Abstract Query processing in data grids is a difficult issue due to the heterogeneous, unpredictable and volatile behaviors of the grid resources. Applying join operations on remote relations in data grids is a unique and interesting problem. However, to the best of our knowledge, little is done to date on multi-join query processing in data grids. An approach for processing multi-join queries is proposed in this paper. Firstly, a relation–reduction algorithm for reducing the sizes of operand relations is presented in order to minimize data transmission cost among grid nodes. Then, a method for scheduling computer nodes in data grids is devised to parallel process multi-join queries. Thirdly, an innovative method is developed to efficiently execute join operations in a pipeline fashion. Finally, a complete algorithm for processing multi-join queries is given. Analytical and experimental results show the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed approach.