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Buildah is an open source containerization tool capable of creating images from scratch, Dockerfiles, or Containerfiles. It also follows the Open Container Initiative (OCI) specifications, making Buildah images both versatile and open.

Learn how to install and start using Buildah in this tutorial. Below, find steps for creating containers and rendering those containers to images.

Before You Begin

  1. Familiarize yourself with our Getting Started with Linode guide, and complete the steps for setting your Linode’s hostname and timezone.

  2. This guide uses sudo wherever possible. Complete the sections of our How to Secure Your Server guide to create a standard user account, harden SSH access, and remove unnecessary network services.

  3. Update your system.

    • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, or Rocky Linux:

      sudo dnf upgrade
    • Ubuntu:

      sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
This guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with sudo. If you’re not familiar with the sudo command, see the Users and Groups guide.

What Is Buildah?

Buildah is an open source tool for building container images that are compliant with the OCI.

The OCI seeks to create an open standard for containerization. To that end, it defines specifications for container runtimes and images. Another goal of the OCI is to help secure and streamline operating system virtualization.

Buildah provides powerful tools to create and maintain OCI-compliant images. You may be familiar with Dockerfiles, one of the most common formats for container images. Buildah fully supports them, and can create images directly from them.

But Buildah can also craft container images from scratch. Buildah allows you to use the command line to build up the container from a complete blank slate, giving it only the contents you need. Buildah can then render and export an OCI container image from your work.

Buildah vs Docker

Overall, Buildah is similar in functionality to Docker. So what sets it apart? Why use Buildah instead of Docker?

One of Buildah’s primary advantages is it avoids the security risks of the Docker daemon. The Docker daemon runs on a socket with root-level access, and this has the potential to introduce security risks. Buildah avoids this risk by running without a daemon, allowing containers to be truly rootless.

With Buildah, the user also has the ability to create container images from scratch. Buildah can mount an empty container and let the user add only what they need. This feature can be extraordinarily useful when you need a lightweight image.

Buildah also gives the user precise control of images, and specifically image layers. For those wanting more capabilities in their containerization tools, Buildah tends to offer what they need.

However, Buildah is not as useful when it comes to running and deploying container images. It can run them, but lacks some of the features to be found in other tools. Instead, Buildah puts the vast majority of its emphasis on creating containers and building container images.

For that reason, users often build their OCI images in Buildah and run them using Podman, a tool for running and managing containers. You can learn more about Podman in our guide Podman vs Docker: Comparing the Two Containerization Tools.

How to Install Buildah

  1. Install Buildah using your distribution’s package manager.

    • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream (8 or later), Fedora, or Rocky Linux:

      sudo dnf install buildah
    • Ubuntu (20.10 or later):

      sudo apt install buildah
  2. Verify your installation by checking the installed Buildah version using the command below:

    buildah -v

    Your output may vary from what is shown here, but you are just looking to see that Buildah installed successfully:

    buildah version 1.26.1 (image-spec 1.0.2-dev, runtime-spec 1.0.2-dev)

Configuring Buildah for Rootless Usage

By default, Buildah commands are executed with root privileges, prefaced with the sudo command. However, one of the most appealing features of Buildah is its ability to run containers in rootless mode. This lets limited users work securely with Buildah.

While Docker also allows you to run commands as a limited user, the Docker daemon still runs as root. This is a potential security issue with Docker, one that may allow limited users to execute privileged commands through the daemon.

Buildah’s rootless mode solves this because it runs containers completely in a non-root environment, without a root daemon. Find the steps needed to set up your Buildah instance for rootless usage below.

  1. Install the slirp4netns and fuse-overlayfs tools to support your rootless Buildah operations.

    • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, or Rocky Linux:

      sudo dnf install slirp4netns fuse-overlayfs
    • Ubuntu:

      sudo apt install slirp4netns fuse-overlayfs
  2. Add subuids and subgids ranges for your limited user. This example does so for the user example_user. It gives that user a sub-UID and sub-GID of 100000, each with a range of 65535 IDs:

    sudo usermod --add-subuids 100000-165535 --add-subgids 100000-165535 example_user

How to Use Buildah

Buildah is primarily used for creating container images. Like Docker, Buildah can construct containers from Dockerfiles, but Buildah stands out for also allowing you to craft images from scratch.

The next two sections show you how to build container images using each of these methods.

Creating an Image from a Dockerfile

Dockerfiles provide an approachable way to create containers with Buildah, especially for users already familiar with Docker or Dockerfiles.

Buildah is fully capable of interpreting Dockerfile script, making it straightforward to build your Docker container images with Buildah.

This guide uses an example Dockerfile provided in one of the official Buildah tutorials. This Dockerfile results in a container with the latest version of Fedora and the Apache HTTP server (httpd). It also “exposes” the HTTP server via port 80.

