Firebase functions in a monorepo? A challenging pile of hacks

April 7, 2023

I recently went through the trouble of migrating a Firebase app to a monorepo, in particular the Cloud Functions part. While doing so, I went through a total of 3 different “methods”, all of which were full of surprises that I discovered along the way.

In this blog post I’ll go through those 3 options, and highlight their tradeoffs, in order to help you pick the one that’s the most appropriate to your workflow. It’s a long post, so feel free to jump to the comparison directly, and then cherry pick what to read from there. 😄

Here, I assume that your monorepo uses something like npm or Yarn workspaces. It may be applicable to pnpm but I didn’t try it.

The common ground

Before we get started with the 3 options, they all share a common ground. And for the sake of this blog post, I’ll start with an hypothetical base monorepo structure which I’ll lay down below.

The base monorepo

This is a basic monorepo with two websites and a shared package, e.g. for helper functions, types or any other common code.

├── apps
│   ├── website1
│   │   └── package.json
│   └── website2
│       └── package.json
├── packages
│   └── shared
│       └── package.json
├── package-lock.json
└── package.json

The top-level package.json contains:

  "workspaces": [

The Firebase functions in its own repo

In another repo, you have a Firebase app with functions:

├── functions
│   ├── src
│   │   └── index.js
│   ├── package-lock.json
│   └── package.json
└── firebase.json

Where your firebase.json contains:

  "functions": {
    "source": "functions"

Merging them together

Since in a Firebase repo, functions is already its own subdirectory with its own package.json, it feels pretty natural to just “merge” both repos together, maybe renaming functions into apps/functions to match our initial structure better, but no more than that:

 ├── apps
 │   ├── website1
 │   │   └── package.json
 │   ├── website2
 │   │   └── package.json
+│   └── functions
+│       ├── src
+│       │   └── index.js
+│       └── package.json
 ├── packages
 │   └── shared
 │       └── package.json
+├── firebase.json
 ├── package-lock.json
 └── package.json

In firebase.json, we just update the source to be apps/functions, and we remove the functions/package-lock.json to let npm merge the functions dependencies in the top-level package-lock.json. This way, we only need to run npm install at the root of the monorepo, instead of having to go inside apps/functions and run npm install there again. After all, that’s part of the point of a monorepo.

Great, so we’re done? That was easy.

Why this works, but not really

Not so fast. This will seemingly work, but it will do so kind of by chance, as a somewhat lucky accident.

How firebase deploy works

See, when firebase deploy deploys the functions, it will make a ZIP archive of the functions source directory (as defined in firebase.json).

Then, it will deploy the function from that ZIP. The Cloud Functions deploy process will send that ZIP to Cloud Build, which will:

  1. Run some variant of npm install or yarn install.
  2. Run the gcp-build script if defined in package.json.
  3. Prune development dependencies from node_modules if needed.
  4. Use the output of that process as the source for the function runtime.

This is defined in GCP buildpacks, e.g. for npm and for Yarn.

We can already see a bit of a problem. Because we’re sending only the apps/functions context to Cloud Build, it doesn’t have access to the top-level package-lock.json, which means the install output will be nondeterministic, and each deploy is subject to using different versions of different packages and potentially break your code without you knowing.

This can introduce a whole range of sneaky errors that will be a pain to debug!

Using shared packages

Moreover, we now understand that this will not allow using shared packages inside the monorepo!

If we wanted to use packages/shared inside apps/functions, by adding "shared": "*" in our dependencies, letting npm or Yarn resolve it to the local workspace version, it wouldn’t actually work.

Or actually, it will work in development, because we have the whole monorepo there. And in our particular example, even the Firebase deployment will surprisingly succeed, but only as an accident because shared is a valid npm package! It will break at runtime when you try to use a package that doesn’t contain the code you expect at all.

Other names for common monorepo shared packages that are also valid npm packages would be eslint-config and tsconfig, so they would also result in this kind of collision.

