Get Environment Variable from Docker Container

What's the simplest way to get an environment variable from a docker container that has not been declared in the Dockerfile?

For instance, an environment variable that has been set through some docker exec container /bin/bash session?

I can do docker exec container env | grep ENV_VAR, but I would prefer something that just returns the value.

I've tried using docker exec container echo "$ENV_VAR", but the substitution seems to happen outside of the container, so I don't get the env var from the container, but rather the env var from my own computer.



The proper way to run echo "$ENV_VAR" inside the container so that the variable substitution happens in the container is:

docker exec container bash -c 'echo "$ENV_VAR"'

To view all env variables:

docker exec container env

To get one:

docker exec container env | grep VARIABLE | cut -d'=' -f2

You can use printenv VARIABLE instead of /bin/bash -c 'echo $VARIABLE. It's much simpler and it does not perform substitution:

docker exec container printenv VARIABLE

The downside of using docker exec is that it requires a running container, so docker inspect -f might be handy if you're unsure a container is running.

Example #1. Output a list of space-separated environment variables in the specified container:

docker inspect -f \
   '{{range $index, $value := .Config.Env}}{{$value}} {{end}}' container_name

the output will look like this:

ENV_VAR1=value1 ENV_VAR2=value2 ENV_VAR3=value3

Example #2. Output each env var on new line and grep the needed items, for example, the mysql container's settings could be retrieved like this:

docker inspect -f \
    '{{range $index, $value := .Config.Env}}{{println $value}}{{end}}' \
    container_name | grep MYSQL_

will output:


Example #3. Let's modify the example above to get a bash friendly output which can be directly used in your scripts:

docker inspect -f \
   '{{range $index, $value := .Config.Env}}export {{$value}}{{println}}{{end}}' \
   container_name | grep MYSQL

will output:

export MYSQL_PASSWORD=secret
export MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=supersecret
export MYSQL_USER=demo
export MYSQL_DATABASE=demodb
export MYSQL_MAJOR=5.5
export MYSQL_VERSION=5.5.52

If you want to dive deeper, then go to Go’s text/template package documentation with all the details of the format.

None of the above answers show you how to extract a variable from a non-running container (if you use the echo approach with run, you won't get any output).

Simply run with printenv, like so:

docker run --rm <container> printenv <MY_VAR>

(Note that docker-compose instead of docker works too)

@aisbaa's answer works if you don't care when the environment variable was declared. If you want the environment variable, even if it has been declared inside of an exec /bin/bash session, use something like:

IFS="=" read -a out <<< $(docker exec container /bin/bash -c "env | grep ENV_VAR" 2>&1)

It's not very pretty, but it gets the job done.

To then get the value, use:

echo ${out[1]}

This command inspects docker stack processes' environment in the host :

pidof   dockerd containerd containerd-shim | tr ' ' '\n' \
      | xargs -L1 -I{} -- sudo xargs -a '/proc/{}/environ' -L1 -0

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