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Matthew Smith

React Consultant | Developer, Co-owner Wildsmith Studio, LLC

July 02, 2018 · 4 min read

Using your own remote data sources with Gatsby

Gatsby works great with Contentful, Headless Wordpress, and other CMS providers.

But what if I have my own data source? How do I use that?

That is the problem that I had, and I'm going to show you how to solve it.

Hint: It's really easy 🙌

We're going to start off by writing a Gatsby Plugin that fetches data from an API. For this example we are going to be fetching a random list of jokes and creating GraphQL nodes for them. Then we'll verify the data with the GraphiQL interface, write a query, and render them in a React component in our Gatsby site.

Let's get to it.

Create the plugin

Let's start off by creating a plugins directory in the root of the project (if it does not already exist). Inside of the plugins directory we'll create another directory that matches the name of our plugin. We'll call it random-jokes.

We're going to create 2 files inside of the random-jokes plugin directory: package.json and gatsby-node.js.

  |- random-jokes
    |- package.json
    |- gatsby-node.js

The purpose of the package.json file is to tell Gatsby the name of the plugin. We'll be adding this to the gatsby-config.js file shortly.

// random-jokes/package.json

{"name": "random-jokes"}

Inside of the gatsby-node.js file we will be making use of Gatsby's sourceNodes API, as well as the axios data fetching library.

Now is a good time to add axios to your project if you are not already using it.

yarn add axios

// or

npm install --save axios

In the gatsby-node.js file we are going to do 2 things:

  1. Send an AJAX request to the external API.
  2. Create a GraphQL node for each joke.
// plugins/random-jokes/gatsby-node.js

const axios = require('axios');
const crypto = require('crypto');

const API_URI =

exports.sourceNodes = async ({boundActionCreators}) => {
  const {createNode} = boundActionCreators;
  const result = await axios.get(API_URI);
  for (const joke of {
    await createNode({
      children: [],
      setup: joke.setup,
      punchline: joke.punchline,
      parent: null,
      internal: {
        type: 'Joke',
        contentDigest: crypto

Tell Gatsby to use the plugin

We need let Gatsby know that we would like to use this plugin. To do so, we need to modify the gatsby-config file like so:

// gatsby-config.js

module.exports = {

  plugins: [

Find the newly created node in GraphiQL

Restart Gatsby and it will create our new Joke nodes. Before trying to write a query inside of a component, it is always a good idea to first explore your data with the GraphiQL interface. It should be running on http://localhost:8000/___graphql

In the upper right hand side of the GraphiQL interface click < Docs and scroll down until you see the joke node as pictured below.

GraphiQL interface

Let's write a query in the left hand pane to view our results.

  allJoke {
    edges {
      node {

Press the "play" button in the upper left hand corner and you should see the results of the query populate in the middle pane.

GraphiQL Results

Create a new page in Gatsby

Now that we have verified that all of the data is showing up as expected we can create a page and add our query to our page component. Lets create the file /src/pages/jokes.js.

// src/pages/jokes.js

import React from 'react';

export default class Jokes extends React.Component {
  _renderJokes = () => {
    const jokes =;
    return => {
      return (
        <li key={}>

  render() {
    return <ul className="Jokes">{this._renderJokes()}</ul>;

export const query = graphql`
  query JokesQuery {
    allJoke {
      edges {
        node {

And that's all there is to it.

Ready to take this concept to the next level?

I've written another post on how to retrieve external images during build time so that you may use them with gatsby-image. You'll learn how to do this by creating an Instagram plugin for you Gatsby site 🚀