A mechanism is proposed for the generation of large-amplitude acoustically-driven streaming flows in which time-mean flow speeds are comparable to the instantaneous speed of fluid particles in a high-frequency sound-wave field. Motivated by streaming observed in high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, two-dimensional flow of a density-stratified ideal gas in a channel geometry is analysed in the asymptotic limit of high-frequency acoustic-wave forcing. Predictions of streaming flow magnitudes based on classical arguments invoking Reynolds stress divergences originating in viscous boundary layers are orders of magnitude too small to account for the observed mean flows. Moreover, classical ‘Rayleigh streaming’ theory cannot account for the direction of the cellular mean flows often observed in HID lamps. In contrast, the mechanism proposed here, which invokes fluctuating baroclinic torques away from viscous boundary layers and thus is largely independent of viscous effects, can account both for the magnitude and the orientation of the observed streaming flows.