Using Sequelize ORM with Node.js and Express - Stack Abuse

Using Sequelize ORM with Node.js and Express


Sequelize is a popular ORM created for Node.js, and in this tutorial we'll be using it to build a CRUD API to manage notes.

Interacting with databases is a common task for backend applications. This was typically done via raw SQL queries, which can be difficult to construct, especially for those new to SQL or databases in general.

Eventually, Object Relational Mappers (ORMs) came to be - designed to make managing databases easier. They automatically map out the objects (entities) from our code in a relational database, as the name implies.

No longer would we write raw SQL queries and execute them against the database. By providing us with a programmatic way to connect our code to the database and manipulate the persisted data, we can focus more on the business logic and less on error-prone SQL.

What is an ORM?

Object Relational Mapping is a technique that maps software objects to database tables. Developers can interact with objects instead of having to actually write any database queries. When an object is read, created, updated, or deleted, the ORM constructs and executes a database query under the hood.

Another advantage of ORMs is they support multiple databases: Postgres, MySQL, SQLite, etc. If you write an application using raw queries, it will be difficult to move to a different database because many of the queries will need to be re-written.

With an ORM, switching databases is done by the ORM itself, and typically all you need to do is change a value or two in a configuration file.


There are many Node ORMs, including the popular Bookshelf.js and TypeORM.

So, why and when to choose Sequelize?

Firstly, it has been around for a long time - 2011. It has thousands of GitHub stars and is used by tons of applications. Due to it's age and popularity it is stable and has plenty of documentation available online.

In addition to it's maturity and stability, Sequelize has a large feature set that covers: queries, scopes, relations, transactions, raw queries, migrations, read replication, etc.

A thing to note is that Sequelize is promise-based, making it easier to manage asynchronous functions and exceptions. It also supports all the popular SQL dialects: PostgreSQL, MySQL, MariaDB, SQLite, and MSSQL.

On the other hand, there's no NoSQL support which can be seen in ORMs (or Object Document Mappers, in this case) such as Mongoose. Really, deciding which ORM to choose depends mainly on the requirements of the project you're working on.

Installing Sequelize

Note: If you want to follow along with the code, you can find it here on GitHub.

Let's make a skeleton Node application and install Sequelize. First off, let's create a directory for our project, enter it, and create a project with the default settings:

$ mkdir notes-app
$ cd notes-app
$ npm init -y

Next we'll create the application file with a basic Express server and router. Let's call it index.js to matches the default filename from npm init:

Next, to easily create a web server we'll install Express:

$ npm install --save express

And with it installed, let's set up the server:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();
const port = 3000;

app.get('/', (req, res) => res.send('Notes App'));

app.listen(port, () => console.log(`notes-app listening on port ${port}!`));

Finally, we can go ahead and install Sequelize and our database of choice via npm:

$ npm install --save sequelize
$ npm install --save sqlite3

It doesn't matter which database you use as Sequelize is database-agnostic. The way we use it is the same, no matter the underlying database. SQLite3 is easy to work with for local development and is a popular choice for those purposes.

Now, let's add some code to the index.js file to set up the database and check the connection using Sequelize. Depending on which database you're using, you may need to define a different dialect:

const Sequelize = require('sequelize');
const sequelize = new Sequelize({
  // The `host` parameter is required for other databases
  // host: 'localhost'
  dialect: 'sqlite',
  storage: './database.sqlite'

After importing Sequelize, we set it up with the parameters it requires to run. You can also add more parameters here, such as the pool, though what we have is enough to get started. The dialect depends on which database you're using, and the storage simply points to the database file.

The database.sqlite file is created automatically at the root level of our project.

Note: It's worth checking the Sequelize Docs for setting up different databases and the required information for each.

If you're using MySQL, Postgres, MariaDB, or MSSQL, instead of passing each parameter separately, you can also just pass the connection URI:

const sequelize = new Sequelize('postgres://user:[email protected]:5432/dbname');

Finally, let's test the connection by running the .authenticate() method. Under the hood, it simply runs a SELECT query and checks if the database responds correctly:

  .then(() => {
    console.log('Connection has been established successfully.');
  .catch(err => {
    console.error('Unable to connect to the database:', err);

Running the application, we're greeted with:

$ node index.js
notes-app listening on port 3000!
Executing (default): SELECT 1+1 AS result
Connection has been established successfully.

