Debugging Remote Jest Tests

Christian Emmer
Christian Emmer
Feb 20, 2020 · 5 min read
Debugging Remote Jest Tests

I ran into the need to debug Jest tests running inside a Docker container recently and didn't find any clear instructions on how to do it. Turns out it's pretty easy when you have the right flags.

Project setup

Let's walk through creating the files necessary to demonstrate the remote debugging.


Using the examples from Jest's "Getting Started," create sum.js:

function sum(a, b) {
    return a + b;
module.exports = sum;

and sum.test.js:

const sum = require('./sum');

test('adds 1 + 2 to equal 3', () => {
    expect(sum(1, 2)).toBe(3);


Loosely following Node's "Dockerizing a Node.js web app," create Dockerfile:

FROM node:lts

# Create app directory
WORKDIR /usr/src/app

# Install app dependencies
# A wildcard is used to ensure both package.json AND package-lock.json are copied
# where available (npm@5+)
COPY package*.json ./
RUN npm ci

# Bundle app source
COPY . .

CMD [ "node", "sum.js" ]

and .dockerignore:



Fill out your package.json with the following scripts and dependencies:

  "scripts": {
    "test": "jest",
    "test-debug": "node --inspect-brk= ./node_modules/jest/bin/jest.js",
    "test-watch": "jest --watchAll",
    "test-watch-debug": "node --inspect-brk= ./node_modules/jest/bin/jest.js --watchAll --runInBand"
  "devDependencies": {
    "jest": "latest"

Now let's walk through each of those debug commands.


node --inspect-brk= ./node_modules/jest/bin/jest.js

To break down each part of the command:

  • node is required in order to enable --inspect-brk. The jest command doesn't provide a way to turn on the inspector.
  • --inspect-brk will wait for a remote debugger to attach before executing the code. We're having node wait because the test will likely execute too fast for us to attach to it. The IP means bind to all interfaces which is required for Docker networking.
  • ./node_modules/jest/bin/jest.js runs Jest just like it would with the jest command.


node --inspect-brk= ./node_modules/jest/bin/jest.js --watchAll --runInBand

This adds two extra flags to Jest:

  • --watchAll watches for file changes and re-runs all tests when something changes.
  • --runInBand causes all tests to be run in the parent process rather than child processes. This is required for debugging the tests --watchAll runs after file changes.

Directory tree

After creating those 5 files you will end up with the directory tree:

├── .dockerignore
├── Dockerfile
├── package.json
├── sum.js
└── sum.test.js

Running with Docker

First, build the container and tag it as sum:

docker build -t sum .

Then we'll walk through the different Docker commands that change depending on which testing command we want.

test-debug in Docker

To run test-debug we have a fairly short command:

docker run -p 9229:9229 sum npm run test-debug
  • docker run to run a command in an already built image.
  • -p 9229:9229 to map the remote port 9229 to the local port 9229. This is necessary to attach your IDE or browser to the remote node instance.
  • sum being the name of our built image.
  • npm run test-debug to run our test command.

This will start the container and wait for a debugger to be attached on port 9229, then execute the tests.

test-watch-debug in Docker

The --watchAll flag for Jest requires some additional Docker flags:

docker run -it -v "$(pwd):/usr/src/app" -p 9229:9229 sum npm run test-watch-debug
  • -it to be able to interact with the process, to control Jest.
  • -v "$(pwd):/usr/src/app" to mount the local host directory in the container so that file changes are visible in the container.

Like test-debug, this will start the container and wait for a debugger to be attached on port 9229, then execute the tests, but then it also watches for file changes and re-runs all tests when something changes.

Try running this command, wait for tests to execute the first time, then change sum.js or sum.test.js and see what happens.

Attaching a debugger

It would take too long to list out the instructions for each editor, so here are links to some popular ones:

Make sure to use localhost for the host and 9229 for the port.