Used for applications that want to connect to CLN over the network in a secure manner.

Since v0.11.0, Core Lightning provides a new interface: cln-grpc, a Rust-based plugin that provides a standardized API that apps, plugins, and other tools could use to interact with Core Lightning securely.

We always had a JSON-RPC, with a very exhaustive API, but it was exposed only locally over a Unix-domain socket. Some plugins chose to re-expose the API over a variety of protocols, ranging from REST to gRPC, but it was additional work to install them. The gRPC API is automatically generated from our existing JSON-RPC API, so it has the same low-level and high-level access that app devs are accustomed to but uses a more efficient binary encoding where possible and is secured via mutual TLS authentication.

To use it, just add the --grpc-port option, and it’ll automatically start alongside Core Lightning and generate the appropriate mTLS certificates. It will listen on the configured port, authenticate clients using mTLS certificates, and will forward any request to the JSON-RPC interface, performing translations from protobuf to JSON and back.


Generating the certificates

The plugin only runs when lightningd is configured with the option --grpc-port. Upon starting, the plugin generates a number of files, if they don't already exist:

  • ca.pem and ca-key.pem: These are the certificate and private key for your own certificate authority. The plugin will only accept incoming connections using certificates that are signed by this CA.
  • server.pem and server-key.pem: this is the identity (certificate and private key) used by the plugin to authenticate itself. It is signed by the CA, and the client will verify its identity.
  • client.pem and client-key.pem: this is an example identity that can be used by a client to connect to the plugin, and issue requests. It is also signed by the CA.

These files are generated with sane defaults, however you can generate custom certificates should you require some changes (see below for details).

The client needs a valid mTLS identity in order to connect to the plugin, so copy over the ca.pem, client.pem and client-key.pem files from the node to your project directory.

Generating language-specific bindings

The gRPC interface is described in the protobuf file, and we'll first need to generate language specific bindings.

In this tutorial, we walk through the steps for Python, however they are mostly the same for other languages. For instance, if you're developing in Rust, use tonic-build to generate the bindings. For other languages, see the official gRPC docs on how to generate gRPC client library for your specific language using the protobuf file.

We start by downloading the dependencies and protoc compiler:

pip install grpcio-tools

Next we generate the bindings in the current directory:

python -m grpc_tools.protoc \
  -I path/to/cln-grpc/proto \
  path/to/cln-grpc/proto/node.proto \
  --python_out=. \
  --grpc_python_out=. \

This will generate two files in the current directory:

  • the description of the protobuf messages we'll be exchanging with the server.
  • the service and method stubs representing the server-side methods as local objects and associated methods.

Finally, we generate the file that contains
protobuf messages imported in file by running the
following command:

python -m grpc_tools.protoc \
  -I lightning/cln-grpc/proto \
  path/to/cln-grpc/proto/primitives.proto \
  --python_out=. \

Connecting to the node

Finally we can use the generated stubs and mTLS identity to connect to the node:

from pathlib import Path
from node_pb2_grpc import NodeStub
import node_pb2
import grpc

p = Path(".")
cert_path = p / "client.pem"
key_path = p / "client-key.pem"
ca_cert_path = p / "ca.pem"

creds = grpc.ssl_channel_credentials('rb').read(),'rb').read(),'rb').read()

channel = grpc.secure_channel(
	options=(('grpc.ssl_target_name_override', 'cln'),)
stub = NodeStub(channel)


Note that we must replace <GRPC-PORT> by the corresponding port we
used as --grpc-port option when we started our node.

In this example, we first load the client identity as well as the CA certificate so we can verify the server's identity against it. We then create a creds instance using those details. Next we open a secure channel, i.e., a channel over TLS with verification of identities.

Notice that we override the expected SSL name with cln. This is required because the plugin does not know the domain under which it will be reachable, and will therefore use cln as a standin. See custom certificate generation for how this could be changed.

We then use the channel to instantiate the NodeStub representing the service and its methods, so we can finally call the Getinfo method with default arguments.

Generating custom certificates (optional)

The automatically generated mTLS certificate will not know about potential domains that it'll be served under, and will chose a number of other parameters by default. If you'd like to generate a server certificate with a custom domain, you can use the following:

openssl genrsa -out server-key.pem 2048

This generates the private key. Next we create a Certificate Signature Request (CSR) that we can then process using our CA identity:

openssl req -key server-key.pem -new -out server.csr

You will be asked a number of questions, the most important of which is the Common Name, which you should set to the domain name you'll be serving the interface under. Next we can generate the actual certificate by processing the request with the CA identity:

openssl x509 -req -CA ca.pem -CAkey ca-key.pem \
  -in server.csr \
  -out server.pem \
  -days 365 -CAcreateserial

This will finally create the server.pem file, signed by the CA, allowing you to access the node through its real domain name. You can now move server.pem and server-key.pem into the lightning directory, and they should be picked up during the start.