How to set up a project with Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL and GraphQL

Anna Dydio
24 September 2021
5 min read

Setting up a project with Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL and GraphQL is actually pretty straightforward.

But first, some prerequisites. For this tutorial (tested on versions 2.7.3, and 11.0 respectively), you must have all three, Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL and GraphQL installed on your development machine.

Some general knowledge of Ruby and Rails is also recommended.

Before we begin, however, you might be wondering why anyone would want to replace the perfectly fine experience provided by the traditional REST API with one offered by GraphQL. Well, one obvious reason is that GraphQL deals quite elegantly with resources over- and under-fetching. With GraphQL you are given the exact information you request - nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, it is almost self-documenting, making that one less item on your list of things to worry about. And there are other pros to GraphQL, such as it being both strongly typed and language and database independent. But in the meantime, I'll leave those for you to explore on your own.

So, without further ado, let’s set up our first GraphQL API on Ruby on Rails.

Setting Up GraphQL for Rails

Step 1 - PostgreSQL database

Let’s create a Ruby on Rails API app with PostgreSQL as the database. We’ll be making a very simple bookshelf API.

Step 2 - GraphQL to Gemfile

Let’s add GraphQL to our project. To do so, add gem ‘graphql’ to your Gemfile.

For testing your queries in development, add gem ‘graphiql-rails’ under the development category.

Now, let’s install our gems.

Make sure that your config/routes.rb includes the following:

Step 3 - Create database

Time to create the database and start the server. 

Now go to localhost:3000/graphiql (or a different port if specified) in your browser. If you can see the graphiql interface, you can skip step 4.

Step 4 - Loading...

In case you keep seeing the Loading… page, go to config/application.rb and uncomment the line requiring “sprockets/railtie”. Then, create an empty app/assets/config/manifest.js file.

Restart your server. You should be able to access the graphiql interface by now.

Step 5 - Author, Books

Next, we'll create some resources by generating author and book models. Authors can have many books and books belong to the authors.

Open your author model file, add has_many :books, and save so that our associations are on point. 

Great - we're now ready to work with GraphQL!

Step 6 - Author/ Book Types

Let’s create author and book types. 

Open the author_type.rb file and add field :books, [Types::BookType], null: true under other fields so that when querying for authors we can also ask for the information on their books.You can think of the types as the schemas for specific resources.

Step 7 - Mutations

Now that our types are ready, we can make our first mutation. Mutations are used to modify the resources in the database.

Let’s start with the mutation to create authors. Create a file create_author.rb under app/graphql/mutations and update it as follows: 

Similarly, let’s add mutation for creating books. Create a file create_book.rb:

You can create similar mutations to update and destroy resources.

When you’re ready, add the following to your mutation_type.rb file:

To test our mutations, let’s try to create our first author. Go to our GraphiQL interface, write the following and execute the query.

In return you should receive a response resembling this one:

Now, create your first book in a similar manner.

Step 8 - First Queries

Last but not least, let’s create our first queries. To be able to do so, update your query_type.rb file with the following. All fields created here will be available to us through the API.

Let’s run this query in the GraphiQL:

If you added some books to the database, the response should return something similar to:


So, there you have it. And congratulations - you’ve just created your first Rails GraphQL API!  If you’re looking for a means as authorization, you can always check the gem action_policy-graphql, and more tips on GraphQL in Ruby on Rails can be found at:

Good luck! 

Finally, if you'd like to find out more about the other development languages and technologies expertly employed at SDH, feel free to contact us at

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