Manage package dependencies in .NET applications

This article explains how to add and remove package dependencies by editing the project file or by using the CLI.

The <PackageReference> element

The <PackageReference> project file element has the following structure:

<PackageReference Include="PACKAGE_ID" Version="PACKAGE_VERSION" />

The Include attribute specifies the ID of the package to add to the project. The Version attribute specifies the version to get. Versions are specified as per NuGet version rules.

Use conditions to add a dependency that's available only in a specific target, as shown in the following example:

<PackageReference Include="PACKAGE_ID" Version="PACKAGE_VERSION" Condition="'$(TargetFramework)' == 'netcoreapp2.1'" />

The dependency in the preceding example will only be valid if the build is happening for that given target. The $(TargetFramework) in the condition is an MSBuild property that's being set in the project. For most common .NET applications, you don't need to do this.

Add and remove dependencies

You can add and remove dependencies by editing your project file or through .NET CLI commands.

Edit the project file

To add a dependency, add a <PackageReference> item inside an <ItemGroup> element. You can add to an existing <ItemGroup> or create a new one.

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk.Web">


    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore" Version="3.1.2" />


To remove a dependency, remove its <PackageReference> item from the project file.

Use the CLI

To add a dependency, run the dotnet add package command, as shown in the following example:

dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore

To remove a dependency, run the dotnet remove package command, as shown in the following example:

dotnet remove package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore


  • Don't include inputs to the restore operation in the .targets or .props file of a referenced package. These inputs can include PackageReference items, ExcludeAssets attributes, the NuGet feeds to use, or other NuGet configuration. The .targets and .props files from packages aren't used until after NuGet restore is complete. Anything needed for restore needs to be in the project file or .targets file of the project itself, not a package dependency.

  • If you want to use ASP.NET APIs in a console application or class library, add a FrameworkReference item to your project file:

    <FrameworkReference Include="Microsoft.AspNetCore.App" />

    For more information, see Use the ASP.NET Core shared framework.

See also