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Babel plugin for mocking ES imports

Version published



[2.0.1] - 2022-08-25

  • Fix warning about $imports not being registered with Babel's scope tracker, when using this plugin together with Babel's TypeScript support #75.




A Babel plugin that transforms JavaScript modules to enable mocking of their dependencies in tests.

See the Usage section below for information on getting started, and the FAQ at the end of the README for a comparison to alternative solutions.


  • Provides a simple interface for mocking imports in tests
  • Can be used with any test runner, any bundler, and whether tests are being run under Node or in the browser
  • Transforms code in a straightforward way that is easy to debug if necessary
  • Minimizes the amount of extra code added to modules, to reduce the impact on test execution time
  • Detects incorrect usage (eg. mocking a module or import that is not used) and causes a test failure if this happens
  • Can be used with both JavaScript and TypeScript



Install the plugin:

npm install babel-plugin-mockable-imports

Then configure Babel to use it. Note that you only want to apply this plugin for local development builds and ideally only when running tests. One way to do this that works in multiple environments is to use the env option in your .babelrc file.

For example, the following config in .babelrc will always load the plugin:

  "plugins": ["mockable-imports"]

To load it only if the NODE_ENV environment variable is set to development use:

  "env": {
    "development": {
      "plugins": ["mockable-imports"]

By default the plugin will try to avoid processing test modules. See the section on limiting mocking to specific files for details.

Basic usage in tests

Each module in your codebase that this plugin is applied to will now export an $imports object with $mock and $restore methods. In your tests, import the $imports object from the module under test, call $mock to replace imports with stubs and $restore to cleanup after the test.

For example, given this password.js file that we want to test:

import {randomBytes} from 'crypto-functions';

export function generatePassword() {
  return randomBytes(10)
    .map(byte => byte.toString(16).padStart(2, '0'))

We can write a test as follows, mocking the randomBytes import:

import {generatePassword, $imports} from './password';

describe('generatePassword', () => {
  afterEach(() => {
    // Undo any mocks after each test run. This can be called even if no
    // mocking was done by a test.

  it('generates expected password string', () => {
    const fakeRandomBytes = length => Array(length).fill(42);

    // Install mocks. The argument is a map of module paths (as used in the
    // module being tested) to replacement exports.
      'crypto-functions': {
        // Keys here are the names of the exports. Values are mocks.
        randomBytes: fakeRandomBytes,
    assert.equal(generatePassword(), '2a2a2a2a2a2a2a2a2a2a');

See the example project for a complete runnable project using Mocha as a test runner.

Mocking default exports

If a module being mocked has a default export (eg. export default MyReactComponent), it can be mocked by setting the default key.

For example, given ./Header.js:

export default function Header() {

The Header function can be mocked in tests for a different module using:

  './Header': {default: FakeHeader},
  './Footer': {default: FakeFooter},

As a convenience, if the value for any of the keys in the object passed to $mock is a function, it is assumed to be a default export for the module. This means that assuming FakeHeader and FakeFooter are functions, the following is equivalent to the above:

  './Header': FakeHeader,
  './Footer': FakeFooter,

Mocking all imports that match a pattern

In some tests you may want to mock many dependencies in the same way, or ensure that all imports meeting certain criteria in a module are mocked consistently.

You can pass a function to $imports.$mock which will be called with the source, symbol name and original value of each import. The result of the function will be used as the mock for that import if it is not null.

For example, to mock all functions imported by a module, you can use:

$imports.$mock((source, symbol, value) => {
  if (typeof value === 'function') {
    // Mock functions using Sinon.
    return sinon.stub();
  } else {
    // Skip mocking objects, constants etc.
    return null;

To ensure that a test mocks every imported function, you can use:

// Throw an error if any unmocked function is called.
$imports.$mock((source, symbol, value) => {
  if (typeof value === 'function') {
    return () => throw new Error('Function not mocked');
  return null;

// Setup mocks for expected imports.
  './util': { doSomething: fakeDoSomething },

Limiting mocking to specific files

Babel allows the set of plugins applied to files to be configured on a per directory basis. See the Babel configuration docs. You can also define overrides for more fine-grained rules.

As a convenience, the plugin by default skips any files in directories named test or __tests__ or their subdirectories. This can be configured using the excludeDirs option.

Restoring specific mocks

Calling $imports.$restore() will undo/restore all active mocks for a module. It is also possible to restore only specific mocks by passing an object which specifies the modules and symbols to un-mock. The object is in the same format as the argument to $imports.$mock, except the values are booleans indicating whether to restore the mock.

