The chef_gem and gem_package resources are both used to install Ruby gems. For any machine on which the chef-client is installed, there are two instances of Ruby. One is the standard, system-wide instance of Ruby and the other is a dedicated instance that is available only to the chef-client. Use the chef_gem resource to install gems into the instance of Ruby that is dedicated to the chef-client. Use the gem_package resource to install all other gems (i.e. install gems system-wide).

Use the gem_package resource to manage gem packages that are only included in recipes. When a package is installed from a local file, it must be added to the node using the remote_file or cookbook_file resources.


In many cases, it is better to use the package resource instead of this one. This is because when the package resource is used in a recipe, the chef-client will use details that are collected by Ohai at the start of the chef-client run to determine the correct package application. Using the package resource allows a recipe to be authored in a way that allows it to be used across many platforms.


A gem_package resource block manages a package on a node, typically by installing it. The simplest use of the gem_package resource is:

gem_package 'package_name'

which will install the named package using all of the default options and the default action (:install).

The full syntax for all of the properties that are available to the gem_package resource is:

gem_package 'name' do
  clear_sources              TrueClass, FalseClass
  gem_binary                 String
  notifies                   # see description
  options                    String
  package_name               String, Array # defaults to 'name' if not specified
  provider                   Chef::Provider::Package::Rubygems
  source                     String
  subscribes                 # see description
  timeout                    String, Integer
  version                    String, Array
  action                     Symbol # defaults to :install if not specified


  • gem_package tells the chef-client to manage a package
  • 'name' is the name of the package
  • :action identifies which steps the chef-client will take to bring the node into the desired state
  • clear_sources, gem_binary, options, package_name, provider, source, timeout, and version are properties of this resource, with the Ruby type shown. See “Properties” section below for more information about all of the properties that may be used with this resource.

Gem Package Options

The RubyGems package provider attempts to use the RubyGems API to install gems without spawning a new process, whenever possible. A gems command to install will be spawned under the following conditions:

  • When a gem_binary property is specified (as a hash, a string, or by a .gemrc file), the chef-client will run that command to examine its environment settings and then again to install the gem.
  • When install options are specified as a string, the chef-client will span a gems command with those options when installing the gem.
  • The omnibus installer will search the PATH for a gem command rather than defaulting to the current gem environment. As part of enforce_path_sanity, the bin directories area added to the PATH, which means when there are no other proceeding RubyGems, the installation will still be operated against it.

Specify with Hash

If an explicit gem_binary parameter is not being used with the gem_package resource, it is preferable to provide the install options as a hash. This approach allows the provider to install the gem without needing to spawn an external gem process.

The following RubyGems options are available for inclusion within a hash and are passed to the RubyGems DependencyInstaller:

  • :env_shebang
  • :force
  • :format_executable
  • :ignore_dependencies
  • :prerelease
  • :security_policy
  • :wrappers

For more information about these options, see the RubyGems documentation:


gem_package 'bundler' do
  options(:prerelease => true, :format_executable => false)

Specify with String

When using an explicit gem_binary, options must be passed as a string. When not using an explicit gem_binary, the chef-client is forced to spawn a gems process to install the gems (which uses more system resources) when options are passed as a string. String options are passed verbatim to the gems command and should be specified just as if they were passed on a command line. For example, --prerelease for a pre-release gem.


gem_package 'nokogiri' do
  options('--prerelease --no-format-executable')

Specify with .gemrc File

Options can be specified in a .gemrc file. By default the gem_package resource will use the Ruby interface to install gems which will ignore the .gemrc file. The gem_package resource can be forced to use the gems command instead (and to read the .gemrc file) by adding the gem_binary attribute to a code block.


