Using cURL to test your REST API

cURL is like the Swiss army knife for REST API.

  • curl
  • rest
  • api
Using cURL to test your REST API

Client URL (cURL) is a command line utility that supports data exchange between client and server via many protocols, including HTTP and HTTPS.

Setting the Content-Type

When sending data the default Content-Type is application/x-www-form-urlencoded for cURL. The API is probably not accepting it. To send json you need to set the content-type to application/json.

curl --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
  --request POST \
  --data '{"username":"xyz", "password":"xyz"}' \

REST API Commands

# Get: GET
curl --get

# Create: POST
curl --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
  --data '{"hello":"world"}' \

# Update: PUT
curl --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
  --request PUT \
  --data '{"hello":"world"}' \

# Remove: DELETE
curl --request DELETE


Headers can be set with either the -H or --header option. For example you can set an authentication header including a Bearer token:

curl -H "Authorization: Bearer <JWT Access Token>"

Post Content of a File

If you have a huge json payload, it is easier to place it in a file and let cURL upload the content directly.

curl --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
  --request POST \
  --data "@payload.json" \

cURL supports sending the raw text via files using the --data option together with using the @filename notation.

Using Certificates

APIs often use SSL/TLS encryption for secure connections and protect data. To verify the SSL/TLS certificate presented by the server, use the —cacert, —cert, and —key options.

--cacert: The path to the CA certificate to verify the server’s certificate. --cert: The path to the client’s SSL/TLS certificate, to identify the client. --key: The path to the client’s private key, to authenticate the client.

curl --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
  --cacert ca.pem --cert client.pem --key client.key \
  --request POST \
  --data "@payload.json" \

Debugging the Request

To figure out what is going on during the request you can view the request headers in the output with either -v, --verbose.

To view the response headers in the output you can use -i or --include.

curl -v -i -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d "@payload.json"

Bonus: Testing Webhooks

With, you instantly get a unique, random URL and e-mail address. Everything that’s sent to these addresses are shown instantly. With this, you can test and debug Webhooks and HTTP requests, as well as create your own workflows using the Custom Actions graphical editor or WebhookScript, a simple scripting language, to transform, validate and process HTTP requests in a variety of ways - without setting up and maintaining your own infrastructure.