Kube-context Activation

When interacting with a Kubernetes cluster, just like any other Kubernetes-native tool, Skaffold requires a valid Kubernetes context to be configured. The selected kube-context determines the Kubernetes cluster, the Kubernetes user, and the default namespace. By default, Skaffold uses the current kube-context from your kube-config file.

You can override this default one of two ways:

  1. --kube-context flag

    skaffold dev --kube-context <myrepo>
  2. Specify deploy.kubeContext configuration in skaffold.yaml

      kubeContext: minikube

The CLI flag always takes precedence over the config field in the skaffold.yaml.

Kube-context activation and Skaffold profiles

The kube-context has a double role for Skaffold profiles:

  1. A Skaffold profile may be auto-activated by the current kube-context (via profiles.activation.kubeContext).

  2. A Skaffold profile may change the kube-context (via profiles.deploy.kubeContext).

Skaffold ensures that these two roles are not conflicting. To that end, profile activation is done with the original kube-context. If any profile is auto-activated by a matching kube-context, the resulting kube-context must remain unchanged. This rule prevents profile-specific settings for one context to be deployed into a different context.

For example, given the following profiles:

  - name: profile-1
      kubeContext: docker-for-desktop

  - name: profile-2
      - kubeContext: minikube

It is illegal to activate both profiles here, because profile-2 has an activation by kube-context and profile-1 changes the effective kube-context. This happens for

  • skaffold run -p profile-1,profile-2
  • skaffold run -p profile-1 if the current kube-context is minikube


It is not possible to change the kube-context of a running skaffold dev session. To pick up the changes to kubeContext, you will need to quit and re-run skaffold dev.

Kubeconfig selection

The kubeconfig file is only loaded once during Skaffold’s startup phase.

  1. If the --kubeconfig flag is set, then only that file is loaded.
  2. If $KUBECONFIG environment variable is set, then it is used as a list of paths (normal path delimiting rules for your system). These paths are merged.
  3. Otherwise, ${HOME}/.kube/config is used.
  4. If neither --kubeconfig or --kube-context are given and no kubeconfig file is found, Skaffold will try to guess an in-cluster configuration using the secrets stored in /var/run/secrets/kubernetes.io/serviceaccount/. This is useful when Skaffold runs inside a kubernetes Pod and should deploy to the same cluster.
Last modified May 14, 2024: release: v2.12.0 (#9418) (f386e6c)