1. Overview

In this tutorial, we’ll discuss a very useful JPA feature — Criteria Queries.

It enables us to write queries without doing raw SQL as well as gives us some object-oriented control over the queries, which is one of the main features of Hibernate. The Criteria API allows us to build up a criteria query object programmatically, where we can apply different kinds of filtration rules and logical conditions.

Since Hibernate 5.2, the Hibernate Criteria API is deprecated, and new development is focused on the JPA Criteria API. We’ll explore how to use Hibernate and JPA to build Criteria Queries.

Further reading:

Spring Data JPA @Query

Learn how to use the @Query annotation in Spring Data JPA to define custom queries using JPQL and native SQL.

Introduction to Spring Data JPA

Introduction to Spring Data JPA with Spring 4 - the Spring config, the DAO, manual and generated queries and transaction management.

A Guide to Querydsl with JPA

A quick guide to using Querydsl with the Java Persistence API.

2. Maven Dependencies

To illustrate the API, we’ll use the reference JPA implementation Hibernate.

To use Hibernate, we’ll make sure to add the latest version of it to our pom.xml file:


We can find the latest version of Hibernate here.

3. Simple Example Using Criteria

Let’s start by looking at how to retrieve data using Criteria Queries. We’ll look at how to get all the instances of a particular class from the database.

We have an Item class that represents the tuple “ITEM” in the database:

public class Item implements Serializable {

    private Integer itemId;
    private String itemName;
    private String itemDescription;
    private Integer itemPrice;

   // standard setters and getters

Let’s look at a simple criteria query that will retrieve all the rows of “ITEM” from the database:

Session session = HibernateUtil.getHibernateSession();
CriteriaBuilder cb = session.getCriteriaBuilder();
CriteriaQuery<Item> cr = cb.createQuery(Item.class);
Root<Item> root = cr.from(Item.class);

Query<Item> query = session.createQuery(cr);
List<Item> results = query.getResultList();

The above query is a simple demonstration of how to get all the items. Let’s see it step by step:

  1. Create an instance of Session from the SessionFactory object
  2. Create an instance of CriteriaBuilder by calling the getCriteriaBuilder() method
  3. Create an instance of CriteriaQuery by calling the CriteriaBuilder createQuery() method
  4. Create an instance of Query by calling the Session createQuery() method
  5. Call the getResultList() method of the query object, which gives us the results

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to some of the features of criteria query.

3.1. Using Expressions

The CriteriaBuilder can be used to restrict query results based on specific conditions, by using CriteriaQuery where() method and providing Expressions created by CriteriaBuilder.

Let’s see some examples of commonly used Expressions.

In order to get items having a price of more than 1000:

cr.select(root).where(cb.gt(root.get("itemPrice"), 1000));

Next, getting items having itemPrice less than 1000:

cr.select(root).where(cb.lt(root.get("itemPrice"), 1000));

Items having itemName contain Chair:

cr.select(root).where(cb.like(root.get("itemName"), "%chair%"));

Records having itemPrice between 100 and 200:

cr.select(root).where(cb.between(root.get("itemPrice"), 100, 200));

Items having itemName in Skate Board, Paint and Glue:

cr.select(root).where(root.get("itemName").in("Skate Board", "Paint", "Glue"));

To check if the given property is null:


To check if the given property is not null:


We can also use the methods isEmpty() and isNotEmpty() to test if a List within a class is empty or not.

Additionally, we can combine two or more of the above comparisons. The Criteria API allows us to easily chain expressions:

Predicate[] predicates = new Predicate[2];
predicates[0] = cb.isNull(root.get("itemDescription"));
predicates[1] = cb.like(root.get("itemName"), "chair%");

To add two expressions with logical operations:

Predicate greaterThanPrice = cb.gt(root.get("itemPrice"), 1000);
Predicate chairItems = cb.like(root.get("itemName"), "Chair%");

Items with the above-defined conditions joined with Logical OR:

cr.select(root).where(cb.or(greaterThanPrice, chairItems));

To get items matching with the above-defined conditions joined with Logical AND:

cr.select(root).where(cb.and(greaterThanPrice, chairItems));

3.2. Sorting

Now that we know the basic usage of Criteria, let’s look at the sorting functionalities of Criteria.

In the following example, we order the list in ascending order of the name and then in descending order of the price:


In the next section, we will have a look at how to do aggregate functions.

