Simple API with Nginx and PostgreSQL

26 Jul 2013

How to build a simple REST API using only Nginx and PostgreSQL.

Sometimes it’s overkill to use a web framework if you only need to develop a very simple REST API. It turns out that Nginx can be used to develop a full fledged REST API and PostgreSQL can easily be used for persistence.

In this blog post I’m going to show you how to create a simple CRUD API for articles.


I recommend that you use the OpenResty to install Nginx. It contains the standard Nginx core and lots of 3rd-party Nginx modules including the Postgres upstream module that allows Nginx to communicate with a PostgreSQL database. OpenResty is not an Nginx fork, just a software bundle so there’s nothing to worry about.

This is how I installed and compiled OpenResty on my Mac:

brew install pcre

tar xzvf ngx_openresty-

cd ngx_openresty-

./configure \
--with-cc-opt="-I/usr/local/Cellar/pcre/8.33/include" \
--with-ld-opt="-L/usr/local/Cellar/pcre/8.33/lib" \

Remember to change pcre version number to the one you have installed. It might differ.

For this blog post I used PostgreSQL 9.2. You can install PostgreSQL from Homebrew or use .

Create the database


CREATE TABLE articles (
	id serial PRIMARY KEY,
 	title varchar(50) NOT NULL,
 	body varchar(32000) NOT NULL,
 	created_at timestamp DEFAULT current_timestamp

# add a few rows:
INSERT INTO articles (title, body) VALUES ('Test title 1', 'Test body 1');
INSERT INTO articles (title, body) VALUES ('Test title 2', 'Test body 2');
INSERT INTO articles (title, body) VALUES ('Test title 3', 'Test body 3');

The complete nginx.conf

worker_processes 8;

events {}

http {
  upstream database {
    postgres_server dbname=articledb user=username password=yourpass;
  server {
    listen       8080;
    server_name  localhost;

    location /articles {
      postgres_pass database;
      rds_json on;
      postgres_query    HEAD GET  "SELECT * FROM articles";
      postgres_escape $title $arg_title;
      postgres_escape $body  $arg_body;
        POST "INSERT INTO articles (title, body) VALUES($title, $body) RETURNING *";
      postgres_rewrite  POST changes 201;

    location ~ /articles/(?<id>\d+) {
      postgres_pass database;
      rds_json  on;
      postgres_escape $escaped_id $id;
      postgres_query    HEAD GET  "SELECT * FROM articles WHERE id=$escaped_id";
      postgres_rewrite  HEAD GET  no_rows 410;

      postgres_escape $title $arg_title;
      postgres_escape $body  $arg_body;
        PUT "UPDATE articles SET title=$title, body=$body WHERE id=$escaped_id RETURNING *";
      postgres_rewrite  PUT no_changes 410;

      postgres_query    DELETE  "DELETE FROM articles WHERE id=$escaped_id";
      postgres_rewrite  DELETE  no_changes 410;
      postgres_rewrite  DELETE  changes 204;

Test drive the API

Get all articles:

curl http://localhost:8080/articles

Create a new article:

curl -X POST http://localhost:8080/articles?title=Article1&body=body1

Update article:

curl -X PUT http://localhost:8080/articles/1?title=Article2&body=body2

Delete article:

curl -X DELETE http://localhost:8080/articles/1

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