How to set a default markdown layout in Astro

Simplify the composition of your md/mdx pages by setting a default layout in Astro with one function

By Marc Farias Jones

Setting a default markdown layout in Astro

Astro is a framework for creating multi-page-applications with a focus on speed. It’s a great choice for SEO friendly marketing sites as it’s rich with features to optimize assets and publish content.

One of Astro’s niceties is its support for consuming markdown files and publishing them as HTML. There’s also great tooling around applying layouts to the compiled documents.

Standard use of layouts

Here’s what the docs recommend for setting up a layout for markdown pages:

1. Create a .astro layout template

It might look something like this:

// BlogPostLayout.astro
import Header from "@components/Header.astro";
import Footer from "@components/Footer.astro";

// extract frontmatter from the markdown file
const { frontmatter } = Astro.props;

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <Header title={frontmatter.title} />
      <slot />
    <Footer />

It works about how you would expect, with the markdown being parsed and injected into the <slot /> component. Additionally, the layout is extracting data from the markdown file’s “frontmatter” so that you can render that information anywhere on the page. Pretty cool.

Speaking of frontmatter, the next step is…

2. Add a layout property to the markdown file’s frontmatter

The same frontmatter that we use to provide parsable data to the layout is where we can specify which layout to use.

This is what that looks like:

<!-- -->

title: My Wonderful Blog Post
description: Lorem ipsum dolor
layout: "@layouts/BlogPostLayout.astro"


## My post's content

Here's some body text for my post

The frontmatter (sandwiched between the --- blocks) now has a layout property that Astro will automatically read it use to compile the page. This is great, but do I really need to specify the layout on every MD/MDX file? What if I only have one layout for my markdown files?

Custom plugins to the rescue

Unfortunately Astro does not currently include first-party support for setting a default layout, but through its remark.js plugin interface, we add the layout property programmatically to that we don’t need to include it manually to each markdown page.

// Astro.config.mjs

const setLayout = () => {
  return function (_, file) { = || "@layouts/BlogPostLayout.astro";

export default defineConfig({
  markdown: {
    remarkPlugins: [setLayout],
  // ...

This function is injected into the remark integration, allowing us to modify the MD or MDX file before it is compiled. It looks for the presence of a layout property in the frontmatter and, if none is set, sets it to our default “@layouts/BlogPostLayout.astro”. Now we have a default layout for our markdown pages that we can override if we need.

Now we can use markdown files without having to specify a layout on each one. This is especially useful if you have a lot of markdown files that you want to use the same layout or if you are migrating your markdown from another system. Yay! 🎉

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