Note: if you use Yarn, you can prevent those collisions by prefixing your version specifier for your shared dependencies with workspace:, e.g. "shared": "workspace:*" to use any version. This will ensure the dependency is always installed from the local workspace and not from the registry.

npm doesn’t support that, but you can still add a layer of safety by making sure all your shared package names don’t conflict with anything on npm, for example by prefixing them with @myorg such as @myorg/shared, @myorg/eslint-config, @myorg/tsconfig and so on.

Or as an abundance of caution if you use Yarn, maybe do both. 😬

The “good enough for me” approach

We’re now in a situation where 1. the top-level package-lock.json is not respected when deploying Cloud Functions, and 2. we cannot use any workspace shared package in our functions.

You may actually be fine with that. Maybe you don’t care that your production functions have an unpredictable dependency tree every time you deploy, and maybe you don’t want to use shared packages in your functions anyway!

Note: you can even use shared packages in your devDependencies with that setup, as long as you don’t have a gcp-build script that depends on them!

At least if you use npm. Because there’s currently a bug with the Yarn Cloud Build buildpack that makes it install devDependencies before pruning them right after, even when no build script is present. 😅

This would fail your build if the shared package from your devDependencies don’t exist on npm. It’s one of those cases where having a shared package name that collisions with a npm package would help, although I wouldn’t really recommend this as a fix.

If that works for you, congratulations, your job here is done. Otherwise, let’s dig in the two other options. 👇

The full context approach

There’s a long thread in the firebase-tools repo about monorepo support. The majority of the solutions described there are some variation of a deploy script that packs your shared dependencies into .tgz files, and patch the functions/package.json file to reference them with file: for the time of the deployment. We’ll explore this in details in the last solution: the hybrid approach.

However, there’s a particular comment in that thread that describes something very different, and caught my attention despite not being given very much interest there.

A comment suggesting to put the monorepo root as the functions source

This comment suggests that we put the monorepo root as the functions source in firebase.json (ignoring unnecessary files as needed), to ensure we send the whole relevant monorepo context to Cloud Build!

  "functions": {
    "source": ".",
    "ignore": [

Then, adding the functions entrypoint in the top-level package.json, because Cloud Functions still don’t know about monorepos, and expects the functions package.json to be at the root.

  "main": "./packages/functions/dist/index.js"

Note: if you use .env files in your functions, e.g. .env, .env.production, .env.staging, and any other project aliases you may have, which is becoming more and more common now Firebase deprecated functions.config(), you also need to put them at the root of your monorepo with this solution, otherwise they will be ignored during deploy!

To me, this sounds much more elegant than the hacks with deploy scripts and file: references! But after using this approach in production for a few weeks, I decided to rollback, because there was too many downsides for my use case.

The ignore list is quirky

The ignore list is not exactly intuitive to work with. And if you forget to ignore anything somewhat large, your functions will fail to deploy. It struggled so much to figure out the precise rules of this ignore list that I had to go in the firebase-tools source code in order to understand it, and I wrote another blog post to explain how it really works, and how to test your ignore patterns!

The main caveat is that you can’t use negative ignore rules like you could in .gitignore and most ignore systems, e.g.:


In a .gitignore, this would ignore everything in apps/website1 and apps/website2 except for their package.json. If you use “a modern version of Yarn” (not 1.x), this is something you would need to do, because yarn install --immutable will fail if the workspaces identified in your yarn.lock don’t actually point to directories with a package.json in them!

If you use npm or Yarn 1.x though, npm ci and yarn install --frozen-lockfile won’t care, so you’re good to go.

Note: just keep in mind that Yarn 1.x doesn’t let you install dependencies for a single workspace, you systematically have to install all dependencies for the whole monorepo, which can be a pretty bad hit for any pipeline that works only on a small subset of the monorepo.