  1. Create a new file named Dockerfile in your user’s home directory:

    nano Dockerfile
  2. Fill it with the following contents:

    File: Dockerfile
    # Base on the most recently released Fedora
    FROM fedora:latest
    MAINTAINER ipbabble email # not a real email
    # Install updates and httpd
    RUN echo "Updating all fedora packages"; dnf -y update; dnf -y clean all
    RUN echo "Installing httpd"; dnf -y install httpd && dnf -y clean all
    # Expose the default httpd port 80
    EXPOSE 80
    # Run the httpd
    CMD ["/usr/sbin/httpd", "-DFOREGROUND"]
  3. Press CTRL+X to exit, Y to save, and Enter to quit nano.

    Assuming you are still in the directory where this Dockerfile is located (your user’s home directory), you can immediately build the container’s image.

  4. This example names the new image fedora-http-server:

    buildah build -t fedora-http-server

    The output should look like the following:

    STEP 1/6: FROM fedora:latest
    Resolved "fedora" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)
    Trying to pull
    Getting image source signatures
    Copying blob 75f075168a24 done
    Copying config 3a66698e60 done
    Writing manifest to image destination
    Storing signatures
    STEP 2/6: MAINTAINER ipbabble email # not a real email
    STEP 3/6: RUN echo "Updating all fedora packages"; dnf -y update; dnf -y clean all

    Now you can now run the image with Podman, a tool for working with containers which is often used as a compliment to Buildah.

  5. First, install Podman:

    • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, or Rocky Linux:

      sudo dnf install podman
    • Ubuntu:

      sudo apt install podman
  6. In the command below, the -p option “publishes” a given port, here routing the container’s port 80 to the local machine’s port 8080. The --rm option automatically removes the container when it has finished running, a fitting solution for a quick test like this.

    podman run -p 8080:80 --rm fedora-http-server
  7. Now you can open another Terminal session on the machine where the image is running, and use a cURL command to verify the default page is being served on port 8080:

    curl localhost:8080

    You should see the raw HTML of the Fedora HTTP Server test page as output:

    <!doctype html>
        <meta charset='utf-8'>
        <meta name='viewport' content='width=device-width, initial-scale=1'>
        <title>Test Page for the HTTP Server on Fedora</title>
        <style type="text/css">
          html {
            height: 100%;
            width: 100%;
            body {
  8. When done, stop the container, but first, determine your container’s ID or name:

    podman ps

    You should see an out put like this:

    CONTAINER ID  IMAGE                                COMMAND               CREATED        STATUS            PORTS                 NAMES
    daadb647b880  localhost/fedora-http-server:latest  /usr/sbin/httpd -...  8 seconds ago  Up 8 seconds ago>80/tcp  suspicious_goodall
  9. Now stop the container. Replace container-name-or-id with your container name or ID:

    podman stop container-name-or-id

    Since we set this example container to automatically remove when done with the --rm flag, stopping it also removes it.

  10. You can now logout, close the second Terminal session, and return to the original Terminal:


Learn more about Podman in our guide How to Install Podman for Running Containers.

You can also learn more about crafting Dockerfiles in our guide How to Use a Dockerfile to Build a Docker Image. This guide also includes links to further tutorials with more in-depth coverage of Dockerfiles.

Creating an Image from Scratch

As noted above, Buildah stands out for its ability to create container images from scratch. This section walks you through an example of how you can do just that.


Buildah’s commands for working with containers can involve a few keywords, so often these commands are executed using environment variables. So, for instance, to create a new container with Fedora, you may see something like:

fedoracontainer=$(buildah from fedora)

Learn more about how environment variables work in our guide How to Use and Set Environment Variables.

The example container that follows starts with an empty container. It then adds Bash and some other core utilities to that container to demonstrate how you can add programs to create a minimal container image.


This section assumes you want to run Buildah in rootless mode, being its major draw versus Docker. Unfortunately, the Ubuntu package manager, APT, presents issues with installing packages onto a non-root container. So the instructions that follow are for RHEL-derived distributions such as AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, and Rocky Linux.

If you want to run Buildah under Ubuntu in regular root mode, simply preface each buildah command that follows with sudo.

For rootless operation, you need to execute the unshare command first. This command puts you in a shell within the user namespace. The next several steps presume your are in the user namespace shell until noted, otherwise the buildah mount command below will fail.

  1. Enter the user namespace shell:

    buildah unshare
  2. Create a blank container using Buildah’s scratch base:

    scratchcontainer=$(buildah from scratch)
  3. Mount the container as a virtual file system:

    scratchmnt=$(buildah mount $scratchcontainer)
  4. Install Bash and coreutils to the empty container.

    • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, or Rocky Linux:

      Replace the value 36 below with the version of your RHEL-derived distribution:

      dnf install --installroot $scratchmnt --releasever 36 bash coreutils --setopt install_weak_deps=false
    • Debian or Ubuntu:

      Replace the value bullseye below with the codename of your Debian-based distribution:

      sudo apt install debootstrap
      sudo debootstrap bullseye $scratchmnt
  5. You can now test Bash on the container. The following command puts you in a Bash shell within the container:

    buildah run $scratchcontainer bash
  6. You can then exit the Bash shell using:

  7. You can now safely operate the container from outside of the user namespace shell initiated with unshare:


    From here on out, we replace $scratchcontainer with the container’s name, which should be working-container. However, if you have more than one container, the container’s name may differ. You can verify the container name via the buildah containers command.

