All-solid-state Li-ion batteries promise safer electrochemical energy storage with larger volumetric and gravimetric energy densities. A major concern is the limited electrochemical stability of solid electrolytes and related detrimental electrochemical reactions, especially because of our restricted understanding. Here we demonstrate for the argyrodite-, garnet- and NASICON-type solid electrolytes that the favourable decomposition pathway is indirect rather than direct, via (de)lithiated states of the solid electrolyte, into the thermodynamically stable decomposition products. The consequence is that the electrochemical stability window of the solid electrolyte is notably larger than predicted for direct decomposition, rationalizing the observed stability window. The observed argyrodite metastable (de)lithiated solid electrolyte phases contribute to the (ir)reversible cycling capacity of all-solid-state batteries, in addition to the contribution of the decomposition products, comprehensively explaining solid electrolyte redox activity. The fundamental nature of the proposed mechanism suggests this is a key aspect for solid electrolytes in general, guiding interface and material design for all-solid-state batteries.