Building RESTful APIs with Ruby on Rails


Building a RESTful API with Ruby on Rails allows you to expose your application's functionality to other services and applications. REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style for designing networked applications, and Rails makes it straightforward to create RESTful APIs. In this guide, we'll explore the basics of building RESTful APIs using Ruby on Rails.


Before you start building your RESTful API, ensure that you have the following prerequisites:

  • Ruby installed on your system
  • RubyGems (Ruby package manager)
  • Rails framework (installed with gem install rails)
  • A code editor (e.g., Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text)

Creating a New Rails API Application

Begin by creating a new Rails application specifically designed for building APIs. Open your terminal and run the following commands:

# Create a new Rails API application named "api_app"
rails new api_app --api

The --api flag tells Rails to generate an API-only application, which removes unnecessary middleware and view-related components.

Creating an API Endpoint

APIs consist of endpoints that respond to HTTP requests. Let's create a simple API endpoint to get a list of items. Run the following command to generate a scaffold for items:

# Generate a scaffold for the "Item" resource
rails generate scaffold Item name:string description:text
# Run the database migration
rails db:migrate

This command generates the necessary files for the "Item" resource, including a model, controller, and routes.

Defining the API Controller

Edit the controller to handle API requests. Open the controller file in your code editor:

# Controller: app/controllers/items_controller.rb
class ItemsController < ApplicationController
before_action :set_item, only: [:show, :update, :destroy]
def index
@items = Item.all
render json: @items
def show
render json: @item
def create
@item =
render json: @item, status: :created
render json: @item.errors, status: :unprocessable_entity
def update
if @item.update(item_params)
render json: @item
render json: @item.errors, status: :unprocessable_entity
def destroy
def set_item
@item = Item.find(params[:id])
def item_params
params.require(:item).permit(:name, :description)

This controller provides actions for listing, showing, creating, updating, and deleting items, all of which return JSON responses.

Defining Routes

Configure your routes to map to the API controller actions. Open the routes file in your code editor:

# Configuring routes: config/routes.rb
Rails.application.routes.draw do
resources :items

This configuration creates RESTful routes for the "Item" resource.

Testing the API

Start your Rails server to test the API:

rails server

You can access the API endpoints at http://localhost:3000/items for listing items, and you can use tools like Postman or cURL to test the API endpoints for creating, updating, and deleting items.


You've successfully built a basic RESTful API with Ruby on Rails. This is just the beginning, and you can expand your API to include more features, authentication, and additional resources. Building APIs with Rails opens up endless possibilities for integrating your application with other services and platforms.

For more in-depth information, refer to the official Ruby on Rails documentation. Happy coding!