As it took me a few attempts to get it to work, I thought it would be useful to capture how to use environment variables in the buildspec.yml file for anyone else using AWS CodeBuild to hopefully save you a few minutes of hacking around.

To reference an environment variable, simply prefix the variable name with $ in your list of commands. So for example:

And that is it. Pretty simple when you know how.

It would also appear that you cannot use environment variables with dots in the name. For example I was trying to use ‘’ as a environment property, but it continuously failed with bad substitution errors.¬†Reading around I don’t think this is CodeBuild specific, more me not using Ubuntu properly (I am using the default CodeBuild JDK 8 Docker container for my builds which is Ubuntu-based).

As an added bonus if you want to see what environment variables are available to you to play around with, you can add a ‘printenv‘ command into the install phase of the build which will print the entire environment to your CloudWatch logs. Something like this:

You can then use any of the environment variables to influence the outcome of your builds.

Founder and principal consultant of Rob Blake Associates. Over 5 years hands-on experience building and deploying production web applications on AWS. 10 years professional experience as a Java developer. Previously technical co-founder of The Law Wizard which was sold in June 2014.

8 thoughts on “Using environment variables in AWS CodeBuild buildspec.yml”

  1. Do you know if there is an escape character needed when the variable is in the middle of a string?

    For example I’d like to do something like this in the parameter store section.

    KEY1: “some_value_$STAGE”
    KEY2: “some_other_$STAGE”

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