3 min read

How to set up NextAuth.js for your SaaS

When building a Software as a Service product, one of the first pieces to make is the authentication flow. It's essential to get the user to sign in to use the product so you can save data between sessions. It also provides a good understanding of how interested a person is in your product. Authentication provides a little friction and is an integral part of the funnel.

In the past years, authentication has gotten easier as frameworks have matured and solid libraries have been created.

My current favorite stack for building SaaS is Next.js. It has fantastic TypeScript support and a great community. This community has created many useful libraries. When making a product, you should stick to what you know to limit how much you need to learn. Building something people want is hard enough without learning a bunch of new tech on top.

The best library for authentication with Next.js is NextAuth.js. It provides a simple way to get started and quickly get a secure session with your web app.

NextAuth.js can use database sessions or JWT tokens. A database session stores information in the database and each request is checked against the saved session. A JWT is an encrypted token that the server reads, protecting information there. Because it's quicker to get started, this guide uses a JWT.

In your Next.js app, start with installing the packages:

yarn add -SE next-auth

Next, create an API route that will handle the authentication calls. Create a file at:


The filename is important here; it's what NextAuth.js expects the variable to be named. This file is a regular API route for Next, but you will pass off most of the logic to the NextAuth.js library. It has handlers to handle logging in, logging out, showing the correct pages, etc. So instead of exporting a default handler, we export the libraries handler.

import NextAuth from 'next-auth'
import CredentialsProvider from 'next-auth/providers/credentials'

export default NextAuth({
  session: {
    strategy: 'jwt',
  providers: [
      name: 'Sign in',
      credentials: {
        username: { label: 'Username', type: 'text', placeholder: 'username' },
        password: { label: 'Password', type: 'password' },
      async authorize(credentials) {
        // Handle Auth!
        const user = { id: 1, username: 'Ethan', email: 'test@test.com' }
        return user

This code does all the heavy lifting for creating your full authentication flow. The only provider you are using is the CredentialsProvider, which allows you to customize the authentication method. The login page will ask for a username and password, and those will be available in the credentials object passed to authorize.

You could look up the user in a database and compare the passwords using the library bcrypt.

If you return null in authorize, the user will get an invalid credential message. Likewise, if you throw an error, the user will be sent to the error page. To test the sign-in, go to http://localhost:3000/api/auth/signin! Since we don't validate the username and password in the above code, anything will log the user in.

Using the Session

Once the user has logged in, using the session client-side is done with a hook.

import { useSession } from 'next-auth/react'

export const Component = () => {
  const { data: session } = useSession()
  return <></>

The session variable will hold the details of the user.

  "expires": "2022-06-26T13:07:18.887Z",
  "user": {
    "email": "test@test.com"

Customizing the JWT

The only other part of this flow I found very frustrating was once the user was logged in, I wanted some critical information stored in the JWT. By default, that is:

  • name: string
  • email: string
  • image: string

Okay... but I need a primary key for the user. When using the session client-side, I want to be able to fetch "All resources for the user with ID X," not by email.

You can add a configuration option to NextAuth.js function way above that allows
you to configure the session JWT:

callbacks: {
  async session({ session, token }) {
    return {
      user: {
        id: parseInt(token.sub || '', 10),

The token.sub is the User ID from the authorize method above as a string. If your primary key is a UUID then that will work fine. Otherwise, change it back to a number.

Set the Environment Variables

Lastly, you should set two environment variables that NextAuth.js uses:

# This is used to encrypt the JWT

# This is the root URL to your application

To generate the secret, run:

OpenSSL rand -hex 32

Congrats! Now you have a fully functioning authentication flow! You can use helper methods to create your login page that fits your design better. Registering users is out of scope for NextAuth.js, but a simple form can pass the information to your backend.