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Spark Read JSON file
Working with JSON files in Spark

Spark SQL provides"path") to read a single line and multiline (multiple lines) JSON file into Spark DataFrame and dataframe.write.json("path") to save or write to JSON file, In this tutorial, you will learn how to read a single file, multiple files, all files from a directory into DataFrame and writing DataFrame back to JSON file using Scala example.

Note: Spark out of the box supports to read JSON files and many more file formats into Spark DataFrame and spark uses Jackson library natively to work with JSON files.

The complete example explained here is available at GitHub project to download.

Table of contents:

1. Spark Read JSON File into DataFrame

Using"path") or"json").load("path") you can read a JSON file into a Spark DataFrame, these methods take a file path as an argument. 

Unlike reading a CSV, By default JSON data source inferschema from an input file.

Refer dataset used in this article at zipcodes.json on GitHub

//read json file into dataframe
val df ="src/main/resources/zipcodes.json")

When you use format("json") method, you can also specify the Data sources by their fully qualified name (i.e., org.apache.spark.sql.json), for built-in sources, you can also use short name “json”. 

2. Read JSON file from multiline

Sometimes you may want to read records from JSON file that scattered multiple lines, In order to read such files, use-value true to multiline option, by default multiline option, is set to false.

Below is the input file we going to read, this same file is also available at multiline-zipcode.json on GitHub

  "RecordNumber": 2,
  "Zipcode": 704,
  "ZipCodeType": "STANDARD",
  "State": "PR"
  "RecordNumber": 10,
  "Zipcode": 709,
  "ZipCodeType": "STANDARD",
  "City": "BDA SAN LUIS",
  "State": "PR"


//read multiline json file
val multiline_df ="multiline","true")

3. Reading Multiple Files at a Time

Using the method you can also read multiple JSON files from different paths, just pass all file names with fully qualified paths by separating comma, for example

//read multiple files
val df2 =

4. Reading all Files in a Directory

We can read all JSON files from a directory into DataFrame just by passing directory as a path to the json() method. Below snippet, “zipcodes_streaming” is a folder that contains multiple JSON files.

//read all files from a folder
val df3 ="src/main/resources/zipcodes_streaming")

5. Reading files with a user-specified custom schema

Spark Schema defines the structure of the data, in other words, it is the structure of the DataFrame. Spark SQL provides StructType & StructField classes to programmatically specify the structure to the DataFrame.

If you know the schema of the file ahead and do not want to use the default inferSchema option for column names and types, use user-defined custom column names and type using schema option.

Use the StructType class to create a custom schema, below we initiate this class and use add a method to add columns to it by providing the column name, data type and nullable option.

//Define custom schema
val schema = new StructType()
val df_with_schema =

6. Read JSON file using Spark SQL

Spark SQL also provides a way to read a JSON file by creating a temporary view directly from reading file using spark.sqlContext.sql(“load json to temporary view”)

spark.sqlContext.sql("CREATE TEMPORARY VIEW zipcode USING json OPTIONS" + 
      " (path 'src/main/resources/zipcodes.json')")
spark.sqlContext.sql("select * from zipcodes").show(false)

7. Options while reading JSON file

7.1 nullValues

Using nullValues option you can specify the string in a JSON to consider as null. For example, if you want to consider a date column with a value “1900-01-01” set null on DataFrame.

7.2 dateFormat

dateFormat option to used to set the format of the input DateType and TimestampType columns. Supports all java.text.SimpleDateFormat formats.

Note: Besides the above options, Spark JSON dataset also supports many other options.

8. Applying DataFrame Transformations

Once you have created DataFrame from the JSON file, you can apply all transformation and actions DataFrame support. Please refer to the link for more details. 

9. Write Spark DataFrame to JSON file

Use the Spark DataFrameWriter object “write” method on DataFrame to write a JSON file. 


9.1 Spark Options while writing JSON files

While writing a JSON file you can use several options.  

Other options available nullValue,dateFormat

9.2 Saving modes

Spark DataFrameWriter also has a method mode() to specify SaveMode; the argument to this method either takes below string or a constant from SaveMode class.

overwrite – mode is used to overwrite the existing file, alternatively, you can use SaveMode.Overwrite.

append – To add the data to the existing file, alternatively, you can use SaveMode.Append.

ignore – Ignores write operation when the file already exists, alternatively you can use SaveMode.Ignore.

errorifexists or error – This is a default option when the file already exists, it returns an error, alternatively, you can use SaveMode.ErrorIfExists.


10. Source Code for Reference

package com.sparkbyexamples.spark.dataframe
import org.apache.spark.sql.SparkSession
import org.apache.spark.sql.types._
object FromJsonFile {
  def main(args:Array[String]): Unit = {
    val spark: SparkSession = SparkSession.builder()
    val sc = spark.sparkContext
    //read json file into dataframe
    val df ="src/main/resources/zipcodes.json")
    //read multiline json file
    val multiline_df ="multiline", "true")
    //read multiple files
    val df2 =
    //read all files from a folder
    val df3 ="src/main/resources/zipcodes_streaming/*")
    //Define custom schema
    val schema = new StructType()
      .add("City", StringType, true)
      .add("Country", StringType, true)
      .add("Decommisioned", BooleanType, true)
      .add("EstimatedPopulation", LongType, true)
      .add("Lat", DoubleType, true)
      .add("Location", StringType, true)
      .add("LocationText", StringType, true)
      .add("LocationType", StringType, true)
      .add("Long", DoubleType, true)
      .add("Notes", StringType, true)
      .add("RecordNumber", LongType, true)
      .add("State", StringType, true)
      .add("TaxReturnsFiled", LongType, true)
      .add("TotalWages", LongType, true)
      .add("WorldRegion", StringType, true)
      .add("Xaxis", DoubleType, true)
      .add("Yaxis", DoubleType, true)
      .add("Zaxis", DoubleType, true)
      .add("Zipcode", StringType, true)
      .add("ZipCodeType", StringType, true)
    val df_with_schema =
    spark.sqlContext.sql("CREATE TEMPORARY VIEW zipcode USING json OPTIONS" +
      " (path 'src/main/resources/zipcodes.json')")
    spark.sqlContext.sql("SELECT *FROM zipcode").show()
    //Write json file


In this tutorial, you have learned how to read a JSON file with single line record and multiline record into Spark DataFrame, and also learned reading single and multiple files at a time and writing JSON file back to DataFrame using different save options.


Happy Learning !!

Naveen Nelamali

Naveen Nelamali (NNK) is a Data Engineer with 20+ years of experience in transforming data into actionable insights. Over the years, He has honed his expertise in designing, implementing, and maintaining data pipelines with frameworks like Apache Spark, PySpark, Pandas, R, Hive and Machine Learning. Naveen journey in the field of data engineering has been a continuous learning, innovation, and a strong commitment to data integrity. In this blog, he shares his experiences with the data as he come across. Follow Naveen @ LinkedIn and Medium