3.3. Projections, Aggregates and Grouping Functions

Now let’s see the different aggregate functions.

Get row count:

CriteriaQuery<Long> cr = cb.createQuery(Long.class);
Root<Item> root = cr.from(Item.class);
Query<Long> query = session.createQuery(cr);
List<Long> itemProjected = query.getResultList();

The following is an example of aggregate functions — Aggregate function for Average:

CriteriaQuery<Double> cr = cb.createQuery(Double.class);
Root<Item> root = cr.from(Item.class);
Query<Double> query = session.createQuery(cr);
List avgItemPriceList = query.getResultList();

Other useful aggregate methods are sum(), max(), min(), count(), etc.

3.4. CriteriaUpdate

Starting from JPA 2.1, there’s support for performing database updates using the Criteria API.

CriteriaUpdate has a set() method that can be used to provide new values for database records:

CriteriaUpdate<Item> criteriaUpdate = cb.createCriteriaUpdate(Item.class);
Root<Item> root = criteriaUpdate.from(Item.class);
criteriaUpdate.set("itemPrice", newPrice);
criteriaUpdate.where(cb.equal(root.get("itemPrice"), oldPrice));

Transaction transaction = session.beginTransaction();

In the above snippet, we create an instance of CriteriaUpdate<Item> from the CriteriaBuilder and use its set() method to provide new values for the itemPrice. In order to update multiple properties, we just need to call the set() method multiple times.

3.5. CriteriaDelete

CriteriaDelete enables a delete operation using the Criteria API.

We just need to create an instance of CriteriaDelete and use the where() method to apply restrictions:

CriteriaDelete<Item> criteriaDelete = cb.createCriteriaDelete(Item.class);
Root<Item> root = criteriaDelete.from(Item.class);
criteriaDelete.where(cb.greaterThan(root.get("itemPrice"), targetPrice));

Transaction transaction = session.beginTransaction();

3.6. Using the CriteriaDefinition Utility

Hibernate 6.3.0 provides a CriteriaDefinition class to simplify building criteria queries. It allows defining an initializer block of an anonymous subclass where all operations of CriteriaBuilder and CriteriaQuery can be invoked without specifying the target object.

Here’s a criteria query that retrieves all rows of “ITEM” using CriteriaDefinition:

final Session session = HibernateUtil.getHibernateSession();
final SessionFactory sessionFactory = HibernateUtil.getHibernateSessionFactory();
CriteriaDefinition<Item> query = new CriteriaDefinition<>(sessionFactory, Item.class) {
        JpaRoot<Item> item = from(Item.class);
List<Item> items = session.createSelectionQuery(query).list();

In the code above, we create the CriterianDefinition object to build a query, passing SessionFactory and Item class as parameters.

Also, we define an initializer block where we construct the query.

Finally, we store the queried data in a List by invoking the createSelectionQuery() method on a Session object.

Next, let’s see some examples of common criteria queries using CriteriaDefinition. First, let’s get Items having a price greater than 1000:

CriteriaDefinition<Item> query = new CriteriaDefinition<>(sessionFactory, Item.class) {
        JpaRoot<Item> item = from(Item.class);
        where(gt(item.get("itemPrice"), 1000));
List<Item> items = session.createSelectionQuery(query).list();

First, we select the Item. Next, we invoke methods named where() and gt() to further specify that the itemPrice must be greater than 1000.

Next, let’s get Items with price between 100 and 200:

where(between(item.get("itemPrice"), 100, 200));

In the code above, we use the between() method to put the retrieved data within a range.

We can easily construct criteria queries by building them in a CriteriaDefinition initializer block.

4. Advantage Over HQL

In the previous sections, we covered how to use Criteria Queries.

Clearly, the main and most hard-hitting advantage of Criteria Queries over HQL is the nice, clean, object-oriented API.

We can simply write more flexible, dynamic queries compared to plain HQL. The logic can be refactored with the IDE and has all the type-safety benefits of the Java language itself.

Of course, there are some disadvantages as well, especially around more complex joins.

So, we generally have to use the best tool for the job — that can be the Criteria API in most cases, but there are definitely cases where we’ll have to go lower level.

5. Conclusion

In this article, we focused on the basics of Criteria Queries in Hibernate and JPA as well as on some of the advanced features of the API.

As always, the code discussed here is available over on GitHub.

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