Many arc lavas show evidence for the involvement of subducted sediment in the melting process. There is debate whether this “sediment melt” signature forms at relatively low temperature near the fluid-saturated solidus or at higher temperature beyond the breakdown of trace-element-rich accessory minerals. We present new geochemical data from high- to ultrahigh-pressure rocks that underwent subduction and show no significant depletion of key trace elements in the sediment melt component until peak metamorphic temperatures exceeded ~1050ºC from 2.7 to 5 GPa. These temperatures are higher than for the top of the subducting plate at similar pressures based on thermal models. To address this discrepancy, we use instability calculations for a non-Newtonian buoyant layer in a viscous half-space to show that, in typical subduction zones, solid-state sediment diapirs initiate at temperatures between 500–850ºC. Based on these calculations, we propose that the sediment melt component in arc magmas is produced by high degrees of dehydration melting in buoyant diapirs of metasediment that detach from the slab and rise into the hot mantle wedge. Efficient recycling of sediments into the wedge by this mechanism will alter volatile fluxes into the deep mantle compared to estimates based solely on devolatilization of the slab.