// Restore all mocks for imports from the './some-widget' module. Other mocks are
// left alone.
  './some-widget': true

// Restore mocks for the "foo" symbol imported from the './utils' module. Other
// mocks are left alone.
  './utils': {
    foo: true,


The plugin supports the following options:


An array of directory names (eg. "tests") whose modules are excluded from this transformation by default.


An array of module names which should be ignored when processing imports. Any imports from these modules will not be mockable. Module names can be specified as strings (to match exactly) or regular expressions.

By default this list includes imports from a few packages (eg. proxyquire, @rollup/plugin-babel) which are known not to work well with this plugin.

Usage with TypeScript

It is possible to use this plugin with TypeScript. In order to do that you need to transform your TypeScript code using Babel when running tests, and also use a helper function to get access to the $imports object for a module. Since this object is not present in the original source, the TypeScript compiler is not aware of its existence.

See the typescript example project for a runnable example.

How it works

When the plugin processes a module, it gathers the set of imported symbols and uses them to initialize an $imports object, which is also exported from the module. This object has a property corresponding to each import, in addition to the $mock and $restore methods to temporarily modify those properties.

All references to imports are replaced with lookups of the corresponding property of the $imports object. For example, this code:

const someValue = dependencyA() + dependencyB();


const someValue = $imports.dependencyA() + $imports.dependencyB();

When you call $imports.$mock in a test, the values of these properties are temporarily changed to refer to the mocks instead. $imports.$restore resets the properties to their original values.

Common problems and errors

Mocking code that runs when a module is imported

A downside of the approach used by this plugin is that you can't use it to change the result of code that is executed when the module is first imported. For example if a module has:

import helper from './utils/helper';

export const aConstant = helper(someData);

export function usesHelper() {
  return helper(someOtherData);

It is possible to mock helper in usesHelper but not the initialization of aConstant. There are solutions to this, but they will involve changes to the code being tested:

  1. Change the design of your code so that it exports a function which must be called, instead of executing side effects during the initial import. Making imports free of side effects can have other benefits, eg. for tree-shaking.
  2. Add an indirection so that the code you want to test calls/uses the mock on-demand rather than during the initial evaluation.

"Module not does import..." error when calling $imports.$mock

You may get this error when calling $imports.$mock if the module name or symbol does not match one that has been registered as an import of the module.

Common reasons this can happen are:

  • A misspelling in the file path or symbol name passed to $mock. Check that the path and symbol name match what is used in the module being tested.

  • Your code is transformed before being processed by this plugin in a way that modifies the imports. This may happen, for example, if you are compiling code from another language into JavaScript before applying this plugin.

    The available symbols to mock can be found by inspecting $imports.$meta. This is an object that maps the name of the symbol in the file to the location that it comes from.

    Note: $meta is not considered a public API of this plugin and its shape may change in minor or patch releases.

$imports export conflicts

The plugin adds an export named $imports to every module it processes. This may cause conflicts if you try to combine exports from multiple modules using export * from <module>. See issue. It can also cause problems if you have code which tries to loop over the exports of a module and does not gracefully handle unexpected exports.

We may in future add an alternative method of exposing the $imports object so that tests can get at it.

Dynamic imports

There is currently no support for dynamic imports using import().


If you encounter any problems using this plugin, please file an issue.


How does this plugin differ from alternative approaches?

This plugin was created to work around subtle problems and inefficiencies that arose when using proxyquire. In particular proxyquire:

  • Evaluates the module under test and all its dependencies with an empty module cache each time it is invoked. In some respects this is a useful feature, but there is non-trivial overhead to doing this and it can also cause difficult-to-debug failures when a third-party module that maintains global state is evaluated multiple times, or objects from different copies of the module come into contact with one another.
  • Is tied to Node and Browserify
  • Works only with require calls, rather than handling import declarations "natively". This can cause issues such as Babel's transformation of import breaking proxyquireify's ability to recognize proxyquire calls.

Additionally because this plugin adds metadata to modules about their imports, it can provide helpful warnings at runtime if a mock is provided which doesn't match the imported symbols, eg. due to an unnecessary mock or a typo in the module path or symbol name.

There is another Babel plugin, babel-plugin-rewire which aims to solve the same problem, but it generates a large amount of extra code in each module which can cause problems in large production apps.

A technique which doesn't involve any plugins at all is to monkey-patch the exports of a module that you want to mock during a test. The problem with this is that all modules which depend on that module will see the mocks, not just the module you are testing. This can also cause surprising failures.

The Jest test runner has built-in support for mocking modules. If you are using that test runner, you probably want to use its built-in facilities. This plugin works with any project that uses Babel to transpile code, even if Babel is only used in development.



Package last updated on 25 Aug 2022

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