Published:

React + Recoil - JWT Authentication Tutorial & Example

Tutorial built with React 17.0.2 and Recoil 0.4.1

Other versions available:

This tutorial shows how to build a simple login application with React and Recoil that uses JWT authentication.

Example React + Recoil App

The example app is pretty minimal and contains just 2 pages to demonstrate JWT authentication in React and Recoil:

  • /login - public login page with username and password fields, on submit the page sends a POST request to the API to authenticate user credentials, on success the API returns a JWT token to make authenticated requests to secure API routes.
  • / - secure home page that displays a list of users fetched from a secure API endpoint using the JWT token received after successful login.

Recoil Overview

Recoil is a new state management library built by the Facebook team that simplifies global state management, it requires much less code than other libraries like Redux, and is easier to learn because it works just like React. The two core concepts of Recoil are atoms and selectors, an atom defines a unit (key) in the global state object of an app, and a selector is function that returns a value that is derived (computed) from atoms and/or other selectors. For more info on Recoil see https://recoiljs.org/docs/introduction/core-concepts.

Fake Backend API

The React + Recoil example app runs with a fake backend by default to enable it to run completely in the browser without a real backend API (backend-less), to switch to a real backend API you just have to remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend located in the main index file (/src/index.jsx). You can build your own API or hook it up with the .NET or Node.js API available (instructions below).

Code on GitHub

The example project is available on GitHub at https://github.com/cornflourblue/react-recoil-jwt-authentication-example.

Here it is in action:(See on StackBlitz at https://stackblitz.com/edit/react-recoil-jwt-authentication-example)


Run the React + Recoil JWT Example Locally

  1. Install Node.js and npm from https://nodejs.org.
  2. Download or clone the project source code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/react-recoil-jwt-authentication-example
  3. Install all required npm packages by running npm install from the command line in the project root folder (where the package.json is located).
  4. Start the application by running npm start from the command line in the project root folder, this will launch a browser displaying the application.


Run the React + Recoil App with a .NET API

For full details about the example .NET JWT Auth API see the post .NET 5.0 - JWT Authentication Tutorial with Example API. But to get up and running quickly just follow the below steps.

  1. Install the .NET SDK from https://dotnet.microsoft.com/download.
  2. Download or clone the project source code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/dotnet-5-jwt-authentication-api
  3. Start the api by running dotnet run from the command line in the project root folder (where the WebApi.csproj file is located), you should see the message Now listening on: http://localhost:4000.
  4. Back in the React + Recoil example app, remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend located in the /src/index.jsx file, then start the React + Recoil app and it should now be hooked up with the .NET API.


Run the React + Recoil App with a Node.js API

For full details about the example Node.js JWT Auth API see the post NodeJS - JWT Authentication Tutorial with Example API. But to get up and running quickly just follow the below steps.

  1. Download or clone the project source code from https://github.com/cornflourblue/node-jwt-authentication-api
  2. Start the api by running npm start from the command line in the project root folder, you should see the message Server listening on port 4000.
  3. Back in the React + Recoil example app, remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend located in the /src/index.jsx file, then start the React + Recoil app and it should now be hooked up with the Node.js API.


React + Recoil Project Structure

Create React App was used to generate the base project structure with the npx create-react-app <project name> command, the tool is also used to build and serve the application. For more info about Create React App see https://create-react-app.dev/.

The project source (/src) is organised into the following folders:

  • _actions
    Action objects that contain methods for performing actions on each content type, for example the user actions object contains methods for login, logout and fetching users. Actions encapsulate all HTTP communication with the API and recoil state update operations.
  • _components
    React components used by pages or by other react components.
  • _helpers
    Anything that doesn't fit into the other folders and doesn't justify having its own folder.
  • _state
    Recoil atoms and selectors that define the global state available to the React application (the example app only contains atoms). For more info on Recoil see https://recoiljs.org/docs/introduction/core-concepts.
  • home
    Components used only by the home page
  • login
    Components used only by the login page

Each feature has it's own folder (home & login), other shared/common code such as actions, state, components, helpers etc are placed in folders prefixed with an underscore _ to easily differentiate them from features and to group them together at the top of the folder structure.