While you can yarn install --focus with 1.x, which kind of sounds like this, it doesn’t work with dependencies that are local to the monorepo, they need to be fetched from a registry.

But on new Yarn versions, this is a pretty big deal because you can’t ignore a whole workspace from your functions deploy, and because there’s no negative patterns to ignore everything but the package.json in a given workspace, you’re stuck with having to explicitly ignore everything but the package.json in each of the workspaces you want to exclude. And it’s a list you’ll now have to maintain forever every time you add new things to your monorepo.

This is even more of a problem because if you have any kind of secret in your repo, and you fail to add them to your functions.ignore list, they’ll be packaged in your functions source and you won’t notice. Your functions source is private to your Google Cloud account by default, but this is silently waiting to make a future security issue much worse.

All the other workspace dependencies are installed

This is the one that made me give up this solution. I could deal with the ignore list issues, but this was another level.

As we saw earlier, Cloud Functions use Cloud Build to install your dependencies. The whole thing is not designed for monorepos, which is why we had to put our main entrypoint in the root package.json. A more concerning effect of that though, is that Cloud Build will run npm install at the top level of the monorepo.

This means installing all the dependencies of all your apps and packages. This is big problem if you have a lot of unrelated dependencies across your different workspaces.

Firebase doesn’t let you configure the install command either, to run e.g. npm install --workspace functions or yarn workspace function workspaces focus (I know, awkward command), which would install only the functions dependencies. This can speed up your install times drastically in remote build environments, but here it’s not an option.

For us, the difference was 10 minutes to deploy Firebase functions vs. 2 minutes, if we could install the dependencies of the functions only.

This was to much, which is why I ended up with the last approach.

Note: the build time issue was heavily magnified in my case by the fact Cloud Build doesn’t do any caching for Yarn 2.x and greater if it’s not used in PnP mode. Proper caching may help a bit with npm and Yarn 1.x, even though it’s still not ideal.

There may be a way though, for example by replacing the top-level package.json and package-lock.json by dummy ones during firebase deploy so that from Cloud Build’s perspective it looks like you have no dependencies, and then hijacking the gcp-build script to actually install your dependencies yourself using the appropriate command that doesn’t install the whole world at the same time. 🥹

I haven’t tested this but it may work. However, if you’re gonna get that hacky, you might as well embrace the third solution.

The hybrid approach

This is an improved version of the first “good enough for me” solution, where in our development environment, we work with a full-fledged monorepo, with shared packages and everything, but when we deploy the Firebase functions, we narrow it down to its own independent-repo-like entity, but in a way that will actually work with our package-lock.json and shared packages!

This will take a bit of code though, in the form of a predeploy and postdeploy script for our functions. The predeploy script needs to:

  1. Do anything you were already doing in a predeploy script like linting and building your app.
  2. Copy all the shared packages you depend on in your functions directory, either through .tgz files from using npm pack or yarn pack, or the directories themselves (see below for the difference).
  3. Patch your functions package.json to reference the internal dependencies using file: references to the .tgz files or directories you just created.
  4. Do so recursively for your whole graph of internal dependencies. Hopefully it’s small enough to be manageable, but I can see this turning into a living hell in complex monorepos.
  5. Copy the top-level lock file in the functions directory. If you use Yarn 2.x and greater, you’ll need to do a bit more than that, see below.

As for the postdeploy script, it needs to undo everything that predeploy did.

Of course, your repo will be in an inconsistent state for the duration of firebase deploy, so maybe run that from another copy of your monorepo that you don’t work from, or make sure to not mess with your dependencies during the deploy, or things will fall apart!

You’ll find a number of examples of those predeploy and postdeploy scripts in the issue thread I linked earlier. Here’s one of the most recent ones that you can take inspiration from.

