How to fix "ReferenceError: primordials is not defined" error

Dec 27, 2019 · Updated: Jul 12, 2021 · by Tim Kamanin

Are you getting a ReferenceError: primordials is not defined error message when trying to run gulp? Chances are you're on gulp v3 and node v12, and that's the source of the issue.

The thing is, gulp v3 doesn't work (as of now) under node v12, because it depends on graceful-fs@^3.0.0 which patches Node's fs module and that patch worked before node v12 just fine.

So our options are either:

a. To upgrade gulp to v4 - to me, that's not an option, and I don't want to re-write and re-config my frontend toolchain for Xth time.

b. To downgrade Node to v11 - is also not an option to me, I don't want to jump through nvm hoops or even think about juggling node environments

c. To pin graceful-fs to version 4.2.2 that's known to work under Node v12 - that's the option I've chosen, let me tell how to use it.

To pin graceful-fs to version 4.2.2, we need to use an npm-shrinkwrap.json file, which lets you lock down the versions of installed packages and their descendant packages. Anything specified in this file can't be overridden by package.json content, which gives us what we need: pinning graceful-fs at 4.2.2 despite whatever gulp 3 requires in package.json.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. In the same directory where you have package.json create an npm-shrinkwrap.json file with the following contents:

      "dependencies": {
        "graceful-fs": {
          "version": "4.2.2"

  2. Run npm install, and don't worry, it'll update npm-shrinkwrap.json with a bunch of content.

Now, fire your gulp command and enjoy, it should be working just fine!

P.S. Let's connect! Follow me on twitter @timonweb, so we could be in touch. I regularly share tips and interesting dev links there. See you.

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