JavaScript files are organised with export statements at the top so it's easy to see all exported modules when you open a file. Export statements are followed by functions and other implementation code for each JS module.

The index.js file in each folder re-exports all of the modules from that folder so they can be imported using only the folder path instead of the full path to each module, and to enable importing multiple modules in a single import (e.g. import { Nav, PrivateRoute } from '_components';).

The baseUrl is set to "src" in the jsconfig.json file to make all import statements (without a dot '.' prefix) relative to the root folder of the project, removing the need for long relative paths like import { userActions } from '../../../_actions';.

Click any of the below links to jump down to a description of each file along with it's code:

 

Main Index Html File

Path: /public/index.html

The main index.html file is the initial page loaded by the browser that kicks everything off. Create React App (with Webpack under the hood) bundles all of the compiled javascript files together and injects them into the body of the index.html page so the scripts can be loaded and executed by the browser.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <link rel="icon" href="%PUBLIC_URL%/favicon.ico" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1" />
    <title>React App</title>

    <!-- bootstrap css -->
    <link href="//netdna.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.5.2/css/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet" />
</head>
<body>
    <noscript>You need to enable JavaScript to run this app.</noscript>
    <div id="app"></div>
</body>
</html>
 

User Actions

Path: /src/_actions/user.actions.js

The user actions object returned by the useUserActions() hook function contains methods for login, logout and fetching all users. It handles communication between the React app and the backend api for everything related to users, and also handles Recoil state update operations for users and auth atoms. HTTP requests to the API are sent with the fetch wrapper.

A React hook function is required because Recoil hook functions (e.g. useSetRecoilState) can only be called within React components or hook functions.

import { useSetRecoilState } from 'recoil';

import { history, useFetchWrapper } from '_helpers';
import { authAtom, usersAtom } from '_state';

export { useUserActions };

function useUserActions () {
    const baseUrl = `${process.env.REACT_APP_API_URL}/users`;
    const fetchWrapper = useFetchWrapper();
    const setAuth = useSetRecoilState(authAtom);
    const setUsers = useSetRecoilState(usersAtom);

    return {
        login,
        logout,
        getAll
    }

    function login(username, password) {
        return fetchWrapper.post(`${baseUrl}/authenticate`, { username, password })
            .then(user => {
                // store user details and jwt token in local storage to keep user logged in between page refreshes
                localStorage.setItem('user', JSON.stringify(user));
                setAuth(user);

                // get return url from location state or default to home page
                const { from } = history.location.state || { from: { pathname: '/' } };
                history.push(from);
            });
    }

    function logout() {
        // remove user from local storage, set auth state to null and redirect to login page
        localStorage.removeItem('user');
        setAuth(null);
        history.push('/login');
    }

    function getAll() {
        return fetchWrapper.get(baseUrl).then(setUsers);
    }    
}
 

Nav Component

Path: /src/_components/Nav.jsx

The nav component displays the primary bar in the example. The component gets the current auth data from global Recoil state by calling useRecoilValue(authAtom) and only displays the nav if the user is logged in.

The react router NavLink component automatically adds the active class to the active nav item so it is highlighted in the UI.

import { NavLink } from 'react-router-dom';
import { useRecoilValue } from 'recoil';

import { authAtom } from '_state';
import { useUserActions } from '_actions';

function Nav() {
    const auth = useRecoilValue(authAtom);
    const userActions = useUserActions();

    // only show nav when logged in
    if (!auth) return null;
    
    return (
        <nav className="navbar navbar-expand navbar-dark bg-dark">
            <div className="navbar-nav">
                <NavLink exact to="/" className="nav-item nav-link">Home</NavLink>
                <a onClick={userActions.logout} className="nav-item nav-link">Logout</a>
            </div>
        </nav>
    );
}

export { Nav };
 

Private Route

Path: /src/_components/PrivateRoute.jsx

The react private route component renders a route component if the user is logged in, if the user isn't logged in they're redirected to the /login page with the return url in the location state property.

