Because of its unique properties, plasma technology has gained much prominence in the microelectronics industry. Recently, environmental and energy applications of plasmas have gained a lot of attention. In this area, the focus is on converting CO2 and reforming hydrocarbons, with the goal of developing an efficient single-step ‘gas-to-liquid’ (GTL) process. Here we show that applying tri-reforming principles to plasma—further called ‘plasma-based multi-reforming’—allows us to better control the plasma chemistry and thus the formed products. To demonstrate this, we used chemical kinetics calculations supported by experiments and reveal that better control of the plasma chemistry can be achieved by adding O2 or H2O to a mixture containing CH4 and CO2 (diluted in N2). Moreover, by adding O2 and H2O simultaneously, we can tune the plasma chemistry even further, improving the conversions, thermal efficiency and methanol yield. Unlike thermocatalytic reforming, plasma-based reforming is capable of producing methanol in a single step; and compared with traditional plasma-based dry reforming, plasma-based multi-reforming increases the methanol yield by more than seven times and the thermal efficiency by 49%, as revealed by our model calculations. Thus, we believe that by using plasma-based multi-reforming, ‘gas-to-liquid’ conversion may be made efficient and scalable.