npm: specifiers

Since version 1.28, Deno has native support for importing npm packages. This is done by importing using npm: specifiers.

The way these work is best described with an example that you can run with deno run --allow-env:

import chalk from "npm:chalk@5";


These npm specifiers have the following format:


Another example with express:

// main.js
import express from "npm:express@^4.17";
const app = express();

app.get("/", (req, res) => {
  res.send("Hello World");

console.log("listening on http://localhost:3000/");

Then doing the following will start a simple express server:

$ deno run -A main.js
listening on http://localhost:3000/

When doing this, no npm install is necessary and no node_modules folder is created. These packages are also subject to the same permissions as Deno applications.

npm executable scripts

npm packages with bin entries can be executed from the command line without an npm install using a specifier in the following format:


For example:

$ deno run --allow-env --allow-read npm:cowsay@1.5.0 Hello there!
< Hello there! >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

$ deno run --allow-env --allow-read npm:cowsay@1.5.0/cowthink What to eat?
( What to eat? )
        o   ^__^
         o  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

TypeScript types

Many packages ship with types out of the box, you can import those and use them with types easily:

import chalk from "npm:chalk@5";

Some packages do not though, but you can specify their types with a @deno-types directive. For example, using a @types package:

// @deno-types="npm:@types/express@^4.17"
import express from "npm:express@^4.17";

Including Node types

Node ships with many built-in types like Buffer that might be referenced in an npm package’s types. To load these you must add a types reference directive to the @types/node package:

/// <reference types="npm:@types/node" />

Note that it is fine to not specify a version for this in most cases because Deno will try to keep it in sync with its internal Node code, but you can always override the version used if necessary.

--node-modules-dir flag

npm specifiers resolve npm packages to a central global npm cache. This works well in most cases and is ideal since it uses less space and doesn’t require a node_modules directory. That said, you may find cases where an npm package expects itself to be executing from a node_modules directory. To improve compatibility and support those packages, you can use the --node-modules-dir flag.

For example, given main.ts:

import chalk from "npm:chalk@5";


Running this script with a --node-modules-dir like so…

deno run --node-modules-dir main.ts

…will create a node_modules folder in the current directory with a similar folder structure to npm.

Note that this is all done automatically when calling deno run and there is no separate install command necessary.

Alternatively, if you wish to disable the creation of a node_modules directory entirely, you can set this flag to false (ex. --node-modules-dir=false) or add a "nodeModulesDir": false entry to your deno.json configuration file to make the setting apply to the entire directory tree.

In the case where you want to modify the contents of the node_modules directory before execution, you can run deno cache with --node-modules-dir, modify the contents, then run the script.

For example:

deno cache --node-modules-dir main.ts
deno run --allow-read=. --allow-write=. scripts/your_script_to_modify_node_modules_dir.ts
deno run --node-modules-dir main.ts