How can I parse a YAML file in Python

How can I parse a YAML file in Python

The easiest and purest method without relying on C headers is PyYaml (documentation), which can be installed via pip install pyyaml:

#!/usr/bin/env python

import yaml

with open(example.yaml, r) as stream:
    except yaml.YAMLError as exc:

And thats it. A plain yaml.load() function also exists, but yaml.safe_load() should always be preferred unless you explicitly need the arbitrary object serialization/deserialization provided in order to avoid introducing the possibility for arbitrary code execution.

Note the PyYaml project supports versions up through the YAML 1.1 specification. If YAML 1.2 specification support is needed, see ruamel.yaml as noted in this answer.

Also, you could also use a drop in replacement for pyyaml, that keeps your yaml file ordered the same way you had it, called oyaml. View synk of oyaml here

Read & Write YAML files with Python 2+3 (and unicode)

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
import yaml
import io

# Define data
data = {
    a list: [
    a string: bla,
    another dict: {
        foo: bar,
        key: value,
        the answer: 42

# Write YAML file
with, w, encoding=utf8) as outfile:
    yaml.dump(data, outfile, default_flow_style=False, allow_unicode=True)

# Read YAML file
with open(data.yaml, r) as stream:
    data_loaded = yaml.safe_load(stream)

print(data == data_loaded)

Created YAML file

a list:
- 1
- 42
- 3.141
- 1337
- help
- €
a string: bla
another dict:
  foo: bar
  key: value
  the answer: 42

Common file endings

.yml and .yaml


For your application, the following might be important:

  • Support by other programming languages
  • Reading / writing performance
  • Compactness (file size)

See also: Comparison of data serialization formats

In case you are rather looking for a way to make configuration files, you might want to read my short article Configuration files in Python

How can I parse a YAML file in Python

If you have YAML that conforms to the YAML 1.2 specification (released 2009) then you should use ruamel.yaml (disclaimer: I am the author of that package).
It is essentially a superset of PyYAML, which supports most of YAML 1.1 (from 2005).

If you want to be able to preserve your comments when round-tripping, you certainly should use ruamel.yaml.

Upgrading @Jons example is easy:

import ruamel.yaml as yaml

with open(example.yaml) as stream:
    except yaml.YAMLError as exc:

Use safe_load() unless you really have full control over the input, need it (seldom the case) and know what you are doing.

If you are using pathlib Path for manipulating files, you are better of using the new API ruamel.yaml provides:

from ruamel.yaml import YAML
from pathlib import Path

path = Path(example.yaml)
yaml = YAML(typ=safe)
data = yaml.load(path)

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