In an application I was working on today, I had to migrate from Laravel token authentication to Sanctum. The process went relatively smoothly but just in case someone else has trouble, I thought I would layout the migration process.

Installing Sanctum

I’m going to direct you to the official documentation for instructions on installing Sanctum. It’s very straight forward and should be easy for anyone follow.

Migrating Api Keys

In this application, we had a ApiUser model to distinguish between regular users and other applications that talk to our api. While Sanctum uses a second table to store the access tokens (personal_access_tokens), with the Laravel token authentication guard, we were storing the token directly on the ApiUser model itself. We did not want to invalidate all of the api keys we already had in the database so migrating them all over to Sanctum’s personal_access_tokens table was essential.

Following the documentation, I added the HasApiTokens trait to the model I was going to be associating the tokens with. This provides all of the necessary methods and relationships in order to both create tokens for the model and to authenticate the incoming request against the model.

To migrate the tokens from the old table to the new one was a little bit tricky and I had to do some digging in the source code of Sanctum in order to come up with a solution. You see, we were storing our tokens in plain text in the database, but Sanctum hashes the token before storing them. This meant it was not just as simple as coping the tokens from one table to the next.

I first tried using the createToken() method the HasApiTokens trait provides. The problem with this is was, it generates the token for you and does not allow you to actually specify you own string to use as the token (which is what I needed to do in order to migrate the old tokens over).

I was able to dive into the source code for createToken() and realized all it was doing was creating a PersonalAccessToken with a randomly generated string and saving it to the model. I copied and pasted this function and with a little modification, was able to create this migration that would work.

return new class extends Migration
    public function up()
        ApiUser::all()->each(function (ApiUser $apiUser) {
            $plainTextToken = $apiUser->api_token;

                ‘name’ => ‘Migrated Token’,
                ‘token’ => hash(‘sha256’, $plainTextToken),
                ‘abilities’ => [‘*’],
                ‘expires_at’ => null,

Changing the Authentication Middleware

I had to then instruct Laravel to use Sanctum as opposed to the token guard for authentication to our api. I did a search for ->middleware([‘auth:api’]) and replaced all instances of auth:api with auth:sanctum.

Updating Tests

With the all of the tokens successfully migrated over to the personal_access_tokens table and our api.php routes file updated to use the new middleware, the last thing to do was to update all of our tests that were manually passing a bearer token in the authorization header with every request to using this snippet that I found and modified from the documentation: Sanctum::actingAs(ApiUser::factory()->create(), [‘*’]);.


In conclusion, migrating to Laravel Sanctum is not as hard as I expect it would be. It’s fairly straight forward with the hardest part being the migration of old api tokens.

I hope this article will be helpful to you as a guide for the process of migrating to Sanctum.