γδ T cells contribute to first line immune defense, particularly through their ability for rapid production of proinflammatory cytokines. The cytokine profile of γδ T cells is hard-wired already during thymic development. Yet, the molecular pathways underlying this phenomenon are incompletely understood. Here we show that signaling via the NFκB-inducing kinase (NIK) is essential for the formation of a fully functional γδ T cell compartment. In the absence of NIK, development of Vγ5(+) dendritic epidermal T cells (DETCs) was halted in the embryonic thymus, and impaired NIK function caused a selective loss of IL-17 expression by γδ T cells. Using a novel conditional mutant of NIK, we could show in vivo that NIK signaling in thymic epithelial cells is essential for the thymic hardwiring of γδ T cell cytokine production.