Creating a Model for Mapping

Before we can build a notes API we need to create a notes table. To do that we need to define a Note model, which we'll assign to a constant so that it can be used throughout our API. In the define function we specify the table name and fields. In this case a text field for the note and a string for tag:

As with relational databases, before building an API, we'll need to create adequate tables first. Since we want to avoid creating it by hand using SQL, we'll define a Model class and then have Sequelize map it out into a table.

This can be done by either extending the Sequelize.Model class and running the .init() function, passing parameters, or by defining a const and assigning it the returned value of the .define() method from Sequelize.

The latter is more concise, so we'll be going with that one:

const Note = sequelize.define('notes', { note: Sequelize.TEXT, tag: Sequelize.STRING });

Mapping the Model to the Database

Now that we have a Note model we can create the notes table in the database. In a production application we'd normally make database changes via migrations so that changes are tracked in source control.

Though, to keep things concise, we'll use the .sync() method. What the .sync() does is simple - it synchronizes all the defined models to the database:

sequelize.sync({ force: true })
  .then(() => {
    console.log(`Database & tables created!`);

Here, we've used the force flag and set it to true. If a table exists already exists, the method will DROP it and CREATE a new one. If it doesn't exist, a table is just created.

Finally, let's create some sample notes that we'll then persist in the database:

sequelize.sync({ force: true })
  .then(() => {
    console.log(`Database & tables created!`);

      { note: 'pick up some bread after work', tag: 'shopping' },
      { note: 'remember to write up meeting notes', tag: 'work' },
      { note: 'learn how to use node orm', tag: 'work' }
    ]).then(function() {
      return Note.findAll();
    }).then(function(notes) {

Running the server, our notes are printed out in the console, as well as the SQL operations performed by Sequelize. Let's connect to the database to verify that the records have indeed been added properly:

$ sqlite3 database.sqlite
sqlite> select * from notes;
1|pick up some bread after work|shopping|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00
2|remember to write up meeting notes|work|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00
3|learn how to use node orm|work|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00|2020-02-21 18:24:19.402 +00:00
sqlite> .exit

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With the database in place and our table(s) created, let's go ahead and implement the basic CRUD functionality.

Reading Entities

Our model, Note, now has built-in methods that help us perform operations on the persisted records in the database.

Read All Entities

For example, we can read all records of that class saved by using the .findAll() method. Let's make a simple endpoint that serves all the persisted entities:

app.get('/notes', function(req, res) {
  Note.findAll().then(notes => res.json(notes));

The .findAll() method returns an array of notes, which we can use to render a response body, via res.json.

Let's test the endpoint via curl:

$ curl http://localhost:3000/notes
[{"id":1,"note":"pick up some bread after work","tag":"shopping","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z"},{"id":2,"note":"remember to write up meeting notes","tag":"work","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z"},{"id":3,"note":"learn how to use node orm","tag":"work","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:02:10.881Z"}]

As you can see, all of our database entries were returned to us, but in JSON form.

Though, if we're looking to add a bit more functionality, we've got query operations such as SELECT, WHERE, AND, OR, and LIMIT supported by this method.

A full list of supported query methods can be found on the Sequelize Docs page.

Read Entities WHERE

With that in mind, let's make an endpoint that serves a single, specific note:

app.get('/notes/:id', function(req, res) {
  Note.findAll({ where: { id: } }).then(notes => res.json(notes));

The endpoints accepts an id parameter, used to look up a note via the WHERE clause. Let's test it out via curl:

$ curl http://localhost:3000/notes/2
[{"id":2,"note":"remember to write up meeting notes","tag":"work","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:03:17.592Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:03:17.592Z"}]

Note: Since this route uses a wildcard param, :id, it will match any string that comes after /notes/. For this reason, this route should be at the end of your index.js file. This allows other routes, like /notes/search, to handle a request before /notes/:id picks it up. Otherwise the search keyword in the URL path will be treated like an ID.

Read Entities WHERE AND

For even more specific queries, let's make an endpoint utilizing both WHERE and AND statements:

app.get('/notes/search', function(req, res) {
  Note.findAll({ where: { note: req.query.note, tag: req.query.tag } }).then(notes => res.json(notes));

Here, we're looking for notes that match both the note and tag specified by the parameters. Again, let's test it out via curl:

$ curl "http://localhost:3000/notes/search?note=pick%20up%20some%20bread%20after%20work&tag=shopping"
[{"id":1,"note":"pick up some bread after work","tag":"shopping","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:09:53.964Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:09:53.964Z"}]

Read Entities OR

If we're trying to be a bit more vague, we can use the OR statement and search for notes that match any of the given parameters. Change the /notes/search route to:

const Op = Sequelize.Op;

app.get('/notes/search', function(req, res) {
    where: {
      tag: {
        [Op.or]: [].concat(req.query.tag)
  }).then(notes => res.json(notes));

Here we're using Sequelize.Op to implement an OR query. Sequelize provides several operators to choose from such as Op.or, Op.and, Op.eq,,, Op.not, etc. These are mainly used to create more complex operations, like querying with a regex string.

