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Version: 2.20

Helm Overview

Helm support is in alpha stage

Pants has good support for the most common operations for managing Helm charts sources. However there may be use cases not covered yet.

Please share feedback for what you need to use Pants with your Helm charts by either opening a GitHub issue or joining our Slack!

Initial setup

First, activate the relevant backend in pants.toml:

backend_packages = [

If you have more than one Helm chart in the same repository, organise them such that each of them lives in a separate folder with the chart definition file (Chart.yaml) at their root. The Helm backend is capable of auto-detecting the root folder of your Helm charts taking the chart definition file Chart.yaml as the reference for that root.

apiVersion: v2
description: Foo Helm chart
name: foo
version: 0.1.0

Adding helm_chart targets

Helm charts are identified by the presence of a Chart.yaml or Chart.yml file, which contains relevant metadata about the chart like its name, version, dependencies, etc. To get started quickly you can create a simple Chart.yaml file in your sources folder:

apiVersion: v2
description: Example Helm chart
name: example
version: 0.1.0
Using helm create

You can use the helm create command to create an initial skeleton for your chart but be sure you have properly configured your source root patterns (as shown in the previous section) since the helm create command will create a folder name with the name of your chart and place the sources inside.

Then run pants tailor :: to generate BUILD files. This will scan your source repository in search of Chart.yaml or Chart.yml files and create a helm_chart target for each of them.

❯ pants tailor ::
Created src/helm/example/BUILD:
- Add helm_chart target example

If your workspace contains any Helm unit tests (under a tests folder), Pants will also idenfity them and create helm_unittest_tests targets for them. Additionally, if your unit tests also have snapshots (under a tests/__snapshot__ folder), tailor will identify those files as test snapshots and will create resources targets for them. See "Snapshot testing" below for more info.

Basic operations

The given setup is enough to now do some common operations on our Helm chart source code.


The Helm backend has an implementation of the Pants' lint goal which hooks it with the helm lint command:

pants lint ::
==> Linting example
[INFO] Chart.yaml: icon is recommended

1 chart(s) linted, 0 chart(s) failed

✓ helm succeeded.

The linting command is non-strict by default. If you want to enforce strict linting it can be either done globally in the pants.toml file, or in a per-chart target basis, using one of the two following ways:

# Enables strict linting globally
lint_strict = true

Likewise, in a similar way you could enable strict linting globally and then choose to disable it in a per-target basis. Run pants help helm or pants help helm_chart for more information.

You can set the field skip_lint=True on each helm_chart target to avoid linting it.


Packing helm charts is supported out of the box via the Pants' package goal. The final package will be saved as a .tgz file under the dist folder at your source root.

pants package ::
10:23:15.24 [INFO] Completed: Packaging Helm chart: testprojects/src/helm/example
10:23:15.24 [INFO] Wrote dist/testprojects.src.helm.example/example/example-0.2.0.tgz
Built Helm chart artifact: testprojects.src.helm.example/example/example-0.2.0.tgz

The final output folder can be customised using the output_path field in the helm_chart target. Run pants help helm_chart for more information.

Helm chart version

Helm charts are versioned artifacts with the value of the version field in Chart.yaml determining the actual version of the chart. Pants needs to know the version of a first party chart to be able to build packages and correctly establish the dependencies among them. By default, Pants will use the value in Chart.yaml as the given version of a chart but it also supports overriding that value via the version field in the helm_chart target.

For example, a chart defined as such:


Will be understood to have version 0.1.0 (as read from the Chart.yaml file). However, if we specify a version in helm_chart as follows:


Now the value in Chart.yaml will be ignored and the chart will be understood to have version 2.0.0.

Because Pants has support for interpolating values in the target fields, we can also make this version value more dynamic as follows:


Now the version value for this chart will be what has been set as the value of the environment variable HELM_CHART_VERSION.

Helm Unit tests

The Helm backend supports running Helm unit tests via the Helm unittest plugin. To run unit tests follow the instructions on how to use that plugin and then create a BUILD file in the same folder where your tests live with the following target:


With the test files in places, you can now run pants test :: and Pants will execute each of your tests individually:

pants test ::
10:50:12.45 [INFO] Completed: Running Helm unittest on: testprojects/src/helm/example/tests/env-configmap_test.yaml
10:50:12.46 [INFO] Completed: Run Helm Unittest - testprojects/src/helm/example/tests/env-configmap_test.yaml succeeded.

✓ testprojects/src/helm/example/tests/env-configmap_test.yaml succeeded in 0.75s.

Feeding additional files to unit tests

In some cases we may want our tests to have access to additional files which are not part of the chart. This can be achieved by setting a dependency between our unit test targets and a resources target as follows:


resources(name="extra-values", sources=["extra-values.yml"])

Additional files can be referenced from any location inside your workspace. Note that the actual path to the additional files will be relative to the source roots configured in Pants.

