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Setting Up Vercel for APIs with Express

This gist would offer a step-by-step guide of some sort for quickly setting up a "serverless" API using expressjs, and Vercel's Now platform for local development with now dev and eventual prod deployment now --prod

Install Now CLI

If you haven't already, install now's cli tool globally on your development environment:

npm i -g now

To confirm if you have it installed, run:

now --version

You should get something similar to this:

now installed

Your specific version may vary depending on the latest version on the date you are reading this, but that shouldn't cause any hiccups (I hope).

Get a Vercel Account && Auth Locally

If you don't have one already, set up a Vercel account on their site, and authenticate locally by running now login on your terminal.

now login

Following the prompts should authenticate you correctly.

now login confirmation

Setup Your Project

With installation and auth out of the way, we can now set up individual projects for local development using now dev and even prod deployments.

Using an express boilerplate, let's set up one project. Here's the entire boilerplate structure:

├── .gitignore
├── index.js
├── now.json
└── package.json

Here's .gitignore:


Here's index.js:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();

app.get('/api/', (req, res) => {
  res.send({ message: '=)' });

app.all('*', (req, res) => {
  res.status(404).send({ message: 'route not defined!' });

module.exports = app;

Here's now.json:

  "version": 2,
  "builds": [{ "src": "index.js", "use": "@now/node" }],
  "routes": [{ "src": "/(.*)", "dest": "index.js" }]

Finally, here's package.json:

  "name": "express-vercel",
  "version": "0.1.0",
  "description": "express vercel boilerplate",
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "dev": "now dev"
  "dependencies": {
    "express": "^4.17.1"
  "keywords": [
  "author": "Kizito Akhilome",
  "license": "MIT"

To get started, let's install project dependencies (npm i):

install dependencies

Connect Project To Vercel

For us to be able to use the now dev command for the project, we must first connect the project to our Vercel account by simply running now from the project's root directory. Like so:

start linking with vercel

Following and answering the prompts should get us setup:

finish linking with vercel

Start Dev Server

With connecting done, we can now conveniently startup the dev server by running now dev:

start dev server

And test out the API by hitting localhost:3000/api/:

dev api test

Prod Deployment

To conveniently deploy to prod, now --prod would do the trick:

prod deploy

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