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Adding Tailwind CSS to your Rails app

Adding Tailwind CSS to your Rails app

It's a 3 minute read

Today we are going to add the fantastic TailwindCSS to our rails project.

So lets start off with installing our dependancies, because the current version of Rails leverages PostCSS 7 we will need to install some different node packages to provide the best compatibility possible.

yarn add tailwindcss@npm:@tailwindcss/postcss7-compat postcss@^7 autoprefixer@^9

When Rails gets updated on the PostCSS front you can upgrade your Tailwind CSS installation by running:

yarn remove tailwindcss @tailwindcss/postcss7-compat
yarn add tailwindcss@latest postcss@latest autoprefixer@latest

Create the Tailwind config

Now we have that don we can generate a new tailwind.config.js file by running

npx tailwindcss init

This will create a minimal tailwind.config.js file at the root of your project:

// tailwind.config.js
module.exports = {
  purge: [],
  darkMode: false, // or 'media' or 'class'
  theme: {
    extend: {},
  variants: {},
  plugins: [],

Setting up TailwindCSS

Inside app/javascript/ let’s create a new folder called stylesheets, then we’ll create a new application.scss stylesheet within app/javascript/stylesheets. Yes I know this seem a bit odd, but you can keep all your tailwind config and styles together for easier managment if you wish.

mkdir app/javascript/stylesheets
touch app/javascript/stylesheets/application.scss

Inside the application.scss we just created we need to add the tailwind import statements so we can include all of its defaults.

/* app/javascript/stylesheets/application.scss */
@import "tailwindcss/base";
@import "tailwindcss/components";

/* Add any custom CSS here */
@import "tailwindcss/utilities";

You are able to add any custom CSS after the components import but before the utilities import.

Import the stylesheet inside your packs file

Ruby on Rails ships with an application.js file inside app/javascript/packs. You can add another file or import it inside application.js all the same. We need to import the application.scss file here and leverage Webpack loaders to compile things down.

/* app/javascript/packs/application.js */


import "stylesheets/application" // Add this line

Add TailwindCSS to postcss.config.js

To add TailwindCSS to the Rails project’s postcss.config.js file you need to require it. You can then pass the relative path to your configuration file.

Require tailwindcss in postcss Add the following require to the postcss.config.js file

/* postcss.config.js */
module.exports = {
  plugins: [
      autoprefixer: {
        flexbox: "no-2009",
      stage: 3,

If you wanted to move your tailwind.config.js file into your stylesheet folder, you would need to pass the full relative URL app/javascript/stylesheets/tailwind.config.js for this to work.


Update your layout file

We now need to add the stylesheet_pack_tag to our project. This would be added to your the head of your playout page.

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>Our project</title>
    <%= csrf_meta_tags %>
    <%= csp_meta_tag %>

    <%= stylesheet_link_tag 'application', media: 'all', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>
    <%= stylesheet_pack_tag 'application', media: 'all', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>
    <%= javascript_pack_tag 'application', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>

    <%= yield %>

Make sure you purge those files

Once you have Tailwind CSS up and running I highly recommend setting up the purge feature which is now built-in. Simply pass in the paths to files you use Tailwind CSS inside. The utility will traverse those files and remove any classes you aren’t making use of.

This reduces file sizes and increases your website’s performance dramatically.

/* app/javascript/stylesheets/tailwind.config.js */
module.exports = {
  purge: [
  darkMode: false, // or 'media' or 'class'
  theme: {
    extend: {},
  variants: {
    extend: {},
  plugins: [],

All thats left to do now its to try it our and make sure it works. Open up our terminal window and start the rails server, and make sure it all works.

rails s


© 2023 Alan Reid