  8. Now let’s recreate the test script file. From your user’s home directory, create the script-files folder and the file in the script-files folder:

    mkdir script-files
    nano script-files/

    Give it the following contents:

    File: script-files/
    echo "This is an example script."

    When done, press CTRL+X to exit, Y to save, and Enter to quit.

  9. The command below copies that file to the container’s /usr/bin directory:

    buildah copy working-container ~/script-files/ /usr/bin
  10. Verify the file’s delivery by running the ls command on the container for the /usr/bin directory:

    buildah run working-container ls /usr/bin

    Your file should be among the listed files:

  11. For a working example of how to execute scripts on a Buildah container, give this file executable permissions:

    buildah run working-container chmod +x /usr/bin/
  12. You can now run the script via the run command:

    buildah run working-container /usr/bin/

    Your output should be identical to the following:

    This is an example script.
  13. Once you are satisfied with the container, you can commit the change to an image:

    buildah commit working-container bash-core-image

    Your output should look something like this:

    Getting image source signatures
    Copying blob a0282af9505e done
    Copying config 9ea7958840 done
    Writing manifest to image destination
    Storing signatures
  14. You can now unmount and remove the container:

    buildah unmount working-container
    buildah rm working-container

Managing Images and Containers

Buildah is oriented towards creating container images, but it does have a few features for reviewing available containers and images. Here’s a brief list of the associated commands for these features.

  • To see a list of images built with your Buildah instance, run the following command:

    buildah images

    If you followed along for the sections above on creating Buildah images, you may have an image listing like this:

    REPOSITORY                  TAG      IMAGE ID       CREATED              SIZE
    localhost/fedora-http-server        latest   c313b363840d   8 minutes ago    314 MB
    localhost/bash-core-image           latest   9ea79588405b   20 minutes ago   108 MB   latest   3a66698e6040   2 months ago     169 MB    
  • To list containers currently running under Buildah, use the following command:

    buildah containers

    Should you use this command while the container is still running from the section above on building an image from scratch, you may get an output like:

    68a1cc02025d     *                  scratch                          working-container
  • You can get the details of a particular image using a command like the following one, replacing 9ea79588405b with your image’s ID. You can get your image’s ID when the image is built or from the buildah images command show above:

    buildah inspect 9ea79588405b

    The image details actually consist of the JSON document that fully represents the image’s contents. All container images are just that: JSON documents with the instructions for building their corresponding containers.

    Here is an example of the first portion of a container image JSON resulting from the section above on creating an image from scratch:

        "Type": "buildah 0.0.1",
        "FromImage": "localhost/bash-core-image:latest",
        "FromImageID": "9ea79588405b48ff7b0572438a81a888c2eb25d95e6526b75b1020108ac11c10",
        "FromImageDigest": "sha256:beee0e0603e62647addab15341f1a52361a9684934d8d6ecbe1571fabd083dca",
        "Config": "{\"created\":\"2022-07-20T17:34:55.16639723Z\",\"architecture\":\"amd64\",\"os\":\"linux\",\"config\":{\"Labels\":{\"io.buildah.version\":\"1.26.1\"}},\"rootfs\":{\"type\":\"layers\",\"diff_ids\":[\"sha256:a0282af9505ed0545c7fb82e1408e1b130cad13a9c3393870c7c4a0d5cf06a62\"]},\"history\":[{\"created\":\"2022-07-20T17:34:55.72288433Z\",\"created_by\":\"/bin/sh\"}]}",
        "Manifest": "{\"schemaVersion\":2,\"mediaType\":\"application/vnd.oci.image.manifest.v1+json\",\"config\":{\"mediaType\":\"application/vnd.oci.image.config.v1+json\",\"digest\":\"sha256:9ea79588405b48ff7b0572438a81a888c2eb25d95e6526b75b1020108ac11c10\",\"size\":324},\"layers\":[{\"mediaType\":\"application/vnd.oci.image.layer.v1.tar\",\"digest\":\"sha256:a0282af9505ed0545c7fb82e1408e1b130cad13a9c3393870c7c4a0d5cf06a62\",\"size\":108421632}],\"annotations\":{\"org.opencontainers.image.base.digest\":\"\",\"\":\"\"}}",
        "Container": "",
        "ContainerID": "",
        "MountPoint": "",
        "ProcessLabel": "",
        "MountLabel": "",
        "ImageAnnotations": {
            "org.opencontainers.image.base.digest": "",
            "": ""


Buildah gives you a simple yet robust tool for crafting container images. It’s more than just an alternative to Docker. Buildah is a containerization tool for securely creating open containers and container images. With this tutorial, you have everything you need to get started building your own images and using Buildah to the utmost.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

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