The current logged in (auth) state of the user is retrieved from Recoil with a call to useRecoilValue(authAtom).

import { Route, Redirect } from 'react-router-dom';
import { useRecoilValue } from 'recoil';

import { authAtom } from '_state';

export { PrivateRoute };

function PrivateRoute({ component: Component, ...rest }) {
    const auth = useRecoilValue(authAtom);
    return (
        <Route {...rest} render={props => {
            if (!auth) {
                // not logged in so redirect to login page with the return url
                return <Redirect to={{ pathname: '/login', state: { from: props.location } }} />
            }

            // authorized so return component
            return <Component {...props} />
        }} />
    );
}
 

Fake Backend

Path: /src/_helpers/fake-backend.js

In order to run and test the React + Recoil app without a real backend API, the example uses a fake backend that intercepts the HTTP requests from the React app and sends back "fake" responses. This is done by monkey patching the window.fetch() function to return fake responses for a specific set of routes.

Monkey patching is a technique used to alter the behaviour of an existing function either to extend it or change the way it works. In JavaScript this is done by storing a reference to the original function in a variable and replacing the original function with a new custom function that (optionally) calls the original function before/after executing some custom code.

The fake backend is organised into a top level handleRoute() function that checks the request url and method to determine how the request should be handled. For fake routes one of the below // route functions is called, for all other routes the request is passed through to the real backend by calling the original fetch request function (realFetch(url, opts)). Below the route functions there are // helper functions for returning different response types and performing small tasks.

export { fakeBackend };

function fakeBackend() {
    let users = [{ id: 1, username: 'test', password: 'test', firstName: 'Test', lastName: 'User' }];
    let realFetch = window.fetch;
    window.fetch = function (url, opts) {
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
            // wrap in timeout to simulate server api call
            setTimeout(handleRoute, 500);

            function handleRoute() {
                switch (true) {
                    case url.endsWith('/users/authenticate') && opts.method === 'POST':
                        return authenticate();
                    case url.endsWith('/users') && opts.method === 'GET':
                        return getUsers();
                    default:
                        // pass through any requests not handled above
                        return realFetch(url, opts)
                            .then(response => resolve(response))
                            .catch(error => reject(error));
                }
            }

            // route functions

            function authenticate() {
                const { username, password } = body();
                const user = users.find(x => x.username === username && x.password === password);

                if (!user) return error('Username or password is incorrect');

                return ok({
                    id: user.id,
                    username: user.username,
                    firstName: user.firstName,
                    lastName: user.lastName,
                    token: 'fake-jwt-token'
                });
            }

            function getUsers() {
                if (!isAuthenticated()) return unauthorized();
                return ok(users);
            }

            // helper functions

            function ok(body) {
                resolve({ ok: true, text: () => Promise.resolve(JSON.stringify(body)) })
            }

            function unauthorized() {
                resolve({ status: 401, text: () => Promise.resolve(JSON.stringify({ message: 'Unauthorized' })) })
            }

            function error(message) {
                resolve({ status: 400, text: () => Promise.resolve(JSON.stringify({ message })) })
            }

            function isAuthenticated() {
                return opts.headers['Authorization'] === 'Bearer fake-jwt-token';
            }

            function body() {
                return opts.body && JSON.parse(opts.body);    
            }
        });
    }
}
 

Fetch Wrapper

Path: /src/_helpers/fetch-wrapper.js

The fetch wrapper is a lightweight wrapper around the native browser fetch() function used to simplify the code for making HTTP requests. It returns an object with methods for get, post, put and delete requests, it automatically handles the parsing of JSON data from responses, and throws an error if the HTTP response is not successful (!response.ok). If the response is 401 Unauthorized or 403 Forbidden the user is automatically logged out of the React + Recoil app.

The authHeader() function is used to automatically add a JWT auth token to the HTTP Authorization header of the request if the user is logged in and the request is to the application API url. The current logged in (auth) state of the user is retrieved from Recoil with a call to useRecoilState(authAtom), the setAuth() function is used in the handleResponse() function to log the user out if required.

