/Chef 12

chef-shell (executable)

chef-shell is a recipe debugging tool that allows the use of breakpoints within recipes. chef-shell runs as an Interactive Ruby (IRb) session. chef-shell supports both recipe and attribute file syntax, as well as interactive debugging features.

The chef-shell executable is run as a command-line tool.


chef-shell is tool that is run using an Interactive Ruby (IRb) session. chef-shell currently supports recipe and attribute file syntax, as well as interactive debugging features. chef-shell has three run modes:

Mode Description
Standalone Default. No cookbooks are loaded, and the run-list is empty.
Solo chef-shell acts as a chef-solo client. It attempts to load the chef-solo configuration file and JSON attributes. If the JSON attributes set a run-list, it will be honored. Cookbooks will be loaded in the same way that chef-solo loads them. chef-solo mode is activated with the -s or --solo command line option, and JSON attributes are specified in the same way as for chef-solo, with -j /path/to/chef-solo.json.
Client chef-shell acts as a chef-client. During startup, it reads the chef-client configuration file and contacts the Chef server to get attributes and cookbooks. The run-list will be set in the same way as normal chef-client runs. chef-client mode is activated with the -z or --client options. You can also specify the configuration file with -c CONFIG and the server URL with -S SERVER_URL.


This command has the following syntax:


This command has the following options:

-a, --standalone
Run chef-shell in standalone mode.
-c CONFIG, --config CONFIG
The configuration file to use.
-h, --help
Show help for the command.
-j PATH, --json-attributes PATH

The path to a file that contains JSON data.

Use this option to define a run_list object. For example, a JSON file similar to:

"run_list": [

may be used by running chef-client -j path/to/file.json.

In certain situations this option may be used to update normal attributes.


Any other attribute type that is contained in this JSON file will be treated as a normal attribute. For example, attempting to update override attributes using the -j option:

  "name": "dev-99",
  "description": "Install some stuff",
  "override_attributes": {
    "apptastic": {
      "enable_apptastic": "false",
      "apptastic_tier_name": "dev-99.bomb.com"

will result in a node object similar to:

  "name": "maybe-dev-99",
  "normal": {
  "name": "dev-99",
    "description": "Install some stuff",
    "override_attributes": {
      "apptastic": {
        "enable_apptastic": "false",
        "apptastic_tier_name": "dev-99.bomb.com"
-l LEVEL, --log-level LEVEL
The level of logging to be stored in a log file.
-s, --solo
Run chef-shell in chef-solo mode.
The URL for the Chef server.
-v, --version
The version of the chef-client.
-z, --client
Run chef-shell in chef-client mode.

© Chef Software, Inc.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The Chef™ Mark and Chef Logo are either registered trademarks/service marks or trademarks/servicemarks of Chef, in the United States and other countries and are used with Chef Inc's permission.
We are not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Chef Inc.