Nesbitt finished in one minute 56.07 seconds, well ahead of defending champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, who was second in 1:56.40. Wust's teammate Linda de Vries was third in 1:57.08.
The win for the London, Ont., skater completes a Canadian sweep at the distance after Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., won the men's 1,500 title on Thursday.
"It started very fast, but that was my plan," Nesbitt said. "I was struggling to remember how to race the 1,500."
Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen was fourth, missing the podium but just 0.22 seconds. Brittany Schussler, also of Winnipeg, finished 11th.
Nesbitt will go for a second gold Saturday in the 1,000 metres, a distance she has dominated this season.
Meanwhile, world sprint champion Stefan Groothuis won the men's 1,000-metre title Friday, beating Dutch teammate Kjeld Nuis.
Groothuis, who finished in 1:08.57, punched the air and then hugged Nuis, who was second in 1:08.79.
Two-time Olympic champ Shani Davis of the United States, who was seeking his fourth world title at the distance, finished third in 1:08.83.
Morrison finished fourth, 0.21 seconds back of Davis, while Edmonton's Jamie Gregg was seventh.
The gold medal capped a breakthrough season for the 30-year-old Groothuis, who won his first world title at the sprint all-rounds in Calgary this year.
"I've been skating for 10 years and this year I win two world titles, it's amazing," Groothuis said.
Nuis started the faster of the two in tough conditions at Thialf Oval, but Groothuis passed him with a blistering 25-second second lap and held on.
Another Dutchman, Sven Kramer, claimed gold in the men's 5,000, crowning a season in which he returned from a year out with a right thigh injury with his fourth world title over the distance.
"I could not have hoped for more than this," Kramer said. "The European and world all-round titles and now this. It's a fantastic end to the season."
Kramer won in 6:13.87. Countryman Bob de Jong took silver ahead of Jonathan Kuck of the United States.