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Environment variables and Babel

How to configure environment variables inside of babel.config.js.

In this short guide we will look at a simple way of configuring our environment variables and load them for use inside of our front-end code, while using Babel.

Lastly we will look at a quick way to access those variables inside of the babel.config.js file itself.

Configure env variables with Babel#

For this purpose we can use babel-plugin-inline-dotenv to load the corresponding env file based on what environment we are in, i.e. production vs development:

  1. Install the plugin with npm install babel-plugin-inline-dotenv
  2. Include the plugin and the path to the .env file in your Babel config file:
module.exports = function() {
  return {
    presets: ['@babel/preset-react'],
    env: {
      production: {
        plugins: [["inline-dotenv",{
          path: '.env.production'
      development: {
        plugins: [["inline-dotenv",{
          path: '.env.development'

After this you should be able to access your variables you declared inside of your .env file(s) in your JavaScript front-end code.

For example, in your .env.production or .env.development files add variables like this:


Later in your code you can access the above variable like this:


This way, depending on what environment you are in (production or development) you can access a specific API key set for that specific environment.

Note: The variables under process.env can only be accessed directly (e.g. ✅ process.env.API_KEY) and cannot be accessed by de-structuring the process.env object.
This will not work:const { API_KEY } = process.env

Access env variables inside babel.config.js#

To access our env variables within the babel.config.js file, we can use dotenv like this:

require('dotenv').config({ path: './.env.development' })
console.log('API_KEY: ' + process.env.API_KEY)

module.exports = function() {
  // ...