Recovery from the devastating Permian-Triassic mass extinction about 252 million years ago is usually assumed to have spanned the entire 5 million years of the Early Triassic epoch. The post-crisis interval was characterized by large-scale fluctuations of the global carbon cycle and harsh marine conditions, including a combination of ocean acidification, euxinia, and fluctuating productivity. During this interval, metazoan-dominated reefs are thought to have been replaced by microbial deposits that are considered the hallmark of the Early Triassic. Here we use field and microscopic investigations to document Early Triassic bioaccumulations and reefs from the western USA that comprise of various sponges and serpulids associated with microbialites and other eukaryotic benthic organisms. These metazoan-rich reefs were formed only 1.5 million years after the extinction, in contrast to previous suggestions of a much delayed recovery of complex benthic communities. We conclude that the predominance of microbial reefs following the mass extinction is restricted to short intervals of the earliest Triassic. We suggest that metazoan reef building continued throughout the Early Triassic wherever permitted by environmental conditions.