Note that we're using req.query.tag as the argument to .findAll(). Sequelize expects an array here, so we force tag to be an array using [].concat(). In our test below we'll pass multiple arguments in our request URL:

$ curl "http://localhost:3000/notes/search?tag=shopping&tag=work"
[{"id":1,"note":"pick up some bread after work","tag":"shopping","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z"},{"id":2,"note":"remember to write up meeting notes","tag":"work","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z"},{"id":3,"note":"learn how to use node orm","tag":"work","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:11:27.518Z"}]

When passing the same query param multiple times like this, it will show up as an array in the req.query object. So in the above example, req.query.tag is ['shopping', 'work'].

Read Entities LIMIT

The last thing we'll cover in this section is LIMIT. Let's say that we wanted to modify the pervious query to only return two results max. We'll do this by adding the limit parameter and assigning it a positive integer:

const Op = Sequelize.Op;

app.get('/notes/search', function(req, res) {
    limit: 2,
    where: {
      tag: {
        [Op.or]: [].concat(req.query.tag)
  }).then(notes => res.json(notes));

You can see a full list of query functions at the Sequelize docs.

Inserting Entities

Inserting entities is a lot more straightforward as there's really no two ways to perform this operation.

Let's add a new endpoint for adding notes:

const bodyParser = require('body-parser');
app.use(bodyParser.json());'/notes', function(req, res) {
  Note.create({ note: req.body.note, tag: req.body.tag }).then(function(note) {

The body-parser module is required for the endpoint to accept and parse JSON parameters. You don't need to explicitly install the body-parser package because it's already included with Express.

Inside the route we're using the .create() method to insert a note into the database, based on the passed parameters.

We can test it out with another curl request:

$ curl -d '{"note":"go the gym","tag":"health"}' -H "Content-Type: application/json" -X POST http://localhost:3000/notes
{"id":4,"note":"go the gym","tag":"health","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:13:42.281Z","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:13:42.281Z"}

Running this request will result in the creation of a note in our database and returns the new database object to us.

Updating Entities

Sometimes, we'd wish to update already existing entities. To do this, we'll rely on the .update() method on the result of the .findByPk() method:

app.put('/notes/:id', function(req, res) {
  Note.findByPk( {
      note: req.body.note,
      tag: req.body.tag
    }).then((note) => {

The .findByPk() method is also an inherited method in our model class. It searches for an entity with the given primary key. Essentially, it's easier to return single entities by their ID using this method than writing a SELECT WHERE query.

Given the returned entity, we run the .update() method to actually put the new values in place. Let's verify this via curl:

$ curl -X PUT -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d '{"note":"pick up some milk after work","tag":"shopping"}' http://localhost:3000/notes/1
{"id":1,"note":"pick up some milk after work","tag":"shopping","createdAt":"2020-02-27T17:14:55.621Z","updatedAt":"2020-02-27T17:14:58.230Z"}

Firing this request updates the first note with new content and returns the updated object:

Deleting Entities

And finally, when we'd like to delete records from our database, we use the .destroy() method on the result of the .findByPk() method:

app.delete('/notes/:id', function(req, res) {
  Note.findByPk( {
  }).then((note) => {

The route for .delete() looks similar to .update(). We use .findByPk() to find a specific note by ID. Then, the .destroy() method removes the note from the database.

Finally, a 200 OK response is returned to the client.


Object Relational Mapping (ORM) is a technique that maps software objects to database tables. Sequelize is a popular and stable ORM tool used alongside Node.js. In this article, we've discussed what ORMs are, how they work and what are some advantages of using them over writing raw queries.

With that knowledge, we proceeded to write a simple Node.js/Express app that uses Sequelize to persist a Note model to the database. Using the inherited methods, we've then performed CRUD operations on the database.

Feel free to check out the code on GitHub if you had any problems following along in this tutorial.

Last Updated: February 27th, 2020

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