Authenticate to GKE

This document describes how to authenticate to Google Kubernetes Engine programmatically. How you authenticate to Google Kubernetes Engine depends on the interface you use to access the API and the environment where your code is running.

The GKE API lets you interact with the Google Cloud infrastructure that runs Kubernetes, like your GKE clusters and nodes.

To interact with Kubernetes objects like Pods and Services, you must authenticate to the Kubernetes API, which is separate to the GKE API and is served by the Kubernetes API server in each cluster. For instructions, see Authenticate to the Kubernetes API server.

To access other Google Cloud resources like Cloud Storage buckets from workloads running in GKE, use Workload Identity Federation for GKE.

For more information about Google Cloud authentication, see the authentication overview.

API access

GKE supports programmatic access. You can access the API in the following ways:

Client libraries

The GKE client libraries provide high-level language support for authenticating to GKE programmatically. To authenticate calls to Google Cloud APIs, client libraries support Application Default Credentials (ADC); the libraries look for credentials in a set of defined locations and use those credentials to authenticate requests to the API. With ADC, you can make credentials available to your application in a variety of environments, such as local development or production, without needing to modify your application code.

Google Cloud CLI

When you use the gcloud CLI to access GKE, you log in to the gcloud CLI with a Google Account, which provides the credentials used by the gcloud CLI commands.

If your organization's security policies prevent user accounts from having the required permissions, you can use service account impersonation.

For more information, see Authenticate for using the gcloud CLI. For more information about using the gcloud CLI with GKE, see the gcloud CLI reference pages.


You can authenticate to the GKE API by using your gcloud CLI credentials or by using Application Default Credentials. For more information about authentication for REST requests, see Authenticate for using REST. For information about the types of credentials, see gcloud CLI credentials and ADC credentials.

What's next