With the fetch wrapper a POST request can be made as simply as this: fetchWrapper.post(url, body);. It's used in the example app by user actions.

import { useRecoilState } from 'recoil';

import { history } from '_helpers';
import { authAtom } from '_state';

export { useFetchWrapper };

function useFetchWrapper() {
    const [auth, setAuth] = useRecoilState(authAtom);

    return {
        get: request('GET'),
        post: request('POST'),
        put: request('PUT'),
        delete: request('DELETE')
    };

    function request(method) {
        return (url, body) => {
            const requestOptions = {
                method,
                headers: authHeader(url)
            };
            if (body) {
                requestOptions.headers['Content-Type'] = 'application/json';
                requestOptions.body = JSON.stringify(body);
            }
            return fetch(url, requestOptions).then(handleResponse);
        }
    }
    
    // helper functions
    
    function authHeader(url) {
        // return auth header with jwt if user is logged in and request is to the api url
        const token = auth?.token;
        const isLoggedIn = !!token;
        const isApiUrl = url.startsWith(process.env.REACT_APP_API_URL);
        if (isLoggedIn && isApiUrl) {
            return { Authorization: `Bearer ${token}` };
        } else {
            return {};
        }
    }
    
    function handleResponse(response) {
        return response.text().then(text => {
            const data = text && JSON.parse(text);
            
            if (!response.ok) {
                if ([401, 403].includes(response.status) && auth?.token) {
                    // auto logout if 401 Unauthorized or 403 Forbidden response returned from api
                    localStorage.removeItem('user');
                    setAuth(null);
                    history.push('/login');
                }
    
                const error = (data && data.message) || response.statusText;
                return Promise.reject(error);
            }
    
            return data;
        });
    }    
}
 

History

Path: /src/_helpers/history.js

The history helper creates the browser history object used by the React + Recoil app, it is passed to the Router component in the main index.js file and enables us to access the history object outside of react components, for example from the logout() method of the user actions.

import { createBrowserHistory } from 'history';

const history = createBrowserHistory();

export { history };
 

Recoil Auth State

Path: /src/_state/auth.js

The auth state file contains the Recoil auth atom that is used to hold the current logged in user in global state, the auth state is updated in the user actions login and logout functions.

The example app only contains Recoil atoms at the moment, but my idea with this file structure is that any Recoil selectors that derive from the auth atom could be placed in this file as well.

import { atom } from 'recoil';

const authAtom = atom({
    key: 'auth',
    // get initial state from local storage to enable user to stay logged in
    default: JSON.parse(localStorage.getItem('user'))
});

export { authAtom };
 

Recoil Users State

Path: /src/_state/users.js

The users state file contains the Recoil users atom that is used to hold the array of fetched users in global state, the users state is updated in the user actions getAll function.

The example app only contains Recoil atoms at the moment, but my idea with this file structure is that any Recoil selectors that derive from the users atom could be placed in this file as well.

import { atom } from 'recoil';

const usersAtom = atom({
    key: 'users',
    default: null
});

export { usersAtom };
 

Home Component

Path: /src/home/Home.jsx

The home page is displayed after signing in to the application, it shows the signed in user's name plus a list of all users in the tutorial application. The users are loaded into Recoil state by calling userActions.getAll() from the useEffect() hook function, see how the users are fetched and the Recoil state is updated in user actions.

