Tutorial: Use Key Vault references in an ASP.NET Core app

In this tutorial, you learn how to use the Azure App Configuration service together with Azure Key Vault. App Configuration and Key Vault are complementary services used side by side in most application deployments.

App Configuration helps you use the services together by creating keys that reference values stored in Key Vault. When App Configuration creates such keys, it stores the URIs of Key Vault values rather than the values themselves.

Your application uses the App Configuration client provider to retrieve Key Vault references, just as it does for any other keys stored in App Configuration. In this case, the values stored in App Configuration are URIs that reference the values in the Key Vault. They are not Key Vault values or credentials. Because the client provider recognizes the keys as Key Vault references, it uses Key Vault to retrieve their values.

Your application is responsible for authenticating properly to both App Configuration and Key Vault. The two services don't communicate directly.

This tutorial shows you how to implement Key Vault references in your code. It builds on the web app introduced in the quickstarts. Before you continue, finish Create an ASP.NET Core app with App Configuration first.

You can use any code editor to do the steps in this tutorial. For example, Visual Studio Code is a cross-platform code editor that's available for the Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.

In this tutorial, you learn how to:

  • Create an App Configuration key that references a value stored in Key Vault.
  • Access the value of this key from an ASP.NET Core web application.


Before you start this tutorial, install the .NET Core SDK.

If you don't have an Azure subscription, create a free account before you begin.

Create a vault

  1. Select the Create a resource option in the upper-left corner of the Azure portal:

    Screenshot shows the Create a resource option in the Azure portal.

  2. In the search box, enter Key Vault.

  3. From the results list, select Key vaults on the left.

  4. In Key vaults, select Add.

  5. On the right in Create key vault, provide the following information:

    • Select Subscription to choose a subscription.
    • In Resource Group, select Create new and enter a resource group name.
    • In Key vault name, a unique name is required. For this tutorial, enter Contoso-vault2.
    • In the Region drop-down list, choose a location.
  6. Leave the other Create key vault options with their default values.

  7. Select Create.

At this point, your Azure account is the only one authorized to access this new vault.

Screenshot shows your key vault.

Add a secret to Key Vault

To add a secret to the vault, you need to take just a few additional steps. In this case, add a message that you can use to test Key Vault retrieval. The message is called Message, and you store the value "Hello from Key Vault" in it.

  1. From the Key Vault properties pages, select Secrets.
  2. Select Generate/Import.
  3. In the Create a secret pane, enter the following values:
    • Upload options: Enter Manual.
    • Name: Enter Message.
    • Value: Enter Hello from Key Vault.
  4. Leave the other Create a secret properties with their default values.
  5. Select Create.

Add a Key Vault reference to App Configuration

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal. Select All resources, and then select the App Configuration store instance that you created in the quickstart.

  2. Select Configuration Explorer.

  3. Select + Create > Key vault reference, and then specify the following values:

    • Key: Select TestApp:Settings:KeyVaultMessage.
    • Label: Leave this value blank.
    • Subscription, Resource group, and Key vault: Enter the values corresponding to those in the key vault you created in the previous section.
    • Secret: Select the secret named Message that you created in the previous section.

Connect to Key Vault

  1. In this tutorial, you use a service principal for authentication to Key Vault. To create this service principal, use the Azure CLI az ad sp create-for-rbac command:

    az ad sp create-for-rbac -n "http://mySP" --sdk-auth

    This operation returns a series of key/value pairs:

    "clientId": "7da18cae-779c-41fc-992e-0527854c6583",
    "clientSecret": "b421b443-1669-4cd7-b5b1-394d5c945002",
    "subscriptionId": "443e30da-feca-47c4-b68f-1636b75e16b3",
    "tenantId": "35ad10f1-7799-4766-9acf-f2d946161b77",
    "activeDirectoryEndpointUrl": "https://login.microsoftonline.com",
    "resourceManagerEndpointUrl": "https://management.azure.com/",
    "sqlManagementEndpointUrl": "https://management.core.windows.net:8443/",
    "galleryEndpointUrl": "https://gallery.azure.com/",
    "managementEndpointUrl": "https://management.core.windows.net/"
  2. Run the following command to let the service principal access your key vault:

    az keyvault set-policy -n <your-unique-keyvault-name> --spn <clientId-of-your-service-principal> --secret-permissions delete get list set --key-permissions create decrypt delete encrypt get list unwrapKey wrapKey
  3. Add environment variables to store the values of clientId, clientSecret, and tenantId.

    setx AZURE_CLIENT_ID <clientId-of-your-service-principal>
    setx AZURE_CLIENT_SECRET <clientSecret-of-your-service-principal>
    setx AZURE_TENANT_ID <tenantId-of-your-service-principal>


    These Key Vault credentials are used only within your application. Your application authenticates directly to Key Vault with these credentials. They are never passed to the App Configuration service.

  4. Restart your terminal to load these new environment variables.

Update your code to use a Key Vault reference

  1. Add a reference to the required NuGet packages by running the following command:

    dotnet add package Azure.Identity
  2. Open Program.cs, and add references to the following required packages:

    using Azure.Identity;
  3. Update the CreateWebHostBuilder method to use App Configuration by calling the config.AddAzureAppConfiguration method. Include the ConfigureKeyVault option, and pass the correct credentials to your Key Vault.

    public static IWebHostBuilder CreateWebHostBuilder(string[] args) =>
            .ConfigureAppConfiguration((hostingContext, config) =>
                var settings = config.Build();
                config.AddAzureAppConfiguration(options =>
                            .ConfigureKeyVault(kv =>
                                kv.SetCredential(new DefaultAzureCredential());
  4. When you initialized the connection to App Configuration, you set up the connection to Key Vault by calling the ConfigureKeyVault method. After the initialization, you can access the values of Key Vault references in the same way you access the values of regular App Configuration keys.

    To see this process in action, open Index.cshtml in the Views > Home folder. Replace its contents with the following code:

    @using Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration
    @inject IConfiguration Configuration
        body {
            background-color: @Configuration["TestApp:Settings:BackgroundColor"]
        h1 {
            color: @Configuration["TestApp:Settings:FontColor"];
            font-size: @Configuration["TestApp:Settings:FontSize"]px;
        and @Configuration["TestApp:Settings:KeyVaultMessage"]</h1>

    You access the value of the Key Vault reference TestApp:Settings:KeyVaultMessage in the same way as for the configuration value of TestApp:Settings:Message.

Build and run the app locally

  1. To build the app by using the .NET Core CLI, run the following command in the command shell:

    dotnet build
  2. After the build is complete, use the following command to run the web app locally:

    dotnet run
  3. Open a browser window, and go to http://localhost:5000, which is the default URL for the web app hosted locally.

    Quickstart local app launch

Clean up resources

If you do not want to continue using the resources created in this article, delete the resource group you created here to avoid charges.


Deleting a resource group is irreversible. The resource group and all the resources in it are permanently deleted. Make sure that you don't accidentally delete the wrong resource group or resources. If you created the resources for this article inside a resource group that contains other resources you want to keep, delete each resource individually from its respective pane instead of deleting the resource group.

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal, and select Resource groups.
  2. In the Filter by name box, enter the name of your resource group.
  3. In the result list, select the resource group name to see an overview.
  4. Select Delete resource group.
  5. You're asked to confirm the deletion of the resource group. Enter the name of your resource group to confirm, and select Delete.

After a few moments, the resource group and all its resources are deleted.

Next steps

In this tutorial, you created an App Configuration key that references a value stored in Key Vault. To learn how to add an Azure-managed service identity that streamlines access to App Configuration and Key Vault, continue to the next tutorial.