ASP.NET Core in a container

In this guide you will learn how to:

  • Create a Dockerfile file describing a simple .NET Core service container.
  • Build, run, and verify the functionality of the service.
  • Debug the service running as a container.


Create a .NET Core Web API project

  1. Create a folder for the project.

  2. Open developer command prompt in the project folder and initialize the project:

    dotnet new webapi --no-https

Add Docker files to the project

  1. Open the project folder in VS Code.

  2. Wait for the C# extension to prompt you to add required assets for build and debug, and choose Yes. You can also open the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) and use the .NET: Generate Assets for Build and Debug command.

  3. Open Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) and use Docker: Add Docker Files to Workspace... command:

    Add Dockerfile to a .NET project

  4. Use ASP.NET Core when prompted for application platform.

  5. Choose Windows or Linux when prompted to choose the operating system.

    Windows is only applicable if your Docker installation is configured to use Windows containers.

  6. Change the port for application endpoint to 5000.

  7. Dockerfile and .dockerignore files are added to the workspace.

    The extension will also create a set of VS Code tasks for building and running the container (in both debug- and release configuration, four tasks in total), and a debugging configuration for launching the container in debug mode.

Build the application

  1. Open terminal prompt (⌃` (Windows, Linux Ctrl+`)).

  2. Issue dotnet build command to build the application:

    ~/code/scratch/netcorerest$ dotnet build
    Microsoft (R) Build Engine version 16.3.0+0f4c62fea for .NET Core
    Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
    Restore completed in 18.97 ms for ~/code/scratch/netcorerest/netcorerest.csproj.
    netcorerest -> ~/code/scratch/netcorerest/bin/Debug/netcoreapp3.0/netcorerest.dll
     Build succeeded.
         0 Warning(s)
         0 Error(s)

Add an environment variable to the image

You can use the Docker extension to author Docker files. The extension provides completions and contextual help. To see these capabilities add an environment variable to your service image by following these:

  1. Open the Dockerfile file.

  2. Use ENV instruction to add an environment variable to the service container image. The instruction should be placed in the base stage of the Dockerfile (the first stage in the file). Set the ASPNETCORE_URLS variable to http://*:5000:

    Add an environment variable to Docker image

    Note how the Docker extension lists all available Dockerfile instructions and describes the syntax.

    The Docker extension uses the base stage of the Dockerfile to create a debug version of the container image for your service. Put the ASPNETCORE_URLS environment variable definition in the base stage to have this variable available in both debug and release versions of the container image.

  3. Save the Dockerfile file.

Build the image

  1. Open Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) and issue Docker Images: Build Image... command.

  2. Open Docker view and verify that the new image is visible in the Images tree:

    Verify Docker image exists

Test the service container

  1. Right-click on the image built in previous step and choose Run or Run Interactive. The container should start and you should be able to see it in the "Containers" pane of the Docker view:

    Running service container

  2. Open the web browser and navigate to http://localhost:5000/WeatherForecast. You should see weather data in JSON format, similar to following:

  3. When done testing, right-click the container in the Docker view and choose Stop.

Debug in container

When Docker files were added to the application, the Docker extension also added a VS Code debugger configuration for debugging the service when it is running inside a container. The extension will automatically detect the protocol and port that the service is using and point the browser to the service, but we need to tell it what URL path to use.

  1. Set a breakpoint at the beginning of the code for the Get() method of the Controllers/WeatherForecastController.cs file.

  2. Open .vscode/launch.json file and find Docker .NET Core Launch debug configuration.

  3. Add dockerServerReadyAction to Docker .NET Core Launch configuration:

    "dockerServerReadyAction": {
        "uriFormat": "%s://localhost:%s/WeatherForecast"
  4. Make sure the configuration is selected as active:

    Selected Docker debug configuration

  5. Start debugging (F5).

    • The debug version of the service container builds and starts.
    • The browser opens to request a new weather forecast.
    • The breakpoint in the WeatherForecastController is hit.

By default Docker will assign a randomly chosen host port to a port exposed by a container (the container port). In this case the exposed (container) port is 5000, but it will be exposed on the host via a random port, such as 32737.

You can use specific port on the host by changing the Docker run options used by docker-run: debug task (defined in .vscode/tasks.json file). For example, if you want to use the same port (5000) to expose the service, the docker-run: debug task definition would look like this:

    "type": "docker-run",
    "label": "docker-run: debug",
    "dependsOn": [
        "docker-build: debug"
    "dockerRun": {
        "ports": [
            { "hostPort": 5000, "containerPort": 5000 }
    "netCore": {
        "appProject": "${workspaceFolder}/netcorerest.csproj",
        "enableDebugging": true

Next steps

You're done! Now that your container is ready, you may want to: