Page-level caching with Nginx

Since my last post on using Nginx to cache proxied content, they have added proper cache handling via their proxy_cache* directives. These are much more suitable for use, as they capture the HTTP response headers and also use more advanced Cache-Control checks.

To start, install the latest stable Nginx avaliable at

Next edit your nginx.conf and add the proxy_cache_path directive to define a named cache storage. These are independant of servers and locations, and can be reused inside each later on.

http {
    proxy_cache_path /var/cache/nginx keys_zone=anonymous:10m;
    include vhosts/*.conf

Next create the directory for the cache:

mkdir -p /var/cache/nginx

Next define your server configuration, which can be done for example in conf/vhosts/ if you defined the include above.

server {
    listen            80;
    proxy_set_header  X-Real-IP  $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header  Host       $host;
    location / {
        proxy_pass    http://localhost:8080/;
        proxy_cache   anonymous;
    # don't cache admin folder, send all requests through the proxy
    location /admin {
        proxy_pass    http://localhost:8080/;
    # handle static files directly. Set their expiry time to max, so they'll
    # always use the browser cache after first request
    location ~* (css|js|png|jpe?g|gif|ico)$ {
        root          /var/www/${host}/http;
        expires       max;

As we don’t want the nginx worker processes to have root permissions when in use, add to the start of conf/nginx.conf:

user nginx

Then sort out the user and permissions:

useradd nginx
chown nginx:nginx /var/cache/nginx /usr/local/nginx/{fastcgi_temp,logs,proxy_temp}

To start nginx on bootup, add the following to the end of /etc/rc.local:


Then also run this command to start nginx now.

That is all that is needed, no patches this time. There are several more proxy_cache* directives avaliable that you can use to tweak its behaviour, see the proxy module documentation for more details.

Published by

Andy Thompson

Senior Technical Consultant on enterprise web projects, with interests in open-source development, a little bit of finance, and poker.

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