Managing Secrets using kubectl

Creating Secret objects using kubectl command line.

This page shows you how to create, edit, manage, and delete Kubernetes Secrets using the kubectl command-line tool.

Before you begin

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. It is recommended to run this tutorial on a cluster with at least two nodes that are not acting as control plane hosts. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

Create a Secret

A Secret object stores sensitive data such as credentials used by Pods to access services. For example, you might need a Secret to store the username and password needed to access a database.

You can create the Secret by passing the raw data in the command, or by storing the credentials in files that you pass in the command. The following commands create a Secret that stores the username admin and the password S!B\*d$zDsb=.

Use raw data

Run the following command:

kubectl create secret generic db-user-pass \
    --from-literal=username=admin \

You must use single quotes '' to escape special characters such as $, \, *, =, and ! in your strings. If you don't, your shell will interpret these characters.

Use source files

  1. Store the credentials in files:

    echo -n 'admin' > ./username.txt
    echo -n 'S!B\*d$zDsb=' > ./password.txt

    The -n flag ensures that the generated files do not have an extra newline character at the end of the text. This is important because when kubectl reads a file and encodes the content into a base64 string, the extra newline character gets encoded too. You do not need to escape special characters in strings that you include in a file.

  2. Pass the file paths in the kubectl command:

    kubectl create secret generic db-user-pass \
        --from-file=./username.txt \

    The default key name is the file name. You can optionally set the key name using --from-file=[key=]source. For example:

    kubectl create secret generic db-user-pass \
        --from-file=username=./username.txt \

With either method, the output is similar to:

secret/db-user-pass created

Verify the Secret

Check that the Secret was created:

kubectl get secrets

The output is similar to:

NAME              TYPE       DATA      AGE
db-user-pass      Opaque     2         51s

View the details of the Secret:

kubectl describe secret db-user-pass

The output is similar to:

Name:            db-user-pass
Namespace:       default
Labels:          <none>
Annotations:     <none>

Type:            Opaque

password:    12 bytes
username:    5 bytes

The commands kubectl get and kubectl describe avoid showing the contents of a Secret by default. This is to protect the Secret from being exposed accidentally, or from being stored in a terminal log.

Decode the Secret

  1. View the contents of the Secret you created:

    kubectl get secret db-user-pass -o jsonpath='{.data}'

    The output is similar to:

    { "password": "UyFCXCpkJHpEc2I9", "username": "YWRtaW4=" }
  2. Decode the password data:

    echo 'UyFCXCpkJHpEc2I9' | base64 --decode

    The output is similar to:

    kubectl get secret db-user-pass -o jsonpath='{.data.password}' | base64 --decode

Edit a Secret

You can edit an existing Secret object unless it is immutable. To edit a Secret, run the following command:

kubectl edit secrets <secret-name>

This opens your default editor and allows you to update the base64 encoded Secret values in the data field, such as in the following example:

# Please edit the object below. Lines beginning with a '#' will be ignored,
# and an empty file will abort the edit. If an error occurs while saving this file, it will be
# reopened with the relevant failures.
apiVersion: v1
  password: UyFCXCpkJHpEc2I9
  username: YWRtaW4=
kind: Secret
  creationTimestamp: "2022-06-28T17:44:13Z"
  name: db-user-pass
  namespace: default
  resourceVersion: "12708504"
  uid: 91becd59-78fa-4c85-823f-6d44436242ac
type: Opaque

Clean up

To delete a Secret, run the following command:

kubectl delete secret db-user-pass

What's next

Last modified October 24, 2023 at 2:54 PM PST: Document snag with stringData and server-side apply (920a68b536)