See the guide

This is the detailed interceptor reference; if you are new to Pedestal you may want to start with the What Is An Interceptor Guide.

Interceptors are the basic unit of work in Pedestal. The core library provides interceptors that are generally useful for creating HTTP web services. Applications augment those with their own logic to handle.

An interceptor is a pair of unary functions [1] An interceptor must provide at least one of :enter, :leave and :error. Each function is called with a context map and must return either a context map or a core.async channel that will deliver a context map; the latter case triggers asynchronous request processing.

Pedestal calls the :enter function on the way "in" to handling a request. It calls the :leave function on the way back "out". This is shown here for a single interceptor:


Either the :enter or :leave function may be omitted without harm.

Logically speaking, interceptors form a queue. During the :enter phase, the next interceptor is popped off the queue, pushed onto the leave stack, and it’s :enter function, if any, is executed.

Once the handler (or other interceptor) adds a :response to the context, the chain logic switches to :leave mode: it pops interceptors off the leave stack and invokes the :leave function, if any.

Because it’s the leave stack the :leave functions are invoked in the opposite order from the :enter functions.

interceptor stack

Both the queue and the stack reside in the context map. Since interceptors can modify the context map, that means they can change the plan of execution for the rest of the request! Interceptors are allowed to enqueue more interceptors to be called, or they can terminate the request.

This process, of running all the interceptor :enter functions, then running the interceptor :leave functions, is called executing the interceptor chain.

Context Bindings

Interceptors expect certain keys to be present in the context map. These context bindings are part of the contract between provider and interceptors.

The most important keys are :request, which holds the request map, and :response, which holds the response map.

Technically, the interceptor pipeline doesn’t know about :request and :response, because the interceptor pipeline is not specically purposed with HTTP processing; the Servlet Interceptor adds these details.

Further keys are described in the context map reference.

Interceptor Return Values

Interceptor functions must return values. Returning nil will cause an internal server error.

An :enter or :leave function may return a context map directly. In this case, processing continues with the next interceptor.

If the interceptor is expected to take a long time to return a result, it may instead return a core.async channel. Pedestal will yield the request processing thread back the the servlet container (so that it can process other incoming requests) and wait for a value to be produced.

Only one value will be consumed from the returned channel, and the value must be a context map.

Request processing continues once the channel delivers the context map.

Chaining With Async Interceptors

Any interceptor downstream of an asynchronous interceptor will be executed in the core.async dispatch thread pool. This can be problematic if any later interceptor or handler performs any blocking I/O, as the thread pool is a fixed size. Generally speaking, if any interceptor is asynchronous, all following non-trivial interceptors should also be asynchronous.

Trivial interceptors do short computations or make changes to the context map; they do not perform any I/O or other operations that could block the thread they execute on, such as any file or socket I/O.

When an interceptor returns a channel, the request processing thread can be returned to the servlet container. This may allow another pending request to be processed while the initial request is parked, waiting for the channel returned by an interceptor to convey the new context map.


The protocol IntoInterceptor represents anything that can be used as an interceptor. Pedestal extends that protocol to the following:

Type Interpretation


The :enter, :leave, :error, and :name keys are used directly.


The function is interpreted as a handler (or, rarely, as an indirect interceptor.)


The list is evaluated and its result is used as an interceptor. [2]


Same as List (and also deprecated)


The symbol is resolved and its target is converted to an interceptor.


The var is de-referenced and its value is converted to an interceptor.

Most of these cases are provided to make routing syntax easier, or reflect earlier attempts to improve live reloading at the REPL.

Applications should mainly use the map form as shown in the earlier examples when defining interceptors for routing purposes.

Manipulating the interceptor queue

The queue of interceptors remaining to execute is held in the context map. This means that an interceptor can enqueue other interceptors to be executed. In fact, this is exactly how routing works, the router is an interceptor that matches requests and enqueues the desired interceptors when a specific route is identified.

Use enqueue to push more interceptors onto the queue.

Use terminate if processing should not continue - though normally, this is accomplished by attaching a :response map (the response map) to the context map.

Interceptor Records

Interceptors that are explicitly enqueued by the application must be defined using the interceptor function. This function takes a value which extends the IntoInterceptor protocol, and returns an Interceptor record.

This is not necessary when constructing interceptors used in routing because interceptor representations are transformed to Interceptor records during route expansion.

It’s worth noting that when an interceptor queues additional interceptors for execution, they execute after all interceptors already in the queue (not immediately after the interceptor that modified the queue). This means you could, for example, put a routing interceptor first in the queue, then a few interceptors that provide behavior common to all routes, and those common interceptors will run before any route-specific interceptors.


A handler function is a special case of an interceptor. Pedestal treats the handler as a function that accepts a request map parameter, and returns a response map result.

A handler does not have access to the full execution context, therefore, it cannot manipulate the interceptor queue.

Because a handler takes one kind of thing (request) and returns a different kind of thing (response), it can only be used in the last position of an interceptor stack.

Handlers are always synchronous; they must return a response map, they may not return a channel that delivers a response map.

Indirect Interceptors

When IntoInterceptor is applied to a function and that function has either the :interceptor or :interceptorfn metadata, it is not treated as a handler. The function will be invoked, and the returned value will itself be converted into an interceptor.

Note that you will need to carefully put the metadata on the function itself, and not on the symbol or Var associated with the function:

    ^{:interceptor true} (fn [] ...)

Error Handling

Pedestal supports defining interceptor-specific error handlers via the :error key. Refer to the Error Handling reference for more details.

Pedestal Interceptors

The io.pedestal/pedestal.service library includes a large set of interceptors that are specialized for HTTP request handling. Many of these interceptors are automatically added to the interceptor queue by the default-interceptors function.

Routing-related interceptors are provided by the io.pedestal/pedestal.route library:

1. An optional third function is used for error handling.
2. This is supported behavior related to the table router syntax, but is no longer commonly used and is deprecated.