Recoil state values are retrieved for auth and users data with the help of the useRecoilValue() hook function.

import { useEffect } from 'react';
import { useRecoilValue } from 'recoil';

import { authAtom, usersAtom } from '_state';
import { useUserActions } from '_actions';

export { Home };

function Home() {
    const auth = useRecoilValue(authAtom);
    const users = useRecoilValue(usersAtom);
    const userActions = useUserActions();

    useEffect(() => {
        userActions.getAll();
        
        // eslint-disable-next-line react-hooks/exhaustive-deps
    }, []);

    return (
        <div>
            <h1>Hi {auth?.firstName}!</h1>
            <p>You're logged in with React + Recoil & JWT!!</p>
            <h3>Users from secure api end point:</h3>
            {users &&
                <ul>
                    {users.map(user =>
                        <li key={user.id}>{user.firstName} {user.lastName}</li>
                    )}
                </ul>
            }
            {!users && <div className="spinner-border spinner-border-sm"></div>}
        </div>
    );
}
 

Login Component

Path: /src/login/Login.jsx

The login page contains a form built with the React Hook Form library that contains username and password fields for logging into the React + Recoil app.

Form validation rules are defined with the Yup schema validation library and passed with the formOptions to the React Hook Form useForm() function, for more info on Yup see https://github.com/jquense/yup.

The useForm() hook function returns an object with methods for working with a form including registering inputs, handling form submit, accessing form state, displaying errors and more, for a complete list see https://react-hook-form.com/api/useform.

The onSubmit function gets called when the form is submitted and valid, and submits the user credentials to the api by calling userActions.login(). On successful authentication the user auth data is stored in Recoil shared state by the login method in user actions.

The returned JSX template contains the markup for page including the form, input fields and validation messages. The form fields are registered with the React Hook Form by calling the register function with the field name from each input element (e.g. {...register('username')}). For more info on form validation with React Hook Form see React Hook Form 7 - Form Validation Example.

import { useEffect } from 'react';
import { useForm } from "react-hook-form";
import { yupResolver } from '@hookform/resolvers/yup';
import * as Yup from 'yup';
import { useRecoilValue } from 'recoil';

import { authAtom } from '_state';
import { useUserActions } from '_actions';

export { Login };

function Login({ history }) {
    const auth = useRecoilValue(authAtom);
    const userActions = useUserActions();

    useEffect(() => {
        // redirect to home if already logged in
        if (auth) history.push('/');

        // eslint-disable-next-line react-hooks/exhaustive-deps
    }, []);

    // form validation rules 
    const validationSchema = Yup.object().shape({
        username: Yup.string().required('Username is required'),
        password: Yup.string().required('Password is required')
    });
    const formOptions = { resolver: yupResolver(validationSchema) };

    // get functions to build form with useForm() hook
    const { register, handleSubmit, setError, formState } = useForm(formOptions);
    const { errors, isSubmitting } = formState;

    function onSubmit({ username, password }) {
        return userActions.login(username, password)
            .catch(error => {
                setError('apiError', { message: error });
            });
    }

    return (
        <div className="col-md-6 offset-md-3 mt-5">
            <div className="alert alert-info">
                Username: test<br />
                Password: test
            </div>
            <div className="card">
                <h4 className="card-header">Login</h4>
                <div className="card-body">
                    <form onSubmit={handleSubmit(onSubmit)}>
                        <div className="form-group">
                            <label>Username</label>
                            <input name="username" type="text" {...register('username')} className={`form-control ${errors.username ? 'is-invalid' : ''}`} />
                            <div className="invalid-feedback">{errors.username?.message}</div>
                        </div>
                        <div className="form-group">
                            <label>Password</label>
                            <input name="password" type="password" {...register('password')} className={`form-control ${errors.password ? 'is-invalid' : ''}`} />
                            <div className="invalid-feedback">{errors.password?.message}</div>
                        </div>
                        <button disabled={isSubmitting} className="btn btn-primary">
                            {isSubmitting && <span className="spinner-border spinner-border-sm mr-1"></span>}
                            Login
                        </button>
                        {errors.apiError &&
                            <div className="alert alert-danger mt-3 mb-0">{errors.apiError?.message}</div>
                        }
                    </form>
                </div>
            </div>
        </div>
    )
}
 

App Component

Path: /src/App.jsx

The App component is the root component of the example app, it contains the outer html, main nav and routes for the application.

The /login route is public, and the home route (/) is secured by the private route component that uses Recoil to check if the user is logged in.

