First of all add the ActiveAdmin and the Devise gems. Devise is needed because ActiveAdmin will use it as the authentication mechanism.


gem 'devise', '> 4.x'
gem 'activeadmin', github: 'activeadmin'

We install the gems:

bundle install

Then we modify several files in order to adapt the Rails API application:


  • ActionController::API changed to ActionController::Base
  • Added protection against XSRF attacks.
class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
  include ActionController::Serialization
  protect_from_forgery :with => :exception

We need to change config.api_only to false in order to enable several middleware needed to make Devise work. Otherwise it will always redirect to login page by default.

module YourApp
  class Application < Rails::Application
    config.api_only = false

Install the ActiveAdmin system in the application (this will create an AdminUser model):

rails generate active_admin:install

If you want to use an existing model as admin run:

rails generate active_admin:install User

Create the tables and seed the data:

rails db:migrate
rails db:seed

This is the bare minimum that I needed to successfully have the admin page and log into the dashboard.