHsFmVyob8VQ'

Generate public/private keys

To create a brand new pair of public/private keys, you can run the following command:

$ openssl genrsa -out private.pem 2048

This private key must be kept secret. To generate a public key corresponding to the private key, execute:

$ openssl rsa -in private.pem -outform PEM -pubout -out public.pem

If you run the commands above, the public key will be written in public.pem, while the private key will be written in private.pem.

Using the JWT plugin with Auth0

Auth0 is a popular solution for Authorization, and relies heavily on JWTs. Auth0 relies on RS256, does not base64 encode, and publically hosts the public key certificate used to sign tokens. Account name is referred to "COMPANYNAME" for the sake of the guide.

To get started, create an API. Note: Auth0 does not use base64 encoded secrets.

$ curl -i -X POST http://localhost:8001/apis \
    --data "name={api}" \
    --data "" \
    --data "upstream_url="

Add the JWT Plugin:

$ curl -X POST http://localhost:8001/apis/{api}/plugins \
    --data "name=jwt"

Download your Auth0 account's X509 Certificate:

$ curl -o {COMPANYNAME}.pem https://{COMPANYNAME}

Extract the public key from the X509 Certificate:

$ openssl x509 -pubkey -noout -in {COMPANYNAME}.pem > pubkey.pem

Create a Consumer with the Auth0 public key:

$ curl -i -X POST http://kong:8001/consumers \
    --data "username=<USERNAME>" \
    --data "custom_id=<CUSTOM_ID>"

$ curl -i -X POST http://localhost:8001/consumers/{consumer}/jwt \
    -F "algorithm=RS256" \
    -F "[email protected]/pubkey.pem" \
    -F "key=https://{COMPAYNAME}" # the `iss` field

The JWT plugin by default validates the key_claim_name against the iss field in the token. Keys issued by Auth0 have their iss field set to http://{COMPANYNAME} You can use to validate the iss field for the key parameter when creating the Consumer.

Send requests through, only tokens signed by Auth0 will work:

$ curl -i http://localhost:8000 \
    -H "" \
    -H "Authorization:Bearer "


Upstream Headers

When a JWT is valid, a Consumer has been authenticated, the plugin will append some headers to the request before proxying it to the upstream API/service, so that you can identify the Consumer in your code:

  • X-Consumer-ID, the ID of the Consumer on Kong
  • X-Consumer-Custom-ID, the custom_id of the Consumer (if set)
  • X-Consumer-Username, the username of the Consumer (if set)
  • X-Anonymous-Consumer, will be set to true when authentication failed, and the 'anonymous' consumer was set instead.

You can use this information on your side to implement additional logic. You can use the X-Consumer-ID value to query the Kong Admin API and retrieve more information about the Consumer.

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