The last route (<Redirect from="*" to="/" />) is a catch-all redirect route that redirects any unmatched paths to the home page.

import { Router, Route, Switch, Redirect } from 'react-router-dom';

import { Nav, PrivateRoute } from '_components';
import { history } from '_helpers';
import { Home } from 'home';
import { Login } from 'login';

export { App };

function App() {
    return (
        <div className="app-container bg-light">
            <Router history={history}>
                <Nav />
                <div className="container pt-4 pb-4">
                    <Switch>
                        <PrivateRoute exact path="/" component={Home} />
                        <Route path="/login" component={Login} />
                        <Redirect from="*" to="/" />
                    </Switch>
                </div>
            </Router>
        </div>
    );
}
 

Global CSS Styles

Path: /src/index.css

The global stylesheet file contains CSS styles that are applied globally throughout the React application, it is imported in the main index.js file below.

a { cursor: pointer; }

.app-container {
    min-height: 350px;
}
 

Main index.js file

Path: /src/index.js

The main index.js file bootstraps the React + Recoil app by rendering the App component in the app div element located in the main index html file.

The RecoilRoot component is the context provider/store for Recoil state and is a required ancestor for any React components that access Recoil state. Wrapping it around the root App component makes Recoil state global so it's accessible to all components in the React app.

The React.StrictMode component doesn't render any elements in the UI, it runs in development mode to highlight potential issues/bugs in the React app. For more info see https://reactjs.org/docs/strict-mode.html.

Before starting the React app is started, the global CSS stylesheet is imported into the application and the fake backend API is enabled. To disable the fake backend simply remove or comment out the 2 lines below the comment // setup fake backend.

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import { RecoilRoot } from 'recoil';

import './index.css';
import { App } from './App';

// setup fake backend
import { fakeBackend } from './_helpers';
fakeBackend();

ReactDOM.render(
    <React.StrictMode>
        <RecoilRoot>
            <App />
        </RecoilRoot>
    </React.StrictMode>,
    document.getElementById('app')
);
 

dotenv

Path: /.env

The dotenv file contains environment variables used in the example React app, the API URL is used in user actions to send HTTP requests to the API.

Environment variables set in the dotenv file that are prefixed with REACT_APP_ are accessible in the React app via process.env.<variable name> (e.g. process.env.REACT_APP_API_URL). For more info on using environment variables in React see https://create-react-app.dev/docs/adding-custom-environment-variables/

REACT_APP_API_URL=http://localhost:4000
 

jsconfig.json

Path: /jsconfig.json

The below configuration enables support for absolute imports to the application, so modules can be imported with absolute paths instead of relative paths (e.g. import { MyComponent } from '_components'; instead of import { MyComponent } from '../../../_components';).

For more info on absolute imports in React see https://create-react-app.dev/docs/importing-a-component/#absolute-imports.

{
    "compilerOptions": {
        "baseUrl": "src"
    },
    "include": ["src"]
}
 

Package.json

Path: /package.json

The package.json file contains project configuration information including package dependencies that get installed when you run npm install and scripts that are executed when you run npm start or npm run build etc. Full documentation is available at https://docs.npmjs.com/files/package.json.

{
    "name": "react-recoil-jwt-authentication-example",
    "version": "0.1.0",
    "dependencies": {
        "@hookform/resolvers": "^2.8.0",
        "history": "^4.10.1",
        "react": "^17.0.2",
        "react-dom": "^17.0.2",
        "react-hook-form": "^7.14.2",
        "react-router-dom": "^5.3.0",
        "react-scripts": "4.0.3",
        "recoil": "^0.4.1",
        "yup": "^0.32.9"
    },
    "scripts": {
        "start": "react-scripts start",
        "build": "react-scripts build",
        "test": "react-scripts test",
        "eject": "react-scripts eject"
    },
    "eslintConfig": {
        "extends": "react-app"
    },
    "browserslist": {
        "production": [
            ">0.2%",
            "not dead",
            "not op_mini all"
        ],
        "development": [
            "last 1 chrome version",
            "last 1 firefox version",
            "last 1 safari version"
        ]
    }
}

 


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