In this example, since Helm charts define their source root at the location of the Chart.yaml file and the extra-values.yml file is inside the tests folder relative to the chart, the test suite can access it as being local to it.

However, in the following case, we need to reference the extra file relative to the chart root. Note the ../data/extra-values.yml path in the test suite.

Using file, files and relocated_files targets

Other file-centric targets are also supported, just be aware that file and files targets are not affected by the source roots setting. When using relocated_files, the files will be relative to the value set in the dest field.

Snapshot testing

Unit test snapshots are supported by Pants by wrapping the snapshots in resources targets, as shown in the previous section. Snapshot resources will be automatically inferred as dependencies of the tests where they reside, so there is no need to add a explicit dependencies relationship in your helm_unittest_tests targets.

Since managing snapshots by hand is quite tedious, Pants provides some utilities to manage them in a simpler way. To generate or update the snapshots, use Pants's generate-snapshots goal:

pants generate-snapshots ::

This will generate test snapshots for tests that require them, with out-of-date snapshots being overwritten by newer ones.

If new __snapshot__ folders are created after running the generate-snapshots target, we recommend running the tailor goal again so that Pants can detect these new folders and create resources targets as appropriate.


Pants can cancel tests that take too long, which is useful to prevent tests from hanging indefinitely.

To add a timeout, set the timeout field to an integer value of seconds, like this:

helm_unittest_test(name="tests", source="env-configmap_test.yaml", timeout=120)

When you set timeout on the helm_unittest_tests target generator, the same timeout will apply to every generated helm_unittest_test target. Instead, you can use the overrides field:

"env-configmap_test.yaml": {"timeout": 20},
("deployment_test.yaml", "pod_test.yaml"): {"timeout": 35},

You can also set a default value and a maximum value in pants.toml:

timeout_default = 60
timeout_maximum = 600

If a target sets its timeout higher than [test].timeout_maximum, Pants will use the value in [test].timeout_maximum.

Use the option pants test --no-timeouts to temporarily disable timeouts, e.g. when debugging.

Publishing Helm charts

Pants only supports publishing Helm charts to OCI registries, a feature that was made generally available in Helm 3.8.

The publishing is done with Pants' publish goal, but first you will need to tell Pants what are the possible destination registries where to upload your charts.

Configuring OCI registries

In a similar way as the docker_image target, a helm_chart target takes an optional registries field whose value is a list of registry endpoints (prefixed by the oci:// protocol):


The chart published from that given target will be uploaded to the OCI registry specified.

If you have several charts that have to be published into the same registries, you can add them to your pants.toml file and then reference them by using their alias prefixed by a @ symbol.

You can also designate one or more registries as default and then charts that have no explicit registries field will use those default registries.

address = "oci://"
default = true

address = "oci://"

Setting a repository name

When publishing charts into an OCI registry, you most likely will be interested on separating them from other kind of OCI assets (i.e. container images). For doing so you can set a repository field in the helm_chart target so the chart artifact will be uploaded to the given path:


With the previous setting, your chart would be published to your default registry under the charts folder like in oci://myregistry.internal/charts/example-0.1.0.tgz.

You can also set a default global repository in pants.toml as in the following example:

default_registry_repository = "charts"

Managing Chart Dependencies

Helm charts can depend on other charts, whether first-party charts defined in the same repo, or third-party charts published in a registry. Pants uses this dependency information to know when work needs to be re-run.

Chart.yaml API version

To benefit from Pants dependency management and inference in your Helm charts, you will need to use apiVersion: v2 in your Chart.yaml file.

Chart.yaml dependencies

Pants will automatically infer dependencies from the Chart.yaml file.

For example, given two charts foo and bar and a dependency between them:

apiVersion: v2
description: Foo Helm chart
name: foo
version: 0.1.0

Then, running pants dependencieson bar will list foo as a dependency:

pants dependencies src/helm/bar

Explicitly provided dependencies in BUILD files

If you prefer, you can let your BUILD files be the "source of truth" for dependencies, instead of specifying them in Chart.yaml:

apiVersion: v2
description: Foo Helm chart
name: foo
version: 0.1.0

In this case, the pants dependencies command will show the same result and, in addition, Pants will modify its copy of bar's Chart.yaml before using it, so that it includes foo in its dependency list. Note that Pants will not modify the original copy in your source tree, only the copy it uses in the sandboxed execution environment.

Third party chart artifacts

Third party charts are provided to Pants using the helm_artifact target:

registry="...", # Optional
repository="...", # Optional for OCI registries

Third party artifacts are resolved using helm pull. Other charts can reference them in the same way as first-party charts (either in the Chart.yaml or in the BUILD file).

When adding third party artifacts, the artifact and version fields are mandatory, in addition to one origin from which to download the actual archive. There are two different origins supported: classic Helm repositories and OCI registries.

For classic repositories, provide with the full URL to the location of the chart archive, excluding the archive file itself:


For OCI registries, you must provide with the URL to the registry in the registry field and an optional repository field with the path inside that registry.