Compile Sass with eleventy

Static site generators are great for generating HTML from markdown files. Eleventy (11ty) is a simple JavaScript based generator, named after the 11 templating languages it supports.

Static HTML is great, but websites need CSS too! My go to css preprocessor is Sass, so I wanted to find a way to compile Sass directly in 11ty projects. After a bit of experimentation, the best way I found to do this was with 11ty class templates. Using 11ty means there is only one process to worry about and it auto reload on sass changes.


Let's start with an empty project to show what’s required:

# Create a project folder
mkdir sass-eleventy
cd sass-eleventy

# Create an empty npm project
npm init -y

# Install 11ty and sass
npm install —save-dev @11ty/eleventy sass

Create some sass

Next, create src/sass/theme.scss:

$primary: #096e4f;

h1 {
color: $primary;

Then back at the root of the project create theme.11ty.js:

const path = require('path')
const Sass = require('sass')

module.exports = class SassTemplate {
data() {
return { permalink: '/styles.css' }

render(data) {
return Sass.renderSync({
file: path.join(__dirname, './src/sass/theme.scss'),
includePaths: [path.join(__dirname, './node_modules')],
outputStyle: 'compressed',

This is an 11ty class-based JavaScript template, 11ty will create an instance of our class and call the data method. This provides the front matter for the template, similar to the top bit of a markdown file. We use this to set the permalink value to tell 11ty we want to create a file called styles.css.

11ty then calls render with the front matter data. This method returns what we want to put in the file. Here we use the Sass library to render the input file and return the css to put into the file. Pass includePaths here if you want to import sass from npm dependencies, like bulma.

Configure 11ty

Finally, configure 11ty to use our sass template with an .eleventy.js:

module.exports = function eleventyConfig(eleventyConfig) {

return {
templateFormats: ['md', '11ty.js'],

This does two things. First, it tells 11ty to watch for file changes in the src/sass folder. So in development, when you edit a Sass file 11ty will know to rebuild and reload the development server. Second it tells 11ty to look for our 11ty.js files, so the sass template gets loaded.

Build the site

This site doesn't have any markdown, but it will still generate our css.

npx eleventy

You should see the style.css file generated into the _site folder now, all done! 🎉

Future improvements

This setup could be improved, but its a good starting point and fine for lots of setups.

Things to improve:

  • Generate sass source maps, this might need Sass to generated in the data method and using the pagination api to create multiple files.
  • It might be improved by using asynchronous data / render methods, rather than using Sass.renderSync