How To Mock The Return Value Of An Imported Function In Jest

February 08, 2022 - 3 minutes

Mocking is one of the most essential skills to creating proper tests using Jest. Without mocks, tests would always have to run all the actual code. In certain scenarios, this just isn’t feasible, relevant, or even necessary. That’s why it’s a common practice to mock certain imported codes and replace them with dummy code in tests.

In Jest, this can be done quite easily through the use of different utility functions in different scenarios. For mocking imported modules, there is jest.mock. For mocking imported functions, there are jest.fn() and jest.spyOn.

Examples of using these are as follows:

import * as moduleApi from '@module/api';

// Using only jest.fn
moduleApi.functionToMock = jest.fn();

// Using jest.mock and jest.fn
jest.mock("@module/api", () => ({
    functionToMock: jest.fn()

// Using jest.spyOn
jest.spyOn(moduleApi, 'functionToMock');

But in certain scenarios, you also want to mock the return value of the function that you’re importing into your code. Maybe your tests aim to specifically verify certain error flows. Maybe you just don’t care about executing the underlying code and want to skip it altogether by mocking and specifying a return value. Or maybe it’s not possible to run the function code in the test environment.

No matter the reason, this article will go over how to mock the return value of an imported function in Jest.

To mock the return value of an imported function in Jest, you have to either call mockReturnValue or mockImplementation on a Jest mock function and then specify the return value. Which function mock function you should use depends on your situation. Mainly, it’s about whether you want the original function code to be executed or not.

If you only want to mock the return value but want to keep the original function code untouched, then you should call the mockReturnValue in combination with jest.spyOn:

jest.spyOn(moduleApi, 'functionToMock').mockReturnValue({ someObjectProperty: 42 })

If on top of the return value you also want to mock the function code, then you should call mockReturnValue in combination with jest.fn() or call mockImplementation with an empty return callback when using jest.spyOn:

// mockReturnValue + jest.fn()
moduleApi.functionToMock = jest.fn().mockReturnValue({ someObjectProperty: 42 });

// mockImplementation + jest.spyOn
jest.spyOn(moduleApi, 'functionToMock').mockImplementation(() => ({ someObjectProperty: 42 }));

If in either case you only want to return value to be mocked once or have a more fine-grained control over the order in which return values are mocked, then you should use the mockReturnValueOnce or mockImplementationOnce version instead. To control the order, you can call them multiple times on the same Jest function. That would look as follows:

// mockReturnValue + jest.fn()
moduleApi.functionToMock = jest
	.mockReturnValueOnce({ someObjectProperty: 42 })
	.mockReturnValueOnce({ someObjectProperty: 20 });

// mockImplementation + jest.spyOn
jest.spyOn(moduleApi, 'functionToMock')
	.mockImplementationOnce(() => ({ someObjectProperty: 42 }))
	.mockImplementationOnce(() => ({ someObjectProperty: 20 }));

And that’s it, now you know how to mock the return value of an imported function in Jest, while optionally preserving the original implementation, limiting the number of mocks to a certain number, or configuring them in a certain order!

After graduation, my career is entirely centered around learning and improving as a developer. I’ve began working full time as a React developer and I’ll be blogging about everything that I encounter and learn during this journey. This will range from improving communicational skills in a technical environment, becoming a better developer, improving technical skills in React and JavaScript, and discussing career related topics. In all of my posts, the focus will be on my personal experiences, learnings, difficulties, solutions (if present), and also flaws.

Written by Chak Shun Yu, a React frontend developer, former Storybook maintainer, and technical writer about React, testing, and career. You can find me on Twitter or check out my other articles.