For the part where you replace the versions of your internal packages in your package.json, you can use npm pkg set

npm pkg set 'dependencies.@myorg/shared=file:shared.tgz' 'dependencies.@myorg/tsconfig=file:tsconfig.tgz'

Just make a backup of your original package.json so you can restore it in the postdeploy script. Feel free to use it with Yarn as well since this really just edits your package.json from the command line.

Now, about the downsides.

You have to recursively package your internal dependencies

And to do so, you have to patch your package.json files all the way down the internal dependency graph for your functions. Nasty.

As for using .tgz files from npm pack or yarn pack vs. copying the directories directly, it comes down to personal preference with npm, but if you use Yarn and you have nested internal dependencies, you’re much better off going with the directory approach.

That’s because npm can resolve file: references to .tgz files relative to where npm install is ran from, but Yarn only looks for the .tgz files relative to the package.json referencing it.

You can see how this becomes a problem with more than one level of dependency, because you would have to embed the archive of the same packages in all the packages that reference it, and do so recursively, which can get exponentially heavy and inefficient! Not to mention that you’d end up with a lot of duplicated dependencies, which can cause a whole lot of other problems on its own.

It will work with the directory approach though:

  1. You make your functions depend on "@myorg/shared": "file:shared".
  2. You make shared/package.json depends on "@myorg/tsconfig": "file:../tsconfig".
  3. You copy both shared and tsconfig under your functions directory and you’re god to go.

You need to mirror some top-level logic

In the previous solution, we saw how we had to copy some functions logic at the top level (main inside package.json as well as .env files). Here, we have the opposite problem.

Because we’re shipping only the functions directory to Cloud Functions, it’s missing your package-lock.json or yarn.lock from the top level (and maybe a number of other files you may need without knowing it).

For example, if you use “a modern version of Yarn” aka not Yarn 1.x, it also needs its .yarnrc.yml as well as .yarn/releases and .yarn/plugins directories in order to function!

If you forget to copy any of those inside your functions directory, Cloud Build will either use the wrong package manager or the wrong version of your package manager, which may result in the best case in a broken deploy, or worst, resolving and linking dependencies differently than in your local environment, which can lead to a number of sneaky issues.

This is not something that’s accounted for in any of the solutions from the thread I linked earlier. They all ship a lonely functions/package.json that will end up installing unpredictable dependency versions in their production environment.

Luckily, this is easy to fix! Just copy your top-level package-lock.json or yarn.lock in the functions directory as part of your predeploy script.

npm and Yarn 1.x are resilient enough to do the right thing from a superset of the lock file. More recent versions of Yarn though, are pretty strict and will refuse to install if it finds anything superfluous in yarn.lock (from its partial perspective).

There’s a whole bunch of ways to addresses this, tracked in those issues, with the emerging of various experimental Yarn plugins to fix it like yarn-plugin-workspace-lockfile (and its forks) or yarn-plugin-entrypoint-lockfiles that maintains individual lock files for each workspaces (or “entrypoint”) at the cost of slightly slower installs when you add or remove dependencies.

I initially used some version of this, but while writing this blog post, I stumbled upon this StackOverflow comment that mentions yarn install --mode update-lockfile. This is exactly what we want! So as of Yarn 3.x, we can just do the following:

cp yarn.lock apps/functions
cd apps/functions
yarn install --mode update-lockfile

This will updates apps/functions/yarn.lock to contain only the entries necessary for your functions, while keeping the versions that were pinned in the original lock file. This will happily work when Cloud Build runs yarn install --immutable later on. 😍

Again, this is something you need to do in your predeploy script, and undo in your postdeploy.


Let’s compare the pros and cons of those 3 options.

Good enough

Full context



Today, we went through 3 methods to make Firebase functions somewhat work with a monorepo: the “good enough for me” approach, the full context approach and the hybrid approach. Finally, we compared their pros and cons.

By now, you should have everything you need in order to make an educated decision about which method to pick.

And if you find any other cool trick to make working with Firebase functions in a monorepo easier, don’t hesitate to let me know!

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