A template named gemrc.erb is located in a cookbook’s /templates directory:

- http://<%= node['gem_file']['host'] %>:<%= node['gem_file']['port'] %>/

A recipe can be built that does the following:

  • Builds a .gemrc file based on a gemrc.erb template
  • Runs a Gem.configuration command
  • Installs a package using the .gemrc file
template '/root/.gemrc' do
  source 'gemrc.erb'
  action :create
  notifies :run, 'ruby_block[refresh_gemrc]', :immediately

ruby_block 'refresh_gemrc' do
  action :nothing
  block do
    Gem.configuration = []

gem_package 'di-ruby-lvm' do
  gem_binary '/opt/chef/embedded/bin/gem'
  action :install


This resource has the following actions:

Action Description
:install Default. Install a package. If a version is specified, install the specified version of the package.
:nothing Define a resource block that does nothing until it is notified by another resource to take action. When notified, this resource block is either run immediately or it is queued up to be run at the end of the chef-client run.
:purge Purge a package. This action typically removes the configuration files as well as the package.
:reconfig Reconfigure a package. This action requires a response file.
:remove Remove a package.
:upgrade Install a package and/or ensure that a package is the latest version.


This resource has the following properties:

Property Description

Ruby Types: TrueClass, FalseClass

Set to true to download a gem from the path specified by the source property (and not from RubyGems). Default value: false.


Ruby Type: String

A property for the gem_package provider that is used to specify a gems binary. By default, the same version of Ruby that is used by the chef-client will be installed.


Ruby Types: TrueClass, FalseClass

Continue running a recipe if a resource fails for any reason. Default value: false.


Ruby Type: Symbol, ‘Chef::Resource[String]’, Symbol

Which resource takes action when this resource’s state changes. A resource may notify more than one resource; use a notifies statement for each resource to be notified.

Specify the :action, 'resource[name]', and timer (:delayed or :immediately). Use multiple notifies statements to notify more than one resource.

resource 'name' do
  notifies :action, 'resource[name]', :timer

Use the following timers to specify when a notification is triggered:

Timer Description
:delayed Use to specify that a notification should be queued up, and then executed at the very end of a chef-client run.
:immediately Use to specify that a notification should be run immediately, per resource notified.

Ruby Type: String

One (or more) additional options that are passed to the command.


Ruby Types: String, Array

The name of the package. Default value: the name of the resource block. See “Syntax” section above for more information.


Ruby Type: Chef Class

Optional. Explicitly specify a provider. See “Providers” section below for more information.


Ruby Type: Integer

The number of times to catch exceptions and retry the resource. Default value: 0.


Ruby Type: Integer

The retry delay (in seconds). Default value: 2.


Ruby Type: String

Optional. The URL at which the gem package is located.


Ruby Type: Symbol, ‘Chef::Resource[String]’, Symbol

Specify that this resource is to listen to another resource, and then take action when that resource’s state changes.

Specify the :action, 'resource[name]', and timer (:delayed or :immediately). Use multiple subscribes statements to listen to more than one resource.

resource 'name' do
  subscribes :action, 'resource[name]', :timer

The subscribes property uses the same timers as the notifies property.


Ruby Types: String, Integer

The amount of time (in seconds) to wait before timing out.


Ruby Types: String, Array

The version of a package to be installed or upgraded.


Where a resource represents a piece of the system (and its desired state), a provider defines the steps that are needed to bring that piece of the system from its current state into the desired state.

The chef-client will determine the correct provider based on configuration data collected by Ohai at the start of the chef-client run. This configuration data is then mapped to a platform and an associated list of providers.

Generally, it’s best to let the chef-client choose the provider and this is (by far) the most common approach. However, in some cases specifying a provider may be desirable. There are two approaches:

  • Use a more specific short name—yum_package "foo" do instead of package "foo" do, script "foo" do instead of bash "foo" do, and so on—when available
  • Use the provider property within the resource block to specify the long name of the provider as an property of a resource. For example: provider Chef::Provider::Long::Name

This resource has the following providers:

Long name Short name Notes
Chef::Provider::Package package When this short name is used, the chef-client will attempt to determine the correct provider during the chef-client run.
Chef::Provider::Package::Rubygems gem_package Can be used with the options attribute.


The following examples demonstrate various approaches for using resources in recipes. If you want to see examples of how Chef uses resources in recipes, take a closer look at the cookbooks that Chef authors and maintains:

Install a gems file from the local file system

gem_package 'right_aws' do
  source '/tmp/right_aws-1.11.0.gem'
  action :install

Use the ignore_failure common attribute

gem_package 'syntax' do
  action :install
  ignore_failure true