Wildcard certificate from Let’s Encrypt with CloudFlare DNS

If you’re using CloudFlare to host your DNS, there is a plugin for the official Let’s Encrypt client Certbot you can use to easily acquire and renew wildcard certificates from Let’s Encrypt.

Note: This article has been changed to not use pip to install Certbot, but instead use the now available OS packages.

CloudFlare API credentials

Since we’re going to use CloudFlare’s DNS to verify our domain for Let’s Encrypt, we (or rather Certbot) will need to use CloudFlare’s API to create some verification DNS records on the fly.

To get your API key, login to your CloudFlare dashboard, go to your profile and at the bottom, click “View” next to “Global API key”. The Certbot plugin doesn’t support using the API token authentication method.

Now, when you get the key and you see the warning “Protect this key like a password!” this is an understatement. If you follow best practices, you have secured your CloudFlare account with two factor verification. Now, this API key is even more powerful than a password, as anyone using it doesn’t have to use two factor authentication. The email address associated with the account and this API key is all that is needed. Protect this key even better than your passwords!

Now store your credentials on your server, in a file that is readable by root only. I always store them in a file with a name that is logic to me, that these are secret credentials for CloudFlare, accessible by root only, namely:

The directory should only be accessible by root:

$ sudo chmod 0700 /root/.secrets/

And the file too:

$ sudo chmod 0400 /root/.secrets/cloudflare.ini

The content will look somewhat like this. Replace the email address with your account email address, and the API key with the one you viewed in the CloudFlare admin panel earlier.

dns_cloudflare_email = "[email protected]"
dns_cloudflare_api_key = "4003c330b45f4fbcab420eaf66b49c5cbcab4"

Install Certbot and the CloudFlare DNS authenticator plugin

EFF now has a very nice official guide on how to install both Certbot and plugins on the site https://certbot.eff.org/instructions

If you follow the instructions on the EFF site, make sure you select the “wildcard” tab, to get the installation instructions for the DNS authenticator plugin as well.

Here are the instructions if you’re using Ubuntu:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-nginx python3-certbot-dns-cloudflare

If you are running a different Linux distribution, use the Certbot installtion guide mentioned above.

Now you should have Certbot installed in /usr/bin/certbot, and have the CloudFlare DNS Authenticator plugin installed and activated along with it. Smooth, huh?

Run Certbot with the CloudFlare Authenticator

Now, getting a new wildcard is as simple as running:

$ sudo certbot certonly --dns-cloudflare --dns-cloudflare-credentials /root/.secrets/cloudflare.ini -d example.com,*.example.com --preferred-challenges dns-01

This should fetch a new wildcard certificate for you for *.example.com and store it in /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem

Automatic renewals

Now, if you run certbot renew, your certificate should be renewed if it is time to do so. This will be done using the secret credentials you saved, so no interaction is needed. If you like, you can test it by providing the --dry-run argument like this:

$ certbot renew --dry-run

It might be a good idea to create a crontab entry like this:

14 5 * * * /usr/bin/certbot renew --quiet --post-hook "/usr/sbin/service nginx reload" > /dev/null 2>&1

Now your wildcard certificate will renew fully automatically without any interaction needed on your side.


  1. for those of you who have troubles with the python shit completely uninstall certbot then install python3-pip and then install certbot with pip3 along with certbot-dns-cloudflare

    1. Thanks, and remember to use the command pip3 instead of pip: pip3 install certbot-dns-cloudflare

    2. I’ve updated the article to not use pip at all, but the OS packages that now are available instead.

  2. thanks its works, but i want ask if i wanna apply pre-hook and post-hook at same time is it like this?

    14 5 * * * /usr/bin/certbot renew –quiet –pre-hook “command-prehook” –post-hook “command-posthook” > /dev/null 2>&1
    like above?

  3. Hi thanks for the article. How do I adapt this walk through to to work with debian 9?

  4. Thank you very much for this post! We are currently setting up our site at Macellum with Cloudflare, so stumbled up this post. Very helpful.

  5. In this: “sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-nginx python3-certbot-dns-cloudflare”

    Change: “python-certbot-nginx” to “python3-certbot-nginx”

  6. Merci
    work on raspberry pi……
    Aguard home and letencrypt and cloudflare auto renew

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