Sample multiplexing facilitates scRNA-seq by reducing costs and identifying artifacts such as cell doublets. However, universal and scalable sample barcoding strategies have not been described. We therefore developed MULTI-seq: multiplexing using lipid-tagged indices for single-cell and single-nucleus RNA sequencing. MULTI-seq reagents can barcode any cell type or nucleus from any species with an accessible plasma membrane. The method involves minimal sample processing, thereby preserving cell viability and endogenous gene expression patterns. When cells are classified into sample groups using MULTI-seq barcode abundances, data quality is improved through doublet identification and recovery of cells with low RNA content that would otherwise be discarded by standard quality-control workflows. We use MULTI-seq to track the dynamics of T-cell activation, perform a 96-plex perturbation experiment with primary human mammary epithelial cells and multiplex cryopreserved tumors and metastatic sites isolated from a patient-derived xenograft mouse model of triple-negative breast cancer.